How to grow mint
All you need to know about growing, harvesting and storing mint plants, in this step-by-step Grow Guide.
From a refreshing tea to a classic sauce for roast lamb and new potatoes, mint is one of the most useful culinary herbs, and it's easy to grow, too. It’s also one of the best herbs for attracting beneficial insects into the garden, such as hoverflies, lacewings, bees and butterflies.
How to grow mint
Grow mint in moist but well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. It's best to grow mint in a pot as it can compete with neighbouring plants when planted in the ground. Harvest as and when you need to, allowing some stems to bear flowers for pollinators. Mint is perennial, meaning it comes back every year. Cut back to ground level in autumn and mulch with well-rotted compost annually, to ensure a fresh crop of healthy leaves com spring.
Bear in mind that mint is slightly toxic to dogs and can cause stomach upset and vomiting if eaten in large quantities.
More on growing mint:
How to plant mint
Mint is a hardy perennial that’s not really worth growing from seed, as it’s so easy to grow from root cuttings or young plants planted in the spring or autumn. It does best in well-drained, fertile soil in light shade, where the roots will stay moist but never become waterlogged.
Growing mint in a pot
Most mint plants are invasive, so it's a good idea to restrict their root run by planting them in pots, instead of the ground. Use a soil-based compost and replant with fresh compost every couple of years. Alternatively, plant mint into a bottomless bucket that you can sink into the ground. This gives the illusion of growing it in the ground but has the benefits of keeping growth in check. Keep a couple of pots of mint by the kitchen door, using one for pickings and the other to grow.
How to care for mint
For the best flavour, keep cutting mint to stimulate new leafy growth. After flowering is over in late summer, cut mint plants back to just above soil level and feed with a high-nitrogen fertiliser to encourage a fresh flush of leaves for autumn picking.
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In autumn, divide mint to make new plants. Lift a clump and chop it into pieces using a spade. Discard the old centre and replant the vigorous outer edges. Divide congested pot-grown mint in autumn. Sit containers on pot feet to avoid waterlogging over winter.
Here are three Golden Rules for caring for herbs, in our video:
Want to harvest mint all though the year? Watch our No Fuss Guide with Alan Titchmarsh, on lifting herbs for winter:
How to harvest mint
Mint, like most herbs, is best used fresh when the volatile oils are at their most intense. You can start harvesting as soon as leaves appear above in spring and continue through to the first frosts. Nipping out the tips of the stems will encourage the plants to bush out.
How to prepare and use mint
Add fresh mint to buttered peas and new potatoes or combine with sugar and white wine vinegar for a classic sauce to accompany roast lamb. Steep a handful of leaves in boiling water, with sugar added to taste, for a soothing mint tea.
Looking for inspiration on how to use your crop? Our friends at olive have curated a delicious collection of mint recipes, including their homemade mint sauce.
How to store mint
Freezing mint is the next best thing to using it fresh. Wash and shake mint leaves dry, then finely chop. Fill an ice-cube tray with the chopped mint (there’s no need to add water). When frozen, pop the cubes into freezer bags and seal.
Pests and diseases
Mint is attractive to invertebrates such as aphids, caterpillars and flea beetle. However they rarely cause significant damage to the plants so it's best to leave them for natural predators to control, just remember to shake the foliage thoroughly after harvesting to ensure they don't end up in your kitchen, and wash leaves before eating them.
Mint can be affected by mint rust. Check plants regularly, looking for swollen stems with orange spots on the leaves. Dig up the plant and bin it. Mint rust remains in the soil for at least three years, so don’t plant other mints, tarragon or chives in that spot after infection.
Mint beetle can also affect mint. Tis attractive beetle does very little damage in small numbers, but can cause problems if large infestations occur. Find out how to identify and deal with mint beetle, in this clip from Gardeners' World:
Advice on buying mint
- There's a huge range of mint plants to choose from – buy a selection based on what you intend to use the leaves for
- Mint is widely available from garden centres but you'll find a greater range of types online
- Always check plants for signs of damage and disease before planting
Where to buy mint
Mint varieties to grow
- ‘Banana’ – has a peppermint taste with a hint of banana
- Bowles’s mint – mauve flowers and large leaves. Best for making mint sauce
- ‘Chocolate’ – produces brown leaves that taste like after-dinner mints. It's non-invasive
- ‘Lime’ – lime flavoured, dark green/purple leaves and mauve flowers. Non-invasive
- ‘Tashkent’ – spearminty, crinkled leaves and purple flowers
- ‘Variegata’ – or pineapple mint has cream-green leaves with pineapple scent. Non-invasive