Mentha (also known as mint) is a genus of plants in the family Lamiaceae. The exact distinction between species is unclear; it is estimated that 13 to 24 species exist. Hybridization occurs naturally where some species ranges overlap. Many hybrids and cultivars are known. The genus has a subcosmopolitan distribution across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America.
Mint plants are mainly aromatic perennials and they possess erect, branching stems and oblong to ovate or lanceolate leaves arranged in opposing pairs on the stems. The leaves are often covered in tiny hairs and have a serrated margin. Mint plants produce a terminal flower spike and the flowers can be white or purple in color depending on variety. Mint plants are fast growing and can become very invasive.
Table of Contents
Under 6 inches, 6 - 12 inches, 1 - 8 feet (depending on varieties)
1 - 4 feet
7.0 – 8.0
Varieties of Mint
Mentha suaveolens has a delightful wintergreen flavor and fragrance. The fresh leaves can be used to make apple-mint jelly or a stomach-soothing tea. Like other mints, it can be invasive. Applemint grows 3 feet tall and can spread several feet wide.
This variety of Mentha piperita is a fast-spreading selection with dark green leaves, purple-tinted stems, and a light chocolate-mint fragrance. It grows 3 feet tall and can spread indefinitely.
Mentha x gracilis, often referred to as ginger mint, is a lovely mint has bright green foliage with yellow veins. It has a gingery scent atop the common mint fragrance.
Mentha spicata 'Julep' is a selection of spearmint that grows 18-24 inches tall and 14-18 inches wide. In summer, it bears ivory to white flowers.
Hillary's Sweet Lemon Mint
Mentha dulcia citreus 'Hillary's Sweet Lemon' was developed from a cross of apple mint and lime mint, affording a fruity, citrusy aroma to the plant. It was named for former First Lady Hillary Clinton. The plant produces gray-green foliage, which grows to 18 inches tall, and, like most mints, it can spread aggressively.
Himalayan Silver Spearmint
This variety of Mentha spicata has silvery, elongated leaves on plants that grow 18-24 inches tall and wide. In summer, the plant produces an abundance of pinkish flowers, which dry well.
Kentucky Colonel Mint
This Mentha spicata selection is a spearmint with excellent minty-green foliage, often used to flavor mint juleps and mojitos. The plant bears white, pink, or lavender blooms in summer and grows 2-3 feet tall.
Mentha spicata 'Mojito' has a flavor suitable for the Cuban drink by the same name; however, it is different from the true mojito mint, which is a hybrid between spearmint and apple mint. 'Mojito' grows 2-3 feet tall and spreads at least as wide.
Mentha piperita f. citrata 'Orange', also called bergamot mint, develops bright green leaves lightly tinged with red. The foliage has a lovely citrus fragrance and flavor that makes it a good addition to a wide range of dishes. It grows 3 feet tall and spreads several feet wide.
Mentha aquatica, as its name suggests, grows in standing water up to 3 inches deep. It also can grow in moist garden soil. In summer, water mint bears lavender-purple flowers. The plant grows 2-3 feet tall and spreads unless contained.
The Best Spearmint
This Mentha spicata variety is an extremely vigorous variety of spearmint. It tolerates frequent shearing to harvest its minty, wrinkled green leaves for tea or flavoring other dishes. The plant grows 24 inches tall and spreads at least 18 inches wide.
Variegated Pineapple Mint
Mentha suaveolens 'Variegata' brightens corners of the garden with its white-edge leaves. This mint has a fruity flavor. It grows 3 feet tall and several feet wide.
Mentha spicata offers a mild flavor that gives the plant versatility in the kitchen. Spearmint can withstand higher soil moisture; tuck it beneath a downspout for a happy mint patch.
This selection of Mentha x piperita packs the strongest mint flavor. It grows 12-30 inches tall and 18 inches wide.
Todd's Mitcham' Peppermint
Mentha × piperita 'Todd's Mitcham' is a variety of peppermint that is widely grown commercially for peppermint oil extraction. It has high essential oil content and is resistant to verticillium wilt.
Mentha longifolia is a type of water mint native to the Mediterranean, but it also has naturalized in much of the eastern United States. It has numerous common names, including horsemint, Habek mint, brook mint, and buddleia mint. With its elongated gray foliage on a plant growing up to 4 feet tall, it resembles butterfly bush (Buddleia spp.).
Mentha arvensis, also known as field mint or corn mint, is native throughout most of North America. It bears whorls of white, pale lavender, or pale pink flowers from mid- to late summer. You are most likely to find plants through native plant society plant sales. Like most mints, it can spread aggressively.
Mints are vigorous perennials that thrive in light soil with good drainage.
Ideally, they prefer a moist but well-drained site, something like their native habitat along stream banks.
Most will grow in sun or partial shade; the variegated types may require some protection from direct sun.
For growing outdoors, plant one or two purchased plants (or one or two cuttings from a friend) about 2 feet apart in moist soil. One or two plants will easily cover the ground. Mint should grow to be 1 or 2 feet tall.
Mint is a vigorous grower and needs to be contained or it will send out its runners and spread all over your garden. The key is to contain the plant’s roots. Whether it’s in the ground or above ground, plant mint in a pot. We suggest each mint is planted in a 10-inch pot that has drainage holes. You can then sink this pot into the ground or another larger container of soil.
If you fine with mint becoming a ground cover and understand that it may become invasive, plant in its own raised bed or separate area.
In the garden, plant mint near cabbage and tomatoes—in pots, again, in order to prevent it from spreading and stealing nutrients from your crops.
Minimal care is needed for mint. For outdoor plants, use a light mulch. This will help keep the soil moist and keep the leaves clean.
For indoor plants, be sure to water them regularly to keep the soil evenly moist.
At first, mints develop into well-behaved–looking, bushy, upright clumps, but they soon set out to conquer new territory with horizontal runners and underground rhizomes. Unless you block the advance, a pert peppermint plant can turn into a sprawling 4-foot giant in just 1 year. It’s not the stuff of horror movies, however. Mints benefit from picking and pruning. They are shallow-rooted and easy to pull out, so there’s no reason to worry, as long as you provide physical barriers such as walls, walkways, or containers.
Frequent harvesting is the key to keeping mint plants at their best. Young leaves have more flavor than old ones, and mint can be harvested as soon as it comes up in spring. Although fresh is best and sprigs keep for a few days in water, mint leaves can be frozen or air-dried in bunches.
Right before flowering, cut the stems 1 inch from the ground. You can harvest one mint plant two or three times in one growing season.
You can also just pick the leaves as you need them.
You can grow the plants indoors for fresh leaves throughout the winter. If you want to dry them, it’s best to cut the leaves right before flowering. Store the dried leaves in an airtight container.
The best way to propagate mints is by taking cuttings from those that you like best. It’s easy—take 6-inch cuttings of rooted stems and plant them horizontally in the soil. Mint stems will also root in a glass of water. Start with a small cutting from an established plant. Any gardening friend will give you a cutting of a favorite mint.
Pests and Diseases
1. Aphids (Peach aphid)
Symptoms: Small soft bodied insects on underside of leaves and/or stems of plant; usually green or yellow in color, but may be pink, brown, red or black depending on species and host plant; if aphid infestation is heavy it may cause leaves to yellow and/or distorted, necrotic spots on leaves and/or stunted shoots; aphids secrete a sticky, sugary substance called honeydew which encourages the growth of sooty mold on the plants.
Comments: Distinguishing features include the presence of cornicles (tubular structures) which project backwards from the body of the aphid; will generally not move very quickly when disturbed.
Management: If aphid population is limited to just a few leaves or shoots then the infestation can be pruned out to provide control; check transplants for aphids before planting; use tolerant varieties if available; reflective mulches such as silver colored plastic can deter aphids from feeding on plants; sturdy plants can be sprayed with a strong jet of water to knock aphids from leaves; insecticides are generally only required to treat aphids if the infestation is very high - plants generally tolerate low and medium level infestation; insecticidal soaps or oils such as neem or canola oil are usually the best method of control; always check the labels of the products for specific usage guidelines prior to use.
Symptoms: Stems of young transplants or seedlings may be severed at soil line; if infection occurs later, irregular holes are eaten into the surface of fruits; larvae causing the damage are usually active at night and hide during the day in the soil at the base of the plants or in plant debris of toppled plant; larvae are 2.5–5.0 cm (1–2 in) in length; larvae may exhibit a variety of patterns and coloration but will usually curl up into a C-shape when disturbed.
Comments: Cutworms have a wide host range and attack vegetables including asparagus, bean, cabbage and other crucifers, carrot, celery, corn, lettuce, pea, pepper, potato and tomato.
Management: Remove all plant residue from soil after harvest or at least two weeks before planting, this is especially important if the previous crop was another host such as alfalfa, beans or a leguminous cover crop; plastic or foil collars fitted around plant stems to cover the bottom 3 inches above the soil line and extending a couple of inches into the soil can prevent larvae severing plants; hand-pick larvae after dark; spread diatomaceous earth around the base of the plants (this creates a sharp barrier that will cut the insects if they try and crawl over it); apply appropriate insecticides to infested areas of garden or field if not growing organically.
3. Thrips (Western flower thrips)
Symptoms: If population is high leaves may be distorted; leaves are covered in coarse stippling and may appear silvery; leaves speckled with black feces; insect is small (1.5 mm) and slender and best viewed using a hand lens; adult thrips are pale yellow to light brown and the nymphs are smaller and lighter in color.
Comments: Transmit viruses such as Tomato spotted wilt virus; once acquired, the insect retains the ability to transmit the virus for the remainder of its life.
Management: Avoid planting next to onions, garlic or cereals where very large numbers of thrips can build up; use reflective mulches early in growing season to deter thrips; apply appropriate insecticide if thrips become problematic.
4. Spider mites (Two-spotted spider mite)
Symptoms: Leaves stippled with yellow; leaves may appear bronzed; webbing covering leaves; mites may be visible as tiny moving dots on the webs or underside of leaves, best viewed using a hand lens; usually not spotted until there are visible symptoms on the plant; leaves turn yellow and may drop from plant.
Comments: Spider mites thrive in dusty conditions; water-stressed plants are more susceptible to attack.
Management: In the home garden, spraying plants with a strong jet of water can help reduce buildup of spider mite populations; if mites become problematic apply insecticidal soap to plants; certain chemical insecticides may actually increase mite populations by killing off natural enemies and promoting mite reproduction.
1. Mint rust Puccinia menthae
Symptoms: Small, dusty, bright orange, yellow or brown pustules on undersides of leaves; new shoots may be pale and distorted; large areas of leaf tissue die and leaves may drop from plant.
Comments: Disease also affects mint and can spread from nearby mint plants.
Management: Infected plants and rhizomes should be removed to prevent spread; heat treatment of roots may help to control the disease; roots should be immersed in hot water at 44°C (111°F) for 10 minutes, cooled using cool water and then planted as usual.
Benefits of Mint
Mint leaves are known as an amazing appetizer. It helps to promote the digestive system by stimulating digestive enzymes. Mint oil has antiseptic and antibacterial properties to relieve indigestion, stomach infections, etc. It acts as an anti-spasmodic remedy due to the presence of methanol.
Relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common disorder of the digestive system. It can cause stomach pain, constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, and indigestion. The main and important treatment for irritable bowel syndrome is a change of diet but some studies have shown that mint oil can be helpful.
Mint oil contains a compound called menthol which gives relaxing effects on the muscles of the digestive tract.
Improve Respiratory Complaints
Mint leaves are highly recommended for asthma patients, as it acts as a good relaxant and relieves chest congestion. Consumption of mint leaves daily can give a soothing effect for asthmatic patients.
Mint is known to clear a stuffed nose, menthol can make breathing a lot easier. It also relieves the irritation caused by a chronic cough.
Mint leaves could help freshen your breath instantly due to the presence of germicidal properties.
Mint leaves extract can help to clear the plaque deposition on teeth. Menthol containing toothpaste, mouthwash, or chewing gums can cease oral bacterial growth and keeps the oral cavity clean.
Improve Brain Power
Mint leaves are brain tonic. According to various studies, consuming mint may up alertness and cognitive functions. Mint leaves can improve memory power and mental alertness.
Mint is full of vitamins and antioxidants to improve your immunity. These plant-based vitamins help to protect your cells from damage. Also, mint leaves can prevent tumour formation by inhibiting some enzymes.
Beats Stress & Depression
Mint is an essential part of aromatherapy. It’s strong and refreshing smell could help beat stress and rejuvenate the mind. By breathing in the aroma of mint, your mind is instantly calmed.
You can add mint to your tea, use mint extract on a vaporizer or take a mint bath for immediate relief from stress and depression.
Help in Breastfeeding Pain
Breastfeeding mothers commonly experience sore and cracked nipples, which can make breastfeeding painful and difficult. Evidence revealed that applying mint essential oil is valuable in easing pain and heals soreness and cracked nipples.
Helps in Weight Loss
Mint leaves play an essential role in losing weight in a healthy way. Mint leaves promote digestion and boost metabolism to help in losing weight. Mint tea is a great refreshing calorie-free beverage to promote weight loss.
Mint is an ancient medicine to treat skin related problems like acne, scar. The powerful antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties of mint leaves are effective in treating acne and lowers the inflammation and redness associated with acne outbursts.
Mint leaves contain high salicylic acid and vitamin A which controls the secretion of sebum oil in the skin and helps to cure acne.
Mint leaves extract is useful to treat and prevent acne. The richness of menthol and natural antioxidants in mint leaves are used as an amazing cleanser, toner, astringent and moisturizer for the skin. Mint leaves tones the skin, softens dry and itchy skin.
Mint leaves extract is a great source of carotene and antioxidants that promotes hair growth and prevents hair fall. The potent antimicrobial and antifungal properties of mint leaves use to ward off dandruff, head lice, etc.
You can apply mint leaves paste mixed with lemon juice on the hair scalp and allow it to stay for 30-40 minutes and rinse the hair well.
Help to Ease Morning Sickness
Mint is an excellent remedy to treat nausea. It is also effective for treating nausea that happens in morning sickness.
Helps Ease Allergies
Recent studies conducted in 2019 have proven that Mint contains 53 separate compounds that have anti-allergic properties. This means consuming mint can to some extent help in the treatment of different types of allergies.
Helps Reduce Symptoms of Asthma
A clinical study on rats conducted in 2019 has proven that the compounds in mint are indeed more effective in the treatment of asthmatic symptoms than the traditional medicine known as dexamethasone. This study suggests that mint may have similar effects on humans as well. Therefore, consuming mint may help to ease symptoms of asthma to some extent.
Mint leaves are used fresh or dried to make teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams.
Mint essential oil (essential oil can be extracted from the leaves) and menthol are extensively used as flavorings in breath fresheners, drinks, antiseptic mouth rinses, toothpaste, chewing gum, desserts, and candies, such as mint (candy) and mint chocolate.
Mint (pudina) is a staple in Indian cuisine, used for flavouring curries and other dishes.
Mints are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including buff ermine moths.
Mint was originally used as a medicinal herb.