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How To Grow Mint

Plant: Perennial

Hardy: to -6degC (M. pulegium, M. requinii to -15degC)
Height: 30-90cm
Soil: Moist, Rich
Exposure: Shade
Propagation: Cuttings, Division
Uses: Culinary, Fragrance
Growing: Most mints will grow almost anywhere except in hot, direct sun. They do best, however, in a light, moderately rich soil that is moist and in shade or partial shade. These herbs spread rapidly by underground stems and runners and can be propagated very simply by layering, division, or stem cuttings. Their invasive nature can be contained by planting in pots or boxes, or sinking header boards 15-20cm into the ground around their roots. Keep flowers pinched back to encourage bushy growth.
From the large assortment of mint species and varieties there are many that you can grow. Typically, these plants have square stems and opposite leaves that are aromatic when crushed. The seven that are described here are among the most important and most frequently grown.
Orange mint or bergamot mint (M. citrata) grows to about 60cm high and has broad, dark green, 5cm leaves that are edged with purple. They taste and smell slightly of oranges, combined with the characteristic minty aroma.
Golden apple mint (M. gentilis) has smooth, deep green leaves variegated with yellow. The plant grows to about 60cm and makes an attractive ground cover where taller spring-flowering bulbs are planted.
Peppermint (M. piperita)—or its flavour—is familiar to many people. The plant grows to 1m high and has strongly scented, 3-inch leaves with toothed edges. Small purple flowers appear in 2-7cm long spikes at the ends of stems.
Pennyroyal (M. pulegium) is another attractive mint, but it should not be confused with American mock pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegiodes) which is not a mint at all. It is prostrate and branching with downy, oval leaves that are no more than 1cm long. Small, rosy lilac flowers bloom late in the summer and early autumn. It is a less hardy, and far less neat, ground cover than Corsican mint but—in its flavour—it is said to repel insects from the garden.
Jewel mint of Corsica or Corsican mint (M. requienii) is a creeping sort that rarely grows over 1 inch high. It has tiny, round, bright green leaves that form a moss-like mat. In summer, small, light purple flowers appear. The foliage has a delightful minty or sage like fragrance when bruised or crushed under foot.
Apple mint (M. rotundifolia) has stiff stems that grow 50 to 70cm high. The rounded leaves are slightly hairy and gray-green, about 2-10cm long. The purplish white flowers are produced in 5-8cm spikes.
Spearmint (M. spicata) is another of the most familiar species and is the one used commonly with roast lamb and in mint jelly. Its dark green leaves are slightly smaller than those of peppermint and look and feel crinkly. The stems will grow 45-60cm high if not pinched back.
Modern commerce makes many uses of mints. Spearmint and peppermint are two of the most common flavouring’s for everything from chewing gum to mouthwashes and medicines.
Use the leaves fresh or dried in any number of different ways: add them to potpourris, lamb, and jelly; spearmint is the best for garnishing iced drinks; fresh leaves of peppermint, pineapple, apple, and orange mints can be added to fruit cocktails or sprinkled over ice cream.