Candy canes, chapstick, and flavored hot cocoa, tis the season of peppermint.
To tell the truth, it has actually been a few months since I’ve had a peppermint plant in my apartment. Mine was sickly when I got it and eventually succumbed this fall. Still, peppermint is an interesting herb and I hope to again grow it in my apartment someday.
Mints are aromatic herbs that belong to the same taxonomic family as rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano. There are over 20 different varieties of mints alone. Mints originated in the Mediterranean and have been cultivated since biblical times. Historically mint was used to freshen air in rooms and treat wounds. In the kitchen peppermint is most often used to flavor candies and sweets, but can be found in stews and chutneys. In addition to its culinary uses, peppermint is used to treat indigestion and as a decongestant.
Peppermint is a variety of mint that results from a cross between spearmint and watermint which occurs naturally.
Size: Peppermint plants can grow to be 12 – 36 inches (30 – 90 cm) tall
Water Requirements: Peppermint is hardy and can survive in soils that range from dry to damp, thought it does prefer moist soil.
Soil Requirements: Peppermint, like its other mint relatives, prefers to be grown in fertile soil. Mints in general like soils with a pH from 6 – 7
Light Requirements: Peppermint is happiest if placed in a location with full sun to part shade.
Temperature Requirements: Peppermint can be successfully grown in USDA zones 3 – 11 and can tolerate a light frost. It prefers soil temperatures between 55 – 70°F (12 – 21°C).
Nutrient Requirements: Mint is a vigorous plant, but can be fertilized every few weeks if you want to have a huge harvest.
Pruning: Peppermint is a rapid grower and regular pruning is recommended to keep it from getting too large. Peppermint can also become invasive and is therefore recommended to grow it in pots to keep it from taking over your garden. New peppermint plants can be grown from cuttings. See this post for directions.
Companion Planting: Since peppermint repels white cabbage moths, aphids, and flea beetles it is a good companion for plants plagued by those pests.
Harvesting and Use: For best taste, harvest peppermint before it forms flowers. It can be harvested at any time during the growing season. Peppermint is used as a flavoring for vegetables, meat dishes, sweets, and candy. Its leaves can also be brewed to make a tea that is delicious hot or iced.
Sunland Herbs – very detailed information about the mint family including the different varieties, history, and folklore.
Encyclopedia Britannica – general information on peppermint and its uses.
Better Homes and Gardens Plant Directory – general growing information and harvest tips.
Bonnie Plants – more specific growing information for peppermint.
Bonnie Plants – general info for growing mint
Grow Grow Organics Companion Planting Guide – information on companion plant preference of many plants.
SF Gate – peppermint pruning guide.
The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide by Stephen Alpert