Horticulture Magazine

How To Grow Mint At Home

mint growing in the wild

Mint Overview

Official Plant NameMentha
Common Name(s)Mint
Plant TypePerennial Herb
Native AreaEurope, Africa, Asia, Australia, North America
Hardiness RatingH6
ToxicityEdible
FoliageDeciduous
FlowersWhite or pinkish flowers
When To SowMarch, April, May, September, October, November
Flowering MonthsMay, June, July, August, September, October, November
Sunlight

Preferred
Full Sun or Partial Shade

Exposure
Exposed or Sheltered

Size

Height
0.1 – 0.5M

Spread
Vigorous spreader

Bloom Time
June – July

Soil

Preferred
Most Soil Types

Moisture
Moist but well drained

pH
Any

Mint seems to be a little bit like Marmite, in that people really like it, or despise it completely. Whilst we get that the distinct flavour doesn’t always work in the contexts it’s used in, don’t write mint off completely just yet.

In fact, growing your own fresh mint at home will put you in control of how you employ minty flavours in your cooking, tea making and, let’s face it, cocktail making.

picked mint plants in a basket
The humble mint leaf sometimes gets bad press

In this guide we’ll equip you with the knowledge required to get a vibrant mint bush blooming in your garden. You’ll be able to grow it, care for it, resolve any common issues and, most importantly, harvest the tasty leaves to be deployed in your kitchen whenever you need.

Background

The word mint broadly refers to the plant family Lamiaceae, which contains pretty much every herb you can think of. Oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil, marjoram, and even lavender are just a handful of the aromatic herbs you’ll find in the family tree, for example.

Zooming in a little bit, though, through the subfamily Nepetoideae, the tribe Mentheae, down to the genus Mentha, we find the plants that most people are probably thinking of when they say ‘mint’.

a field of mint growing
The Mentha genus contains mint plants like this one

It’s not fully understood what distinguishes the different species in the family, and estimates range from 13 to 24 different species in existence. What is known, however, is that spearmint and peppermint are probably the two most common types in the culinary context.

Spearmint, which also goes by the names common mint, lamb mint, garden mint, and more  originally hails from Europe and southern Asia, but has now naturalised in many parts of the world.

Peppermint is a hybrid between spearmint and another species called water mint. Like spearmint, it has spread from its roots in the Middle East and Europe to cover most of the world.

These two types are most commonly used in food and drink, to make essential oils, as a source of menthol, and much more.

How to grow and care for mint

Now you’ve seen just how versatile and widespread mint is, both geographically and culturally, you’re probably itching to get some growing in your garden. The next sections of this guide will help you to do just that: We’ll cover where and when to grow mint, how to take care of it whilst growing, and how to protect it from common problems.

First up…

Three options

The most common option by far when growing mint is to buy a young plant in a container and transplant it to your garden. This is quick, cheap, and easy, and gives you a good shot at a strong and healthy plant.

You can grow mint from cuttings, too. Simply trim 5-8cm from a mature plant and leave in a glass of water. After a week or so it’ll sprout roots, ready for transplanting into soil.

If you’re looking to grow from seed, this is possible as well – if maybe a little more fiddly. Mint seeds are tiny. We recommend sprinkling seeds onto the soil surface, then covering with about half a centimetre more soil, as this is far less tricky than trying to individually plant tiny seeds.

Then you’ll need to thin out the saplings once they germinate, which should take about two weeks. When they grow big enough to have two true leaves, harden them off and prepare them for the next step.

Where to grow your plant

When choosing a spot for your mint, keep in mind that this is a very ambitious plant. Left unsupervised it will spread far and wide via underground roots, quickly getting unruly and threatening other nearby plants.

With this in mind, many gardeners opt to grow mint in pots, keeping its enthusiastic roots carefully separate from nearby soil.

If you’re especially keen on planting mint into the ground, you can use a common gardening hack to do so whilst still discouraging unruly growth. To do this, find a big bucket, cut the bottom out of it (or buy a bottomless bucket in the first place), bury it into the soil, and grow your mint inside. The wall of the bucket will keep roots in place, and if a couple of inches of the bucket are left above ground, this will keep intrepid surface shoots in check as well.

You’ll also want to keep different types of mint apart from each other, as this proximity can lead all varieties involved to lose their distinctive scents and flavours. Keeping a decent amount of space between different mints will keep them vibrant and characteristic.

Watering

Mint is a thirsty plant and will require lots of watering. This is especially applicable in hot and dry weather.

a glass of water with various ingredients sat alongside
Reciprocity: Keep your mint watered and soon it will keep you refreshed

Fertilising

Use fresh compost for each new mint plant to give it the best access to the nutrients required for healthy growth.

While it’s not technically fertilising, this tip does involve soil, and so fits well into this section. If your mint plant isn’t thriving, remove it from its container along with the soil, then separate the plant from the soil, split the root ball in two, and repot one half in the same container with new compost.

The other half can be planted elsewhere, increasing next year’s mint quota.

Cutting back

Each summer, some of the shoots on your mint plant will flower. To encourage the best growth next season, trim this flowered shoots down to a few centimetres above the surface of the soil.

Harvesting

For best results, harvest mint as and when you need it between spring and autumn. Fresh, crisp leaves will be absolutely packed with flavour, and you’ll definitely be able to taste the difference when comparing to store-bought mint.

Picking regularly also encourages the plant to put forth more shoots, meaning you’ll have a near-limitless supply of mint to keep you going.

Troubleshooting common problems

Mint is massively widespread which suggests it must be fairly resilient and able to take care of itself, however there are a couple of things to look for when growing your own –

Fungal rust

This fungal infection leaves yellow or orange blemishes on the stems and leaves of a plant, and can cause a lot of damage if left unchecked. As the fungus spreads through spores, the best course of action is to dig up and destroy severely infected plants. While it may seem drastic, this prevents the spores from infecting other plants, and is the less destructive course of action in the long run.

Also take a thorough look over young mint plants if bought from a shop. It’s unlikely but definitely possible to buy a plant that’s already infected, so try to avoid this.

Mint beetle

Not every plant regularly draws the attention of a beetle so often that it’s named after it! Mint beetles, small and green, definitely evoke their eponymous plant, however. Their tendency to feed on mint plants, and to let their larvae do the same, can lead to damage if left unchecked.

Thankfully, the beetles are big enough to easily be seen with the naked eye. Simply remove any beetles or eggs as and when you notice them.

Minty fresh

Whether you’re already an enthusiast, or an amateur tentatively dipping their toe into the rewarding world of mint, we hope this guide has been helpful. We’ve written it with the intent of helping any gardener to get a mint plant or three thriving in their garden, because we believe that having easy access to a range of herbs is a way to not only improve your flexibility in the kitchen, but also to improve morale.

The satisfaction of sipping a nice mug of mint tea (or maybe even a mojito!) made with a sprig of home-grown mint, freshly picked from the garden, is subtle, but incomparable. Knowing that the refreshing drink is the result of your own dedication and effort lends a dimension that you simply can’t get from an equivalent drink bought elsewhere.

You’ve also opened up a world of culinary treats, from a garnish of mint on a slice of lemon cheesecake, to a sprinkle of chopped mint through a nice Moroccan cous cous, to give just two examples.

So thanks for reading, and happy gardening!

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