Every plant that belongs to the Mentha family is a mint. Peppermint is one of those. And the most popular at that.
Despite its popularity, growing and caring for this plant is not easy. One of the reasons is how fast it spreads. Another is how picky it is when it comes to environments. And lastly, how easy it is for the plant to get overwhelmed with pests and diseases.
Luckily, you can always read our guide on peppermint plant care and prevent all those issues. Even if you’re growing peppermint for the first time, you’ll find everything you need to know below. Take a look!
What is Peppermint?
Known as the “Mentha x Piperita” scientifically, it is one of the most intense plants from the “Lamiaceae” or mint family. Its name comes from the combination of Mentha, which refers to the general mint, and Piperita for the slightly spicy taste that resembles peppers.
The peppermint’s flavor and smell come from various substances, including menthyl acetate, menthone, menthol, limoene, and terpenoids. This combination sets it apart from other mint plants, leaving a unique aftertaste with a slightly peppery tone.
Despite its unique composition, the plant comes from a combination of “Mentha aquatica” or watermint and “Menta spicata” or spearmint. For that reason, it is very similar to both in appearance.
A regular peppermint plant can grow to about 3 feet in height, several feet wide, and produce bright-green leaves that bright up any garden. When summer arrives, peppermint has purple-to-pink flowers that look beautiful.
For that reason, peppermint is one of the easiest herbs you can take home to change any yard’s appearance. More importantly, it makes up for an excellent addition to most meals.
Types of Peppermint to Consider
While the regular “Mentha x piperita” is the most common, there are some variations you may want to know about. These variations change the appearance of the plant and its growth and sometimes even the smell and taste. Here’s more about each of these varieties:
Black Peppermint (Mentha × piperita ‘Nigra’)
The peppermint is sometimes called the black mint because of this variation. It is one of the most popular options in commercial farms and one of the most pungent.
Growing this variety is not too hard, as it spreads quickly like most mints and manages to produce gorgeous bright-green beds given the right conditions.
The leaves and stems may achieve a purple tone when flowering. Its flowers are often white-to-pink. Each plant can grow to 2 or 3 feet in height.
Chocolate Mint (Mentha × piperita ‘Chocolate’)
Even though it has chocolate in the name, it doesn’t smell or taste much like it. However, it has a unique consistency and taste that matches well with chocolate desserts.
In appearance, it boasts large leaves, and it grows to about 2 to 3 feet at its max. Interestingly, this one doesn’t typically produce large beds like other types of mints. The leaves are bright green, but the stem tends to achieve a purple-like tone.
Curled Peppermint (Mentha x piperita crispa)
Also known as the whirled mint, this peppermint boasts uniquely wavy leaves with an intense green that sets it apart from other varieties.
What’s more important, it is one of the most used in foods thanks to its strong mint and mild peppery taste. The smell is also one of the most penetrating.
It grows beautifully, spreading fast and reaching over 2 feet in height and width. As long as it is in a sunny or partial-shade environment, it will thrive and produce green-to-white flowers.
Eau De Cologne (Mentha x piperita citrate)
The citrate or Lime peppermint, the “Eau De Cologne” or “Cologne Water” peppermint is a highly aromatic alternative. Its smell is similar to that of lemon, with a citrus touch that makes it a perfect perfume.
The leaves are often bronze to green, the taste is more fruity than other peppermints but typically too intense for cooking.
An interesting part is how far it grows, reaching over 4 feet in height and over 3 feet wide given the conditions.
White Peppermint (Mentha x piperita officinalis)
This is an expensive cultivar of the peppermint. Mainly used for perfumes, food, and medical products due to its intensity.
It has the highest concentration of oils, making it super smelly and tasty. Also, the leaves are thicker than other mints, but they’re completely green.
As the name says, it has the brightest leaves of the species. It grows relatively small compared to its varieties (between 1 to 2 feet at its max).
What Does the Peppermint Plant Need?
Being part of the mint family like the basil, oregano, catnip, and thyme – the peppermint is easy to grow and quick to spread. But that doesn’t mean it is effortless. You still need to ensure several things to make it thrive. Here’s everything you need to know for that:
Space & Pot
Where should you plant peppermint? You can grow it practically anywhere. It will thrive either in pots or in garden beds.
With that said, it’s worth knowing that peppermint spreads super-quick. Because it has rhizomes where the sprouts come from, it tends to be difficult to keep inside containers. Even the largest pots won’t contain a peppermint plant.
However, if you go for a pot, make sure it has at least 18 inches in diameter. This is to prevent the plant from spreading and overcrowding the pot too fast. Or, if you want to start the sprout in a container, a smaller one will also work.
While we recommend using garden beds for peppermint, it’s worth knowing that this can also be tricky. The plant could quickly overrun other plants and cover entire backyards in a few months.
In short, pots will get overcrowded fast, but they will control the spread. In contrast, gardens won’t get overcrowded as quick, but they will still get overrun in the long term.
Soil & Fertilizer
There’s almost no soil that peppermint can’t grow in. But it still prefers certain aspects, like high nutrient availability and a neutral pH of 5.5 and 6.
The soil can be anything from sand to clay, standard composted garden soil, or even potting soil if planting in containers. Either way, this soil needs to get humid fast and hold the moisture. It should still have sufficient drainage to prevent diseases.
Apart from that, it’s recommended to use fertilizer when planting and mild liquid fertilizer over time – especially as new sprouts emerge. Spray more fertilizer if you’re using a container as nutrients run out faster.
Water & Humidity
As said before, the soil needs to contain a lot of moisture to stay ideal for peppermint. For that reason, it is safe to say they also love high humidity. Keeping the soil a little soggy is an excellent idea when growing peppermint.
For that reason, it’s also great advice to prevent letting the soil dry up. Even in relatively moist environments, the ground needs to stay wet enough to feed the rhizomes consistently. Otherwise, the plant may not grow or sprout as you need.
Light & Air
Like most herbs in the mint family, they need a lot of sun exposure. They may also thrive in partially shaded areas without problems. The taste of the peppermint is often a lot milder when it receives limited sunlight.
The plant still needs to be protected from scorching sun rays. That’s why it’s worth protecting from the midday sun in tropical environments – especially if the leaves start to brown away.
As for air, it needs none. You can grow this plant either indoors or outdoors, and the ventilation won’t matter much either way.
Temperature & Environment
The peppermint plant is a perennial that loves fresh to warm areas. Meaning, you can grow it in temperatures going from 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Yet, it’s worth mentioning that the plant can also withstand frosts. If temperatures suddenly fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you won’t have to worry. But this is only as long as the frosts don’t happen consistently for longer than a few weeks.
In temperatures that go above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, you will need to irrigate the plant every day to prevent it from drying. But it’s still better to grow them in fresher environments.
That’s why you can grow peppermint pretty much in any environment. But you should still care for it by preventing long frosts and overly warm places.
How to Grow a Peppermint Plant in 7 Steps
With a clearer idea of what peppermint needs, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Below, we explain how to grow it in 7 steps – check them out!
1. Choose Roots, Stolons, Cuttings, or Seeds
First and foremost, decide whether you want to use root division, a sprout (stolon), stem cutting, or a seed. The difference in growth and care is slightly different, but not so much.
For a root, for example, you will need to cut it out directly from the rhizome underground. However, this piece of root needs to have at least 6 inches in length.
The stolon needs to be growing already. Meaning, it should be sprouting out of the soil if you want it to work. Cut it out from the root. It often has no leaves in the first few days.
For cuttings, you’ll need no less than 6 inches of stem. Cut the leaves on the bottom 4 inches of the cut. This is the part that will go underground.
And lastly, you can always start from seed. Be aware, though, the peppermint plant doesn’t produce seeds naturally, so it will likely be a hybrid. This hybrid will probably take a bit more time to grow than average (germinate and then sprout).
2. Start at the Right Season
For sprouts, cuttings, and roots, we recommend planting in the early spring. When the frosts have already passed, that’s when you should start planting as the plant will keep growing and establish right away.
But if you’re using seed, it’s vital to start at least 10 weeks before the last frost. This often means sowing by the end of the spring or the start of fall.
3. Pick the Ideal Planting Place
You’re almost ready with the plant at hand and in the ideal season. But what about the place? Here, you need to decide whether to plant in a container, vegetable garden, or even a flower garden.
If you’re planting in a pot, it will obviously increase versatility as you’ll be able to take it indoors. But in that case, you’ll have to use a large enough pot and warrant proper sun exposure.
As for garden beds, go as necessary. It is recommended to plant at least 18 inches away from other plants to prevent unwanted growth and interruptions. If you want it to thrive, plant it alongside tomatoes or lettuce as a companion plant.
For planting in flower gardens, use a container once again. In this case, you’ll want to leave about 2 to 3 inches of the container borders above ground. Then place the rest of the container with the peppermint inside below ground. This will prevent the peppermint from overcrowding the flowers.
4. Prepare the Soil
With the planting area ready, you can proceed to prepare the ideal soil. Here, it’s vital to know that it grows pretty much anywhere. But we recommend well-draining yet moisture-friendly soil.
At first, it should also be fertilized. Potting soil with a decent amount of compost or manure could also get the job done. Mild granule fertilizer is the best way to go.
Whether you start in a container or garden, make sure this soil is nutrient-rich so the peppermint will have enough food for weeks.
5. Start Planting
It’s time for the nitty-gritty. Planting the mint will depend on whether you start from seeds, sprouts, stem cuttings, or roots.
For seeds, it’s critical to plant them no less than 20 inches away from other plants. As soon as you plant it, rinse the area to make it soggy.
You can use the same container below ground for the seed, as it tends to establish faster, making it propagate a lot easier. It will germinate in 2 weeks and start multiplying in less than 2 months.
In the case of sprouts and stem cuttings, plant them at least 3 inches deep. The small green part of the cutting or stolon should be slightly above the ground. It should get established within a week until it starts growing again.
Roots, instead, should be completely submerged in the soil. Plant them at no less than 3 inches deep. They should start sprouting similar to cuttings within a week or two.
6. Divide & Prune As it Grows
Now it’s all about letting the plant grow as necessary. This shouldn’t take more than 2 weeks for a seed to germinate. Sprouts, cuttings, and roots should start growing within a week in most cases.
Either way, you will see how the plant becomes fully-grown and ready to propagate as quick as 2 months or less. In that case, you will need to start pruning and dividing it away.
First, it starts growing as a small bush. It should reach between 2 to 3 feet. But once it establishes, the rhizomes will start traveling around and produce new sprouts. You need to divide these roots by cutting them away as soon as they appear.
By cutting runners or stems that go too far to the sides, you’ll also be preventing overgrowth and a danger to gardens.
If you don’t want to just prune and divide, stay harvesting it consistently. Nothing helps more to prevent growth than harvesting the peppermint. More importantly, it will let you know everything it has to offer in terms of smell and taste.
You can start harvesting between the 1st month (stolon or cutting) and 2nd month (root or seed). Either way, the leaves need to be bright green and pristine.
How to Care for a Peppermint Plant
If growing peppermint is not as hard as it seems, what about caring for it? Once again, there’s not much to do. But if you want to keep it growing for years as a perennial, here’s what to do:
Never Stop Harvesting
As soon as the peppermint starts to bloom, that’s the perfect time to harvest it. The concentration of oil in this stage is unbeatable.
But the important part is that harvesting at this stage prevents it from growing too far or overcrowding pots. And you certainly don’t want that.
Prune Stems Monthly
Pruning stems away is always essential. This is an excellent way to prevent unwanted growth. But it also works as a growth-inducing activity, as peppermints start growing a lot denser after their stems are cut.
Cut Runners Off
The stolons that grow from the rhizomes will appear as soon as the blossoming stage ends. In this season, it’s vital to cut or take them away. This avoids unwarranted spread that could cause damage to other plants around. Get rid of them as soon as you see them. You can use them to plant elsewhere.
Nothing will ensure sustainable growth better than consistent humidity. Soggy soil can be dangerous, though, so be careful. We recommend watering daily or whenever the soil gets dry. Don’t spray any water on the leaves as they could get scorched or infected with fungi.
Use Fungicides & Pesticides
While peppermint is an almost indestructible plant, it may grow things like rust and powdery leaves. To prevent them, use fungicides without fear. Also, you can use pesticides to keep aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and whiteflies away.
Prune Off Diseased Parts
Lastly, if you see any part of the plant not growing properly or with intense brown color, that’s a disease sign. Prune everything that doesn’t seem right before it propagates across the entire plant.
Did you learn anything about the peppermint with this article? We’re sure you did.
From standard growing to peppermint plant care, you’ll find everything you need above. There’s no need to go somewhere else for info.
As long as you use our advice and recommendations, you’ll obtain quicker, bigger, and more sustainable growth than average. And whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’ll find every single tip a super-helpful thing to follow. Start planting right away!