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How to Germinate Peppermint

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With their unmistakable taste of peppermint, candy canes herald the winter holiday season, but peppermint is also used to flavor many other food and beverage items, including tea. Because of this herb’s prolific growing habit, you’ll have a never-ending supply of leaves to brew your own tea if you grow peppermint (Mentha x piperita), which has a perennial range across U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9.

Instead of setting out transplants, growing peppermint from seeds offers many gardeners even more satisfaction as they watch the entire transformation from seed to harvest.

Germinating Peppermint Indoors or Outdoors

You can start peppermint seeds inside your home or greenhouse or outdoors in your garden. If you want to set out transplants in spring, start peppermint seeds indoors in late winter. This gives the seeds time to germinate and grow into seedlings, which you can set outside when the weather warms in springtime. However, if you want to sow peppermint seeds directly in your garden, wait until spring to start them outside.

Regardless of when you start peppermint seeds, their first-year growth is a little slow. Keep the small seedlings and young plants well watered during their first growth year to help their root systems develop, and you’ll see a big growth spurt beginning in the second year. You’ll be able to grow peppermint outside year round if you live within its perennial range.

Starting Mint Seeds Indoors

In late spring, fill seed trays or small pots with a soilless mix and make sure the containers have drainage holes. If you use garden soil, it may be too heavy for the tiny seedling roots to penetrate. If you use a potting mix that contains fertilizer, the chemicals in the fertilizer may burn the seedlings and their roots. Use a professional grower’s mix for starting seeds or blend your own by using ingredients such as peat moss, perlite and vermiculite.

Thoroughly water the medium until the excess water runs freely from the drainage holes. Sow peppermint seeds on the surface and lightly press them into the mix. Seedlings germinate best when exposed to light, so don’t cover them with the mix. Keep the growing medium moist by misting it each day.

Peppermint seedlings typically germinate in 10 to 16 days at room temperature.

Growing Mint From Seed Outdoors

Prepare a garden spot in a location that receives some shade from the afternoon heat by removing all weeds and loosening the soil. Apply a thin layer of fine-grade vermiculite, which you can find in garden centers, over the prepared bed. Moisten the vermiculite by spraying it with a water wand set on a mist or light shower setting so as not to disturb the vermiculite. Scatter peppermint seeds over the moist vermiculite, lightly cover with no more than ¼ inch of vermiculite and water again with the mist setting.

Keep the bed moist by misting it a couple of times each day until the seeds germinate. You may want to cover the bed with floating row covers, which you can easily remove to make sure the medium stays moist, to prevent wildlife from interfering with your newly sown seeds or to protect it from strong rains.

Invasive Nature of Peppermint

Its robust growth and easy-care nature make peppermint an easy plant to grow, but this same quality can also be a drawback. It’s a prolific spreader, to the point that it may aggressively spread into unintended (and unwanted) areas in your yard and garden. Two solutions to this challenge are using vertical barriers, which you can find at your local garden center, and planting peppermint in containers.

If you use vertical barriers, you must drive them into the ground to a depth of 12 inches to control the spread of peppermint by its underground rhizomes. Even if you use these barriers, the stems may root wherever they touch the ground outside the barriers.

Peppermint is a super plant for deck and patio containers. Use a large container to give this plant room to spread and cut any trailing stems that may touch the ground below the pot to prevent your plant from rooting where it touches and spreading along the ground.

Warnings
  • Mint might not grow true from seed. If you plant a mint seed, you might get any variety of mint seedlings, such as bergamot, spearmint or lemon mint, and not necessarily peppermint. Cuttings, however, are guaranteed to produce peppermint plants.
  • Peppermint can be quite invasive. Control peppermint growth by planting it in containers, hanging baskets or edged flower beds.
  • Growing peppermint from seed can be quite difficult and is not usually recommended for beginning gardeners. You will likely have more luck growing peppermint if you use cuttings rather than seeds. Purchase peppermint cuttings from a reputable gardener or nursery. Divide peppermint plants that you already have as another more successful way to grow peppermint in your home garden.
References
  • Park Seed: Mint – Growing and Planting Instructions
  • Texas A&M: Mints
  • Missouri Botanical Garden: Mentha x Piperita
  • West Coast Seeds: How to Grow Mint
Photo Credits
  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
About the Author

Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist and a professional writer who has authored research-based scientific/technical papers, horticultural articles, and magazine and newspaper columns. After studying botany and microbiology at Clemson University, Blackstone was a University of Georgia Master Gardener Coordinator. She is also a former mortgage acquisition specialist for Freddie Mac in Atlanta, GA.

How to Germinate Peppermint. Peppermint is among the most popular variety of mint grown in home gardens. It adds a burst of flavor to beverages and desserts. Germinating peppermint seeds indoors, six weeks before the last frost, allows you to get a head start on growing peppermint in your home garden, but it can be …

Growing Mint

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Mint is a perennial with very fragrant, toothed leaves and tiny purple, pink, or white flowers. It has a fruity, aromatic taste.

There are many varieties of mint—all fragrant, whether shiny or fuzzy, smooth or crinkled, bright green or variegated. However, you can always tell a member of the mint family by its square stem. Rolling it between your fingers, you’ll notice a pungent scent and think of candy, sweet teas, or maybe even mint juleps.

As well as kitchen companions, mints are used as garden accents, ground covers, air fresheners, and herbal medicines. They’re as beautiful as they are functional, and they’re foolproof to grow, thriving in sun and shade all over North America. In fact, mint can be vigorous spreaders, so be careful where you plant it.

Planting

  • Mints are vigorous perennials that thrive in light soil with good drainage.
  • Ideally, they prefer a moist but well-drained site, something like their native habitat along stream banks.
  • Most will tolerate some shade, and the variegated types may require some protection from direct sun.
  • For growing outdoors, plant one or two purchased plants (or one or two cuttings from a friend) about 2 feet apart in moist soil. One or two plants will easily cover the ground. Mint should grow to be 1 or 2 feet tall.
  • For the best growth in confined areas such as containers, topdress plants with a thin layer of compost or organic fertilizer every few months. Aboveground pots will need winter protection in cold climates.
  • In the garden, plant mint near cabbage and tomatoes—in pots, if possible, in order to prevent it from spreading and stealing nutrients from your crops!

Check out this video to learn more about how to grow mint.

  • Minimal care is needed for mint. For outdoor plants, use a light mulch. This will help keep the soil moist and keep the leaves clean.
  • For indoor plants, be sure to water them regularly to keep the soil evenly moist.
  • At first, mints develop into well-behaved–looking, bushy, upright clumps, but they soon set out to conquer new territory with horizontal runners and underground rhizomes. Unless you block the advance, a pert peppermint plant can turn into a sprawling 4-foot giant in just 1 year. It’s not the stuff of horror movies, however. Mints benefit from picking and pruning. They are shallow-rooted and easy to pull out, so there’s no reason to worry, as long as you provide physical barriers such as walls, walkways, or containers.

Photo Credit: Juta/Shutterstock

Pests/Diseases

  • Powdery mildew
  • Rust
  • Leaf spot
  • Anthracnose
  • Stem canker
  • Mice dislike the smell of peppermint. Spread it liberally where you suspect the critters. Mint is also considered a deer-resistant plant.

Harvest/Storage

  • Frequent harvesting is the key to keeping mint plants at their best. Young leaves have more flavor than old ones, and mint can be harvested as soon as it comes up in spring. 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. You can harvest one mint plant two or three times in one growing season.
  • You can also just 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.

Propagating Mint

The best way to propagate mints is by taking cuttings from those that you like best. It’s easy—take 6-inch cuttings of rooted stems and plant them horizontally in the soil. Mint stems will also root in a glass of water. Start with a small cutting from an established plant. Any gardening friend will give you a cutting of a favorite mint.

Photo Credit: Joannawnuk/Shutterstock

Recommended Varieties

  • Apple/Pineapple Mint: Mentha suaveolens
  • Corsican Mint: Mentha requienii
  • Pennyroyal: Mentha pulegium
  • Peppermint: Mentha x piperita
  • Citrus Mint: Mentha x piperita var. citrata
  • Spearmint: Mentha spicata

Wit & Wisdom

  • To relieve a tension headache, apply a compress of mint leaves to your forehead. Learn more about the medicinal benefits and many uses of mint.
  • Mint is a symbol for virtue. Find out more plant meanings here.
  • Mint can also help to relieve stress and anxiety. Find out how to use your fresh mint as a calming herb here.

“If any man can name … all the varieties of mint, he must know how many fish swim in the Indian Ocean.” –Walafrid Strabo (c. 808–849)

Recipes

  • Cilantro and Mint Sauce
  • Mint Lemonade
  • Minted Fruit Mold

Cooking Notes

Serious cooks generally prefer spearmint for savory dishes and peppermint for desserts. For a delicate mint taste in fruit salads, yogurt, or tea, try apple or orange mint. Mint lurks in the background in Middle Eastern salads, such as tabouli, and does well with lamb. It also goes with peas, zucchini, fresh beans, marinades for summer vegetables, cold soups, fruit salads, and cheese.

Credit: Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock

Tip! Make flavored ice cubes by freezing trays of strong mint tea, then use the ice cubes for your drinks!

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Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Mint varieties

Submitted by Earle Johnson on July 3, 2020 – 12:41pm

1. What type of mint is typically used in iced tea, and found in the grocery store?
2. If I grow it in a pot, is it better to move pot outdoors in summer, or leave inside year-round?

grocery store mint

Submitted by The Editors on July 7, 2020 – 12:54pm

Peppermint and spearmint are the most commonly available, and one source suggests that spearmint is the one most often found in grocery stores. One way to check: peppermint is 40 percent menthol, while spearmint is less than 1 percent menthol. This means that peppermint will have a more intense flavor and possibly an aftertaste, while spearmint will be milder tasting.

If you are growing mint in a container, it will do better outdoors in summer. See above for more specific info.

Growing mint

Submitted by Brandi Tyson on July 3, 2020 – 3:58am

For some reason my mint plants do not bloom. They don’t appear to even produce buds that would eventually bloom. I guess I don’t have “true” mint? I’m not sure.

Planting mint

Submitted by Gracie Jack on April 6, 2020 – 4:05pm

How deep do you plant the mint?

Planting mint depth

Submitted by The Editors on April 7, 2020 – 4:29pm

Sow the seeds just ⅛ inch deep, barely covering with fine soil, and keep moist. Seeds will germinate in 10 to 20 days. Mints are slow to develop during the first year, but be ready to fight them back the second year. If you’re worried about their growth, plant in their own bed!

Companion planting

Submitted by Lena on February 8, 2020 – 10:30am

Lovely article, thank you!
I was wondering if there was any more information regarding companion planting? I see that you stated to plant mint next to tomatoes and cabbage, but will mint do well alongside other plants? Why only tomatoes and cabbage?
Xx

Companion Planting

Submitted by The Editors on February 10, 2020 – 4:14pm

Mint’s main feature is its potent smell, which is said to deter common pests such as cabbageworms and cabbage moths, ants, aphids, and flea beetles. Generally, mint can be planted in pots alongside any veggies that are affected by these pests, like peppers, broccoli and cauliflower, and other leafy greens.

For more about companion planting, see our articles on the topic:

What to do in the winter?

Submitted by Stephen on December 5, 2019 – 3:18pm

Hi. Thank you so much for these articles, very helpful.

Over a year ago, myself an my wife planted a fruit tree and guild. The guild has many perennials from lavender to hibiscus, thyme, yarrow, sorrel and others, but also mint, spearmint, mountain mint.

I can find plenty of information online about planting a guild with perennials but nothing about what to do when fall and winter arrive. how to care?

Do I just leave the mint and others to die, fall and rot, or cut away the stalks for regrowth in Spring?

I would love if you could help or even point me in the direction of something online or some books for caring for a fruit tree guild through winter.

Thank you so much.
Stephen.

Maintaining a Fruit Tree Guild

Submitted by The Editors on December 12, 2019 – 1:37pm

Creating a fruit tree guild is a wonderful way to promote biodiversity in a small space and to work permaculture into your garden. Generally, it’s recommended to allow nature to take its course and let the perennials die back themselves, as they will eventually break down and feed the surrounding soil. However, if the garden is planted very tightly together, you may want to cut and remove some of the larger perennials as they die back (like yarrow, for example) so that they do not end up suffocating out the others.

You should also keep an eye out for any signs of pests or disease—fungal or bacterial spots, mildew, pests, and so on—and remove infected material from the garden. This helps to prevent it from building up in one location and perpetuating the disease in the following growing season.

Red leaves?

Submitted by Joe on September 27, 2019 – 5:17pm

I recently brought a peppermint plant indoors to be grown under artificial light, since I had to bring my succulents in anyway, and noticed its leaves have started to change from its normal green to more red/purple, is this an indication of too much or too little light, or completely unrelated?

possible typo

Submitted by parker on April 8, 2019 – 11:46am

you said stem anker. did you mean stem cancer?

Submitted by parker on April 8, 2019 – 11:48am

Learn how to plant, grow, and harvest mint with this growing guide from The Old Farmer's Almanac.