Growing Mint

 | 
Plant mint in a corner of a garden and keep it trimmed back so it doesn’t take over.

This mint plant is happy tucked into a corner of a vegetable and herb garden, where it is kept in check by regular replanting of the areas all around it.

In the Garden

Contain mint by planting it in a pot within a pot.

Because mint tends to take over, many gardeners plant mint in a small pot and then plant that pot in the ground or inside a larger container.

All types of mint (including sweet mint, spearmint, peppermint, and chocolate mint) are fast-growing, spreading plants, so you must give them a place to spread without getting in the way, or plant them in a pot. Mint sends out runners that spread above and just below the ground, quickly forming large, lush green patches. In the right place it makes a pretty seasonal ground cover. You can also contain mint in tight places such as between pavers of a walkway where your feet will brush against the leaves to release its fragrance.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Mint is frost tolerant. It usually dies back in the winter but comes back in spring.

Mint tolerates light frost, but the top will eventually die back in winter in all but the mild coastal climates. Roots are hardy in zones 5 though 11.

Plant mint in the spring, or in the fall in frost-free climates, setting seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart. Try growing mint in a pot where you can keep it in check and handy near the kitchen for a constant supply of sprigs. Add water-retaining polymer to the potting soil to be sure that it stays moist.

In the ground, select a damp area in your garden in either full sun or part shade. Mint prefers fertile soil with a pH from 6.0 to 7.0. Mint is plenty vigorous on its own, but will appreciate a little fertilizer every few weeks, especially if you harvest a lot. Use Bonnie Herb, Vegetable & Flower Plant Food, which is low in salts and won’t cause leaf tips to brown. Keep the soil moist and mulch around the plant to keep its roots moist.

Keep plants in check by harvesting the tips regularly and pulling up wayward runners. Mint’s small flowers bloom from June to September; trim these before the buds open to keep the plant compact. Although slightly frost tolerant, the top of mint will eventually die back in winter except in zones 8 and south, but the root are quite hardy, surviving into zone 5 (some varieties even into zone 3). Lift and replant your mint every 3 to 4 years to keep your patch’s flavor and scent strong.

Troubleshooting

Although mint is a rugged plant, when it is young it is vulnerable to whiteflies, blackflies, spider mites, snails, and slugs.

Harvest and Storage

Pick mint leaves from the plant when you need them.

Mint is easy to harvest. Just pinch off the leaves anytime you need them.

Harvest mint leaves at any size by pinching off stems. For a large harvest, wait until just before the plant blooms, when the flavor is most intense, then cut the whole plant to just above the first or second set of leaves. In the process, you will remove the yellowing lower leaves and promote bushier growth. Three such harvests per season are typical for mint.

Uses

Use mint leaves to add flavor to many beverages.

Mint flavors drinks from mojito to iced tea. Orange mint leaves and slices of oranges add fresh flavor to this pitcher of water.

Fresh mint leaves are a nice complement to lamb, fish, poultry, and vegetables such as peas, new potatoes, and carrots. Mint also blends well with green or fruit salads and beverages such as punch, lemonade, and tea. Two very well-known drinks, mint julep and Cuban mojito, both depend on spearmint for their cool zest. Freeze mint in cubes for iced tea. You can also preserve it in vinegar or dry it for potpourri or sachets.

Download our How to Grow Herbs instructions. They are in .PDF format.

FAQs

Can I plant mint in a pot?

Absolutely. Set one plant in a pot that’s about 12 to 14 inches in diameter, preferably one that will withstand freezing winter temperatures. Choose a quality potting mix, and consider adding a water-retaining polymer at the rate recommended on the label. Keep the pot watered when the surface is dry, and enjoy cutting your mint. Remember, cutting encourages flavorful new growth. The plant will go dormant in the winter, but it will sprout again in spring. Be sure to place the pot on a paved surface or pedestal so the mint will not escape into your beds through the drainage holes in the pot.

Do I need to fertilize mint? What do I use and how much?

Most people worry about having too much mint, but any herb grown in a pot or that you plant to harvest regularly needs extra nutrition. Use a time-release fertilizer in spring when growth begins; just read the label for the recommended rate. If growth slows in the summer, be sure the soil is moist. You can also top-dress a bed of mint in the spring with compost or composted manure. This will improve the soil, especially is your soil is sandy and quick to dry out.

Can I contain mint with steel edging?

It sounds like a good idea. Remember, when the stems get long in the summer, they can bend over and root on the other side of the edging. If you are worried about mint competing with other plants, especially in well-worked garden soil, plant it in a bed that is contained by concrete. No, don’t pour a border, but a narrow strip between your house foundation and a sidewalk or driveway is a good spot. You can also plant it in a place where, if it escapes the edging, it will be in the lawn. When you mow, the aroma will be incredible!

How do I harvest mint for fresh-brewed tea?

Mint tea is easy to make. Cut 3 or 4 stems’ worth of mint, 6 to 8 inches long. Rinse off the stems and leaves to remove any dust from outdoors. Put them in a pitcher or teapot and pour boiling water over them. After about 10 minutes, remove the green leaves with a long-handled spoon. Sweeten if desired and drink hot or pour over ice. Refrigerate any that is left and enjoy for the next couple of days. You can also add mint to the pitcher to steep with orange pekoe tea bags. Just remove the mint when you remove the tea bags. Sweeten the tea with honey, lemon, or however you and your family like your tea.

53 thoughts on “Growing Mint

  1. I am trying sweet mint in a container. Are there any annuals I can plant in the container with the mint?

  2. Hi, I just bought a peppermint plant, something I’ve always wanted. I just love the smell! Anyway, I know I need to keep it moist but how much water should I give it at a time? Also, I have a young child and so chose to put it in a hanging pot. Anything I should watch for?

    • Hi Kayla,
      Water your container when the soil has just started to dry. Mint doesn’t mind it a little wet, but make sure and use a well draining potting mix. If the basket drains well, you can water until you see the water come out of the drainage holes. Insects like plants (both beneficial and pests) – not to worry though, they like the plants not us :) -danielle, Bonnie Plants

  3. I have my sweet mint in a container with a lemon thyme plant and a rosemary plant, is the mint going to give me issues with space? Should I just remove it to a different container?

    • Hello Bridget –
      You may consider planting the mint in a small container into another container so you can mix with other herbs…you can take a look at this idea on the Bonnie Plants website here. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  4. To respond to questions about mint pests…I had a mint planted in a container on my patio. It had been there 1 year, was doing great and in 2 days something ate holes in the leaves and destroyed the plant. I found tiny green worms better known as inch worms under the leaves and in the soil. They are hard to see but once you see one you will find others. I sprayed with a solution of dish soap and water but am not sure if it will come back. But the worms are gone!

  5. I am trying to grow Lemon mint transplants in New Mexico . We are zone 6. I have not had any success. Any suggestions?

    • What types of problems are you having? Mint grows in a variety of conditions, but prefers a moist soil. It is not as drought tolerant as other established herbs like rosemary. It does have its share of pests like slugs and snails…which will munch on the mint leaves. Make sure you are removing the bottom of the peat pot before planting the mint into the ground. Tear away the top to make sure it is not sticking above ground. Hope this helps. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  6. I see your good idea about planting mint in pots & sinking the pot (not rim) into the ground to prevent spreading. If the pot has a drainage hole, wouldn’t the mint spread that way, when the roots reach down. Deep as the drainage hole? Or does mint spread via the surface only? Thanks for the help! Great website!

    • Hi Bobbi,
      I have no doubt that you could plant mint in a container, sink it and surround it with metal barriers and somehow the mint would escape. Mint most often spread above and just below ground by the runners, but will spread by roots too. Sinking a container, though, will provide a way to contain it…but it may find a way out eventually :)

  7. I live in Oklahoma. Unlike my neighbors, I have not been good with plants and gardens, so about six years ago I decided to buy a handful of varieties of mint plants. For once, I had something that would grow on its own, survive the winter, and forgive me if I forgot to water it. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into at first, but I was pleased when the mint spread into the grassy area of my backyard. Each time I mowed, the air was filled with a fresh minty scent. My problem now is that the mint has successfully spread beyond my property into the back alleyways, as well as into yards and gardens of adjacent neighbors, and they are raising their eyebrows at me. The neighborhood association is aware that my yard is the source of the mint plants. Do you have any recommendations to rid areas of the mint growth without harming the other plants, flowers and vegetables that are actually wanted there?

    • Hi Dan,
      Mint spreads by the roots and that is the key to containing it…I’m not sure how large the area is, but digging it out is an option. If diggin out, be sure and dig out all the runners and roots that run beneath the soil. It would be hard to spray the area to rid yourself of the mint without harming other plants and lawns. Once contained, plant in containers. You can sink the containers into the ground. You could also create a bed with a border so that the mint can not escape into nearby areas. I’ll bet your neighborhood smells good:)
      -Danielle, Bonnie Plants

    • This option might work in the fall after you have harvested your veggies. My chickens have eaten all of my peppermint and they even dug up the roots. If you pen your chickens over the area they are pretty good at cleaning up most everything! Good Luck. I LOVE MINT

  8. I have recently got a mint plant. And it was growing fine until now when white spots appeared on the leaves. Would you be able to help with this. The white spots are only on the lower leaves of the mint plant. The rest of the plant looks healthy and is growing white flowers. What would be the remedy for the problem?? Any help would be much appreciated.

    • Hello Hyatt,
      You may be describing powdery mildew. This is a common fungus of many landscape plants, annuals, and perennials. To avoid powdery mildew, plant where there is good air circulation and avoid overhead watering. Ohio State University has a publication with picture of powdery mildew that you can look at, although it can look different on different plants. If you would like, post a picture on our Ask an Expert system. Pictures are always better!
      -Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  9. Hi, I live in North Texas and something is devouring my sweet mint. Not just tiny holes, but eating the leaves back all the way to the stem. Whatever it is also ate my spearmint, but has left my apple mint alone. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • Hi John,
      Sorry to hear about your mint plants. If something is eating them all the way to the stems, I wouldn’t suspect an insect. Literature is mixed on rabbits eating herbs, but they will eat mint. Do you have rabbits in your area? Snails and slugs are also pests of mint. Snails and slugs are attracted to moisture. Look for them under the mulch layer or lay a piece of cardboard out. They will usually gather underneath it. You can flip the carboard over and check for them.
      -Danielle, Bonnie Plants.

      • I had a sneaky squirrel eat my last mint plant!! Now I have one in the kitchen window, lol!

  10. I planted two peppermint plants a month ago and the plants seem to be so very compact. the leaves are tiny don’t seem to be growing much, any idea what’s wrong?

    • Hello Debi,
      Is the mint growing in the ground or a container? Mint is not picky and is known for its spreading habit. It really thrives in moist soils. Many herbs can tolerate a dry soil once established, but mint roots appreciate the moisture. Have you fertilized the mint since it was planted? Any herb you have just planted in a pot (or the ground) will need the extra nutrition, especially when you start harvesting the leaves.
      -Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  11. I planted one of your sweet mint plants in a pot inside and it started to really take off and get big. Yesterday I noticed that a few leaves close to the root were turning yellow. Why is this and how do I fix it?

    • Hi Crystal,
      Sweet mint is one of my favorites! I see that you are growing it indoors. Make sure that the mint is receiving enough light. Sometimes light is limited indoors. Containers may dry out quickly too. While mint doesn’t thrive in wet soils, it sure does thrive in moist, well-draining ones. Remember to fertilize as well for continued new growth.
      Happy Gardening,
      Danielle

  12. I have have a mint plant I grew from seed. It started as a single hearty stalk in a container. When I trimmed it down to encourage spread throughout the container, it returned in very thin stalks that produce almost no leaves and grow very tall if I do not trim them. I’m sure how to care for this plant now! Any suggestions to help me restore it to a leaf producing herb plant? Thanks!

    • Hi Tena,
      Is your mint getting enough sunlight? Thin, spindly stems or stretched behavior may be from getting too much shade. Let me know if that’s the case! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  13. Can mint be grown in South Florida? I think I’m either zone 9 or 10, here in Palm Beach County. Would it be best to plant it indoors and if so, would it need a mostly sunny, or partly sunny exposure?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Lois,
      Yes, you can certainly grow mint where you live. Make sure to follow our instructions on watering and consider planting in a pot before putting in the ground, to contain the spreading roots. You can grow it outdoors, or inside in a very sunny windowsill. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

    • Hi Faye,
      It sounds like you know how mint can grow…and grow! It will spread within the area several feet in all directions. If you are alright with that in your landscape, by all means do. We just warn those who may not know it’s habits to plant in a pot before planting in the ground, to contain it within that space. We consulted a rose friend, The Redneck Rosarian, who says that if you do not spray your roses, mint would be a wonderful, edible companion plant. David Austin roses are delightful! You will have to post photos on our Facebook page. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  14. I have a healthy spearmint growing in a container on my patio, but something is eating the leaves. I cannot find anything on the plant. What are some insects to watch for and some ideas for treatment. Thank you!

    • Hi Barbara,
      With the highly-scented oils of mint leaves, it isn’t usually a feast for pests. Some gardeners plant it with lavender at the garden border to deter deer. Make sure you look underneath the leaves and all around. Also be sure that the leaves are not defoliated or have holes from disease, instead of pests. This photo-heavy document from Massachusetts Extension will be helpful in narrowing down your mint marauders. If that isn’t helpful, you can send a photo of your plant to Ask An Expert for detailed advice. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  15. Hi, I live in southern california and I have about almost a dry spearmint. This plant was given to me and i dont know how it was taken care of. It looks completely dry and the leaves are crumbled. while I was reading other posts. it was mentioned that i should probabley immerse the roots in water. I just did that today. My question was how long should i keep the roots in water and also how would i know if they will still be able to give me some good new spearmint ?

    • Hi Venuse,
      From what you describe, your plant may be dead. However, don’t give up just yet. “Completely dry” and “crumbled leaves” are not a good sign. Immerse the root ball in water to moisten the roots and soil, but don’t leave it submerged for any length of time. Cut off the dead leaves, repot in a container with drainage holes, and put it in a sunny spot. Follow the directions you see here on this page for feeding and watering. If you keep attempt to revive it with this watering, make sure you don’t overwater it in the future. If it’s going to make it, you will see new growth in 1-2 weeks, and any leaves that were not completely dry will revive. If not, we will surely have more plants on shelves in your Southern California stores now! :) ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  16. My indoor mint has little white crystal-like hairs growing in the leaves and green bumps on the stems. Is this normal? How can I get rid of it without using a pesticide?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Erynn,
      Some mint varieties can have somewhat fuzzy leaves, or tiny white hairs. Though I’m not sure that is what you are seeing. To be sure, snap a cell photo and send an email to our digital Ask An Expert so we can help you better. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

    • Hey Erin,
      Did you ever discover what was wrong with your plant. I am having the same exact symptoms!

  17. Hi, I was wondering if you had any tips for growing mint in the winter months. I live in Wisconsin and the past 2 summers my mint grows wonderful. once inside only and once outside mainly. But it always dies in October when I have brought my mint inside for good. Any ideas if an aquarium light or black light or something will work to keep it living through winter ?

    • Hi Teirdra,
      Mint is very easy to grow outdoors — so much so that it can “take over” a spot with those rooting runners. Pot up a clump of your outdoor plant in good, fresh potting soil. Add a little compost tea or Bonnie Plant Food and place it in a sunny spot indoors. Yours may have died due to insufficient light. If you have a sunny windowsill in the kitchen, that would be a prime spot and easy access for using it. Also, if you take cuttings from the stems and put them in a glass of water on your windowsill, it will root quickly and produce new plants to pot up. I hope that you can keep your mint alive this winter, but we will always have one waiting for you at the stores next spring! :) Try any of the newer “flavors,” such as citrus or apple. http://www.bonnieplants.com/mint Happy growing, Mary Beth/Bonnie Plants

  18. I have been planting mints plant for nearly a month now. I put them outside my patio under the shade after I have water them and put them under the sunlight every morning. But it has been a week I discovered some of my mint leaves starting to turn yellow and eventually there are few black spots on the leaves. I do not know what have I did wrong on taking care of the plants and I am tired of searching for the right solution. Is it possible if you could give me some advice for watering and take care for mints?

    • Hi May,
      I wonder if you are overwatering them or if they have enough drainage in the pots? Mint doesn’t mind “wet feet” or moist soil, but be sure to water throughly every 4-7 days, depending on the heat and how much the soil dries out. That could cause yellowing leaves and black spots. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  19. I am looking for a variety of mint that grows closer to 1 ft tall at most. Also would like a “tasty” variety.

    • Hi Tony,

      All the mint varieties we carry grow in a similar, low and spreading habit like you’re describing. We offer several varieties with varying flavors, so you can choose depending on your personal definition of “tasty.” Choose from sweet mint, chocolate mint, orange mint, peppermint, and spearmint. Each has a distinctive mint flavor. Happy growing!

      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

  20. I have lost two Sweet Mint plants the past few weeks due to black spots consuming them. They are on my patio and get partial sun during the day. I keep the soil very moist. What am I doing wrong?

    • Hi Audrey,
      I wonder if they are getting too much water? Check to ensure that your pots have good drainage and holes in the bottom. I think you can reduce watering to every 3 days perhaps, to see if that helps the soil dry out a little. Mint does do well in moist areas, but the roots cannot “sit” in water in a pot. I think it’ll rebound if you reduce watering and allow drainage from the container. Happy growing, Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  21. I planted peppermint and spearmint in my backyard garden. They are growing wonderfully, but (NOW) I can’t distinguish between the two. I planted by mistake both in one area of the garden and they have grown up together. I don’t know which is which? Should I move them apart?

    • Hi Curtis,
      You’ve discovered what many other have; mint loves to spread. We recommend planting them in the ground in terracotta pots with the rims above the soil, to prevent spreading. If you are happy with yours as it is, there’s no need to move. I did find a simple article that describes how you can attempt to distinguish the two, namely by the way the leaves grow on the stem. Of course, the best way is taste — spearmint is sweeter to me, while peppermint has that burst of menthol flavor. Let us know if you figure it out! Also look at the variety listings on our Herb section; it may help to look at the photos of the leaves up close. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

    • Hi Marilyn,

      We offer chocolate mint in most areas around the country. You can find a Bonnie retailer near you by searching on our Find Our Plants page. We usually sell mint a little earlier in the season, though, so you might not be able to find chocolate mint plants right now. Check now, but if we’re out, just know we’ll be back next year. Happy growing!

      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

  22. I planted three different mints at the beginning of the season, peppermint, spearmint and chocolate mint. The peppermint is doing wonderfully. But both my chocolate mint and spearmint are not doing as well. They are in containers, one of which is self watering, do you have any suggestions on how to make them thrive more. I live just outside of DC and I use the mint leaves in water while I am at work.

    • Hi Sarah,
      Glad to hear you love the mints! They make a simple glass of water so much more refreshing. I’m not exactly certain why your chocolate mint and spearmint are not thriving as well as the peppermint. Which one is one a self-waterer? Mints do appreciate moist soils and full sun, perhaps with a bit of afternoon shade in the hot, hot sun. Try adding a dose of Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Food and regulating the water for all three equally. Let us know how that goes.
      Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Comments are closed.