Peppermint seems almost magical as you brush by its leafy tendrils and take in its refreshing aromas. This perennial herb delivers a delightful scent, delicious flavor, and a host of other benefits.
Peppermint is easy to grow, simple to maintain, and has many flavorful and medicinal benefits. There are very few drawbacks or pest problems when growing this hardy herb, other than its propensity to spread far and wide. Keep reading for a look at why and how to grow this special herb.
Table of Contents:
Why Should You Grow Peppermint?
Peppermint offers a variety of culinary health, and homestead benefits, making it a useful addition to just about any garden or windowsill. Discerning chefs use the cooling flavor of peppermint in many dishes:
- Teas and lemonades. Peppermint can be brewed, boiled, or added fresh to teas and lemonades for a refreshing summer flavor.
- Salads. Mint flowers make a pretty garnish, and mint leaves add a crisp, bright flavor to salads.
- Salad dressings.
- Coffee drinks.
- Mojitos and other cocktails.
- Chocolate recipes.
- Pork with apples by Daphnis and Cloe. This Greek-based dish combines honey, pork, apples, fennel seeds, leeks, and of peppermint to create a delicious meal.
Peppermint also has a variety of uses for health and beauty, more-so than other varieties of mint, because it produces menthol.
Menthol activates cooling receptors in the skin, causing you to feel a cooling sensation even when it isn’t cold.
Peppermint and peppermint oil have been known to be used for many different types of health and beauty applications, such as:
- Toothpaste flavoring. A few drops of peppermint oil makes homemade toothpaste taste great.
- Soothing balms. Many skin balms contain peppermint for its soothing and cooling properties
- Muscle tension. The menthol in peppermint can soothe muscle tension and muscular aches and pains.
- Headaches and migraines. The cooling scent and menthol by-product can ease the pain of a headache and migraine.
- Upset stomach and indigestion.
- Sinus relief.
- Irritable bowel.
- Tension and anxiety.
- Concentration. The essential oils distilled from peppermint are said to increase concentration and focus.
On the homestead, peppermint plants and oil make a pleasant-smelling pest repellent for:
Known Varieties of Peppermint
Peppermint, mentha x peperita, is a cross between spearmint and watermint. You can identify it by its square stems and dark green leaves and of course, minty fresh scent. In the summer, purplish flowers crown the stems to attract pollinators.
Although there are many wild and hybridized varieties of peppermint, there are two specific varieties that are widely recognized: black peppermint and white peppermint.
- Black Peppermint. Black peppermint is also known as Mitcham mint and English peppermint. This is the variety of peppermint that is most common to the United States. This is a hardy variety with purple-tinted stems and is easy to grow.
- White Peppermint. The white variety of peppermint is not as hardy as black peppermint. The oil of white peppermint is worth more than black peppermint for its more delicate aroma but it is more difficult to grow.
How I Grow Peppermint Outside
Peppermint grows wide but not deep. It is vigorous, hardy, and will spread easily and with little to no effort on your part. You may not want to plant mint in your garden because it will be difficult to keep under control.
Instead, choose a location with natural physical borders, such as a small flowerbed, a large pot, or between your house and sidewalk. A small raised bed is also a good choice for mint.
These natural borders will help contain your mint and prevent it from taking over your garden or yard. Above ground runners and underground rhizomes enable peppermint and other varieties of mint plant to spread quickly.
If your mint does escape its confinement, it has shallow roots which are easy to remove. Pruning and picking mint is beneficial to the plant, so do not be afraid to harvest or prune your peppermint plants.
Pinching off the tips of the stems will cause your mint plants to grow into thicker, bushier plants.
Peppermint will grow well in full sun to part-shade. It thrives in moist, light soil. Add a layer of mulch to help keep your soil evenly moist. Mint will easily grow to one to two feet tall under good growing conditions.
It is not necessary to fertilize mint, but adding a light layer of compost is beneficial to the growth and health of the plants. Generally, rainwater is enough to keep peppermint plants happy, but make sure the soil stays moist for optimum growth.
It was such a beautiful Fall day today. I’m such an outdoors kinda person, no matter how much I have to do inside, when the weather is beautiful I just can’t resist the urge to get out into the glorious sunshine and get my hands dirty.
I hurried to get today’s scheduled project done so that I could get into the garden and do something more enjoyable than standing in the kitchen.
Thankfully, my nine-year-old, Jada, helped me freeze the several gallons of pears which were my must-do for the day. She cut and pitted them, I peeled and packaged. We make a great team.
Once that was finished, I was free to get out into the fresh air and find something to do. There’s always a multitude of things needing attending to, it’s just a matter of picking which one I feel like doing at that particular moment.
After emptying the clothesline of cloth diapers and wipes, I turned my attention toward the chicken coop. It needed cleaning, and a little rearranging.
We were given a nice, metal set of laying boxes, and I needed to get them in there in a place where the chickens wouldn’t roost over them and get them all poopy on top.
Using a shovel, I diligently scooped out all of the old straw and manure, and spread it around my barren garden. I haven’t planted much in the garden this Fall, focusing my efforts toward putting in more grape vines, berry bushes, and other perennials instead.
Once the coop was clean, and the nesting boxes in place, I had the brilliant idea to pull up a couple of buckets full of peppermint clumps and stuff the boxes and roosting ledge with the deliciously fragrant leaves.
I figured the chickens might enjoy laying in it, and it wouldn’t hurt the smell of the flock and the coop. Sure enough, after that the coop smelled surprisingly fresh!
Speaking of which, you may be wondering why I would waste such a useful thing as fresh peppermint on chicken bedding. Which brings me to the lesson I’d like to share today.
Do not. Under any circumstances. Plant any member of the mint family in your garden, unless it is in a container.
Over the summer I had the genius idea to border my broccoli beds with peppermint plants. Peppermint is a great companion plant for broccoli, and helps to repel those horrid white moths that bring on the fat, green broccoli worms I battled last season.
So, I happily edged my beds with transplanted mint. It grew beautifully, and although I’m not sure it helped to repel the moths, it lended a wonderful scent to the garden when accidentally crushed under foot.
The plan was for them to grow obediently right where I’d placed them. But when the broccoli was finished producing and I pulled the plants out of the bed, it made room for the peppermint to stretch its legs and quickly creep into places it didn’t belong!
I now have the most beautiful peppermint plants invading my raised beds. Great. Those suckers grew right up under the side of the bed and made their way to the surface where they proudly flaunt their accomplishment.
I’ve transplanted a lot of it to another, better suited place in my yard. But you know how mint is, it just keeps coming back!
So, I have no qualms about yanking these bad boys outta my garden and putting them to good use in my nesting boxes. After all, minty fresh eggs would be cool, right?!
Anyways, in the meantime Xia (pronounced Zy-uh, for my new fans) was enjoying exploring the garden while I worked.
I glanced over at her every now and then, and watched as she picked some of the remaining Zinnias to form a mini bouquet, chatted with a busy bumblebee, and then sat down to enjoy digging in the dirt with a stick for a while.
I joined her shortly, and showed her how to harvest the seeds from the dried flowerheads. We got a nice bowlful of Zinnia seeds to replant next Spring.
After that, we meandered over to the herb bed, and as I examined my plants there, I picked and crushed leaves from each of them and let Xia inhale the different fragrances the bed had to offer.
It was fun watching her go around and around the bed, picking and sniffing to her heart’s delight. I quizzed her on the herbs she was smelling as she went, hoping to encourage her to memorize their scents.
Surprisingly to me, the herbs there are still going strong. Sure, it isn’t gorgeous to look at. It’s overgrown and a bit shabby.
But if you look closely, you will find new sprigs of sage, chives, summer savory, fennel, oregano, dill, and cilantro ready to be harvested and enjoyed. We also found some flowering basil, and woody thyme nearby, and sampled them as well.
There was so much more I wanted to do outside, but dinnertime was calling and all too quickly it was time to go inside and feed the family. So, I hung my dirty work gloves up and took my place back in the kitchen.
There’s always tomorrow, and there’s always more work to be done.
How to Contain Peppermint
Because mint spreads so voraciously, you may want to look for creative ways to contain it.
Plant in Containers
The simplest method for containing your peppermint plants is to plant them in containers.
Containers should be shallow and wide, like a feed trough or window box. Containers that are too small will dry out often and require more frequent watering.
Plastic containers will hold in moisture better than clay, but make sure there are good drainage holes in the bottom.
Submerging Open-Bottomed Containers
If you want to plant peppermint in your garden but still contain it to one area, submerge an open-bottom container into your garden. This is a great use for old barrels, stove pipes, or just about any pot that no longer has a bottom to it.
Leave about an inch of the container to stick up above the soil and plant your mint in the container. The sides will contain the peppermint, as well as encourage it to grow more upright.
Prune away any runners that exit over the sides to keep the peppermint plant from spreading in ways that you do not want.
Build a raised bed for your mint plants. The tall sides of the bed should be submerged under the surrounding earth, as well. Prune away any runners or stems that grow over the sides of the bed.
Plant in Poor, Sandy Soil
Peppermint thrives in rich, moist soil, as do many other plants. If you want to stunt the growth of your peppermint, plant it in poor soil, such as sand. This will naturally restrict your peppermint plant’s growth.
How to Propagate Peppermint
An easier way to grow peppermint is to propagate it from peppermint plants.
Ask a friend or neighbor for a few springs of their robust peppermint plants. They’ll probably have so much that they are happy to share!
Strip away the bottom leaves, but allow several leaves at the top to remain. Place the sprigs in water and allow two to five days for the springs to take root.
You can also take a runner from a friend’s plant and plant it lengthwise in the ground, allowing a few leaves to stick up from the soil. The runners will act as a rhizome and allow the plant to sprout and grow.
For an even easier means of propagating mint, ask a friend to dig up a square foot section of mint, being careful to dig well below the roots. Divide the plant into two sections and plant.
Although peppermint is hardy and repels many insects, there are a few pests that will cause problems for your peppermint.
- Loopers. Loopers are 1 to 2 inch caterpillars that leave holes in the foliage of the plants. If you only have a few loopers, you can easily pick them off of the plants.
- Cutworms. Cutworms are obvious by what looks like cuts in the stems or an entirely dead plant.
- Aphids. Aphids are tiny insects that will cover the plant. You may be able to control aphids by simply washing them off with a garden hose.
- Two-Spotted Spidermites. These tiny beasties will leave tiny speckles on the leaves of the plant where they have pierced the foliage. They may leave behind a light webbing similar to a spider web. Releasing ladybugs is an effective way to control spider mites.
The biggest problem with growing any mint, including peppermint plants, is that mint thrives and spreads aggressively. Underground stems, called stolons, give the plant the ability to spread rapidly.
For this reason, you will want to plant peppermint where it can be naturally contained or where you can easily keep it pruned and under control.
Can Peppermint Grow from Seeds?
Peppermint can be grown from seeds. However, peppermint is a hybrid plant so the seeds that it produces may be sterile.
You can start the peppermint seeds indoors in late winter or direct sow your seeds in early spring. Do not cover the seeds as the light will help them to germinate.
Germination should take place in ten to fifteen days. If you start your mint seeds indoors, allow them to grow two sets of true leaves before you harden them off and transplant them into the garden.
When a seed germinates, it will sprout two special leaves, called cotyledons. This special leaf does not use photosynthesis but is actually part of the seed. These cotyledons will feed the seedling.
After the cotyledons have grown, the plant will grow two new leaves that look completely different from the original leaves.
This first set of leaves to grow after the cotyledons are called true leaves. Do not transplant the mint seedlings until there are true leaves.
There are two main diseases that can affect peppermint plants.
Verticillium wilt. This fungal disease lives in the soil and enters the plant through its root system, causing the plant to wilt and die. The disease can live in the soil for several years after the affected plants have been removed.
Mint rust. Mint rust is a fungal disease that displays as orange-colored spots on the underside of the plant’s leaves. You can prevent mint rust by pruning the plants to give adequate airflow and avoiding overhead watering. If mint rust is present, it will need to be treated with a fungicide.
How to Grow Peppermint Inside
Peppermint, like other mints, can be grown indoors in a sunny window. Select a wide, shallow plastic pot rather than a deep pot. Mint roots don’t grow deep, but they do have runners which can become entangled.
Plant only one variety of mint per pot so the varieties don’t get intermixed. Mints like moist but well-drained soil, so make sure you have drainage holes in the bottom of your containers.
Plastic will hold moisture a little better, clay pots will dry out more quickly. Keep your mint plants well watered.
How to Harvest Peppermint
Mint plants can easily grow out of control, so vigorous pruning can be helpful to control growth.
For the strongest flavor, harvest your peppermint plants early in the morning. You can pick off individual leaves or entire stems.
The peppermint flavor is also stronger and tastier just before the mint flowers begin to appear. This is the best time to harvest large amounts of mint for storage.
Just snip or pluck off the sprigs, leaving about an inch of mint plant at the bottom to regrow. For the fastest regrowth, allow about one third of the plant to remain untouched and it will continue to send out runners.
However, don’t worry if you over-pick your peppermint. My peppermint patch was accidentally mowed off at the end of the growing season. The following spring, it grew back better than ever.
How to Preserve and Store Peppermint
Peppermint tastes best when used shortly after harvesting, so plant it near your kitchen and pick what you need when you need it.
However, if that doesn’t work for you, mint sprigs will keep nicely on your countertop in a glass of water for a couple of days.
Alternatively, you can freeze freshly washed peppermint leaves in ice cube trays to be used in drinks.
Peppermint plants can be dried very easily. Harvest mint early in the morning when the flavor is the strongest, then rinse in cool water and pat dry with a paper towel.
Gather sprigs into bunches, and hang upside in a paper bag for several days, or until dry. When the harvested mint is completely dried, pick off the leaves and crumble them into an airtight jar. You can use them as flavoring for sauces, teas, or other dishes.
Fresh mint can also be dried in your oven. Lay clean, towel-dried sprigs on a shallow pan and bake in the oven at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for two to four hours.
Careful crumble the leaves into a sealable jar to preserve them. Or simply follow the directions on your dehydrator to easily preserve fresh mint.
Fun Things to Do With Peppermint
- Peppermint flowers are also edible and bear a milder taste than the leaves. Use them decoratively as a garnish or in teas.
- One of the greatest joys of growing peppermint is its fresh, delightful scent. Plant peppermint where passersby will naturally brush up against it in order to release its sweet fresh scent.
- Grow peppermint where you want to reduce pests – in flowerbeds, near your backdoor, or around your potting sheds or greenhouses. Some insects and small rodents are repelled by the strong scent.
- Sprinkle dried and crumbled peppermint leaves in the nooks and crannies of your kitchen to discourage mice, bugs, and other pests from taking up residence.
- Make peppermint tea. Check out our peppermint tea and stevia recipe here.
- Freeze mint tea in ice cube trays to use for drinks later.
- Freeze mint leaves in ice cubes for a fun addition to any cold tea or lemonade drink.
- Apply cool mint leaves to your forehead as a compress to soothe tension or headache.
- Crumble a few mint leaves into the water of your flower arrangement, then add a few fresh sprigs of mint to the arrangement for a cooling bouquet.
- Grow mint in your kitchen window for easy access to this delicious herb.
- Allow peppermint to bolt, or grow flowers, in order to attract pollinators to your garden or flowerbeds.
Peppermint is one of the easiest, most forgiving herbs to grow. It will thrive in most soils, and will spread rapidly in rich, moist soil. Grow it in containers for an easy means of restricting its growth.
Use this herb in drinks, sauces, salads, and other amazing recipes. Freeze it in ice cubes, or use it as a compress to soothe stress and tension. Plant it anywhere you want a fresh burst of fragrance as long as you can control its growth.
Peppermint is known as Mentha × piperita, and it belongs to an entire family of plants called Lamiaceae. There are well over 600 varieties of mint plants, each with its own subtle variations.
Once you are comfortable with peppermint, you may want to enjoy some of these other popular varieties of mint.
- Applemint. This related variety has a sweeter, lighter flavor.
- Spearmint. Spearmint is often used as flavoring, such as in Wrigely’s Spearmint Gum.
- Chocolate Mint. This variety pairs well with chocolates, and some believe it has a cocoa flavoring to its delicious leaves.
- Orange mint.
- Pineapple mint.
- Pennyroyal. This plant is technically a member of the mint family, although it is considered toxic and should not be ingested.
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.