Mint ~ Mentha Plant Care Guide
Mentha (also known as mint, from Greek míntha, Linear B mi-ta) is a genus of plants in the family Lamiaceae (mint family). The species are not clearly distinct and estimates of the number of species varies from 13 to 18. Hybridization between some of the species occurs naturally. Many other hybrids, as well as numerous cultivars, are known in cultivation.
The genus has a subcosmopolitan distribution across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America.
Mints are aromatic, almost exclusively perennial, rarely annual, herbs. They have wide-spreading underground and overground stolons and erect, square, branched stems. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, from oblong to lanceolate, often downy, and with a serrated margin. Leaf colors range from dark green and gray-green to purple, blue, and sometimes pale yellow. The flowers are white to purple and produced in false whorls called verticillasters. The corolla is two-lipped with four subequal lobes, the upper lobe usually the largest. The fruit is a nutlet, containing one to four seeds.
While the species that make up the Mentha genus are widely distributed and can be found in many environments, most grow best in wet environments and moist soils. Mints will grow 10–120 cm tall and can spread over an indeterminate area. Due to their tendency to spread unchecked, some mints are considered invasive.
Botanical name: Mentha
Plant type: Herb
Sun exposure: Full Sun
Soil type: Loamy
Mint is a perennial with very fragrant, toothed leaves and tiny purple, pink, or white flowers. It has a fruity, aromatic taste. The mint family has many varieties, but it will take over your garden, so be careful where you plant it.
- For growing outdoors, plant one or two purchased plants (or one or two cuttings from a friend) about 2 feet apart in moist soil. One or two plants will easily cover the ground. Mint should grow to be 1 or 2 feet tall.
- In the garden, plant mint near cabbage and tomatoes.
- If you don’t want an entire bed of mint, buy some plants or take some cuttings from a friend and plant them in containers filled with potting mix enriched with compost. Remember to keep the plants in a sunny spot.
- Minimal care is needed for mint. For outdoor plants, use a light mulch. This will help keep the soil moist and keep the leaves clean.
- For indoor plants, be sure to water them regularly to keep the soil evenly moist.
- Right before flowering, cut the stems 1 inch from the ground. You can harvest one mint plant two or three times in one growing season.
- You can also just pick the leaves as you need them.
- You can grow the plants indoors for fresh leaves throughout the winter. If you want to dry them, it’s best to cut the leaves right before flowering. Store the dried leaves in an airtight container.
- Spearmint, which is the type most commonly used in cooking
- Peppermint, for a strong aroma
Wit & Wisdom
- Mice dislike the smell of peppermint. Spread it liberally where you suspect the critters.
- To relieve a tension headache, apply a compress of mint leaves to your forehead.