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Growing Mint

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on December 22, 2010

A bumblebee rides a stalk of cat eyed mint while sipping nectarThe good news is mint is really easy to grow. The bad news is mint will quickly take over your garden and your world if you let it. It is one of the few plants that is best grown in a pot so it can’t smother the rest of your herbs. It doesn’t grow well at all inside, so the pots need to be the big kind you can put outside and water as needed. A window box would also work well.

Mint is used throughout the world and has more than 600 hybrids. Most mint used in the United States is either peppermint or spearmint. However, other mints, such as pineapple mint, are also popular.

Mint is propagated from runners sent out from the parent plant, or from cuttings. Very few mints make seeds. In fact, once the mint flowers, the essential oils in the leaves drop considerably.

To avoid having your mint flower, cut it regularly. Cut the stems right down to the ground. Then either dry the leaves or use them quickly. If you are using the leaves when they are fresh, they must be refrigerated quickly or they will wilt. The leaves can be swirled through clean water, then shaken dry if needed to remove dirt from them.

Having two pots of mint is a good idea. Give one a hair cut and while it is recovering, you can use up that mint and give the other pot a hair cut. That way, you always have mint available.

If you decide not to cut the mint regularly, it will form a dense mat of plants. The air circulation will not be terribly good, and mint will get fungal diseases such as rust. They can also attract whitefly and leafhoppers, which really do a number on the leaves. The best defense against these problems is regular cutting of the stems and good plant care.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin December 23, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I love having mint in our container garden. My wife and I are planning our spring garden and compost project now. Thanks for the tip on keeping the mint from flowering…I didn’t trim it enough last year and it got out of hand.
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Johanna from GIJoh.com December 24, 2010 at 12:14 am

I like mint, but it’s not common here in our place. Maybe I’ll try planting when I get some seeds and see if it grows here.
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Linda January 5, 2011 at 12:24 am

I wish I had read an article like this before I planted mint in my garden. I cannot get rid of it. I am forever digging out the runners.
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