Peppermint plant (mentha x piperita) is a delightful perennial to grow. It can be grown as a ground cover, planted in an herb garden, or put in a container to spill over the edges.
All mints are hardy, easy to grow, and have wonderful fragrance. You’ll soon be putting fresh peppermint leaves in iced tea or enjoying its health benefits for calming indigestion and easing headaches.
Here’s exactly how to grow peppermint plant and tips for keeping the peppermint plant from “taking over” your garden.
All About Peppermint
Mint is easily recognizable by its square stem and highly fragrant leaves. There are about 20 different species of mint and many more cultivars.
Peppermint is actually a cross between two different species of mint: watermint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). It has characteristics of both parent plants, but has darker, larger, and more potent leaves than spearmint.
The leaves of peppermint are known for their strong menthol flavor and aroma. The straight species is known as Mentha x piperita and there are also several cultivars.
If you’ve read anything about growing mint, you’ve likely heard about its natural tendency to spread itself out and “take over” the garden. The good news is that peppermint tends to be less aggressive than other mint species, although barriers are still helpful for keeping it contained.
Peppermint (mentha x piperita) is a cross between watermint and spearmint. It’s a hardy perennial in most hardiness zones and grows easily in many different climates and soil types.
Peppermint likes to grow in damp areas but will tolerate most types of soil. Its natural habitat is along stream banks, around marsh areas, and in meadows and woodland areas.
In USDA hardiness zones 3-11, peppermint is a perennial. Plants can tolerate a light frost but will die back to the ground with a hard frost and reemerge in the spring.
The leaves and the menthol contained in them have many uses. You’ve likely smelled peppermint in products like toothpaste and pain-relieving creams. It’s also used to flavor desserts and beverages and has a long history of use as a medicinal herb.
Varieties of Peppermint
If you’re looking for the classic peppermint taste, you’ll want to stick with the true species Mentha x piperita. But if you’re looking for something different and unique, here are a few minty cultivars to try:
- Mentha x piperita ‘Variegata’– Variegated peppermint gives you different looking and more decorative green leaves while still keeping the classic minty flavor. Leaves are bi-colored: deep green leaves with cream to pale yellow. This variety needs a little more shade to keep its colors.
- M. x piperita ‘Chocolate Mint’ or ‘Peppermint Chocolate’– Chocolate mint is a very popular cultivar (especially for chocolate lovers)! There is a hint of chocolate in with the minty green leaves, reminiscent of peppermint patties or the classic minty Girl Scout cookies. Great for adding to desserts, tea, coffee, etc.
Chocolate mint is a popular variety for home gardeners. You can enjoy the minty-chocolatey fragrance and use the green leaves in tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and baked goods.
- M. x piperita f. citrata– This is a variation of peppermint that has citrus notes. There are a few different cultivars including ‘Orange Mint’ and ‘Lemon Mint’. These are popular for adding to ice cream, tea, and cold beverages like lemonade.
- M. x piperita ‘Lavender Mint’– True to its name, ‘Lavender Mint’ has floral overtones mixed in with its minty flavor. Green leaves are great used fresh or dried, especially to make tea, and perhaps mixed with other herbs like lemon balm or rose petals.
How to Grow Peppermint Plant
Like all mints, peppermint is easy to grow. It can be started several different ways with some being easier than others.
If you don’t want to start plants yourself, look for seedlings at your local garden center or nursery.
Starting from Seed
Mint seeds are very tiny and may be difficult to germinate.
If you want to give seeds a try, be sure to get them from a good seed company. Mints often cross pollinate, which means that seeds collected from a peppermint plant in a backyard likely won’t come true. Instead, you’ll end up with an unexpected hybrid plant.
The plants need to be kept in isolation, away from other mint plants, to come true from seed. This is usually only possible for companies that know what they’re doing.
Once you have your seeds, you can choose to start them indoors before planting out or sow them directly into a garden area.
Mint often does not come true from seed because plants frequently cross pollinate. To make sure your seeds are true peppermint seeds, buy from a reputable seed company.
Start seeds indoors about 8-10 weeks before your average last frost date. You can sow them into flats filled with a good seed starting mix that’s damp but not soaking wet. Leave seeds on top of the soil or cover lightly with more soil mix.
Germination should happen in 10-16 days. Keep the soil watered but not overly wet until your seeds sprout. Warmer temperatures (up to 75°F) or bottom heat can help with germination.
Let the seedlings continue to grow until after the last frost. Keep them watered with plenty of light and good airflow until planting time.
You can also sow seeds outdoors in early spring (usually April or May). Prepare the soil by breaking up any clumps and smoothing the surface. Sow seeds on top of the soil and sprinkle a little potting soil or vermiculite over top.
As your seedlings sprout and grow, you can thin them to 12-18” apart or transplant them to another location in your garden.
Starting from Cuttings
Cuttings are a much easier and quicker way to get yourself some peppermint plants than seeds. Mint cuttings send out roots with little encouragement, giving you new plants in no time.
For this method, you’ll need access to an established peppermint plant. To take cuttings, select strong-looking stems with healthy leaves. Cut 4-6” down the stem (longer is better) with sanitized clippers or pruning shears and remove the lower leaves.
Once you have your cuttings, there are a few ways to root them.
The simplest way is to place the stems into small glasses of water and set them near a window where they’ll get a little sun each day. The cuttings should start to send out roots in 10-14 days, and you can easily check on them by pulling the stems out of the water.
After you see some good root growth, you’ll want to plant each cutting into its own 6-8” pot filled with potting soil. Let them continue to grow for 3-4 weeks before transplanting outside.
You can also root your cuttings directly into pots filled with potting soil. You won’t be able to see when roots form, but you can check by pulling up gently on the seedlings after about 10 days. If there’s a little resistance, they are starting to root.
Finally, you can root cuttings directly into garden soil. Follow the same steps to cut stems and strip the bottoms leaves. Then, stick the stems at a horizontal angle into the ground and cover with soil. Keep well-watered and rooting should happen in 10-14 days.
Peppermint usually roots well without any help, but you can dip stems into rooting hormone powder before sticking them in pots or the ground if you’re having trouble.
Starting by Root Division
If you or a neighbor has a large peppermint patch that needs to be divided, root division is another simple way to get more plants.
Taking cuttings is an easy way to propagate peppermint. You can use stem cuttings and root them in water or soil, or you can dig up a large section of mint and take root cuttings by dividing the rootball into smaller sections.
You should do root division in the fall or in early spring.
Start by digging up the part of the patch you’re going to divide. Rootbound mint plants in containers will especially benefit from division.
Use garden shears or a sharp garden spade to divide plants by cutting through the root ball. You want each section to have a good number of roots so that it can get itself established again.
Replant the original in its container or garden spot. You can then take your root cuttings and plant them either directly into a chosen space in your garden or into small pots. If needed, trim the roots back to fit the size of their new location and trim off an inch or two of top growth.
Make sure your root cuttings stay well-watered until they get established.
Peppermint will grow in a wide range of soils, but it does prefer damper locations, often growing along stream banks in the wild.
In most regions, peppermint plants appreciate full sun. However, they tolerate partial shade and some varieties (especially variegated cultivars) need to have shade for part of the day. If you live in a hot, southerly climate, try to give plants shade in the afternoon.
If you don’t want to propagate your own peppermint, look for healthy seedlings at your local garden center or nursery. Plant seedlings one or two feet apart and keep in mind that mint loves to spread out.
Space plants 1-2’ apart depending on which variety you have. Remember that mint loves to spread, so it won’t have any problems filling in space.
In fact, the biggest consideration with planting mint is how to keep it contained. It’s best to plant peppermint with some kind of solid boundary. This could be wood boards, metal dividers, sidewalks, buildings, or containers.
You can add some homemade compost to your soil before planting, but otherwise peppermint doesn’t need any additional fertilizer if planted in the ground.
How to Grow Peppermint in Containers
Because of its tendency to spread, peppermint is a great plant to grow in raised beds with solid sides or in a container garden.
You can either grow mint in containers on your porch or sink the containers into the ground in your garden. This keeps the mint from spreading but makes it look like part of the landscape.
Make sure that your containers have drainage holes, and cover them with some old cloth. Fill containers with a good quality potting soil that’s been mixed with water until it’s wet but not dripping. Small pots only need one mint plant, but you can put 2-3 plants in larger pots.
Mint grows well in a container and is easier to keep in check when it has a pot to contain it. You can put the pots on your porch or container garden area, or you can sink them into the ground as part of your landscape.
Many potting soils have fertilizer or organic material already mixed into them, but if yours doesn’t, you can add compost to the soil.
Keep your containers well watered, especially while your peppermint gets established. If you want to sink the containers into your garden, leave about 2” of the rim sticking out aboveground.
Caring for Peppermint Plant
One of the best parts about growing peppermint is that it’s very easy to care for.
As your plants get established, you’ll want to water them consistently. A light layer of mulch around them can help keep moisture in the soil and weeds down.
Mint in the ground doesn’t need to be fertilized and usually prefers not to be. For containers, you may wish to add a slow-release fertilizer or give them a liquid plant feed every few months.
After your plants have had a few weeks to get established and are starting to grow, you can start lightly trimming them or harvesting the top leaves to make them grow bushier.
It will be easier to keep your mint patch in shape by pruning or harvesting often, so don’t be afraid to take off leaves!
Peppermint will benefit from frequent harvesting once plants get established. Use the clippings to make a nice cup of tea or add them to fresh lemonade for a minty twist!
Plants will die back to the ground after the first hard frost. If you live somewhere with extremely cold winters, a layer of mulch or straw can help them through the cold, but mint is very hardy.
However, containers that are aboveground will need protection during the winter since they don’t have the insulation of the ground to help. You can bring pots into a garage or basement area or bury them most of the way in the ground until spring.
Pests and Pathogens
Peppermint is usually pest- and disease-free. It’s considered a deer-resistant plant and even rabbits aren’t usually interested in it. Insects typically stay away as well.
Occasionally, you may have a problem with powdery mildew and other fungal diseases, especially if your climate is warm and damp. You can use a baking soda spray to control powdery mildew and remove any infected plant parts at the end of the season.
Because it repels many pests and attracts beneficial pollinators, peppermint makes an excellent companion plant.
Mints generally repel aphids, cabbage moths, and flea beetles. They also attract beneficial insects like predatory wasps and earthworms as well as bees and other pollinators. To bring pollinators to your garden, let a few plants flower in late summer to attract them.
Planting peppermint near cabbage and other Brassicas can help to repel cabbage moths, a pest that can decimate your crop. You can also cut stems of mint and “mulch” around cabbages with them.
Peppermint makes a good companion for most vegetables and herbs (except parsley). It’s especially good to plant around your Brassicas because it repels the cabbage moth.
As an alternative to planting around cabbage and other related crops, you can also cut it and use it as mulch around plants. That way it won’t compete with their roots for water and nutrients but will still have a beneficial effect.
Harvesting and Storing Peppermint
Mint leaves can be harvested at any point in the season as long as plants are established. In fact, frequent harvesting will help keep your plant healthy and growing.
You can harvest by pulling off individual leaves or by cutting off stems. Younger leaves will have more flavor and be more tender than older ones. Harvest around noon, when essential oil concentrations in the fresh leaves are the highest.
Peppermint leaves can be used fresh, and stems will keep fresh for up to a week in water or wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in the refrigerator.
You can also easily dry peppermint by harvesting 6-8” stems. Rinse them well under water and pat dry with a towel or place in a salad spinner. Then, gather the stems together and tie them up in bunches in a warm, dry, and dark area of your house.
You can use your peppermint fresh or store it for later by hanging stems in bundles until the leaves have dried. There are many ways you can use your harvest, including cooking, baking, and as a medicinal herb.
Cover the bunches with paper bags that have ventilation slits for more protection. The leaves should dry fully in a few weeks and can be taken off the stem and stored in air-tight containers.
Mint leaves can also be frozen whole or chopped up and frozen in ice cube trays with water to cover them.
Ways to Use Peppermint
Once you have your first good harvest, here are some ways to use your peppermint leaves:
- Make a soothing cup of peppermint tea by adding 8 oz. of hot water to 1-3 teaspoons of dried leaves (double that for fresh). This herbal tea can help with indigestion, headaches, and stress.
- Add fresh mint leaves to either a tossed salad or fruit salad for bright, minty flavor.
- Crush leaves slightly and add to cold beverages like iced tea, lemonade, and even iced coffee.
- Use fresh or dried peppermint in desserts like ice cream, brownies, cookies, cakes, etc.
The possibilities for peppermint and other mints are truly endless since they can be used in so many ways: as ornamental plants, in containers, as a ground cover, in herb or vegetable garden, and as an edible plant.