11 Types of Mint to Grow in Your Garden

Mint herb plants with small veined leaves closeup

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Species from the mint (Mentha) genus are among the most commonly grown plants in North American gardens. They belong to a broader family of plants, Lamiaceae, that is called the "mint family." This means that the true mints (genus, Mentha) are related to such landscape plants as Salvia and catmint (Nepeta spp.). It's easy to tell whether you already have one of these plants growing in your yard: Mint family members always have square stems.

It is easy to see why mints are so popular. While they do bloom (in summer), their value is generally not in how they look but in the functions they serve. Mints serve as flavorful herbs in the kitchen and as ground covers in the yard. Their strong scent keeps deer from eating them. But this is only one reason why they are so easy to grow. They are also tough, cold-hardy perennials (herbaceous) that spread (via rhizomes) on their own. In fact, if you plant mints in the wrong place (for example, a flower bed where you are looking for well-behaved plants), you may end up with too much of a good thing. So plant them somewhere where their ability to spread is a benefit, not a drawback. Here are 11 of the best types of mints to grow in the garden.

  • 01 of 11

    Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)

    Closeup of peppermint herb.

    EyesWideOpen / Getty Images

    Peppermint has pink flowers and rounded (occasionally, more lance-shaped) leaves. The foliage is toothed along the margins and dark green. A common use for this herb is to flavor teas, but, as with most types of mint, it is also effective in potpourri. The scent of peppermint is uplifting and can also ease stomach upset when ingested.

    • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Height: 12 to 24 inches
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, rich, and moist
  • 02 of 11

    Chocolate Mint (Mentha × piperita f. citrata 'Chocolate')

    Chocolate mint growing in a pot.

    annick vanderschelden photography / Getty Images

    Chocolate mint, a peppermint relative, is an oddball: The "Chocolate" in its name comes from its smell, not its taste. Its taste is actually orangey. It is used to flavor both drinks and desserts. If you are interested in the aesthetic qualities of this herb, know that it bears foliage that is a darker green than most other types of mint, as well as lavender flowers.

    • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Height: 12 to 24 inches
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, rich, and moist
  • 03 of 11

    Spearmint (Mentha spicata)

    Spearmint plants in closeup.

    Ana Rocio Garcia Franco / Getty Images

    While spearmint gets its common name from the shape of its leaves, its botanical name could refer to either its foliage or its flowers, which occur on pointy spikes. The flowers are pink to pale violet. Spearmint is a popular flavoring agent for chewing gum and is also used in salads and to flavor teas. Some gardeners prefer the 'Kentucky Colonel' cultivar over others because they feel it has nicer foliage.

    • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Height: 12 to 24 inches
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, rich, and moist
  • 04 of 11

    Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)

    Pennyroyal in bloom.

    By Eve Livesey / Getty Images

    While pennyroyal is a type of mint, it differs from most in some important respects. For one thing, its most popular use currently is as a pest deterrent rather than as a culinary herb. This mint is toxic and should not be consumed. It also stays shorter and does not have the rapid spread of many types of mint. This makes it effective where a low ground cover is desired. Pennyroyal bears lavender flowers.

    • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Height: 4 to 6 inches
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, rich, and moist
    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Corsican Mint (Mentha requienii)

    Corsican mint in container.

    KirstenFowle / Getty Images

    Like pennyroyal, Corsican mint is an excellent choice when you need a short plant (in fact, it is considered a miniature); for example, both are useful for planting the edge of a container. It forms dense mats of tiny leaves and has lilac flowers (although they are so small you can barely see them). Because of its size, tendency to spread, fragrance (released when crushed), and ability to hold up to some foot traffic, it is a great choice for growing between stepping stones.

    • USDA Zones: 6 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Height: 0.5 to 1 inch
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, rich, and moist
  • 06 of 11

    Watermint (Mentha aquatica)

    Watermint stems with blooms.

    Ian_Redding / Getty Images

    Watermint has light lavender flowers and leaves that are dark green with purplish veining. But what makes this mint different from most others is that it can be grown in shallow water. This makes it the obvious mint choice for small water features. Harvest the leaves for use as a balm or for the usual culinary applications (salads, flavoring teas, etc.) for mints.

    • USDA Zones: 3 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial sun
    • Height: 12 to 36 inches
    • Soil Needs: Low in fertility; tolerant of more water than most mint plants
  • 07 of 11

    Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens)

    Apple mint with its light green leaves.

    karimitsu / Getty Images

    Apple mint often has lighter green leaves than do many mints. It has white or light pink blooms. The leaves can be either oblong or ovate. Functioning equally well as a culinary herb (flavor teas with it, for example) and as a ground cover, its common name derives from its smell and taste, both of which are fruity and minty.

    • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Height: 12 to 24 inches
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, rich, and moist
  • 08 of 11

    Pineapple Mint (Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’)

    Closeup of pineapple mint.

    weisschr / Getty Images

    Pineapple mint is a cultivar of apple mint. It is valued for its variegated leaves. In fact, it is more likely to be grown strictly as an ornamental than the other entries on this list, thanks to the beauty of its leaves. But you can still use it in the kitchen. Use it to flavor fruit salads (it has a fruity aroma, as does apple mint), jellies, and teas. It may also be your best choice if you are looking for a mint to use as a garnish, considering the striking foliage.

    • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun in the North, partial shade in the South
    • Height: 24 to 36 inches
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, rich, and moist
    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    American Wild Mint (Mentha canadensis)

    Mentha canadensis closeup.

    Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Native plant enthusiasts are always looking for alternatives to foreign imports. Mentha canadensis fits the bill for a native mint for North American gardeners. It is native to much of the U.S. and Canada. In the kitchen, it is used in candies, jellies, and teas. Traditional medicinal uses range from curing toothaches to treating hiccups.

    • USDA Zones: 4 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Height: 18 inches
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, of average fertility, and moist
  • 10 of 11

    Cuban, or "Mojito" Mint (Mentha x villosa)

    Mojito mint being harvested.

    Westend61 / Getty Images

    This type of mint gets its common names from the fact that it is the authentic mint to use when making the rum cocktail known as "mojito" and so intimately associated with Cuba. Its strong aroma and flavor have made it a favorite. But its function as a culinary herb goes beyond using it in mojitos: Try it, too to flavor teas, for example.

    • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Height: 18 to 24 inches
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, rich, and moist
  • 11 of 11

    Margarita Mint (Mentha 'Margarita')

    If you like the idea of growing your own mint to flavor or garnish a cocktail, but mojito isn't your thing, you might want to grow Mentha 'Margarita.' Margarita is a trade name formulated specifically to draw in lovers of that favorite Mexican drink, the margarita. Margarita mint, known for its lime-scented leaves, is the perfect complement to a margarita drink.

    Margarita mint also boasts value in the garden. The flowers of Margarita mint, though small, are a nice lilac or purple. Unlike most mints, it spreads via above-ground runners (rooting where they make contact with the ground), not underground rhizomes, making the plant somewhat less invasive than most members of this species. The leaves are small, rounded, and light green (bronzey at the tips).

    • USDA Zones: 5 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Height: 6 to 12 inches
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, rich, and moist

Most mints in the culinary category, such as most of those listed above, grow and spread rapidly. Before you plant mint, think about how you want to use it. If you are looking for a nice bit of herb to use in the kitchen, you will do well to plant your mint in a pot. These easy care plants do very well as potted plants and a potted plant won't grow out of control. If you are looking for a ground cover, try one of the slower growing varieties such as Pennyroyal or Corsican mint.