With a timeless fragrance and flavor, mint is a versatile staple for kitchen and garden alike. It flavors salads, refreshes a drink, and can even serve as a home remedy for various ailments. Mint can be a boon for the garden, too. Full of pollen and nectar, mint attracts beneficial bugs like honey bees and hoverflies, while deterring not-so-helpful pests like ants, flies, mosquitoes, rats, and mice. In short, mint is a win-win addition to your garden.
type of perennial: herb
Peppermint and spearmint are the most common. For added interest, try bergamot mint (orange scent and flavor), apple mint, pineapple mint, or chocolate mint.
WHERE MINT THRIVES
Mint has few regional limitations. Yes, it will grow best in climates with more natural moisture as opposed to dry-soiled climates. But again, it’s hardy and with the right support can thrive almost anywhere.
Optimal shade & sun
Mint thrives in the sunshine but also grows well with some shade, so it’s best to either plant in full or partial sun. Mint is a fighter so don’t stress about perfecting the sunshine-to-shade ratio. It’s not a make-or-break decision.
Adaptability to climate extremes
Mint is fairly resistant to climate extremes. And while mint is a fantastic addition to an outdoor climate-friendly garden, it can easily be grown indoors in a pot if weather doesn’t permit outdoor growth.
Mint is drought tolerant.
PREP YOUR SOIL
Optimal type of soil
Mint finds its native habitat along stream banks in moist yet airy, well-drained soil. You can recreate these conditions by adding organic matter, or mulching and/or composting, which preserves moistness. To keep the soil well-aerated, avoid stepping on the soil surrounding your plants.
Mint does not produce easily from seed so for maximum efficiency you’ll need 1 to 2 cuttings (from a fellow gardener) or 1 to 2 plants from a nursery. You won’t need more than that because mint grows pretty aggressively (see Growing Challenges below).
Plant approximately 15 to 24 inches apart in moist soil. We also recommend planting an entire submerged pot or other kind of vessel to prevent a mint takeover of your garden.
Best time of year to plant
It’s best to plant mint in warm spring soil but anytime before the first chill of fall is fine. If you’re concerned about the cold, you can also start indoors and replant outside when the weather is more forgiving.
Plant mint near tomatoes, cabbage, kale, peas, or broccoli to give those vulnerable plants some of the mint’s protective pest-resistance. Don’t make mint neighbors with other herbs or spices, though, because they could acquire some of the minty flavor. Save the flavor combinations for the kitchen.
Mint can be harvested once the plant has reached 3 to 4 inches in height.
Mint grows best in moist conditions so use your judgment based on the precipitation level of your season and region. If you’re not sure, just check the soil; it should be a little moist. Most gardeners find success watering every 2 to 4 days. Don’t water daily. It can over-compact the soil and make it more likely pests will attack the roots.
To keep the leaves clean and the soil moist, use a light mulch.
Mint is a fast-growing, invasive plant so fertilizing is not always necessary. That said, mint can benefit from fertilizing once every few weeks or months. For best results, dress the soil with a thin layer of organic fertilizer or compost. Note: There’s no need to fertilize before you plant.
While mint is an exceptionally tough plant it is vulnerable to snails, slugs, thrips, aphids, cutworms, and spider mites when young. Spraying plants with a strong jet of water can help get rid of spider mite populations (symptoms: yellow or bronzed leaves, webbing on leaves). Cutworms, which you know you have if the stem is severed at the soil line, can be managed by removing plant residue from soil following a harvest.
Mint rust, a fungus that generates small orange, yellow, or brown pustules on the undersides of mint leaves, can be fought using a heat treatment in which the roots are immersed in hot water, cooled, and then replanted. To prevent mint rust, keep plants thinned for adequate air circulation within the plant, and remove dead stems.
Particular growing challenges
Mint has a rapidly-growing root system and its roots, called runners, grow aggressively. If left uninhibited, mint can quickly take over a garden. The most common solution is to submerge a pot or container into the ground so that the roots are contained. Frequent harvesting and pruning also help keep your mint’s runners at bay.
Pick mint leaves as needed for maximum freshness. Once plants are 3 to 4 inches tall, use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the leaves and stems. When harvesting an entire plant, cut the stem approximately one inch from the soil. Try to harvest mint sprigs before the mint plant flowers (flavor is most intense right before it flowers), and pinch off the flowers to extend the harvest.
For best storage, wrap mint leaves in a moistened paper towel and place in an unsealed plastic bag for a few days.
Mint can be frozen in ice cubes, or dried.