mint leaves

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This article covers the many uses of fresh mint, the different varieties available, and the processes for growing mint indoors in the U.S. First, consider that there are over 600 varieties of mint, which is a plant of the Mentha genus. In turn, Mentha species are part of the Lamiaceae family, which is more commonly known as the mint family. Basil, catnip family, lemon and lavender are also part of the Mentha group.

You can easily grow mint just about anywhere and always have an abundant supply of fresh mint leaves to add taste and fragrance to your food and drinks. Mint is a versatile herb that can be used in sweet and savory dishes. It's great for flavoring meat and fish dishes and desserts such as ice cream. Mint is also used to flavor a range of hot and cold beverages like tea and mojitos

Mint has medicinal properties, and mint tea is a known herbal cure for upset stomachs. Tea with mint can also be a refreshing pick-me-up when served chilled in the summer with a dash of lemon. Growing mint indoors is incredibly rewarding because mint is a wonderfully low-maintenance plant that makes a delicious treat to have in the kitchen. Growing mint indoors is surprisingly easy, and it's a great starter plant for your own herb garden to have at your fingertips when you are cooking.

Popular Mint Varieties

dark mint leaves

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The two most popular varieties of mint are peppermint, which is the species Mentha piperita, and spearmint (Mentha spicata). Peppermint has a 40% menthol content compared to the 0.5% menthol content in spearmint. Menthol is the substance in mint which gives us a cooling sensation, and it is this quality that explains why peppermintis often used in foot creams, toothpaste, and muscle rubs for its medicinal properties.

Mentha piperita is often used in the preparation of peppermint oil, which has curative medicinal properties for the stomach and digestive system. Mint leaves are best used fresh, but they are often dried for storage before being used in teas and other food and drink recipes. In some countries, peppermint is strongly preferred over other varieties for making mint tea.

Spearmint's distinctive taste, which most people associate with Wrigley's gum, comes primarily from a chemical called Carvonne, It is most often used in recipes for drinks, and desserts because of its slightly sweet flavor. 

There are many varieties of mint available for cooking that grow and thrive best in different climate zones across the U.S. To highlight a few:

Spearmint

bunch of spearmints

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Spearmint grows well in zones 3 to 11. It is attractive to certain insects and draws bees, but is a natural repellant of mosquitoes. It has dark green leaves that are slightly smaller than peppermint leaves.

Apple Mint

apple mint plant

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Apple mint is hardy in zones 5 to 9, and a variegated type is good for jellies, desserts, and drinks. It is milder in taste than peppermint while still being aromatic. The plant has spikes of purplish-white flowers.

Ginger Mint

green plant in a pot

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Ginger mint, also known as red mint, has a slightly fruity flavor and is used to flavor desserts. It flourishes in zones 6 to 9.

Orange Mint

flowering orange mint plant

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Also hardy in zones 6 to 9, the semi-aquatic plant orange mint has lavender like sprigs of purple flowers and a very strong citrus tang to its flavor. Orange mint has a very strong flavor overall, and so it is often used sparingly in desserts and puddings.

These mint varieties can add flair and taste to your cooking with their subtly different flavors. Depending on your location, some will be easier to find or grow than others. If growing indoors, most Mentha plants will flourish if kept in average temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Most are easily available throughout the country via online ordering.

What Is The Best Environment To Grow Mint In?

Mint can and does flourish anywhere, both outdoors and indoors. You can grow it on patios, inside houses, and even on pathways or rocky slopes. Once established, it will quickly take over any area if left unchecked, so mint is most often grown in plant containers and pots.

Can Mint Be Grown Indoors In An Apartment?

Mint can easily be grown indoors or on a balcony. When growing mint indoors, mint plants and mint seedlings should be kept warm: preferably in an average temperature of at least 60 to 70 degrees F., and compost should be kept moist. Peppermint plants grow profusely and will do especially well if positioned where they can receive morning or early afternoon light.                      

Growing Mint Indoors For Beginners

aromatic mint plants

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Mint seeds or seedlings can be purchased relatively cheaply from your local garden center or from an online seller. You may choose several varieties of spearmint: apple, chocolate, and curly mint are good, tasty varieties to start with, and you will need only one of each as they are easy to propagate. You may want to place different varieties of mint in different rooms to prevent cross-pollination, although this is also a way to combine your favorite varieties and flavors into new creations.

Re-potting Store-Bought Plants For Growing Mint Indoors

Here are some basic steps to follow if you choose this approach:

  1. 1
    Soak the temporary pots completely, always submerging them in water for at least an hour before removing your plant 
  2. 2
    Gently straighten out the roots if they become tangled when taking them out of the original pot. Do this before moving the plant over into its larger pot.
  3. 3
    Fill a large surface container with well-drained but moist compost and add your mint plants about 5 inches apart.
  4. 4
    The plant pots should be placed on a window sill near a window which receives morning light.  Rotate the plant pot every 3 or 4 days.
  5. 5
    Pinching out the uppermost tips of the plant will encourage it to become bushier.

Generally, Mint does better in shallow containers than deep ones because it can spread its roots throughout the soil and generate runners, which produce shoots and new plants. When growing mint indoors it is important to remember to water your plants every 2-3 days.  The soil should be kept moist, and more water may be needed if your home gets warm in the summer.

Growing mint does not require fertilizer, but if you want to give your plants a boost in the Spring, a water-soluble fertilizer can be used. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully, though, because too much will change the taste of the leaves. You may want to use organic fertilizers which will not damage the ecosystem of the plant, especially when growing mint indoors.

After repotting your shop-bought plants, you can harvest some leaves in around 6-8 weeks. When growing mint indoors, you should never take more than one-third of the leaves at once, but you can also take small cuttings if you wish to grow more plants. Mint can be grown from seeds, but is most easily propagated or grown from cuttings, especially when growing mint indoors.

peppermint plant

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Growing Mint From Cuttings

Mint is one of the easiest plants in the world to propagate, If you take 3-inch to 4-inch cuttings from a well-established plant and place them in water, after removing the lower leaves you will have a seedling with a small root system in 10 to 14 days. These tiny plants can then be placed in soil-filled containers. (Some growers dip the lower tips in hormone solution before putting them in soil). Cuttings should be placed in a warm room, but out of direct sunlight. 

Ideally, you should place plant containers where they receive morning sunlight, away from any drying heat source such as a radiator. These plants may take a while to root.                                        

Plants normally flourish for about 3 years before they start to get woody, and then they need to be replaced. To ensure a steady supply of mint leaves, it is essential to harvest leaves regularly from the top part of the plant initially to encourage plants to become bushier. To extend the growing season, pinch out the flowers as soon as they appear, using your forefingers or very sharp scissors.

Conclusion

Mint is a versatile plant that can be easily grown from cuttings, or you can start with whole plants when growing mint inside. The many varieties offer infinite possibilities for incorporating this inexpensive, flavorful herb into your cooking and beverages.  Although delicious, mint is often overlooked by beginners starting their own indoor herb gardens, and this oversight can be easily remedied by purchasing this inexpensive herb.  

Favorite varieties of mint are great to share among friends and colleagues, and with over 600 varieties, the exploration of mint flavors could become an enduring hobby and a source of delight for you and your family. Growing mint indoors can also be an original way of involving children and young people in gardening, which they may enjoy even more if promised mint puddings in the winter and homemade mint ice creams in the summer!

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