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Mint is one of the easiest—and tastiest—plants you can grow. It's vigorous, hardy, and refreshing, and it makes a delicious addition to home-cooked meals and cocktails alike. Plus, in addition to classic peppermint and spearmint, there are many different varieties with unique fragrances: apple mint, pineapple mint, ginger mint, orange mint, and of course, chocolate mint (Mentha × Piperita 'Chocolate Mint').
Chocolate mint, with its pointy green leaves and dark brown stem, gives off a chocolatey aroma with a slightly citrusy flavor. This low-maintenance herb is just as easy to grow as regular mint, and it's great for boosting the flavor of sweet treats. Since plants in the Mentha genus can be toxic to pets, it's best to display your chocolate mint plant out of reach of four-legged family members. Here's how to grow chocolate mint to use in desserts, milkshakes, and hot cocoa.
- Botanical Name: Mentha × Piperita 'Chocolate Mint'
- Common Name: Chocolate mint
- Plant Type: Perennial herb
- Mature Size: One to two feet high
- Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
- Soil Type: Rich, moist soil
- Soil pH: 6.5–7.0
- Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and horses
Like other mint plants, chocolate mint is quite easy to care for and can thrive in a variety of conditions. Water your plant frequently enough to keep the soil moist. You can also apply organic mulch to the soil around the plant to help keep it from drying out as quickly.
In terms of feeding, chocolate mint plants in a container only need a single dose of standard organic houseplant fertilizer in springtime. You can boost nutrients for plants in the ground by spreading fresh compost on the soil around the plant each spring.
Harvest chocolate mint by cutting the stems of a large, mature plant or by pinching off the growing tips of a smaller, younger specimen. This will help the plant grow fuller and bushier. The flavor of chocolate mint is best before the plant blooms with small, purple flowers, so it's best to plan your harvest before the typical bloom time of mid-to-late summer.
Use chocolate mint to add refreshing flavor and chocolatey aroma to cocktails, salads, ice cream, baked goods, and drinks like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. You can also harvest sprigs, tie the ends into bundles, and hang them to dry to have chocolate mint year-round.
Best Growing Conditions for Chocolate Mint
While chocolate mint prefers rich, moist soil, you can plant this species in most types of soil. If the soil where you want to plant isn't rich enough, simply add organic matter like compost to your mixture of all-purpose varieties. You also have some flexibility in deciding where in your garden to plant chocolate mint, as it can grow well in partial shade to full sun—just make sure you're prepared to keep the soil moist.
Your mint plant will survive best in temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees, but when planted outside, it will come back in the spring after the winter's frosts. Chocolate mint also does well in containers: One benefit of this is that you can bring your plant indoors in the fall, then keep it in a sunny, south-facing window over the winter. If you're using a container, choose a well-draining potting mix and keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy.
Chocolate mint and other varieties of mint tend to spread widely, so you may want to grow them in a pot. If you choose to plant them in your yard, line the hole with a root barrier or sink the whole container into the ground to keep the plant from taking over your garden.
When it comes to watering, your mint plant will let you know the correct amount. If the leaves are turning yellow on the bottom, falling off, or beginning to shrivel, it's an indication that more frequent waterings are needed. On the other hand, yellowing leaves that are drooping mean your chocolate mint is overwatered.
How to Propagate Chocolate Mint
Like other mint plants, chocolate mint is easy to propagate by taking stem cuttings and rooting them in water. Larger plants can also be divided and replanted. Here's how to propagate your chocolate mint to grow new plants:
Step 1: Gather a clean set of pruning shears and a glass of water (bottled spring water or collected rainwater is best).
Step 2: Select a healthy stem tip (about four to six inches long) with several leaves. Use your shears to remove them from the mother plant at the base of the stem.
Step 3: Remove the bottom few leaves from the cutting. Place it in a glass filled partway with water, ensuring that the spots where you removed the leaves are submerged.
Step 4: Place the cutting in a warm area with plenty of light. You should see roots begin to grow after a few weeks.
Step 5: Once the cutting has grown several roots that are at least one inch long, plant it in fresh potting mix in a container or in your garden, then care for it as usual.
Common Problems With Chocolate Mint
Chocolate mint is usually a problem-free plant, as it's so adaptable and vigorous. A common problem you may encounter is a fungal disease called rust. Here's how to treat rust when it affects your plant:
Keep an eye out for orange spots on the bottom of the leaves, which indicate an infestation. These can be treated with an organic fungicide, and preventing the leaves from getting wet may also help keep rust at bay. For mild infestations, remove any affected leaves before treating the plant.
Potting and Repotting Chocolate Mint
If you're growing chocolate mint in a container, you'll eventually need to repot the plant to keep it growing strong. You'll know it's time to transplant when you stop seeing vertical growth from the center and smaller leaves begin emerging at the sides of the pot. Repot your chocolate mint in the springtime after new leaves start growing.
If you'd like a bigger plant, go up one pot size. You can also divide the plant and put it back in the same pot with fresh soil, then pot up the division in another container to start growing a new plant. Water your plant a few days before you plan to repot. Gently remove it from the container, then use your fingers to loosen the roots from the soil. Use clean potting shears to remove any rotten roots.
Fill the new container partway full with fresh potting mix. Plant your chocolate mint plant in the new container, filling it in with more fresh mix until the soil level is the same as it was before. Pat down the soil and give the plant a good watering.
Do Chocolate Mint Plants Come Back Every Year?
When planted outside, your chocolate mint plant will come back each spring after dying during the colder months of winter.
Are Chocolate Mint Plants Easy to Care For?
Chocolate mint is a low-maintenance plant, requiring simple care steps with adequate sunlight and water.
What's the Difference Between Chocolate Mint and Mint?
While they come from the same genus, chocolate mint is a variant of standard mint plants that is cultivated with peppermint. Some strains of chocolate mint have more of the signature chocolate smell than others, so the strength of aroma depends on your specific plant.
Can Chocolate Mint Grow Indoors?
Mint plants grow best outdoors, but you can grow chocolate mint as a houseplant by giving it plenty of direct sunlight and extra humidity.
How Fast Does Chocolate Mint Grow?
Many varieties of mint plants grow especially fast, reaching maturity from seed in only about 90 days.
Mint. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 18 November 2015.