Many people would like to grow mint, but for one reason or another, would rather grow it in pots. Thankfully, this isn’t difficult, with just a little preparation.
Most mints are hardy and forgiving of neglect. However, there are over 3,500 kinds of mint and a large number of cultivars, so deciding on the kind of mint you are going to grow is an important preliminary step. The two most commonly grown kinds of mint are peppermint (Mentha piperita) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). Both of these are highly aromatic and quite suitable for teas and other uses.
Pots for mint
Healthy mint usually has an extensive root system, so the pots should ideally be about a foot in diameter or larger and about a foot tall. The above-the-ground plants spring from rhizomes that normally don’t grow very deep, so it is usually unnecessary to have pots much deeper than a foot. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt anything if they are deeper than this. The pots should also have drainage holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain out. Too much water can kill many kinds of mint, except those that specifically grow in boggy conditions.
The best pots to use are those made of terra cotta, but plastic pots will also work.
Soil for mint
Mint will grow in most soils, but for best results, the dirt should have organic matter in it. Regular garden soil works well, even in a pot, since it is normally fairly rich. If you have no access to garden soil, quality potting soil should also work well. The pot should be filled to within an inch or two of the top.
Seeds, cuttings or seedlings
Mint can be started from seeds or cuttings of existing mint plants, or the plant can be purchased as a seedling. If you are using a seedling, the mint is already started, saving time and a little effort.
–Mint from cuttings
For cuttings, you need a stem that is about six inches long. Make sure that the stem is cut with a sharp knife rather than using scissors or shears. Scissors or shears can crush part of the stem and you want the cleanest cut possible.
Carefully remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem, trying not to damage the stem, then place this in a clear container of water and put it in a sunny location. Maintain the water level. In about a week, you should see roots growing from the stem. Once there are plenty of roots, the mint can be planted.
–Mint from seeds
Mint grows easily from seeds, it just takes longer. To grow them from seeds, dampen the soil, then place the seeds on top of it. Do not cover the seeds with soil. Mint seeds require sunlight in order to germinate. Covering the seeds is probably the number one reason for failure when attempting to grow mint from seed.
The soil should be kept at least at room temperature; about 72 F or 22 C. It also needs to be kept damp and should be watered from the bottom, if possible. Note that the soil should be damp and not wet.
If the plants are being grown in the house, it can be helpful to put some clear cellophane over the pot to both retain moisture and to keep the temperature constant. The clear plastic shouldn’t be touching the soil, however.
The seeds should sprout in a week and a half to two weeks. Once the small seedlings have their second set of leaves, they no longer require constantly damp soil and the dirt can be allowed to dry out a little between watering times. At this stage, the seedlings can also be carefully transplanted, if this is desired. Many people begin mint seeds in starter pots and then transplant the seed to the larger pots once they have the second set of leaves.
Sunlight and mint
Unlike many garden plants, mint does exceptionally well in partial shade. The plant does need sunlight and it will grow in full sunlight, however, it grows best where it gets a combination of sunlight and shade.
Harvesting and mint maintenance
You can start harvesting mint when it is a few inches tall. Snipping off the top inch or so of the plant actually encourages it to grow bushy. If this isn’t done, the stems can grow two feet or more in height and will normally end up with fewer leaves.
A single plant in a pot can soon fill the pot, in good conditions. You can also harvest at any time during the day, but the mint oils tend to be the most concentrated in the early morning.
Because of its profuse growth, both above and below the ground, it is a good idea to repot the mint every couple of years. To do this, gently tap the root ball out of the upturned pot, shake out the soil and separate the mint. It can then be repotted with a single plant per pot in fresh potting soil or it can be used or given away.
Indeed, this is a superb way to make a little extra money since the mint plants can be sold. Selling them in two-inch pots for $1.50 amounts to almost pure profit. All that is needed is the pots and the soil. If the mint plants come from the repeating process, the mint won’t cost you anything. People buying the plants are also getting a good deal since they are usually more expensive in gardening stores.
There is also no need to give mint fertilizer. In fact, you don’t want to do so because it encourages explosive growth, which results in tall, weak stems and fewer leaves.
With proper care, mint is quite easy to grow in pots. A little more attention must be given to ensure that the soil doesn’t get too dry, as this is common with potted plants, but this is a plant that is great for container gardening. As an added benefit for people who have problems with deer eating their crops, deer tend to avoid mint because it is an aromatic herb. It also repels fleas and several other kinds of insects.
You might also remember that garden sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, catnip, horehound, and basil are all kinds of mint.