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How to Grow Mentha — Mint

Mint peppermint
Peppermint mint, Mentha x piperita

Mentha–commonly called mint–is a group of herbs grown for their decorative aromatic foliage. Mentha is a genus of 25 perennials that bear tubular to bell-shaped flowers usually borne on spikes of whorled clusters. Mentha has lance-shaped to round, light to dark green or gray leaves, often highly aromatic. Mints are widely used as culinary, fragrant, or medicinal herbs.

Mentha prefers humus-rich, moist soil and full sun. Plants are rhizomatous and so can be invasive if not controlled. Mentha can be restricted if planted in deep containers plunged into the soil, leaving an inch of rim above the soil level. They can also be grown in confined beds that restrict root runs.

Get to know Mentha– mint

  • Plant Type: Rhizomatous perennials
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 6-9
  • Hardiness: Not frost-hardy
  • Height and width: 4 to 36 inches (10-90cm) tall and 20 to 36 inches (50-90cm) wide depending on the variety
  • Foliage: Lance-shaped to rounded light to dark green, gray-green leaves
  • Flowers: Tubular to bell-shaped flowers are 2-lipped, each with 4 spreading lobes and leafy bracts.
  • Bloom time: Summer
  • Uses: Herb garden, ground cover
  • Common name: Mint
  • Botanical name: Mentha
  • Family name: Lamiaceae
  • Origin: Widely distributed in Europe, Africa, Asia–often found in wet soil
Apple mint, Mentha suaveolens
Apple mint, Mentha suaveolens

Where to plant Mentha– mint

  • Grow Mentha in full sun.
  • Plant Mentha in humus-rich, moist soil.
  • Restrict spread of invasive species by planting in deep containers plunged into the soil; leave the rim of the container above the soil level.
  • Mentha aquatica can be grown in containers submerged in water up to 6 inches (15cm) deep.

When to plant Mentha– mint

  • Set container-grown Mentha outdoors in spring after the last frost.
  • Sow seeds in containers in spring.

Planting and spacing Mentha– mint

  • Space Mentha 12 to 24 inches (30-60cm) apart. Plants will spread via underground rhizomes.

How to water and feed Mentha– mint

  • Water mint to keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Mint generally does not need feeding.

Mentha– mint care

  • All mints attract bees.
  • Dry mint before using in herbal teas and potpourri.

Mentha– mint pests and diseases

  • Powdery mildew, rust, leaf spot, anthracnose, and stem canker can occur.

Mentha– mint propagation

  • Sow seed in containers in a cold frame in spring.
  • Divide in spring or autumn.
  • Portions of rhizome will root any time during the growing season and can be potted until rooted.
  • Root tip cuttings in spring or summer.

Mentha– mint varieties to grow

  • Mentha aquatica, watermint. Marginal semi-aquatic perennial with long, thin segmented rhizomes; often reddish-purple stems and ovate-toothed aromatic leaves; tubular lilac flowers; grow 6 to 36 inches tall and about as wide.
  • M. x gracilis ‘Variegata’, ginger mint. Spreading perennial; erect, red-tinted stems, ovate to lance-shaped leaves are strongly aromatic and ginger-flavored; bears a dense cluster of tubular lilac flowers; grows to 12 inches tall and 36 inches wide.
  • M. longifolia, horsemint. Creeping perennial with gray stems, oblong, toothed, strongly aromatic, musty-scented, green to silver gray leaves; tubular, lilac to white flowers; grows to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide.
  • M. x piperita, peppermint. Vigorous perennial with red-purple-tinged stems, ovate-lance shaped, toothed, mid-green leaves; tubular, lilac-pink flowers; 12 to 36 inches tall, 36 inches wide.
  • M. pulegium, pennyroyal. Spreading perennial with upright and procumbent stems, narrowly elliptic, sharply aromatic bright green leaves; tubular lilac flowers; grows 4 to 16 inches tall to 20 inches wide.
  • M. requienii, Corsican mint. Procumbent mat-forming perennial with slender, creeping stems; ovate to rounded leaves; tiny tubular lilac flowers; prefers shade.
  • M. spicata, spearmint. Spreading perennial with stalkless, lance-shaped, toothed, aromatic–usually sweet smelling, bright green leaves; dense, cylindrical spikes of pink or white flowers; grows 12 to 36 inches tall and as wide.
  • M. suaveolens, apple mint. Spreading, apple-scented perennial with white st4em; toothed oblong to rounded wrinkled grayish-green leaves; tubular pink or white flowers in dense whorls; grows to 3 feet tall and as wide.

Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’ — Variegated pineapple mint

This pretty and useful herb adds a decorative note with its scallop-edged, rounded, wooly, light green leaves, which feature showy, irregular, creamy white variegations on their edges. White flowers bloom in midsummer near the stems. The fruit-scented leaves possess a pineapple fragrance when young becoming more apple-scented as the mature, and make an enticing addition to drinks and fruit salads.

  • Size: 1 foot tall; spreads to cover several square feet.
  • Light: Full sun to light shade.
  • Soil and moisture: Humus-rich, fertile, moist soil; plentiful moisture.
  • Planting and propagation: Plant bare-root or container-grown plants in spring, spacing 2 feet apart. Divide in springs as desired.
  • Special care: Best to confine roots in tidy gardens, or it will take over.
  • Pest and diseases: Rust can sometimes be a problem.
  • Climate: Zones 5-8.
  • Cultivars and similar species: M. suaveolens (apple mint), nonvariegated with fruity apple scent, 3 feet tall.
  • Garden use: Pretty foreground foliage plant in beds and borders and cottage and herb gardens.

Mentha x piperita — Peppermint

An attractive upright and sparsely branched mint, this plant possesses a strong peppermint flavor, while its many cultivars offer scent in range of gourmet aromas. Peppermint’s long-stalked leaves are somewhat downy, dark green, and pointed with toothed edges. The leaf undersides and square stems are purplish green. Dense clusters of pale violet flowers tip the stems in midsummer.

  • Size: 2 to 3 feet tall; spreads to cover several square feet.
  • Light: Full sun to part shade.
  • Soil and moisture: Humus-rich, fertile, moist soil; moderate water.
  • Planting and propagation: Plant bare-root or container-grown plants in spring, spacing 2 feet apart. Divide in spring as desired.
  • Special care: Spreads quickly by runners; confine in sunken pots to prevent enthusiastic spread.
  • Pest and diseases: Rust can sometimes be a problem.
  • Climate: Zones 5-8.
  • Similar species: Purchase vegetatively propagated plants for the best aroma. ‘Ginger,’ variegated with gold, minty ginger scent; ‘Chocolate,’ minty chocolate aroma; ‘Blue Balsam,’ blue-green; ‘Lime,’ lime scented; ‘Lavandula,’ mint and lavender aroma; ‘Orange,’ leaves edged purple, citrus aroma. M. spicata (spearmint); smooth oval leaves, milder mint aroma. M. requienii (Corsican mint); tiny semi-evergreen leaves with strong creme de meth aroma, ground cover for moist shade; Zones 7-8.
  • Garden use: Plant in herb and cottage gardens where spreading is not a problem.

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