How to Grow Peppermint

Flowers of the peppermint plant

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Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) was initially considered to be along to its own species. However, it was later realized that the herb was, in fact, a hybrid between spearmint (Mentha spicata) and watermint (Mentha aquatica).

This amazingly aromatic herd is one of the oldest herbs used for ritual, culinary, and medicinal products. Today it is used for aesthetics, being cherished for its lovely pink blooms and its traditional functions.

Botanical Name Mentha ×  piperita
Common Name Peppermint
Plant Type  Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size 1-2 ft. wide, 1-2 ft. tall
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Adaptable except extremely dry
Soil pH Adaptable
Bloom Time July to August
Flower Color Pink
Hardiness Zones 5-9
Native Area  Europe
Toxicity Non-toxic

How to Care for Peppermint

Caring for peppermint is an easy affair. Whether you decide to plant it in your garden directly or go the container route, it will grow with minimal effort. Often, people wish their mint would stop growing, so people choose to use containers rather than plant directly in the garden.  No matter the method, peppermint is a marvelous herb that is easy to grow and tons of uses you will definitely enjoy.

Invasive Species

Be aware of peppermint’s invasiveness status in your area. In some areas, it is considered invasive and illegal to plant. Check with your local extension office to be sure before planting.

Light

Peppermint prefers full sun or partial shade. It can even tolerate some dappled shade, unlike most herbs. 

Soil

The adaptability of peppermint is one of its best features; it is also one of its worst features, allowing it to grow almost anywhere, making it a nuisance of a plant in some places. Peppermint’s ideal soil is rich, loamy, and moist, though it's known to grow along trailside ditches and craggy outcrops—it can and will grow anywhere.

Water

Consistently moist soil is the key to making sure your peppermint plant is happy and possesses tons of flavor. But be careful not to overdo it. Peppermint, like most mints, cannot tolerate standing water or soaking soil. Having soggy roots is a surefire way to kill or harm your plant. 

Temperature and Humidity

Peppermint is unusually hardy and can survive light frosts but cannot endure extended cold snaps. Its ideal temperatures fall in the 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit range, but it can survive nicely above and below that with little negative effect. If you expect your temperatures to be on the warmer side, keep the soil moist while also watching for excess growth from humid conditions.

Fertilizer

You should avoid fertilizing most herbs, especially plants in the genus Mentha. The flavor of herbs relies on the oils in their flowers and leaves. Accelerating their growth can lead to small profuse growth with many flowers and leaves and leggy stems rather than large, rich flowers and foliage with concentrated oils. You can often see this difference in the taste of homegrown compared to store-bought herbs.  

Is Peppermint Toxic?

Peppermint is not toxic. Quite the opposite, it is used in the kitchen, as medicine, and for ritual. It is useful in tea for soothing stomach pains, as a gentle relaxant, or crushed on the skin to help keep insects away.

Propagating Peppermint

Mint may be one of the easiest plants to propagate from cuttings. All you will need to do is cut a stem section with sterile scissors or snips four inches in length just below the leaf node. Remove the leaves below the node and submerse them in distilled water in a place that has good light
and air circulation.

At this point, watch for root formation, which should occur within a few weeks. Let a good root system develop, then transplant into a pot to grow further in quality potting soil. Trim the top two inches from the plant to allow most of the energy to be spent in the root system. In a few weeks, you will have a thriving peppermint plant ready to be transplanted into a larger pot or into its new place in your garden.  

Growing from Seed

Press the peppermint seeds on the surface of your seed starting mix. They will be tiny, so use care and do not press too hard. You do not need to bury the seeds. Keep the soil moist and germination will occur in five to ten days, maybe sooner if the soil is kept warm, which can be done with a heat mat. If direct sowing or when you are ready to transplant, wait until the threat of frost is over and space the peppermint seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart.

Potting and Repotting

Because mint has the habit of spreading everywhere, growing your peppermint in a pot is a great idea. Use a large pot that will accommodate vigorous root growth; strawberry pots are a good choice. Provide your plant with good drainage being sure the pot has drainage holes while also maintaining a moist environment with proper mulching. Potted mint tends to become leggy; this is usually due to lack of sun and too much fertilizer. Trim potted mint often to maintain a close compact plant, and you will have a healthy plant for years to come.

Cultivars

  • Mentha × piperita 'Chocolate Mint' has flowers that open from the bottom up; its flavor is reminiscent of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Citrata' Citrusy smell and taste with leaves are that are aromatic and hairless.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Crispa' has wrinkled leaves.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Lavender Mint' has profuse lavender blooms.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Lime Mint' has lime-scented foliage.
  • Mentha × piperita 'Variegata' has variegated green and yellow leaves.