Mint is easy to grow and there are many different types, offering an array of exciting and unusual flavours, from traditional peppermint to lime mint or chocolate mint and many more. Mint thrives in most soil types, in sun or light shade, and usually forms large leafy clumps up to 1m (3.3ft) tall and wide.
You can pick mint’s young leaves and shoot tips from spring through to autumn. Mint is a herbaceous perennial, so it dies back over winter, then re-sprouts every spring, living for many years. It is very easy to make new plants by taking root
You can use mint in all kinds of dishes, including salads, sauces, pesto and desserts. You can scatter it over buttered new potatoes or peas, add it to ice creams, smoothies and cocktails, or make it into tea.
Month by Month
There are many varieties and flavours of mint (Mentha) to choose from and it’s well worth going to buy plants in person, so you can compare and choose your favourites. Alternatively, visit a well-stocked herb garden and make a note of the varieties you prefer.
The standard form of mint is spearmint (Mentha spicata), which is often just sold as garden mint. But there are many other flavours, including peppermint, apple mint, banana mint and pineapple mint, to name but a few. There is even an aquatic species – water mint (Mentha aquatica) – for growing in ponds. The different mints can vary in appearance as well as flavour – some have larger or smaller leaves that may be downy, smooth or ruffled, purple-tinted or variegated. Others have purple, pink or white flowers, darker stems, or a taller or more ground-hugging nature.
A wide range of herbs, including mint, are grown in all the RHS gardens, so do visit them for more herbal inspiration and growing tips.
For advice on choosing and growing all kinds of herbs, see our guides.
Catmint or catnip (Nepeta) – an attractive perennial with purple flower spikes and aromatic leaves. It's not considered a culinary herb but many cats find it irresistible
Korean mint (Agastache rugosa) – a fragrant mint-relative with purple flower spikes
Peruvian black mint (Tagetes minuta) – a relative of the French marigold with zesty, minty leaves
What and where to buy
Mint is widely available as young plants or plug plants in spring, from garden centres and online plant retailers. Many herb nurseries stock a particularly wide range of mint varieties.
You may also find packeted seeds, but only a very limited selection, mainly just spearmint (garden mint). Still, it’s far simpler to just buy plants.
It’s quick and easy to grow mint from young plants and plug plants – they should settle in quickly and you can start harvesting the leaves in the first year.
Mint can also be grown very easily from root cuttings or by dividing clumps (see Propagating, below) in a similar way.
It’s generally not worth growing mint from seed, as germination can be slow and unreliable. But if you do want to give it a try, see our step-by-step guide to sowing seeds indoors.
Mint is very vigorous and will spread far and wide via thick creeping roots (rhizomes) if it’s planted straight into the ground. Instead, keep it constrained by planting either in a large pot or in a bottomless bucket sunk into the soil, with the rim above the surface to prevent shoots rooting over the top.
Containers should be filled with multi-purpose or soil-based compost, while soil should ideally be fertile and free-draining, enriched garden compost – although mint is vigorous enough to cope in most types of soil, except waterlogged conditions.
Mint is best planted in spring, although potted mint can be planted right through to autumn, except in hot dry spells. It is happy in full sun or partial shade. Water it well both before and after planting.
See our guide to planting perennials and our video guide to planting herbs in pots.
Avoid planting different varieties of mint close together, whether in pots or the ground, as they can lose their individual scent and flavour.
Mint is very low maintenance – simply harvest sprigs of young leaves regularly to encourage bushy growth, cut back after flowering and water if necessary in summer.
Water newly planted mint regularly for at least the first few months.
For plenty of new young leaves, make sure mint doesn’t go short of water in hot, dry weather. Plants in containers can dry out quickly, so water them regularly throughout the growing season.
Lay a thick layer of mulch, such as garden compost, around clumps of mint to help hold moisture in the soil and stop it drying out in hot weather.
Extra care for plants in containers
When growing mint in pots or contained in bottomless buckets, you should divide clumps every few years to rejuvenate them and reduce congestion. Simply tip the plant out of its container or dig it out of the bucket, then cut the rootball in two with secateurs. Discard any old dead parts in the centre. See our guide to dividing perennials.
Plant the two smaller clumps into separate containers using fresh multi-purpose or soil-based compost, or into bottomless buckets sunk into the ground.
When mint finishes flowering in late summer, cut the whole plant down to 5cm (2in) from the base. This will encourage fresh shoots, packed with delicious young leaves that you can start harvesting in a few weeks.
Mint naturally dies back over winter, so remove the old, faded stems before new shoots start to sprout in spring.
Take root cuttings in autumn or winter
Take softwood cuttings from vigorous young shoots in spring. Stand them in a glass of water and they’ll soon produce roots and can then be planted into pots of multi-purpose compost
You can also divide large or congested clumps of mint in spring or autumn to produce several new plants, which should settle back in quickly.
Mint leaves can be harvested from late spring to autumn, before the top growth dies back over winter.
Pick regularly to keep plants compact and ensure they produce lots of fresh new growth. Choose the young, soft shoot tips for the most intense flavour. The more you pick, the more they’ll produce.
Mint leaves can be chopped and added to many different dishes, hot or cold, sweet or savoury. They can be scattered over buttered new potatoes, added to salads or made into mint sauce to complement roast lamb. Sprigs make a refreshing tea to aid digestion and can be added to summer drinks, including Pimm’s. Mint’s flowers are edible too – see our guide to edible flowers.
The leaves are best used fresh, but you can keep shoots in a glass of water for several days if you change the water regularly. You can also dry the leaves or freeze them in ice cubes for use in cooking over winter.
Alternatively, to keep the leafy harvests going over winter, bring mint plants indoors in autumn and keep them on a warm, sunny windowsill.
Mint is generally vigorous, healthy and trouble free. Controlling its spread is usually the main issue, so plant it in containers or bottomless buckets rather than letting it grow freely in the ground. To get rid of unwanted invasive mint, dig out shoots as soon as they appear, taking out as much of the roots as possible, as mint can re-grow from small pieces left in the ground. Persistence usually pays off.
Few pests trouble mint, but the soft young shoot tips can suffer temporary infestations of aphids – wash them off or squash them as soon as you spot them, or pinch off infested shoots. Blue mint beetle doesn’t usually cause much damage.
Mint rust can occasionally be a problem.
Cold, wet soil or potting compost in winter can cause mint roots to rot, and when growing in containers mint is more vulnerable to freezing temperatures, so move pots to a sheltered spot in autumn if possible. See our guide to preventing winter damage.
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