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Mint in a pot.
Never tried growing herbs before? Mint is the perfect place to start.

What you need to know about mint

Name: mint, common mint, spearmint (Mentha spicata).

Plant type: spreading perennial herb.

Height: to around 30 or 40cm.

Foliage: bright green, oval-shaped with an irregular margin, around 5 × 3cm. Leaves are heavily textured, slightly hairy and strongly aromatic.

Climate: tropical, sub-tropical, warm and cool temperate. Will die back during winter in cooler areas.

Soil: grows best in rich, moist soil with additional organic matter, but is adaptable to virtually any soil, given adequate moisture.

Position: full sun through to heavy shade, although it will stretch in deep shade.

Flowering: tiny white-mauve flowers on small spikes that have a slightly conical form.

Feeding: feed annually with controlled-release fertiliser and supplement regularly with liquid seaweed or organically fortified solutions.

Watering: can only tolerate short periods of dryness. Best if kept reliably moist. Can tolerate wet or occasionally waterlogged positions.

Appearance and characteristics of mint

It’s been said that mint is harder to kill than grow, and that isn’t far from the truth. It is a phenomenally easy herb to grow in gardens or in pots, in sun or in shade. It’s also a very useful herb to have around, as it has so many uses—add to cold fruit drinks with ice, pour boiling water over a sprig for soothing tea, dice it up and add to yoghurt as a side dish with spicy foods, and of course who can forget mint sauce with roast lamb? In fact, if you only grew one herb, mint would probably be the most useful.

Given the right conditions, mint is a vigorous scrambling herb. It’s hard to define a shape for the plant, as it tends to shoot up vertically while also sending out surface and subsurface runners, from which new upright shoots arise. As it scrambles, it will root from the nodes, the leaf joints, as they come into contact with the ground. If grown in a sunny spot, kept well-fed and watered and regularly tip-pruned it will take a mounding shape.

The leaves are very distinctive—bright green and heavily textured to the point of being crinkled. But it’s the aroma that makes mint instantly recognisable.

As mint is in family Lamiaceae, it has a characteristic typical of all such plants: distinctly square stems.

Mint can quickly run into areas where you don’t want it. It’s best to give it its own garden space. Alternatively, this is one of those very rare occasions where it might be beneficial to plant it in the ground contained by a large plastic pot. Even then, it may still run, as the shoots can set roots down. It won’t ever become a serious problem, but it may be a nuisance when you find it shooting up through your other herbs and veggies.

close up of a mint plant

Uses for mint

Mint can be grown for a variety of uses, including:

  • Culinary herb with a multitude of uses.
  • Great for growing in problem areas of shade and damp soil.
  • Super-easy herb to grow. Perfect for growing with the kids.

How to plant and grow mint

Plant your mint in full sun through to shade. Its moisture requirements become greater in full sun, and in hot climates it should be protected from harsh sun. Mint grows best with some protection from harsh or drying winds.

Mint will perform best in rich, moist soil or premium-quality potting mix, but it will grow in virtually any type of soil, even clay, given adequate moisture.

Mint needs reliably moist conditions, and can tolerate drying out only for short periods. If it does dry out, it will very quickly die back, but may reshoot from underground runners once well-watered.

How to grow mint from seed

If you see seed, this can be collected—mint will grow readily from it. Just sow into a pot or tray of seed-raising mix and keep warm and moist.

How to grow mint from cuttings

Mint is very easy to grow from cuttings:

  1. Prune off vigorous new shoots and put in a glass of water on a sunny windowsill to quickly develop roots.
  2. Cut off shoots that have started sprouting and put these in pots of quality potting mix.
  3. Lift and cut runners into sections that contain at least a few nodes.
  4. Put these in quality potting mix and keep moist.

Planting tips

  1. Blend in lots of quality well-rotted manure or compost at planting time.
  2. Fertilise with a controlled-release fertiliser and an organic-based product such as blood and bone.
  3. Mulch heavily with lucerne or pea straw.
  4. In sandy soils you can add some water crystals—just make sure they are food-safe polyacrylamide-free.

Growing mint in pots

As mint can be very vigorous and potentially invasive, some gardeners prefer to grow it in pots.

  1. Select a pot with a large top to allow adequate surface area. A bowl can work well.
  2. Consider a self-watering pot ,otherwise use a large saucer underneath.
  3. Use a premium quality potting mix.
  4. Mulch with lucerne or pea straw.
  5. Keep well-watered, and liquid feed regularly with an organically fortified product.

Caring for mint

With mint the most important things are keeping it fed and watered. Also consider the following tips:

  • Top up mulch regularly.
  • Apply controlled-release fertiliser annually and supplement with light applications of an organic-based product such as blood and bone every month or so during the peak growth times.
  • Applications of liquid seaweed can be beneficial.
  • Mint often dies back during winter. As spring approaches, spread a layer of well-composted cow manure around 2cm thick over its growing area and then mulch on top of this with lucerne or pea straw.
  • Keep reliably moist, especially during hot, dry or windy weather.

How and when to prune mint

Regularly tip pruning mint will help to keep its growth in check and also help keep it in a neat, dense mounding shape. If mint becomes too rangy, don't be afraid to cut it back hard. If any of the shoots you cut off have rooted, these can be potted and grown on.

Diseases and pests

Mint encounters very few pest or disease problems, although white-fly may bother plants that are not receiving adequate water.

Safety tip

After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.

If you like this then try

Herbs: don’t just stop at one, start your own herb pantry.

Lettuce: one of the easiest veggies to grow—just keep it watered and fed and you’ll have great success.

Makrut lime: the essential ingredient in many a spicy Asian dish.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!


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