Peppermint is the hybrid of Spearmint and Watermint. Those two hybridize through cross-pollination. You’ll mostly find it growing in ditches, open field pastures, or near drainage culverts. Most of the peppermint grown there is steam-distilled to create an essential oil. It is even used in various flavoring and cosmetic products. It’s also supplied to the growing herbal medicine industry. It has become a significant ingredient in cold beverages and teas, as well as in sweet and savory dishes. Its renowned taste and aroma are in a myriad of products. It is also found around the home from air fresheners to mouthwash.
- 1 Different Methods of Growing Peppermint in the Garden
- 2 How To Grow & Look After Your Peppermint
- 3 Varieties of Peppermint for Home Cultivation:
- 4 Managing Pests and Disease
- 5 Harvest and Storage Tips
- 6 How to Use Peppermint Plant
Different Methods of Growing Peppermint in the Garden
Mentha seed is tiny – approximately 14,000 seeds per gram – and difficult to germinate. The seeds produce variable results. Sometimes with taste and appearance distinct from that of source plants. Commercial farmers do vegetative propagation. But the root division or stem cuttings give the best results for home gardeners.
By Root Division
Autumn is the ideal time to take root cuttings, but early spring works as well. First, choose a root-bound container plant and gently remove the root ball from the pot. Then cut the root ball into quarters using a hand saw or garden shears. Fill small 2- to 4-inch pots or trays with a soil mix of 1/3 well-aged compost, 1/3 vermiculite or peat moss, and 1/3 landscape sand. Water well until the soil is evenly moist. Repot 2 or 3 of the quarters in fresh soil. Then divide the remaining quarter to create several smaller root cuttings. At least one stem each. Trim off the top growth and prune the hairy roots to fit in your containers. Set the cuttings in place. Then top up with soil and firm gently. Water lightly then set out in a cold frame or a protected site. (Bright, indirect light and steady moisture)
By Stem Cutting
Choose strong stems with fresh, healthy green leaves. Cut off 4- to 6-inch pieces, removing the lower 3 or 4 sets of leaves. Cut the stem just below a set of leaf nodes to prevent the stem from curling in water. (Longer stems are preferable because roots sprout from the leaf nodes. More leaf nodes from long stems mean more roots and a strong plant) then place stems in a small glass of water. Set in a light and airy windowsill until healthy roots have formed. The roots start to form in 10 to 14 days and you can plant out in 3 to 4 weeks.
Once a strong root system has developed, pot up the stems into containers 6 to 8 inches deep and wide. Fill it with sterile, well-draining potting soil. Firm the soil around the stems and water gently. Keep the pots in a sheltered spot for 4 to 6 weeks, ensuring the soil stays moist but not soggy after establishing plants, transplant into the garden to their permanent locations.
Start Mint Seeds
You can plant mint seeds indoors in late winter for spring planting. Or you could directly sow in moist spring soil. But as a hardy perennial. It can start anytime until about two months before the first frost of fall, or year-round for indoor use.
To sow the seeds indoors
Put them in your Bio Dome on top of the Bio Sponge, or in your seed flat on top of a medium. Must not cover the seeds. It will have to germinate by light. They should sprout within 10 to 15 days at room temperature or slightly warmer (68 to 75°F). Transplant if they have at least two sets of true leaves into the garden or pot.
To sow the seeds outdoors
Place them on top of well-worked soil, then sprinkle a fine layer of vermiculite on top of them. If you are directly sowing in the garden, consider putting a row cover over the seeds until it sprouts.
- Farm sprigs from the garden, as you need them during the season.
- Seek to choose mint in the morning, when the oils are best in flavor.
- Grow your mint where the foliage is brushed by the passers-by, which gives off the heady scent.
- For new plants from your old ones, root a stem cutting in a glass of water. You can also divide the entire plant into sections and replant each division.
How To Grow & Look After Your Peppermint
- Peppermint is a perennial in zones 5 to 11 but might be treated as an annual down to Zone 3. Established plants will tolerate some frost during the growing period. It has hairless, serrated, spear-shaped dark green leaves. It is somewhat glossy as compared to most other mints. Many peppermints on its edges may have a reddish tinge. Its characteristic usually passed down from the watermint.
- Peppermint blooms on long terminal spikes in late summer. It has lavender, pink, and occasionally burgundy flowers.
- Peppermint has an upright growing habit (1 to 2 feet tall). It is a prolific runner and root system that suggests peppermint is best grown as a container plant.
- Keep soil consistently moist and water when the top 1-inch of soil becomes dry.
- Once new growth emerges in spring, feed it with all-purpose, water-soluble plant food, such as 10-10-10 (NPK). Fertilize once more mid-way through the growing season if needed.
- After plants are established, harvest leaves regularly by pinching out the tops. New leaves are more flavorful and tender than the older ones. Also, pinching promotes bushy growth.
- In the garden, space plants 12 to 24 inches apart in containers to keep growth in check. Use large containers measuring 8 to 24 inches in diameter and with a similar depth.
- Sink the containers into garden beds, leaving the top two inches of the rim above ground. This prevents runners from escaping into fertile soil and establishing new plants.
- Improve the soil with 1/3 aged compost or other rich organic matter and 1/3 landscape sand to improve drainage.
- Ensure pots have plenty of material covering. Buy drainage holes such as coir, pebbles, or broken pottery. This prohibits the roots from dwelling in water.
- Turn pots in the ground every 14 to 28 days to stop the roots from spreading through the drainage holes.
- Alternatively, plant directly into the ground in an area where you don’t mind it spreading.
- Consider burying some metal flashing. Or consider landscape edging 8 inches deep around the plant to prevent it from taking over. Mint can make a useful ground cover, and some varieties will tolerate a little foot traffic.
- Mulch pots and in-ground plants with a 2-inch layer of straw to retain moisture and keep weeds in check.
- Mentha plants tolerate a light frost, but the top growth will eventually die back in winter. In autumn, cut back stems to the ground and cover with a 2-inch layer of mulch if your winters are harsh.
Growing It in the Containers
- Place it in a container if you want it in the garden without the rapid spread. Use a saucer at the base to prevent the roots from growing into the soil below.
- Grow mint in containers of rich, well-draining soil amended with 1/3 organic matter. (aged compost) You can add 1/3 landscape sand to improve drainage if needed.
- Ensure pots have plenty of drainage material. (Such as broken pottery, gravel, or pebbles) at the bottom and keep the soil moist but not wet.
- Fertilize with an all-purpose liquid plant food such as 10-10-10 (NPK) in spring. And once more mid-way through the growing season.
- For a steady harvest, give your containers some afternoon shades. This will prevent heat stress.
- Container plants should be divided every 3 to 4 years to rejuvenate plants
Varieties of Peppermint for Home Cultivation:
- Spearmint (M. spicata)
- Wild mint (M. arvensis)
- Scotchmint (M. x gracilis)
- Peppermint (M. x piperita)
There are two main cultivated varieties of this aromatic herb: black and white. Black peppermint has dark purple-green leaves and roots, an increased amount of oil. In fact, the white is light green and has a milder flavor. Either is appropriate to grow peppermint at home.
Managing Pests and Disease
All species are deer, rabbit, and rodent resistant. There are a couple of different insect pests that might like to munch on your mint.
Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects. It can cause damage by sucking sap and spreading fungal disease.
A strong jet of water from the garden hose reduces aphid populations.
Spider mites can cause stunted and deformed growth
A strong blast of water can dispel mites easily.
Harvest and Storage Tips
The secret to maintaining the mint plants at their best is regular harvesting. Recent leaves have more quality than old ones, and mint can be harvested in springtime. 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. In one planting season, you can harvest one mint plant two to three times. You can also 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.
How to Use Peppermint Plant
You can plant peppermint for its lovely saw-toothed leaves and delicate flowers. or for the spicy scent produced when the leaves between your fingers are compressed. When you know how to use the peppermint plant for medicinal purposes, you can become an even bigger fan.
Here are a few other ways peppermint:
- In tea form, when encapsulated, or when used topically has earned its place in traditional and contemporary herbal medicine:
- Fart prevention (we need to up our herbal keyword game, and we’ve got “flatulence” covered)
- Soothes upset stomachs – Peppermint is good for indigestion and bloating. Peppermint can expel gas from the stomach and intestines. It is but relaxing the muscles involved.
- Reduces cold symptoms, coughs, and congestion – Peppermint is a natural decongestant. One of the herb’s active ingredients is menthol. Therefore, thin mucus will loosen phlegm and reduce coughs. It is soothing to sore throats.
- Relieves tension headaches
- Memory enhancement and stress relief
- Treats Irritable bowel syndrome
- Reduction of tuberculosis and asthma symptoms related to lung inflammation
- Muscle pain relief
- A tea made of dried leaves is sometimes consumed to relieve a sore throat.
While the use of peppermint above was proven to be useful, it would be a problem if we forgot to mention some concerns in the health care of peppermint oils and extracts. Some of these include the following:
- Peppermint can make gallstones worse.
- Large doses of peppermint oil can be fatal. Any amount used on the hands or face of an infant or toddler can cause breathing spasms that may result in death.
- While potentially safe to use, NO conclusive studies of the impact of peppermint on pregnancy have been performed.
- Also, NEVER take peppermint with an immunosuppressant.