Because mint (Mentha spp.) naturally hybridizes so readily, there are literally hundreds of plants that can answer to the name mint. All it takes is a little co-mingling of pollens aided by undiscerning, but well-intentioned pollinators and a new mint hybrid is born. And with so many varieties of mint floating around, you might wonder which is the mint for you.
✺ HERE YOU’LL FIND ✺
Why We Grow Mint
While that may or may not be good enough reason for you, here are some concrete and hopefully convincing reasons to grow mint.
- Mint is delicious and nutritious. It’s a good source of vitamins and minerals such as manganese, copper, and vitamin C. And it’s the ultimate in year-round refreshment. Mint is such a perfect herb to cool you down from hot summer days, while peppermint is literally the flavor of winter and is found in everything from potpourri to hot chocolate to candies.
- Mint has many medicinal properties and a long history of medicinal use. An anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antimicrobial, and carminative herb, mint has been used in the treatment of gastrointestinal complaints for a long time. It’s helpful in treating indigestion, gas and bloating, painful stomach cramping, and a number of other unpleasantries associated with poor and inadequate digestion.
- It’s empowering to grow your own food and medicine. Grow mint because it gives you joy to see something flourish. It’s self-care.
- Grow mint because it’s so easy to do so. It’s one of the few plants that requires little of your hands-on time and has so much to offer. Plus, every time you need that little bit of mint for iced tea or peppermint chocolate chip cookies or your homemade non-toxic cleaning spray, it’s ready for the picking.
- Grow it for the pollinators. Bees love mint. Leaving your mint to flower each season helps provide for the pollinators in your area. Plus, mint flowers make great decorations for desserts and wild green salads.
>>And if you need more reasons to grow mint, check out this post on The Food & Medicine of Mint.
How to Grow Mint
Mint is a fast-growing and quick-to-spread kind of plant. It will quickly send out runners that grow above and below ground, establishing itself in all its big, bushy glory in no time. Here’s some tips on growing mint in your home garden.
- WHEN: Plant mint in spring after danger of frost has passed.
- SOIL & LIGHT: Mint prefers moist, but well-draining and fertile soil in sunny spots, but can also make due in a variety of conditions. They’ll tolerate part shade and can handle fluctuations in moisture and nutrition.
- SPACING: Space mint plants about 18-24″ apart from each other. While this may seem like a lot, remember that they will quickly spread and fill in space.
- CONTAINER vs IN-GROUND: Mint will quickly take over a garden if the conditions are right. It’s always recommended that you keep your mint in pots, even when planting them in the ground. But if you’re okay with bushels of mint, just follow the spacing guidelines above.
- Also, if growing more than one variety of mint, try to space them far apart in your garden to better prevent them from readily hybridizing.
- FEEDING: Mint plants don’t require much. Mulch with compost, as you would the rest of your perennial garden a few times a year or season.
- HARVESTING: Once established, harvest regularly by pinching off the stems. This also helps to keep the plant vibrant and bushy. If your mint starts to get leggy and sparse, just cut back to the ground. An established plant will have no problem popping right back up.
- Heck… a mint plant that’s been in the dirt for 5 minutes could probably also handle a drastic haircut. They’re a relentless species, a true testament to never giving up, to getting right back up when you’re knocked down, to committing fully to becoming the big, beautiful, bushy human you dream to be.
>> So you planted some mint & now you have more than you know what to do with? Dry it! Drying mint is simple & a great way to have this amazing plant all year-long, especially if you live in colder climates.
6 Delicious Varieties of Mint for Your Home Garden
Now that you know why and how to grow mint, here’s 6 varieties of mint that you can try in your home garden. Just remember that mints will readily and naturally hybridize. If growing more than one variety of mint, space them far apart in your garden.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is perhaps one of the most well-known and often used mints. Its stems are typically a reddish color, compared to the green stems of many other mints. And due to its high menthol content, it’s the mint most often utilized for a wide variety of medicinal uses.
#2 CHOCOLATE MINT
Chocolate mint (Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate’) is actually a variety of peppermint, and typically has the same reddish colored stems.
As you may have guessed, chocolate mint leaves have an incredibly minty chocolate flavor. It’s a unique mint that does culinary wonders, especially in desserts. And it also makes a unique dried mint for herbal teas.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata), also known as garden mint or common mint, is another super common variety of mint. While still possessing the characteristic refreshing quality of mint, it has a less intense or biting flavor than peppermint. It’s a bit gentler than peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and can be used interchangeably in food, desserts, and herbal teas.
#4 PINEAPPLE MINT
Pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’) is perhaps one of the most attractive or showy of the mints. It’s actually a cultivar of apple mint. The leaves are variegated and have pretty lil’ white margins. They’re also typically more textured than other mint leaves and are hairy and almost bumpy. Together with the white margins, the leaves almost have a ruffled appearance.
As you may have guessed, pineapple mint has a sweeter, tropical-like flavor making it an excellent mint for use in desserts and sweet beverages.
#5 LAVENDER MINT
Lavender mint is another cultivar of peppermint (Mentha x piperita ‘Lavendula’) and, again, typically has those same reddish colored stems. And you guessed it, lavender mint has a strong lavender aroma with a hint of mint.
It’s especially nice in lemonade and with fresh berries in the summertime, but is also quite versatile in its culinary uses. Add lavender mint to salads or pastas, or any other place you’d use mint. It’s also great for personal care products like a lavender minty lip balm.
#6 GINGER MINT
Ginger mint (Mentha x gentilis) is a cross between corn mint and spearmint, and may also be called redmint, Scotch spearmint, or golden apple mint. It has a fruity ginger aroma and flavor and is excellent in tea. The small green leaves of ginger mint become variegated as it matures and with the change in seasons. It’s common to see green and yellow variegated leaves on ginger mint plants (as seen in photo above).
Like nearly all of the mints, ginger mint also has a wide variety of culinary uses and can be used relatively interchangeably.
If that wasn’t enough to quench your thirst for the mints, you’re in so much luck. While these are some of the more common varieties of mint, there are many more.
Do you have a favorite?
I gotta say, I’m a sucker for the chocolate mint.
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The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns at all, it’s always a good idea to check with your health practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if taking any prescription medications.