Mint—whether it is spearmint, peppermint or some other variety—is quite possibly the most versatile herb you can grow. It tastes great in tea, makes a pretty garnish, and has many cooking uses. Even the plant itself smells nice, whether you have it in the garden or in a pot indoors. We’ve got some mint growing tips that will help you get a bumper crop this year.
Should You Grow Mint from Seed or from Transplants?
Before you get into the intricacies of growing mint indoors or outside, it is important to decide whether you want to start your mint from seeds or from nursery starts. Started plants are much preferred to seed for a couple of reasons:
- Mint seed can be difficult to start, with a low germination rate, and the plants themselves may not be uniform. You could end up with a few mint plants that grow differently or taste different than you expected.
- The other reason to buy starts over seeds is that as you’re browsing mint plants, you can get a better idea of what the flavor will be like. Obviously, you don’t want to damage the nursery’s plants, but if there is a mint flavor that catches your eye, give the plant a sniff (or simply rub your fingers on a leaf and then smell your fingers) to see if it smells like mint you’d like to use in the kitchen.
Growing Mint in the Garden
To grow mint outside, the first thing you’ll need to do is check your USDA Hardiness Zone. Most varieties of mint grow as a perennial in zones 3 through 8. In warmer zones, you can still grow this plant as either an outdoor annual or an indoor plant.
Mint is a creeping plant that sends out shoots underground. Because of this, mint tends to spread rapidly, so wherever you plant it, be prepared for the mint to take over. Because this plant spreads so aggressively, it is great for low-maintenance border plantings or as a ground cover around tall garden plants.
If you want to keep mint contained, then the easiest way to do it is to plant it, container and all, right in the garden. Make sure the container is at least 12 to 15 inches deep so that the roots have plenty of room to grow, and also make sure to cut off the bottom of the container so that the roots can spread downwards. You’ll also want to leave about an inch of the container exposed above the ground level so that the plant doesn’t send shoots over the top of the pot into the rest of your garden.
When you pick a planting spot, remember that mint prefers cool, part-shade areas that are moist. In cooler climates, mint will grow in full sun, but if you live in the southern part of the United States, you’ll definitely want to keep your mint in a part-shade location. If you’re planting more than one mint plant, then make sure to space each plant 15-inches apart — and don’t worry about the empty space, the mint will fill in your garden in no time!
Growing Mint Indoors
To grow mint indoors, you’ll either need a very sunny southern window (even the sunniest of windows are still considered to be part shade) or a supplemental grow light. If there isn’t quite enough light, then your mint will likely become long and lanky as it stretches to try and find more light.
When it comes to choosing a pot, the bigger the better! Select a pot that is at least 12-inches deep and up to 24 inches in diameter so that the mint has plenty of room to spread. Choose a potting soil that stays somewhat light and fluffy rather than potting soil that packs tightly, and make sure to keep your mint plant well-watered.
When you are ready to harvest your mint, whether it is growing indoors or out, make sure that you do it before the plant flowers. You can either cut sprigs as you need them, or harvest the entire plant so that you can dry the leaves. Just make sure to cut the plant no shorter than one inch so that the mint can regrow.
Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental, and green living topics.