Mint is one of the most popular herbs. Easy to grow and infinitely useful, like many other types of herbs it is also ideal for growing indoors in pots.
If you want to learn how to grow mint indoors, this guide is for you. We will cover everything from starting a new plant from cuttings to how to plant and where to position your specimen for the best results. We will also discuss how to grow mint indoors in water.
This is a popular herb.
Why Grow Mint Indoors?
A vigorous, low maintenance plant, this is one of the most popular and widely grown herbs. The genus of mint or Mentha plants belong to the larger Lamiaceae plant family.
One of the Mentha plants’ most distinctive characteristics is its vigorous growth habit. These plants can spread rapidly when planted in a garden bed or the ground, sending out runners and taking over any space. Such is their prolific nature, the plants often pop up in cracks in pavers or concrete.
Many growers find that the best way to contain the spread of the Mentha plant is to grow it in a pot either indoors or outside. Learning how to grow mint indoors or outdoors in pots enables you to enjoy all the benefits of the Mentha plant without having to worry about containing its prolific growth habit.
The Many Uses of the Mentha Plant
Mentha plants have a range of different culinary uses. Popularly used to season lamb or as a sauce accompaniment, it is also a popular ingredient in many Middle Eastern dishes such as tabouli or a tzatziki dip.
You can use the leaves to flavor both salads and fruit salads. Alternatively you can steep the leaves in hot water to make a soothing tea.
Mentha leaves can be used to create a refreshing tea.
Another common use for the leaves is as an ingredient in Mint Julep drinks. You can also use the leaves as a garnish or toss with fresh lime and sugar before mixing with rum and carbonated water to make a refreshing mojito.
Away from the kitchen Mentha leaves, which are rich in essential oils, are prized for the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that they contain. This makes them a popular ingredient in herbal medicine where they can be used to treat everything from gastric discomfort to irritated skin as well as providing pain relief.
Another reason why many people like to grow mint indoors is because the plants attract very few pests.
The fragrance also helps to make the Mentha plant a popular addition to an indoor houseplant collection. Thought to boost energy levels, the leaves can be added to a hot bath to create a fragrant, muscle soothing soak. Alternatively, bruising a few leaves as you pass the plant fills the room with its characteristic scent.
Different Mentha Varieties
While some varieties of plant only produce one or two types suitable for growing undercover, when it comes to learning how to grow mint indoors, you will be pleased to learn that most varieties of the Mentha plant are suitable.
You may be forgiven for thinking that there is only one type of Mentha plant. However, this isn’t the case. In truth there are over two dozen species and several thousand varieties in the wider Mentha genus.
While each type varies slightly in flavor and appearance, in general all the plants look similar, producing broad green leaves which release a distinctive scent when touched.
One of the most common types of mint is the Peppermint (Mentha Piperita). Identified by its bright green, rounded leaves, Peppermint leaves typically contain more menthol than other Mentha plants. This makes it a popular ingredient in herbal remedies.
Peppermint oil is used to ease nausea, relieve headaches, fight infections and clear sinus congestion. Peppermint can also be used to flavor gum and toothpaste. For more information on the Peppermint plant, including specific care tips, consult our How to Grow Peppermint Plant guide.
Rounded foliage helps to distinguish Peppermint from other varieties.
Another commonly grown variety is Spearmint (Mentha Spicata). Producing dark green, pointed leaves, Spearmint is one of the sweeter Mentha plants.
Lower in menthol than Peppermint, Spearmint is commonly used to flavor toothpaste, gum, soaps and shampoo. The leaves are also used to garnish or add flavor to many savory dishes, salads and drinks. Finally, the essential oils derived from the Spearmint plant can be used to treat digestive ailments and relieve fevers.
Other commonly grown Mentha cultivars include:
- Apple (Mentha rotundifolia), this cultivar is distinguished by its light green, rounded fuzzy leaves. Also known as the Wooly mint plant this attractive variety is less invasive than other types, meaning that it is an increasingly popular ornamental plant. The sweet subtle flavor of Apple mint, which leaves no bitter aftertaste, is a popular ingredient in sweet dishes. The leaves can also be used to add flavor to water, jelly or fruit dishes.
- Orange (Mentha Piperita Citrata), also known as Bergamot mint, is popular for its intense fragrance which emits bright citrus notes with sweet lavender undertones. A popular choice for aromatic oils or to scent perfumes and cosmetics it can also be used to flavor fruit tarts, dressings and sauces. Orange mentha plants produce smooth rounded leaves.
- Pineapple (Mentha Suaveolens Variegata) is another aromatic cultivar which is increasingly popular for its tropical undertones. The fuzzy rounded leaves which are marked with white edges can be used in fruit salads, salsas, chutneys, cocktails or to add flavor to water. The leaves also flavor meat and fish dishes.
Where Can I Get a Mentha Plant?
The first step of learning how to grow mint indoors is sourcing a plant. If you don’t have a Mentha plant growing in your garden or you want a more unusual cultivar, you can purchase the plants from a plant nursery or garden store.
Some larger grocery stores also sell small plants in pots. While they may require a little extra care to begin with, these can also be potted on and cultivated. Make sure that your selected plant looks green and healthy.
Most garden stores and plant nurseries sell herb plants during the spring and summer months. At other times of the year, you may have to start your own plant. Luckily this is easier than it sounds.
You can start a new Mentha plant either from stem cuttings or root division. Either method is suitable if you want to grow mint indoors. Both methods are also easier and quicker than attempting to grow a plant from seed.
The Mentha plant’s ability to set roots quickly and easily from stem cuttings means that, unlike some herbs, it doesn’t grow well as a microgreen.
How to Take Stem Cuttings
From a healthy plant, use garden scissors to remove a 5 to 6 inch long section of stem. Make your cut just below a leaf node, this is the little bump on the stem from which a leaf emerges.
Remove all the leaves from the lower 2 inches of the plant. This creates more nodes from which roots can emerge.
Healthy stems can be cut from the plant to create new specimens.
You can either plant the prepared cutting in a pot filled with well draining potting soil or place it in water.
To root the cutting in water simply put it in a jar or glass filled with fresh water. Do not allow the remaining leaves to contact the water, this can cause the cutting to root.
Place the jar in a sunny windowsill. The plant should receive 4 to 6 hours of light every day. Remember to change the water every day.
Once new roots emerge and are a couple of inches long, the cutting can be planted in a pot.
New roots typically emerge in 5 to 6 days and new growth around 6 days later. While you can then transplant into a pot filled with soil, like some other plants, you can also continue to grow mint indoors in water. Simply remember to regularly change the water. Stale water contains less oxygen. If plants growing in water are deprived of oxygen they will slowly fade and die.
Mature or established plants can also be propagated by root division.
Dig into the soil at the edge of the plant to reveal some of the root system. Look for a stem or section of the plant that has its own root system. These can be safely removed from the mother plant and potted on to create a new, smaller plant. Don’t worry if you are only able to separate a few stems, even small divisions grow quickly.
If the mature plant is growing in a pot, remove it from the pot and use your hands to gently tear the plant into smaller sections. Each section can then be repotted individually in separate pots.
How to Plant
If you want to grow mint indoors or outside in pots, it is important that you choose the right type of container and potting medium.
What Type of Pot
Mint is a vigorous, resilient plant. The plants happily grow in most conditions. In general a wide, shallow plastic pot is best. Mentha plants, unlike many other indoor plants, like to have their feet slightly wet. Plastic pots allow the soil to remain moist for longer, whilst also enabling excess moisture to drain away.
Terra cotta and clay pots are often more porous, meaning that the soil dries out more quickly.
A wide container, such as a Premium High-Density Plastic Planter enables the plant to set out runners and new shoots without becoming overly compact.
Your chosen pot should have lots of drainage holes in the bottom.
Grow mint indoors in a plastic pot.
The Right Type of Potting Medium
Your chosen potting medium should be well draining. You can either use a commercial, balanced potting mixture or make your own. To make your own potting medium combine equal amounts of sand, soil or peat and perlite.
You can also use coconut coir. This is lightweight and has excellent water retention properties but also lets excess moisture drain away, preventing root rot and other issues. If you have never used coconut coir before, our guide to using coconut coir to benefit your plant collection is filled with useful information.
How to Plant
To plant your Mentha plant or cutting fill your chosen pot with an appropriate potting medium. Moisten the potting medium and allow any excess moisture to drain away.
Make a hole in the soil large enough to hold the plant. A cutting requires only a small hole, if you are transplanting a larger, established plant it may be easier to pre-moisten the potting medium before adding a layer to the bottom of the plant. You can then position the plant in the pot and backfill any gaps with more fresh potting soil.
If you are planting more than one Mentha plant or cutting in a pot space them roughly 10 inches apart.
Where to Grow Mint Indoors
Like many other indoor plants, finding a favorable position is key if you want to successfully grow mint indoors. Mentha plants do best in indirect light. You can also grow mint indoors in partial shade.
An adaptable plant, you can grow mint indoors in partial light.
An east facing windowsill is ideal during the spring and summer months. In the fall and winter a west or south facing window is preferred. You can also use mild intensity grow lights to artificially boost light levels and stimulate growth if necessary.
During the summer months, even though you are aiming to grow mint indoors, you can place the plants outside to enjoy the fresh air and natural light levels.
The indoor temperature around the plants should average 65 to 70 ℉ during the day. The temperature should not fall below 55 to 60 ℉ at night.
An important part of finding the best place to grow mint indoors is to identify a favorable position that is not exposed to draughts or extremes of temperature. Too much change can stress the plant, stunting growth and inhibiting leaf production.
Like other indoor plants, Mentha specimens do not like dry air. This means that part of learning how to successfully grow mint indoors is learning how to maintain a humid environment with adequate airflow around the plants. This helps to keep the foliage green and healthy.
If you want to grow mint indoors alongside other herbs or plants, grouping them close together helps to raise humidity levels. Don’t place the plants too closely together, this can prevent air flow around the plants and may lead to issues such as powdery mildew developing.
Another way to artificially raise humidity levels is to place the plants on a Humidi-Grow Humidity Tray.
A humidity tray is a tray or saucer filled with pebbles. Water is added to the tray covering all but the tops of the pebbles. The pot is then placed on top of the pebbles. Do not allow the pot to contact the water, this can lead to the soil becoming waterlogged and issues such as root rot developing.
If you are using a humidity tray you will need to regularly top up the water levels. Allowing water levels to fall lowers humidity around the plant.
Grouping the plants together can help to maintain humidity levels.
How to Care for Mint Indoors
Caring correctly for the plant is an important part of learning how to grow mint indoors.
Rotating the plant every 3 to 5 days helps to maintain an even appearance. Mentha plants bend towards the light. This phenomenon is known as phototropism.
Plants that exhibit this phenomenon distribute plant growth hormones laterally to the shaded side of the plant. This triggers cell elongation which encourages the plant to grow towards the light.
When to Water
Water the plants regularly. Aim to keep the soil moist but not overly wet. Wet or soggy soils are prone to root rot. Water the plants only when the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch.
When to Fertilize
Noted for its vigorous growth habit, even if you grow mint indoors there is no need to fertilize the Mentha plant. However, an occasional dose of fertilizer can be applied if the plants require it.
A dose of all purpose water soluble or liquid fertilizer diluted to half its strength can be safely applied to the plants. Be careful not to over fertilize the plant, this can cause the leaves to lose their flavor. Fish emulsion can also be used.
Pruning Growing Plants
While some house or container plants tend to be more contained than their outside counterparts, even if you grow mint indoors the plants continue to display a vigorous growth habit. To keep the plants under control and prevent legginess, pinch or prune the plants regularly.
Regularly harvesting the leaves for culinary or other uses helps to keep the growth under control.
Remove the flower buds by pinching off as they develop or emerge. This encourages the plant to focus more of its energy on leaf production. If the Mentha plant is allowed to flower the leaves can lose some of their flavor.
Pruning the plants with garden scissors can also help to keep them in shape.
Prune away flower buds to preserve foliage flavor.
How to Harvest the Leaves
Whether you grow mint indoors or outside, harvesting is largely the same. There is no special trick to harvesting Mentha leaves. Simply use garden scissors to cut away what you need.
Healthy specimens tolerate a harsh pruning, with the right care they quickly grow back. In general, the more leaves that you pick, the more emerge. This means that you can harvest the foliage regularly throughout the growing season.
Leaves can be cut from the plant regularly throughout the growing season.
If you grow mint indoors for its essential oils, the leaves are best harvested at their peak. This is just as the flower buds emerge. You can either pick individual leaves from the plant or cut away stems, removing the leaves from the stems later.
If you harvest a number of stems but do not need to use all the leaves immediately, the stems can be placed in a glass of water. This keeps them fresh for around a week. The leaves can also be stored in a plastic bag in a refrigerator for a week.
Learning how to grow mint indoors is a simple process. An attractive, fragrant specimen with a myriad of uses, the plant is an ideal inclusion in an indoor herb container garden. Learning how to grow mint indoors enables everyone to enjoy the benefits of this vigorous herb.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.