Mint is a prostrate culinary herb from the Mediterranean and other parts of Europe as well as from parts of Asia and Australia. It is part of the mint family (Lamiaceae), which includes other herbs such as thyme and rosemary.
It can be grown in the ground in moist soil or in containers such as a pot, trough or hanging basket. Mint can spread and compete with neighbouring plants so it is best confined to a pot or on its own garden space.
It is one of the few herbs that tolerates part shade. The leaves are very distinctive – bright green and heavily textured to the point of being crinkled. But it’s the aroma that makes mint instantly recognisable. Flowers are seen mainly in late spring and summer and are usually pinky purple and highly attractive to beneficial insects. Plants may die back in areas with cold winters but will resprout in spring.
There are two main mints grown in gardens as herbs – spearmint and peppermint.
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is also known as culinary mint. It has oval, serrated, green leaves and is widely used to flavour food and drinks. It is a traditional accompaniment to lamb (mint sauce), peas and new potatoes, and is also the basis for the alcoholic drink mojito. It can be dried to use year-round. There are varieties of spearmint including curly mint (which has curly shaped leaves). Spearmint grows by sending out runners. It can become invasive. To contain mint, grow it in a pot.
- Peppermint (M. x pipereta) has a strong peppermint scent, forms a tall straggly bush and is favoured as a restorative tea – mint tea – as well as a peppermint flavouring. There are varieties of peppermint, including chocolate mint, which is low growing and has a strong chocolate scent, green leaves and dark stems, and apple mint, which is more upright in its habit and has green, furry leaves and an apple fragrance.
- As well as the commonly grown culinary species there are many species of mint including native river mint (M. australis), which is native to Australia and can be grown as spearmint. It is found naturally growing in moist areas near creeks or rivers.
New mint plants of all types can be grown from division of an established plant, runners or cuttings taken in spring or summer. Look for potted plants in the herb section at your local hardware or garden centre.
Aspect Mint needs a bright, full sun to slightly shaded location. Summer afternoon shade is ideal and reduces water stress. If grown in deep shade, mint plants will stretch to catch the light.
Soil It needs moist soil but is not fussy about soil type and thrives in poor soils so long as they can be kept watered. If you want to improve the soil mix in homemade compost and organic manure and/or Seasol Super Compost before planting. If growing in pots use a premium potting mix such as Seasol Advance Potting Mix.
Climate Mints are highly adapted and grow in a wide range of climates from tropical to cool temperate. In cooler zones it will die back in winter and then resprout in spring.