mint herb
Illinois Extension photo: Herb Gardening | Mint

Mentha sp.

While there are many types of mint that can be grown in the garden, each with its own particular flavor, peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and spearmint (Mentha spicata) are the most common. They grow from 1-3 feet tall and aggressively spread by underground rhizomes. They produce violet flowers.

Growing: Perennial

Mints are extremely hardy perennials. They prefer a full sun location but will tolerate light shade. Mint is propagated by either stem or root cuttings. Because mints have a prolific growth habit, they will become invasive in the garden. Place them in the garden where they can’t interfere with other plans or try and check their spreading root system.

It is highly suggested that mints be grown in containers above ground. Other suggestions for containing mints include planting mints in large bottomless containers that are sunk into the garden. This technique does not always prove successful and mints can move away from the container and become invasive. To keep plants vigorous, it suggested that they be divided every 3-4 years. In order to maintain the flavor of the leaves, flower spikes should be removed as they appear.   


Leaves can be harvested as needed but the more frequently the stems are cut the more new growth is produced. It is the new growth that has the most flavorful leaves.  Leaves that are to be dried are best taken just as the flowers begin to appear. Bunches of mint in a glass of water will keep fresh for 3-7 days or can be stored in the refrigerator, dry and wrapped in plastic for a week.   


Mint is often used with veal, lamb and pork dishes as well as beverages and jellies.