Should you plant spearmint or peppermint?
If you’re thinking about planting mint for the first time, keep in mind that it spreads, given space and water. Its roots, properly called rhizomes, run underground and can send up shoots many feet away from the mother plant. In this way, it will cheerfully take over your entire herb bed or your borders, or wherever you thought fit to plant that innocent looking little seedling. If you try to pull it, little bits of leftover rhizome still in the ground can form another plant.
I adore mint, but we had two big mint plants, and under the new scheme, I’m trying to be more efficient about the way space is used in the yard. So this guy had to go. I thought I’d be digging roots out of the bed all day, but turns out they formed this thick, impressive mat you see above. I’m sure small bits will remain to haunt me, but all in all, I’m grateful it was that easy.
For this reason it’s better to plant it in a container, or in a bottomless container sunk into the ground. You need to corral those roots, basically.
Here’s some of my reasons: Fresh mint tea (fresh mint tea is pretty and has a delicate flavor); dried mint tea (always on hand for overfull belly syndrome); fresh mint chopped up over fresh fava beans and goat cheese; fresh mint mixed with basil in a nut pesto; fresh mint sprinkled over yogurt drinks, mint infused honey for colds; dried mint in the bath; mint simple syrup; mojitos; and I’m sure there are more…and the tiny native bees like it a lot.
That’s me pulling out a mint plant from our garden, as part of The Great Renovation. Check out those amazing roots! This container was filled with a 5 inch thick mat of thick, tangled roots. No wonder mint is unstoppable.
Why should you grow mint?
Otherwise, it’s an easy, abundant plant to grow. It likes water and sun, but does tend to wilt or even go brown in hot, intense, summer sun. So I’d either plant it where it gets partial summer shade, or move its pot somewhere shady during the heat. And don’t be afraid clip it back when it starts to look rangy. It will pop right back up, looking much better for its haircut.
Both are good. Peppermint is stronger, but I consider them interchangeable. (If you’re trying to figure out which you’ve got in your yard, spearmint has matte, bumpy leaves that are bright green where the growth is new, whereas peppermint’s leaves are smoother and somewhat shiny and darker green, sometimes with purple tints.) For tea, I like the flavor of fresh spearmint best. Purely a subjective opinion. So the plant I’m pulling out in the picture was our peppermint plant. Spearminticus Victor!
Even under the best of situations, mint can become uncontrollable, wreaking havoc in the garden and driving gardeners to the edge. No garden lover enjoys killing plants, even mint. Invasive plants, however, oftentimes make this task a necessary evil. While it’s difficult to kill mint, it is possible, but keep in mind that “patience is a virtue.”
While there are a number of uses for mint plants, invasive varieties, of which there are many, can quickly take over the garden. This is why controlling mint is vital; otherwise, you may be left scratching your head and wondering how to kill mint plants without going crazy in the process.
Controlling Mint Plants
Of course, digging up plants (and even giving them away) is always an option, BUT even when digging, if just one piece of the plant is left behind, it can oftentimes root itself and the whole process starts again. So if you choose this route, be sure to check and recheck the area for any remaining runners or plant debris that may have been missed.
If you still have problems, try covering the mint with thick layers of newspaper, followed by a layer of mulch to smother it. Those plants that still manage to find a way through can usually be pulled up easily.
How to Kill Mint Plants
Plant mint plants in bottomless containers that are sunk deep into the ground, or grow them in large containers above ground. When sinking them into the ground, try to keep the container’s rim at least an inch (2.5 cm.) or so above the soil. This should help keep the plant from spilling out into the rest of the garden.