From calming down headaches to making refreshing iced tea or flavored water, a sprig of fresh peppermint can come in very handy. If you use a lot of peppermint in your home, growing your own can help you cut down the cost of buying organic peppermint leaves.
Peppermint is a perfect addition to any homegrown herb garden. It is super easy to grow peppermint in a pot – basically a more careful variation of stick-it-in-a-pot-and-water. You can even make a potted peppermint plant your child’s first garden project.
Basic Growing Requirements for Peppermint
- Spring is the ideal time to grow peppermint. This is particularly true if you live in an area that has winter frost. Frost will kill the shoot of the peppermint plant, but the roots will survive and your peppermint will regrow come spring. If you live in a frost-free climate, you can plant it in the spring or fall.
- Unlike most plants, peppermint isn’t particular about the soil as long as it drains well. Mint traditionally grows on the banks of streams, ponds and rivers, where it has naturally well-draining soil. Sandy loam soil with good organic matter is a good choice for planting peppermint.
- To ensure lush growth, you can add organic nitrogen fertilizer to the soil. You can also amend the soil with manure 1 to 2 months in advance before planting.
- You’ll want to put your peppermint plant in a spot that receives ample morning sunlight and partial afternoon shade.
- Take measures to contain the plant when planting it in the ground, as mint is considered an invasive plant and can easily overrun any garden in a matter of months.
Pests and Diseases that Affect Peppermint
Being an extremely aromatic herb, mint plants are never plagued by pests and seldom fall prey to diseases. In fact, it’s the opposite. Peppermint can be successfully used to get rid of mice and a host of other pests like spiders and ants. It can even keep bees, mosquitoes and flies at bay.
In some conditions, you may have to deal with powdery mildew, rust and leaf spot. Since most of the diseases are fungal in nature, you can control the situation with a little care.
- Pick off the affected parts of the plant and dispose of them.
- Prune back the dense growth to promote aeration and water the soil but don’t wet the foliage.
- Prevent diseases from recurring by removing the dead stems and leaves from the pot in the winter.
Steps to Grow Peppermint in a Pot
Since it’s an invasive plant, it is a smart choice to grow peppermint in a pot. You can also put it in your kitchen garden, provided that you put a deep container around the plant, so that its roots don’t run out of control. The runners of mint run shallow in the ground and can be easily controlled.
Propagation of peppermint is done by plantings or cuttings from a healthy plant. You can easily buy peppermint seedlings from your local nursery or get fresh cuttings from a friend who has the plant. Preparing cuttings for planting is easy, too.
- Just put the cuttings in a glass of water for 1 to 2 weeks.
- Remove the leaves that get submerged in water.
- Change the water every 5 days to prevent rot.
- Plant the cuttings in soil once the roots develop.
One last thing – don’t try to save the seeds for subsequent plantings, as the seeds are never “true” to the parent plant.
So without further ado, here is how to grow peppermint in a pot.
Things you’ll need:
- Fertile garden soil
- Gardening pot and a few stones
- Peppermint seedlings
- Garden pressure spray pump
- Gardening gloves
Step 1. Put fertile soil in the pot
- Choose a good-sized gardening pot with a couple of drainage holes in the bottom.
- Line the holes with flat stones or pebbles to ensure good drainage.
- Fill the pot with fertile garden soil, leaving 1 to 2 inches margin from the top.
Step 2. Plant the peppermint seedlings
- Make a well in the center of the soil with the trowel. The size of the well should be that of the potting medium of your peppermint seedlings.
- Place the peppermint seedlings along with the potting medium into the well.
- Cover the roots completely with soil. You can bury the entire shoot below the leaves.
- Water the soil evenly.
Step 3. Care for the herb as it grows
- The peppermint seedlings may take 1 to 2 weeks to establish.
- Care for the plant in the initial growth stage by ensuring consistent moisture and adequate sunlight. Touch the soil with your finger to determine the moisture. Never overwater, but don’t let the soil dry out completely.
- Once the plant is established, keep an eye out for the occasional plant disease.
- Feel free to prune the peppermint every now and then. This encourages new growth and you will keep getting a fresh supply of this fragrant herb.
- Mints reach their full maturity in about 3 months after planting the seedlings or cuttings. A full-grown mint is usually 1 to 2 feet tall. A plant this big is ready for a full harvest.
Step 4. Harvest the peppermint sprigs and leaves
While you can collect a few sprigs of your peppermint once the plant becomes 3 to 4 inches tall, wait for it to become full grown before undertaking a proper harvest.
The peppermint plant peaks in its maturity just before flowering. The essential oils in the plant are most potent at this time, making it perfect for harvest. Peppermint blooms from June to September. You can time your harvest accordingly.
- Harvest your peppermint plant early in the morning after the dew has dried to get the best flavor in the leaves.
- Cut the stems on the plant using garden shears or a similar sharp instrument.
- Harvest only one-third of the plant at one time. Allow it to grow back before doing the next full harvest. This way you will get at least three harvests in a season. For the last harvest, you can harvest the entire plant.
- If you planted your peppermint in the ground, you can harvest the entire full-grown plant, leaving only 1 inch of the stem above soil. The peppermint will easily grow back, and you can have another smaller harvest later in the season.
Preserving the Harvest
- Wash the peppermint leaves to remove any dirt and other external impurities.
- Tie the harvest in bundles and hang it upside down in the shade until the leaves dry completely. Then, you can pick the leaves and store them in airtight containers or ziplock bags.
- Fresh leaves can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator. Sprigs can also survive for a few days in water.
- For long-term storage, you can chop and freeze the leaves in an ice cube tray.
- Add a water-retaining polymer to the potting soil to keep the soil consistently moist and prevent it from drying out.
- Adding perlite or vermiculite to the potting soil will also help it retain moisture.
- Not that peppermint needs help, but a side dressing with Epsom salt can put the herb’s foliage growth in overdrive.
- If flowers bloom in your peppermint plant, don’t let the seed pods open. Otherwise, you’ll soon need to deal with an explosion of seedlings that don’t share the properties of the parent plant. Just pick the flowers before they ripen.