Mint is a very popular and fast growing herb, but did you know there are several types of mint available? Although there are hundreds of types of mint, they all boil down to several that you’ll find grown in gardens throughout the world. You can grow them both indoors and out, and we’ll outline a brief history, the different types, and how you can use them below.
The Long and Rich History of Mint
Mint has a medicinal and herbal history that dates back thousands of years, and there are references to this plant in the bible. It has a colorful history in ancient mythology where the story says that Pluto’s wife transformed one of her hated rivals into a mint plant. It has ties to beauty in the Metha, Latin, Minthe, and Greek cultures. In Athens, it was a common practice to scent different body parts with different types of herbs, and various types of mint went on the arms.
Originally introduced to England by the Romans, it was mentioned in 1440 by John Gardiner. He called it myntys. There is little known about John Gardiner except he published Feate of Gardening sometime in 1440. This book is one of the earliest horticultural works known to the English language, and it contained verse writing. At this time, mint was a popular ingredient in early versions of today’s toothpaste as a whitening agent.
William Turner found that mint was a pleasant ingredient in sauces, and he claimed it was good for stomach problems. Nicholas Culpepper was a physician-astrologer who used the mint plant to treat over 40 different health problems.
The pilgrims were the people who were most likely responsible for bringing mint with them to the New World. During the 17th century, an English traveler named John Josselyn wrote about his visit to New England, and he included a lot of information that detailed the plants that were thriving in this colony. Mint was among them. Today, mint is a popular ingredient in food and beverages, and it’s also still popular for medicinal uses. The different types of mint all have a purpose, and we’ll outline them below.
Mint has a long and colorful history that dates back centuries for medicinal use.
Different Types of Mint and How to Use Them
Although there are hundreds of types of mint available, most home gardeners and commercial growers stick to a key few species. Each type of mint has different properties associated with it, and you can use it for different things. If you’re not sure which type of mint you need, this is for you.
Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens)
Reaching about two feet high, this mint plant requires constant cultivation to stop it from taking over the garden or container it’s in. It’s a very rapidly growing and mild type of mint, and it’s also called the wooly mint. You can grow the apple mint from seed relatively easily, or you can make cuttings of the mature mint plant and start them in water.
It does well in partial sun and hardiness zones ranging from 5 to 9. You can grow it by itself, or you can buddy grow it with tomatoes, broccoli, peas, and cabbage to enhance their flavor profile. This type of mint is popular for dessert toppings, as a dried herb, or you can lightly bruise the leaves and add them to a pitcher of water for a refreshing summer drink.
The tangle apple flavor mixed with the refreshing mint makes this an excellent dessert type of mint.
Basil Mint (Mentha x piperita f.citrata)
Basil mint is a hybrid type of mint that is relatively easy to grow and cultivate. It grows best in partial shade in a container or along the edges of gardens and flower beds. You have to routinely trim it back to prevent it from taking over your garden. This plant has large, upright stalks with narrow leaves that give off a fragrant basil and mint aroma.
It’s best to use this type of mint fresh, but you can dry them and store them. The fragrance will stay for up to six months. It’s popular in pestos and fruit salads. Additionally, you can take a sprig of this type of mint and boil it in water to make tea. The basil mint has anti-inflammatory features, and it can help calm upset stomachs and headaches. If you chew on a leaf, it’ll help ease your heartburn.
The basil flavor profile of this mint makes it popular in desserts around the world.
Calamint (Calamintha nepeta)
This type of mint is native to the United Kingdom, and it grows well in sandy soils and full sun in hardiness zones five to nine. When you crush the leaves, you’ll get a very strong scent. It has large leaves with deep veins, thick stalks, and fuzzy herbs. The plant can grow up to two feet tall, and it has light pink flowers that will bloom in the late summer months.
This type of mint has a long medicinal history. In particular, it’s useful for helping to treat contusions or bruising because it has a high menthol content. It’s a popular seasoning for meat and in beverages, and you can use it in place of basil or thyme. You shouldn’t use or handle this type of mint if you’re pregnant.
This stronger mint pairs well with lime in iced or hot teas.
Catmint (Nepeta mussinii)
Not to be confused with catnip, this type of mint has striking grey-green leaves with blue-lavender flowers. You can grow it in the sun or partial shade, and it makes an excellent edging plant because it repels insects. They’re resistant to drought, and this type of mint can survive very well in sandy or dry soil. It is an aggressively growing plant, and you want to take care to keep it trimmed.
It’s possible to use every part of the plant, and you can dry it or use it fresh. If you dry it, it’ll store for months in an airtight bag without losing it’s potency. Adding the shoots or leaves to sauces and soups are popular ways to use it. Making a herbal tea to help calm your nerves, relieve congestion, stop coughs, and help alleviate menstrual cramps are also popular.
The more mint leaves you add to your tea, the more potent it’ll be. Additionally, fresh leaves work better than dried.
Chocolate Mint (Mentha x piperita)
This is a square-stemmed type of mint, and this means that it can take over the other plants around it if you don’t watch it. Chocolate mint has a very fragrant look with yellow-tinged leaves. Once you pinch out the leaves, you’ll get new growth that is easy to maintain. It does well in full to partial sun with rich soil and a lot of water. You can grow them in containers easily as well.
Since this plant is so fragrant, it’s popular in drinks and desserts. The chocolate mint plant makes an excellent garnish, and it makes a minty, chocolatey tea. All you do is add enough leaves to fill your cup halfway, add boiling water, and let it steep. It’s possible to extract the oil to create your own essential oil from the plant, and it grows fast enough to keep you in good supply.
Mint and chocolate make for an excellent combination, especially for dessert dishes.
Corn or Field Mint (Mentha arvensis)
Known as wild mint, this type of mint is native to the United States. To grow it, you’ll need a rich soil that retains water and an area that gets full to partial sun. If you have sandy soil, add compost to it before you plant your mint. Deadhead the flowers to prevent it from spreading, and you’ll see a square stem with tufts of flowers growing every few inches. The plant grows between 6 and 18 inches tall.
Corn mint is a popular remedy for helping treat the common cold. It’s possible to chew on the leaves to help clear up your congestion and soothe your cough. Another possibility is making tea with the fresh leaves and hot water. If you want to boil the leaves to extract the oils, you can add this mint into a lotion base and create a vapor rub you put on your chest.
You can find types of mint growing wild throughout the United States.
Ginger Mint (Mentha x gracilis syn. Mentha x gentilis)
This type of mint is a cross between spearmint and corn mint, and you’ll notice the scent trends toward a light spearmint that lingers. If you plant it outside, it does best in heavy soils or soils with a higher clay content and in full or partial sun. You should add a layer of mulch around your mint plant to help retain the moisture and prevent it from drying out.
This light mint flavor pairs wonderfully in fresh fruit salads and in teas. You can add it to hot or cold teas and lemonade to add another layer of flavors. It’s possible to create a spread by finely chopping up these mint leaves and mixing it into a softened butter or margarine. Another common use is to let fish or other grilled meat marinate in Ginger mint leaf marinades.
Mint and ginger are a soothing combination that dates back centuries for medicinal properties.
Grapefruit Mint (Mentha x piperita)
Excellent for novice gardeners, this type of mint thrives in hardiness zones six through eleven in full or partial sun. It can grow between 12 and 14 inches tall before spreading out up to 18 inches wide, and you get a succulent citrus scent. You should pinch it back to encourage the plant to produce thicker growth instead of gangly and laggy growth. It has lavender flowers in the early fall months.
This plant will produce a lot of mint for you to use, but you can dry it and store it in airtight containers for months. For fresh leaves, chop them up and add them to your fruit salad. Once you slightly bruise the leaves, add them to your water or freeze them in ice cube trays until you want a cold drink. Fruity desserts, chicken dishes, and fish dishes complement this citrus flavor too.
Grapefruit and mint combines to create a tart and tangy taste that is popular in desserts.
Horsemint (Monarda citriodora)
Better known as Lemon Beebalm, this type of mint can grow between one and two feet tall. It grows tuft-like flower heads at varying distances along the stalk, and the flowers have a lavender hue. It likes dry soil and partial shade, and it grows well in areas with heavy clay soil. If you leave it alone, it’ll form a large colony that takes over your yard or garden.
The delicate lemon flavor and scent make this an excellent type of mint to use to flavor your salad. It does very well in hot and cold tea, and it pairs well with white meat like chicken or more delicate fish like salmon. You can create lemon-flavored desserts and glazes with this mint plant, and it’s naturally resistant to deer. It dries very well while retaining the lemon flavoring.
The subtle lemon flavor of this mint allows you to add it to sweet and savory food and beverages.
Lavender Mint (Mentha piperita)
The red stem with the deep green leaves make this type of mint very attractive to people who need a no-fuss plant. It’s resistant to drought, and you can add a layer of mulch over your mint to ensure it stays moist. Plant it in full to partial sun and make sure it doesn’t start to take over your garden. A good idea is to grow this mint in a large and shallow container, and you can add other types of mint to it as well.
Because it’s so fragrant, lavender mint is popular in both medicinal and herbal uses. For example, you’ll find this scent in a lot of personal care items like lip balms, potpourri, creams, or shampoos. However, it also pairs well with food items like fresh strawberries, soups, or pastas. You can find it used as a hot or cold tea, and it enhances the flavor of meat.
Lavender and mint have calming properties that make it excellent for aromatherapy and calming your nerves.
Licorice Mint (Agastache rupestris)
This type of mint grows to an impressive four feet high in full sun and rich soil. It spouts lavender and white flowers and are best left to the birds because they’re packed with tiny bugs that are very hard to remove. It grows well between zones five to eleven, and you want to make sure that the soil stays damp. If it dries out, it can damage your plant.
This plant gives you a slightly sweet flavor that lacks the bite of actual licorice, and this makes it popular in drinks and desserts. If you’re going to make ice cream, wash some of the leaves and let them steep in the milk before you put it into your ice cream maker. It pairs well with fresh fruit, and it adds a slightly sweet note to lighter meats.
Licorice has a very sharp taste, and the mint helps to temper it.
Orange Mint (Mentha piperita citrata)
If you have dense and damp areas of your yard that have clay-like soil, the orange mint plant will do very well growing here. It does best when it gets full sun, but it can survive in partial shade, and it can withstand neglect without dying. The spiked pink and white flowers appear in the late summer months, and they attract a lot of butterflies to the area.
It’s a good idea to plant these mint plants at the borders of your garden when you get foot traffic that can bruise the leaves to release the citrus smell. You can eat the leaves raw or pop them into a cocktail, lemonade, or salad. If you want to cook the leaves, they go well in pestos, jellies, pasta, and a broad range of meat dishes, including chicken, lamb, and fish.
Mints and orange balance each other, and they both release a nice scent when you bruise the leaves.
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
The mint plant grows up to a foot tall, and it’ll create new roots wherever it touches the ground to spread. It grows best in full sun in hardiness zones five to nine. Unlike other mint plants, this one does very well as a hanging or trailing plant in a basket. As long as you keep it moist and make sure it doesn’t grow out of control, you’ll end up with a fragrant herb.
If you’re pregant, don’t handle Pennyroyal or use it as a food or topical agent becuase it has a history of use inducing abortions. It’s a powerful, natural pain reliever, and making tea can help alleviate stomach pain or gastrointestinal discomfort. Making a topical cream by mixing the crushed leaves with a lotion can help relieve cramping and soothe colds.
Hanging mint in baskets helps to control the spread while creating a pretty focal point.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
There is a little more care involved in keeping the peppermint plant healthy, but it’s still easy enough for beginners to tackle. It needs full sun to unlock the plant’s natural potency, but it won’t tolerate being dry at all. It thrives by wet streams and riverbeds. Black peppermint has a higher oil content with right purple-green leaves while white peppermint is milder.
Only use peppermint in small doses, and take care if you’re diabetic. Chewing on peppermint leaves or drinking peppermint-infused tea can help with gastrointestinal discomfort and bloating. You can rub crushed peppermint leaves on your wrists and chest to help soothe congestion and sinus pressure, and peppermint might help lower blood pressure. It’s a nice complement to sweet desserts like ice cream, and you can add it to your cocktails.
Peppermint is one of the most popular types of mint to add to cocktails due to its sharp taste.
Pineapple Mint (Mentha suaveolens)
The pineapple mint plant has deep green leaves with white edging. Because of this coloring, it’s a popular ornamental plant, and it can grow in zones five through nine with protection and zone four without protection.It’ll grow between two and three feet tall, and it does best in full sun. This species needs rich soil to grow, and it sprouts white or pink flowers in the middle of the summer.
The sweet and citrusy taste of this mint plant makes it popular for medicinal and herbal uses. It works well as a colorful garnish, or you can add it cooked or raw to fruit salads, jellies, and to flavor tea. Another popular use of pineapple mint is for a fruit-based potpourri. The anti-inflammatory properties make this excellent for helping with arthritis and gastrointestinal problems. It can also cut through acid reflux.
The sweet taste of this type of mint is an excellent complement for dessert dishes with fruit or chocolate.
Red Raripila Mint (Mentha x smithiana)
This type of mint is a hybrid cross of spearmint, watermint, and corn mint. It makes an excellent companion plant for your vegetables as it wards away insects, but it’s difficult to get in the United States. You can plant it in almost any soil type as long as it’s not too sandy, and it needs a lot of water. It does best in partial sun or full sun, but you won’t make the oils as potent as they can be without full sun.
You can use it fresh or dried, and it makes an excellent addition to tea. It’s popular in beverages and ice cream for the minty taste, and it pairs well with mutton or lamb dishes. As a bonus, these oils are natural deterrents for rats and mice. There are antiseptic properties in this plant, and it works well to help treat headaches, digestive issues, and fevers.
Planting this mint around your home will help keep rats and mice away.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
This is one of the most well-known types of mint available, and it grows from 12 to 24 inches tall. This plant has pink or lavender flowers, and you can grow it up to hardiness zone five. It does best when you plant it in partial shade with slightly acidic soil, and the soil should be rich and well draining. It grows well in hanging baskets, and you should mulch it twice a year.
Since it has such a strong and lingering aroma, spearmint is very popular in the cosmetic industry. You can find the oil from this plant in body creams, shower gels, shampoos, and body washes. It’s nice to have in tea or cold drinks, and you can use it to help soothe congestion and ease digestive upset.
The spa and wellness industries utilize mint in their products due to its calming properties.
Watermint (Mentha aquatica)
This plant grows along the shore of rivers and lakes in very wet conditions. It helps hold the soil in place to prevent erosion, and this type of mint grows best in hardiness zones eight to eleven. It likes slightly acidic soil with loam, and the stems spread out on top of the water. The thick green leaves offset the masses of purple and blue flowers that attract butterflies.
This type of mint works well to fight off bacteria, and you crush the leaves and apply them to your wound. You can create a balm for your sore muscles by adding the crushed leaves or oil to lotion and rubbing it into your muscles. Adding it to potpourri allows you to use it for aromatherapy
Crushing the mint helps to release the scent and oils from the leaves to unlock the plant’s potency.
Which types of mint do you use and what do you use it for? We’ve given you several great ideas and different types of mint you can plant in your garden, containers, or in hanging baskets around your home. No matter if you want to use fresh or dried mint, it’ll open the door for a lot of uses and possibilities with this potent plant.