With its fresh taste and fragrant aroma, mint is a staple in any herb garden. It’s quick growing and is super easy to care for. You can grow mint outdoors in containers or directly in the ground, and there are many varieties to choose from!
Mint (Mentha) is a hardy perennial herb that can add a pop of freshness to any dish. It’s a popular ingredient in teas, desserts, and even some savory dishes.
However, you may have heard mint is an invasive plant that can take over your garden. While it’s true mint is a vigorous grower, don’t let this put you off from growing it outdoors. There are plenty of ways to control its growth and ensure it doesn’t take over the rest of your garden!
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know to grow mint outdoors successfully.
Best Types of Mint to Grow Outdoors
There are more than 30 different kinds of mint. Each one offers a unique flavor and fragrance, with some being more suitable for certain dishes than others. Here are some of the most popular types of mint to grow outdoors:
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita): This is a hybrid of spearmint and watermint, and it’s known for its strong menthol flavor. It’s perfect for making mint tea or adding to chocolate desserts.
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata): Known for its sweet, refreshing flavor, spearmint is a popular choice for mojitos and other cocktails.
- Chocolate Mint (Mentha piperita ‘Chocolate mint’): This mint variety has a subtle flavor with hints of chocolate. It’s got a lower menthol content than other varieties, making it perfect for desserts.
Some other mint varieties include apple mint, pineapple mint, orange mint, and ginger mint!
Can You Plant Different Types of Mint Together?
Mint is a notorious cross-pollinator, so you should avoid planting different mint types together. This goes for mint planted in the ground or containers. The individual flavors and fragrances of each type could also change if they are planted too closely together. It’s best to grow one type of mint or have each variety planted as far apart as possible.
However, if you want to promote cross-pollination, you can do so by planting different types of mint together. Just note that the resulting flavor and fragrance may be unpredictable and not true to the original variety.
What Is the Best Month to Plant Mint Outdoors?
The best time of year to plant mint outdoors is spring, once the last predicted frost date has passed. Depending on where you live, this could be as early as February or as late as April. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, and wait until temperatures consistently stay above freezing before planting your mint outside.
What Are the Best Conditions for Growing Mint Outdoors?
Mint is pretty easy to grow and can thrive in various conditions. Here are some tips for optimal growth:
Mint planted outdoors does well in full sun with part shade – especially during the hottest time of the day. It can grow in the shade, too, but the growth may be slower and can produce fewer leaves.
The soil should be enriched with organic matter and have good drainage. Mint plants love moist soil but hate it being waterlogged, so well-drained soil is crucial. They also prefer a slightly acidic soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
Temperature and Humidity
Different mint species can tolerate different temperature ranges, but generally, mint plants enjoy warm temperatures between 65-75°F (18-28°C). Some types, like peppermint plants, do well in cold climates and can deal with temperatures as low as -20°F (-29°C). Mint also loves humidity! Just look out for signs of disease in very humid conditions.
It’s recommended to plant your mint in a pot to contain its growth. Mint can be very aggressive and easily take over your garden. This means it’ll compete with other plants for space and nutrients. A pot will also allow you to move your mint around if needed, like bringing it indoors during winter to prolong its growing season.
Choose a wide pot with good drainage holes to allow excess water to drain out. One that’s around 8-12 inches is a good size! It also doesn’t have to be very deep, as mint has shallow roots.
But please note, even plants in mint containers can spread if the hanging stems touch the ground – so keep an eye out! Place the pot on a hard surface, like a patio or deck, to prevent this from happening.
You must consider the location if you’re planting mint into the ground. The plant will spread, so make sure to give it enough space. If you want to hinder its growth, you can bury a pot or liner in the ground and plant your mint there.
How to Grow Mint Outdoors
Mint is best grown from seedlings or propagated from stem cuttings instead of sowing seeds directly into the ground.
This doesn’t mean you can’t grow it from seeds, but the germination process can be hard and unreliable. As previously mentioned, mint can cross-pollinate. There’s a chance any mint seeds you buy won’t grow true to type. This means you might not get the same flavor or appearance as the parent plant.
But if you do want to try growing mint from seeds, here’s how:
How to Grow Mint from Seeds
- After the last frost date, prepare the soil by removing weeds and debris. Add some organic matter, like compost, to give the plants nutrients.
- Sow the seeds on top of the soil and press them in gently using your fingertips.
- Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
- If successful, germination will take around 7-14 days.
- Thin out the young plants once they are large enough to handle, spacing them around 18-24 inches apart.
You can also start the seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost date and then transplant them outside once the weather warms up. Harden off the seedlings for a week before transplanting them outside.
How to Grow Mint from Seedlings
- Prepare the soil in the same way as mentioned above.
- Only purchase healthy seedlings free from disease and pests.
- Dig a hole slightly larger than the new plants root ball and gently loosen the roots before planting.
- Place the seedling in the hole and cover it with soil. Plant each seedling around 18-24 inches apart.
- Water thoroughly after planting.
How to Propagate Mint
If you want to grow a mint plant that is true to type, the best way is to propagate it. There are two ways to do this: cuttings or root division.
How to Propagate Mint from Cuttings
- Choose a healthy stem and cut a 4-6-inch section just below a leaf node. Use sharp scissors or a knife for a clean cut.
- Remove the leaves from the lower half of the stem.
- Place the stem in a glass of water and place it in a sunny spot.
- Change the water every few days to prevent bacteria from forming.
- After 2-3 weeks, you should start seeing roots growing from the stem.
- Once the roots are about an inch long, you can transplant the cutting into the soil and space them 18-24 inches apart.
How to Propagate Mint by Root Division
- Fall or early spring is the best time for root division.
- Carefully dig up the mint plant and gently shake off any excess soil from the roots. A container-grown plant is easiest to work with.
- Use a sharp knife or garden shears to divide the root mass into smaller sections. Each section should have at least one healthy stem and a good amount of roots attached.
- Replant each divided section into its own container or directly into the ground – space the root cuttings 18-24 inches apart.
- Water thoroughly after planting.
7 Tips to Care for Mint Outdoors
Here are some tips to keep your mint plant healthy and thriving outdoors:
Don’t Let the Soil Dry Out
Mint plants thrive in moist soil. If the soil dries out, it can lead to wilting and stunted growth. Be sure to water your mint plant regularly, especially during the hot summer months. Be careful not to overwater, as too much moisture can cause root rot. A healthy medium of moist but not waterlogged soil is key for a happy mint plant.
Look Out for Pests and Diseases
Thankfully, mint is pretty low-maintenance and not susceptible to many pests. However, there are a few common culprits that may try to invade your mint plant, like aphids and spider mites. Always treat herbs with organic solutions to keep your plant healthy and pesticide-free.
Additionally, mint can develop powdery mildew if there is not enough air circulation or the plant is too wet. Make sure to space your plants properly and avoid overcrowding.
Prune and Pinch Regularly
To encourage bushier growth, regularly prune and pinch your mint plant. Pinch off the top 1-2 inches of each stem every few weeks to promote fuller growth. This will also help prevent your plant from becoming too leggy.
Offer Afternoon Shade
If you live somewhere with intense afternoon sun, it’s a good idea to provide some shade for your mint plant.
Mint prefers partial shade and can become stressed if exposed to too much direct sunlight outdoors. Planting near taller plants or covering during the hottest part of the day can help protect your mint from scorching. Container-grown mint can also be moved to a shadier spot if needed.
Fertilize If Needed
Mint will only need to be fertilized if the quality of your soil is poor or if your plant is struggling. Choose a balanced organic fertilizer and follow the instructions on the package for application.
Mulch for Moisture
To help keep the soil consistently moist, add a layer of mulch around your mint plant. This will also help suppress weeds and regulate the temperature of the soil. Around 2 inches of mulch is enough.
Cut it Down in the Fall
When autumn arrives and your mint plant dies back, it’s time to cut it down. Prune the entire plant to a few inches above the soil line and remove any dead or diseased leaves. This will help you grow a healthy, vigorous plant next spring.
How to Harvest Mint Outdoors
You’ll know your mint plant is ready for harvest when it has reached a height of 4-6 inches. To pick the leaves, simply pinch them off at the stem using your fingers or use scissors for a cleaner cut. Avoid harvesting more than one-third of the plant at a time to allow it to continue growing.
How to Store Mint
If you have more mint than you can use fresh, there are a few ways to store it for later use. One method is to freeze the leaves in ice cube trays with a little bit of water. You can also freeze the leaves whole by placing them in a sealable plastic bag. Frozen mint will last up to 6 months.
Another option is to dry the leaves by hanging them in a warm, well-ventilated area or using an herb dehydrator.
If you’ll use your mint within the next week, you can store it in the fridge by wrapping the stems in a damp paper towel and placing them in a plastic bag.
Best Ways to Use Mint in Cooking
Mint is a versatile herb that can be used in sweet and savory dishes. It pairs well with fruits but adds a refreshing twist to savory dishes like salads, meats, and vegetables. You can also make mint extract to use in all sorts of recipes!
Here are some of my favorite recipes using mint or mint extract:
- Double chocolate mint cookies
- Mint lemonade
- Mint chocolate chip ice cream
- Mint oreo truffles
- Minty peas recipe
- White chocolate peppermint cookies
Growing mint outdoors is easier than you think, and with proper care, it will come back year after year. Before you know it, you’ll have an endless supply of fresh mint to use in your cooking and baking!
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