No culinary garden would be complete without including some mint. With all the varieties and flavors available you’ll want to grow several to find your favorites. Mint is native to Asia and the Mediterranean region. Over time it was cultivated throughout Europe and it was English settlers that eventually brought mint plants to North America. In fact, some of the world’s largest commercial mint growing operations eventually developed from those humble beginnings. Mint’s refreshing oil is still one of the most popular flavorings ever and it can be found in everything from candies and beverages to beauty and healthcare products.
Caring for Mint
Mint is an easy-to-grow perennial plant. Give it a location that receives 3-6 hours of sun each day, well-drained soil, regular watering and it’s all set. Because mint can grow and spread quickly (happy plants can become invasive) it’s a popular plant to grow in containers. A pot will help keep it under control and you can move the plant to whatever location is handiest for you. Plants in containers will require protection in areas with freezing winters, or they can be brought inside. Place pots near a sunny window and water as needed. You can put your potted mint plants back outside in the spring, once the danger of frost has passed.
Harvest the leaves as needed but take care not to remove more than a third of the entire plant at any one time. The best time to harvest mint is in the morning when the plant’s aromatic oils are at their peak. Snip mint sprigs just above a pair of leaves (this is where new buds will emerge to replace the foliage you are removing) or if just a few leaves are needed, pinch them off at the base of the leaf stem.
Like all plants that are grown mainly for their leaves, flower stalks should be removed as early as possible. Unless you want to leave a few for the pollinators to enjoy, it’s best not to let your mint plant flower. Flowering takes a lot of energy from the plant and can reduce the flavor of the leaves. Just pinch off any flower buds as they appear.
Uses for Mint
Mint has many uses in the landscape as well as its edible uses. Here are just a few ways you can use and enjoy mint plants:
- Mint can be used as a groundcover and adds fragrance to an area without flowers.
- Place where people relax, near a deck or patio, where the fragrant foliage can be enjoyed.
- Create a mint “garden” by growing different mint varieties in individual containers and displaying them together as a group.
- Mint makes a lovely garnish for a beverage, dessert or dinner plate.
- If allowed to flower, the blooms are sure to attract bees, butterflies and other beneficial pollinators.
- The leaves can be dried and stored to be used later in teas and potpourris.
Popular Mint Varieties
Here are some of the many popular mint varieties you’ll want to try. Click on each one to learn more:
Don’t let your herb plants go to waste when freezing weather arrives, learn how to preserve them. You can enjoy the flavors of summer all year round with our tips on harvesting and preserving herbs.