Those that want to grow mint in their gardens or indoors do not need to make much effort since this plant is quite hardy. Many people even consider it to be invasive, so make sure you keep this perennial controlled, preferably in a container. Mint pretty much grows on its own if it has the right conditions. The most important advice to grow mint is to keep your plant watered and to harvest often.
The mint family, called Lamaiceae, is enormous and includes many species including oregano, catnip, basil, bee balm, lavender, sage, savory, marjoram, rosemary, and others. In this article I will refer to true mints (did you know there are many types of mints?) that can be planted both indoors and outdoors.
How to Grow Mint
It is quite easy to grow mint since this plant is so vigorous. In the wild, mint grows along creeks or wetlands in cool and moist areas with some shade. Mulching is a good idea since mint needs to have moist ground. You should also make sure to keep the leaves clean.
Those who want to grow mint outdoors need to be careful when picking where to place their plant, as it stays for a long time once it likes a place. Since mint spreads underground through its roots or rhizomes, it is best to keep it controlled even outdoors. Some gardeners dig to place large containers or buckets in the soil (leave the last 2 inches out) to be able to keep mint controlled.
This plant is not fussy about soil, so it can live in soil that has a pH between 5.6 and 7.5. Just make sure that the soil is rich in nutrients and is well drained. Do not over fertilize mint since this will cause the herb to loose its flavor. Occasionally you can give it an organic all purpose fertilizer or fish emulsion diluted in half strength. Compost can be placed annually.
Grow mint in sun or partial shade. Full shade will make your plant leggy. Mint varieties can grown in USDA zones 3-11.
Grow mint next to cabbage or tomatoes if you have problems with white cabbage moth. Mint is a great companion plant for lettuce, kohlrabi, bell peppers, broccoli, yarrow, potato, persimmon, petunia, squash, eggplant, and brussel sprouts. Do not plant next to onion, garlic, parsley or chamomile.
How to Reproduce Mint
It is possible to grow mint from seeds, but it doesn’t grow true to the type. Which is why seed packages are often labeled as common mint. All mint varieties can be grown from seeds except peppermint.
It takes about two weeks for mint to germinate and they require light. You can sow seeds by pressing them into potting mix which is slightly moist. Transplant in the garden or in a container once the seedlings are about 3-4 inches (7-10 centimeters) tall with leaves. It is also possible to sow mint seeds directly outside if there is no frost.
It is recommendable to grow mint from cuttings since you will know the variety and flavor. Just take a 6 inch (15 centimeter) cutting and place it in soil or water. Reproduction will be easier if you can dig and separate some of the roots as well. Autumn is the ideal time to divide plants. Lift your plant from the pot and chop it into pieces using a spade. Throw out the center and replant the edges. It is also possible to purchase mint from a local nursery.
Can you Grow Mint Indoors?
It is very easy to grow mint indoors. All you have to do is get a container for this plant, preferably with adequate drainage. You can use potting mix or combine equal amounts of peat, perlite and sand. This plant will grow as big as you let it, so placing it in a container helps solve this problem.
To grow mint indoors you need to find an area that has indirect sunlight. Make sure the plant is rotated every three to four days to stay even, otherwise it may bend towards the sunlight. You can also place your mint plant outside during the summer. Mint likes a cool temperature indoors, so place it in an area that gets a tempertaure around 65-70 F (18-21 C).
Mint likes some humidity, so make sure to mist the plant between watering. Another thing you can do is to place the container over a tray filled with water and pebbles. This herb likes to be moist but not too wet. So make sure to water your plant if the soil is dry.
It is also possible to grow mint in water. All you need to do is take a cutting from an established plant that is around 5-6 inches (13-15 centimeters) in length. Remove the bottom leaves and place it in a glass or bottle with water. Change the water every four to five days so it does not rot. Your plant should get between four to six hours of sunlight per day.
Mint Pest and Problems
This plant does not suffer from too many problems, but there are a few pests and diseases that affect mint.
- Whitefly: mint can be sensitive to whiteflies, which are small white insects that hide under the leaves. They like humid and warm environments, so they can be specially problematic if growing mint in a greenhouse.
- Aphids: spray aphids off with water or use neem oil if your problem gets bad since these tiny insects will stunt the growth of your plant and cause the leaves to wilt.
- Thrips: cause leaves to become distorted and spread disease. Don’t grow mint next to onion and garlic to avoid them. Mulching helps to prevent thrips.
- Cutworms: will eat holes in the leaves of your plant. Till the soil before planting and place diatomaceous earth on the soil to prevent.
- Anthracnose: this fungus spreads fast in rainy areas causing harm to the leaves and stems of mint plants. Discard infected plants and spray them with copper spray if it gets too bad.
- Powdery Mildew: this fungal disease spreads quickly and stops plant growth. Aphids and other sap-sucking insects spread it. Thankfully it is easy to spot since it produces white spots and discoloration on leaves. Always water your plants directly on the soil keeping leaves dry and cut them if they get too thick. Good air circulation is vital.
- Mint Rust: same as powdery mildew, except the leaves look like they were rusted.
How to Harvest and Store Mint
It takes 70 days for mint to reach maturity, when it will get bushy and be around 3 feet tall. However, you don’t have to wait to be able to harvest this plant. Those that live in cold climates should trim mint plants down to 6 inches (15 centimeters) so it can conserve energy and grow bushier next year. It may seem to die above ground, but the roots will survive and come back in the spring.
When mint flowers it takes energy from the leaves so if you are planning on using mint medicinally or culinary then it is best to cut the flower buds. Bees love mint flowers so leave them if you want to attract pollinators and beneficial insects such as butterflies, lacewings and hoverflies. Cut flowers can be used in potpourri or tea.
Harvest mint early in the morning since leaves have higher amounts of oil at this time and will be more flavorful. This is due to the fact that the dew is gone and the sun is not hot yet (heat causes oils to evaporate). Pick younger leaves as they are more tender and tend to have better flavor. Use gardening scissors to cut off stems or leaves. Make sure not to harvest more than on third of the plant.
Mint can be stored in the refrigerator if the ends are placed in water. Leaves and stems can also be wrapped in damp paper tower. Like all herbs, you can also dry or dehydrate mint. Freeze leaves by placing them in water in an ice cube tray.