University of California
UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County
Mint is wonderful in the garden as long as it is contained—in a container! Planted in the ground, its creeping rhizomes take over, sending up many new stems, crowding out other plants, and becoming nearly impossible to eradicate. Each type of mint, when crushed, has a wonderfully delicious scent that endears it for herbal use but deters other critters including deer and jack rabbits.
Easy to Grow
- Purchase plants from a nursery or order seed from among many varieties in nursery catalogs. Results from propagating by seed are not always reliable. Nursery catalogs also sell seedlings.
- Root cuttings in potting soil or in a glass of water on a window sill. Plant when a substantial root mass develops. Peppermint, a hybrid, does not produce seeds and is propagated only by cuttings. Other mints are also propagated most reliably from cuttings.
- Handle tiny seeds with care. Scatter them over the surface of a dampened, sterile germination mix and press down lightly but do not cover. Spray with a mister to avoid disturbing seeds and continue spraying daily until seedlings are well-anchored. Place the container in a sunny window. Seeds will germinate in about 10-15 days.
- Thin by removing all but the strongest seedlings. Use small scissors to snip weak shoots so as not to disturb the shallow roots of the others.
- Transplant 2-in. seedlings into 4-in. pots filled with potting soil. Set outdoors in warm weather. After several sets of leaves develop, transplant again into a more permanent container.
- Check plant labels, nursery tags, or seed packets for growth details. Many mints die back in winter and resume growth in spring.
Caring for Mint
- Know the habit of your mint variety. If it is a creeping variety, keep it somewhat trimmed so that it doesn’t grow out of its container and onto the ground where it will root itself.
- Consult growing information on nursery tags or seed packets. If you’re planting it with other container herbs, know the variety’s height. It’s not unusual for a mint plant to grow 18 in. high and wide when it could shade other herbs.
- Set up a partly sunny location near your kitchen door for easy harvest.
- Remember to water containerized plants regularly even though you may read that mint is somewhat drought-tolerant once established. Pots tends to dry out fast.
- Recycle and conserve leftover water from washing veggies and fruit to use for watering mints and other herbs.
- Harvest mints year-round if they do not die back in winter. Frequent harvesting by cutting back stems keeps mints fuller and vigorous.
- Continue to keep roots moist but not wet in outdoor containers in the absence of rain in the cool season. Plants will resume growth in spring.
- Renew mints every few years when stems become woody and sparse. Renew annually if roots fill containers and growth slows. Young leaves have the most flavor.
- Refrain from emptying pots of mint soil and roots in your garden since stems and roots may only be dormant and ready to grow again, or you may be pulling out mint for quite some time.