How to Grow Mint to Use in Your Home Cooking (or Favorite Cocktail)

strawberry peach sweet tea julep - how to grow mint

Half Baked Harvest

A chiffonade of mint (Mentha spp.) can brighten up a dish of pasta with peas, make your iced tea even more refreshing, and pair perfectly with chocolate in our favorite desserts. The best way to have fresh, aromatic mint on hand in your kitchen is to grow your own at home—and it couldn't be easier.

The most common types of mint are peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). While they can be used interchangeably in recipes depending on what you have on hand, peppermint tends to be used in sweets and desserts, while spearmint is more often called for in savory dishes. 

In addition to peppermint and spearmint, there are several other flavor variations available. Chocolate mint is known for its chocolatey sweetness and a brownish tinge on the leaves, while fuzzy, round-leaved apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) is bright and fruity. You can find pineapple mint, banana mint, orange mint, and lemon mint, too. 

Because it’s a perennial, mint will come back year after year in climate zones 3 and warmer, so investing in a plant now can bring many refreshing harvests for years to come. You can also harvest your mint throughout the season and dry it for later use, which has the added bonus of encouraging more growth.

Best Growing Conditions for Mint

Even if you have outdoor garden space, it’s best to grow mint in containers, as it’s extremely invasive and will quickly spread and take over a much larger area than you originally planned. Because the plant is so hardy, it still grows well in medium to large containers on your deck, patio, porch, or fire escape.

Mint will grow its best in full sun. Choose a sunny spot, ideally one with a southern or western exposure that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Mint can also grow in part-shade. 

It's ideal to grow your mint outdoors, but it can also survive in a bright, sunny window along with the ornamental houseplants in your kitchen.

Use a rich, well-drained soil mix formulated for growing vegetables and herbs in containers. Choose a pot for your mint plant that’s at least eight inches across at the top and 10 to 12 inches deep. Plant only one mint plant per container, as even a small mint plant will grow vigorously and spread throughout the pot. 

How to Care for Your Mint Plant

Water your mint plant often enough to keep the soil moist but not soggy. During the hot summer months, this may mean daily waterings, so check the soil moisture often. This is especially crucial for mint plants in full sun, since container plants will dry out more quickly than plants in the ground will. Mint varieties with fuzzy leaves will do better with a little less water than those without. 

When watering, be sure to water at the base of the plant to keep the foliage from getting wet. This will help prevent a fungal infection in the plant. Keep an eye out for pests like aphids, which may cluster around the veins of the leaves. Spray the plant with water to dislodge pests in the morning, which will give the leaves time to dry in the sun.

If your mint plant gets long and leggy, cut back the stems and use the leaves in cooking, or hang the herbs to dry for later use. This will encourage bushier growth.

How to Propagate Your Mint Plant

While mint can be grown from seed, the easiest ways to propagate mint are by taking stem cuttings from an existing mint plant or by division of a mature plant. 

How to Grow Mint from Stem Cuttings

To propagate your mint plant from stem cuttings, you’ll need a clear glass jar or bottle and clean scissors or pruners.

Step 1: Cut several good-looking stems about four inches in length from a healthy, vigorous mint plant. Trim away the bottom leaves from each cutting. 

Step 2: Place the cuttings into a small glass, jar, or bottle. Add cool water so that the water level hits just below the lowest remaining set of leaves. Make sure that no leaves are submerged, as this can cause the cuttings to rot. 

Step 3: Put the cuttings in a warm place with lots of bright, indirect light (not full sun). When roots are about half an inch long, plant the cuttings in containers with fresh potting soil. Keep them in a sunny place and care for them as usual.

To encourage bushier growth, pinch back half an inch from the tip of each stem. 

How to Divide Your Mint Plant

To divide your mint plant, you’ll need as many containers as new divisions you’d like to make and well-drained container soil. 

Step 1: Fill the new pots three-quarters full with fresh potting soil. Gently turn the mother plant’s container on its side and remove the plant from the pot.

Step 2: Using your fingers, carefully tease apart the base of the plant, keeping roots and stems attached. Look for areas of horizontal stem growth, or stolons, with attached roots. Each one of these can become a new plant. 

Step 3: Plant the new divisions you’ve made in the prepared containers, adding more soil to cover the roots. Be sure to plant the divisions at the same soil level they were before and leave at least one inch of space between the top of the soil and the lip of the container. Replant the mother plant with fresh soil in an appropriately-sized pot. 

Step 4: Water the soil of each mint plant until it is well moistened. Care for the plants as usual. 

Related Stories