If there’s one perennial herb that never seems to die, it’s mint. And this delicious, helpful, and tasty herb is easy to grow at home with a just a few helpful tips.
Did I mention that growing mint at home goes beyond just using it in recipes? Yep! Mint has many other uses, including keeping bugs away!
Why grow mint?
Mint is fragrant perennial plant that can be grown indoors as a houseplant or outdoors in the garden. The versatile plant can be used in culinary applications, for medicinal purposes, to freshen the air or breath, keep bugs at bay, or simply to look at. The many varieties of mint, including peppermint: (Mentha x piperita), spearmint (Mentha spicata), pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), chocolate mint, pineapple mint, and citrus mint (Mentha x piperita var. citrata) all have one thing in common – a square stem.
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Use these tips for growing mint so you can start enjoying this fragrant plant right away!
Where to plant mint
Mint, a hardy perennial, will tolerate partial shade and prefers a moist, loamy soil when being grown outdoors. Aim for a place with at least six hours or sunlight per day. Since mint is a great deterrent for insects, it’s perfect for placing around a patio or other outdoor seating area. Your guests will thank you!
The plant releases its fragrance when touched, so using it as a border plant at walkways or by other high foot traffic areas will fill the air with minty fresh aroma. What could be more welcoming than that?
In the garden, mint is an ideal companion plant for cabbage and tomatoes, the scent repels many pests including deer (find my full list of fabulous companion plants) . For smaller gardens, I suggest growing mint in pots. It spreads very quickly, and a container can help to contain its vigorous growth so it doesn’t take over.
How to plant mint
Mint is a pretty hard herb with a long growing season and many varieties. Here are some tips for planting new mint plants or young plants from mint cuttings that have been rooted:
- Choose a Planting Location:
- Mint prefers partial to full sun. It can tolerate some shade, but it typically grows best in sunnier spots and tolerates hot weather well.
- Select a location with well-drained soil to prevent waterlogging, which can be harmful to mint plants.
- Select a Planting Container or Garden Bed:
- You can plant mint in the ground in a garden bed or in a container. If you’re concerned about mint spreading and taking over your garden, then it’s a great idea to plant it in a container to help contain its rhizome growth.
- Prepare the Soil:
- Mint prefers slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH around 6.0-7.0). You can amend the soil with organic matter, such as compost, to improve its quality.
- Planting Mint in the Ground:
- Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the root ball of the mint plant.
- Place the mint plant in the hole and cover the roots with soil. Space multiple mint plants about 18 inches (45 cm) apart to allow for their growth.
- Planting Mint in a Container:
- Choose a container that is at least 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter and has good drainage in the bottom of the pot.
- Fill the container with well-draining potting mix, leaving about 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of space at the top. (Use my recipe for DIY Potting Mix to save money!)
- Plant the mint in the center of the container and cover the roots with soil. Make sure the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.
Remember that mint can spread rapidly, so it’s essential to keep it in check. Planting it in a container or regularly dividing and replanting it can help control its growth.
How Often to Water a Mint Plant
Watering mint plants is a relatively simple process. Mint is a hardy herb that generally prefers consistently moist soil. Here are some neutral guidelines on how to water mint plants:
- How Often to Water: Mint generally requires regular watering. Water the plants when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry to the touch. This might mean watering every 2-3 days, depending on the weather and your local climate.
- Morning Watering: Like most plants, it’s often recommended to water mint in the morning. This allows the plant leaves to dry off during the day, reducing the risk of fungal diseases.
- Avoid Over watering: While mint likes moisture, it’s important not to over water. Ensure the mint is planted in well-drained soil and never allow the plants to sit in standing water, as this can lead to root rot and other problems. Use the finger test by pressing your finger down into the top inch of soil. If the soil is still moist, there’s no enough water already in the soil. If it’s dry, it’s time to give your mint a drink.
- Mulching: Applying a layer of mulch around the base of the plant can help retain soil moisture and reduce the frequency of watering.
- Container Watering: If growing mint in a pot or have indoor mint plants, which is a good idea if you don’t want fresh mint everywhere, ensure the container has drainage holes. Water until you see excess water coming out of the drainage holes, but don’t let the pot sit in standing water since this can damage the plant’s roots. (Self-watering pots like my DIY Self-Watering Container are also ideal for mint, since the soil soaks up what it needs.)
- Consider the Rain: Adjust your watering schedule based on the amount of rainfall you receive. During rainy periods, you may need to water less, while in dry spells, you may need to water more frequently
Remember that while mint likes moisture, it’s essential not to waterlog the soil. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the condition of the soil and the mint plant itself will help you determine the right watering frequency. Signs of overwatering can be yellowing leaves and even a dying plant.
Also look for excessively wet soil or water pooling up at the top of the soil. These are all signs that the soil isn’t draining well and can cause your plant and its roots to simply sit in water. If this is the case, give your plant time to dry out before trying to water again.
How large does mint grow?
The mature size for a single mint plant will be around two feet tall and four feet wide. Outdoor mint plants plant can be trained to grow out vertically and used as a ground cover if needed. The plant top can be pinched out to keep it at any height desired, or use your mint on a regular basis to keep the plant size under control. Regularly pinching the top out will keep container grown mint bushy and compact. Mint produces tiny flowers if left unpruned.
By letting your mint “go” in the fall, your plant will bloom, and this is a fantastic food source for pollinators, so be sure to allow at least some of your mint to do this. Your bees and butterflies will thank you!
How to care for mint plants
Growing mint is easy and the plants are almost maintenance free. Apply a two inch layer of organic mulch around plants to help keep soil moist, especially during hot and dry summer months.
Mint plants start out slow the first year of planting, but will soon take over an area if not controlled. The underground runners and rhizomes spread quickly to start new plants, fortunately the roots are very shallow and mint can easily be controlled by pulling up unwanted plants.
A physical barrier, like a walkway or landscape edging, will help keep the growing mint within the desired boundary.
Uses for fresh mint
Growing mint puts a versatile, flavorful, fragrant herbal plant right at your fingertips. Harvest mint right before you want to use it and if you have extra, keep it in a small jar with water, just like flowers, so you can use it when you need it.
- Pinch a leaf off and chew it to freshen breath.
- Add a sprig to your favorite beverage for a refreshing flavor and to relieve stress and tension.
- Use mint ice cubes in iced tea or mint juleps (here’s a fantastic recipe).
- Make your own mint leaves for tea using my recipe for Fresh or Dried Mint Tea.
- Mint is also fantastic herb used to season meat for roasting or grilling, so give it a try and play around with its versatile flavor!
- Create a mint simple syrup to add to tea and lemonade for a refreshing drink. See my recipe for lemon balm simple syrup and simply swap out mint for the lemon balm!
How to store mint
Mint can be stored for use later in a variety of ways. Crush leaves and place one in each compartment of an ice cube tray, then fill with water and freeze. Or dry the mint leaves for storing with your other dried herbs.
Overall, mint is useful both indoors and out, so don’t let its habit of wanting to spread keep you from planting it. Since it can be easily controlled, plant some mint in your flower beds or containers and reap the tasty and anxiety relieving benefits all year long!