Growing Mint

Mint PhotoMint is the first herb I ever saw growing in the ground. I was about ten and brushed up against it at the nursery where my mother was shopping for edging plants. I was shocked that a plant could smell so strong, and be so true to the aroma I most associated it with – candy canes and gum; both big winners in my book.

That chance encounter started my life long interest in herbs. I've kept many of the mints over the years, even making my own juleps by following the directions from an old recipe where it cautioned the would-be mixologist to "muddle the leaves in the bottom of the glass".

Keeping Mint in the Garden

Most mints are hardy perennials that can be invasive in the garden. Sending out feelers that root easily, mint will happily choke out anything else growing in the same plot with it. To curb its enthusiasm for expansion, keep mint varieties in a large pot or mesh bag that you have buried in the flowerbed, or enclose it with edging to a depth of five inches or so. Apply mulch to the bed or around the plot to discourage rooting.

Mint likes dappled shade and consistent moisture. Although I've read that it thrives in alkaline soil, I've found that it will be happy almost anywhere it doesn't dry out. Optimal conditions would be areas that are well drained but moist, receiving morning sun but at least partial shade in the afternoon heat.

Plant mints fifteen inches apart, and thin them regularly. If you want to keep multiple varieties, try to plant them in different beds to discourage cross pollination.

Growing Mint Indoors

I overwinter a bit of mint near a window that gets good morning sun. The sprigs root easily, and the plant thrives with an occasional drop of liquid fertilizer. Keep plants away from heating vents though, because the dry heat indoors can be hard on them. In May, I pot them out along with my other starters. This works well for chives too.

Propagating Mint

Mint can also be grown from seed, stems or root cuttings. The problem usually isn't getting mint to thrive, it's keeping it contained.

Harvesting Mint

Harvest mint sprigs in spring before flowering. To extend the harvesting season, pinch back buds.

Uses for Mint

Mint makes a tea that's great for stomach upsets. It is a welcome ingredient in desserts and as a garnish. It can be added to bath water as a pick-me-up before an evening out, and is also one of the primary ingredients in the famous mint julep and mint jelly recipes. For a refreshing change, mint can be delicious with vegetables like peas and carrots, or included in a fruit salad.

There are lots of mint varieties to choose from too, like: apple mint, peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint and others.


  1. Anonymous11:54:00 AM

    My wife uses home grown mint in her garden salsa instead of cilantro. A little does a lot and it tastes awesome.

  2. Thanks for the tip about mint in salsa. I've tried it, and it makes a real difference. The mint isn't strong, but it adds zip to the rest of the flavors.

    I only used a little - a half teaspoon minced fine in two cups finished salsa - in my case, pico de gayo.


  3. My son & I decided to start up some spearmint and basil in the garden this year. Both plants are thriving beautifully, but I noticed last month that each began the flowering stage. Though they are growing out of proportion and it doesn't look like they've lessened their growing ability, I am curious to know, nonetheless, what impact the flowering heads have to do with the plants (or, if it makes a difference, more specifically, herbal plants)? If anyone on this site has a clue based on educated, definitive knowledge, I would gladly read your commentary. Thanks, much!


    1. I have purple, lemon, and genovese basil in my herb garden. Being in southern Arizona they want to flower several times during the season. I cut most of the flowers off before they bloom. After monsoon season I let some of the plants flower and they go to seed which gives me fresh plants during the fall. In my experience once they start to flower and seed the leaves are tougher but they remain aromatic and and flavorful. At the end of the season I let them go to seed. in the spring they will grow although I sometimes find plants in strange areas of my garden. Last year I had Thai basil and it seems to be the hardiest. I am in an area where there is very little ground freeze.

  4. Penguini - I read somewhere that it's better to stop them flowering, perhaps to keep them growing lots of leafs. I'm not sure though...

    My question is tho - I have a wide pot that has no hole to drain at the bottom (used as a water feature originally). Would this be unsuitable for mint, as it would mean the soil does not drain well? In fact, would it be suitable for *any* type of plant??

    Hope you can answer if you have the time, thanks :)

  5. Anonymous6:49:00 PM

    I have some mint in a pot on my balcony (I don't have a yard); now that it's turned cold, it's acting like it's dying....can I bring it inside to save it for next spring/summer??

  6. Anonymous11:24:00 AM

    Julian - I have quite a few pots with no drainage holes. I usually add about an inch or two of stones to the bottom & then the soil on top. I used common 2b driveway stones that my hubby had in a pile, but I imagine that anything bigger than a chickpea would work. My plants don't seem to mind at all. I actually do it even to the pots that do have drainage just to make sure that the soil doesn't start plugging up the holes. I've potted tomatoes & herbs that way and have a Peace Lily that is 9 years old & still thriving.

  7. I've noticed that using cachepots for direct planting(pots without drainage holes) can work if you're good at gauging how much water your plants use - and stick to varieties that aren't fussy.

  8. Mint will grow totally in water. I had it in my fish pond for many years.

  9. Anonymous7:49:00 PM

    what is the difference between chocolate mint and mint?

  10. All the mint varieties are related and are cultivated in a similar way. They have slightly different aromas, leaf styles, sizes and colorations, though. In the case of chocolate mint, some people detect a mild chocolaty smell underlying the mint aroma.

  11. I have my mint plant in a 4 inch self watering container will it do good in there

  12. Errol,

    That should be perfect. Just make sure your mint plant gets around six hours of sun a day and maybe dappled light during the hottest part of the day. Isn't mint wonderful!


  13. Anonymous2:17:00 PM

    I have a new organic mint plant that I am trying to grow indoors before I decide to plant outside. I've noticed leaves dropping off at the bottom of the plant. What does this mean? I am following directions to water each day a small amount from the bottom. Am I doing something wrong? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

  14. It may not be getting enough light. Your mint plant needs about six hours of light a day. Keep it away from heat and cold sources like your HVAC vents, and make sure that the water you're adding isn't allowed to dwell around the plant's roots for longer than an hour.

    Placing the plant on a tray filled with pebbles or marbles is also a good idea. Add a little water to the tray (keep the waterline below the base of the plant pot). It will provide some of the humidity the plant needs.
    Good luck.

  15. I have a thick patch of mint planted in my yard and have never had to water it. It's naturally drought tolerant and is one of my favorite plants. In late fall, it dries up, I cut it way back and in the spring, it comes back just as thick and lush as the year before. I've never cut the blooms back preferring to leave them for the bees. Even with the flowers, I cut the leaves and use them in cooking and drinks. The flavor isn't affected. The only thing I didn't do correctly was to keep I contained. I find little starts of mint all over and have to pull them where I don't want a patch to grow.


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