Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Looking after your Mint Plants!

Second to basil, i would have to say that mint would be the highest selling herb that i have .. if only i can produce enough to meet all the requests, that is. So, for those who have purchased several mints from me, or even you, dear reader, who have your own mint at home, may find this next entry helpful.

If you just purchased a mint plant recently, and don't have a clue on how to look after it exactly - or if you've had a mint plant for quite a long time, but haven't been having good experiences with it living very long - then keep on reading! Since i'm no pro in plants myself, but i DO have months of experience with mints, i'll give you a few tips on how to care for them to have them looking like this!

Newly propagated mint plants! (pepper mint)
These mints have rooted and have been in their tiny pots for 7 days now. They're crisp, and healthy. 
The best mix of soil you can have is vermicompost, coco choir/peat/moss, and a bit of gravel for good drainage. You wouldn't want your mint plants to have root rot (a condition in which the roots rot from clogged water in the soil - eventually will kill the plant).

You could also go to a hardware store and buy a mix of potting soil ; last i checked, TRUE VALUE, AYALA CEBU had a few sacks of perfect soil mixes.

Now, a lot of my customers have the habit of 'leaving the plant alone'. By this, they forget to water it, assuming that it will do fine for a few hours or for the rest of the day. MIND YOU! The heat in Cebu is so intense that it can kill your plants if exposed for 4 hours without any water to begin with! (trust me.. i lost several that way).

It's understandable that we all have busy schedules, but you have to make atleast a bit of time to water your plants. You must must must must WATER YOUR MINT PLANTS! You don't need to water the whole section, as long as you can keep the soil hydrated for the roots to absorb.

Frequently mistake: "i forgot to water my mint plants! the leaves are starting to wilt and the plant is drooping forward. what do i do!!?"
The signs of dehydration is:
-dull leaves (they turn into a dull-color-green and are not glossy)
-thin leaves - thin enough to feel like tissue paper.
-no more crisp - the leaves are no longer crunchy and will easy rip if you tug on them

Solution  - WATER IMMEDIATELY! If you got to your mints soon enough, the mints will revive themselves. As long as the plant has its original color, then it will return to its normal state within a few hours or by the late evening. If you tend to your mint when its leaves have turned brown and the stems are hard - i'm sorry.

Pruning is the method in where you "trim" your plants back to 1/4-1/2 of their sizes. This is very important!

Many of you might be thinking, "but if i cut them back, all the time they spent growing big will be wasted!"
Incorrect! Actually, pruning is very healthy for your mints. Mints grow through their leaf nodes.
A NODE - is the area of the plant where 2 leaves grow out. Mints in particular (as well as a few other herbs) grow out more leaves from the node after the first 2 leaves grow out. Thus, the more your prune off the top, the plant will be encouraged to grow out more through the lower leaf nodes and become bushy!

Frequent mistake:
I didn't prune my mint, 'coz i felt that it was growing into a nice bush without my intervention. Is that okay?

Answer - NO! Sure, your mint might look good now .. but after a few weeks, you'll see the result! The lower leaves will drop off, and will no longer produce leaves - this is the plant's way to conserve energy to produce more leaves at the top. After a few weeks, your pretty mint will look like a skinny scarecrow with a bad hair-do. Leaves will be growing at the top, but the branches and stems at the bottom will be exposed and it wont look pretty anymore.

To keep this from happening, YOU NEED TO PRUNE IT! By pruning off the leaves at the top, you are redirecting the plant's energy to stay at the bottom and spread.

HOW TO PRUNE? where do i cut?
it is best to cut right above a leaf node.
The areas where i have marked with a red circle are "LEAF NODES". 
if you cut above a leaf node, 4 more leaves will grow out of those nodes and form a new stem! Tada!!!

***IMPORTANT NOTE!  When pruning your plants, make sure to leave some healthy sets of leaves at the bottom. Leaves act as the plant's lungs. Without it, they cannot breath - and thus die out. This is a good thing to remember when harvesting too.

What do i mean by "contain" your mint? It is advisable to grow your mints in pots. You MUST control your mint's growth. An important fact to remember is: Mints are INVASIVE PLANTS. This means, that they spread through their roots, and if you do not contain them, they will invade and take over your whole garden. Yes yes... think of them as grass or weed. if you do not control its growth, mint will become a pest. no matter how hard you try to dig it out, if a root is still beneath the soil, it will sprout out in no time and continue its course.

many of you might be thinking - "i don't think thats a bad thing! who wouldn't a lawn of mint?". True , that would be nice. But If you are growing other plants in your garden, mints will suffocate their nutrient source and take over the whole garden under your nose.

how to mints invade? After a certain amount of time, if you lift your mint plant from the pot, you will notice that the bottom of the plants haves STEMS!!! Mint's roots will eventually turn into stems and sprout out of the soil to become another mint plant. If you left this in the soil, you'd have a messy bunch of sprouts coming out of nowhere!

And indication would be the sight of roots coming from the bottom. If you would want your mints to grow bigger than it already is, transfer them into bigger pots and add in more potting soil.

Another important indication would be the sight of new stems sprouting from the bottom and circling around the pot. This means that it is looking for new areas of soil to invade. You can either cut this off (if you are content with the current size of ur mint) or transfer to a bigger pot.

If you want big healthy leaves, the best way to achieve this is to space your mint plants well. Atleast 6inches apart from each mint plant. Once the mint plant produces multiple stems, you can trim them to make sure that they arent covering any of the lower leaves.

The reason why mints can grow big leaves is because of the SUN. The plant enlarges its leaves in order to absorb as much sunlight as it can. So if the top leaves are covering the bottom leaves or are covering ANOTHER mint plant, you're gonna have tiny tiny leaves, which you dont want.

Big healthy leaves look like:


And this ends my little lecture. :D What i've shared to you are things that i've learnt along the way when growing my mints. If you want to learn more, remember, "google" is your best friend! :D

I hope this served useful to you, dear reader. Happy gardening and have fun!

'Till next entry, 



    I was about to put it out in the yard and just let it be! Glad I know now that it would have just grown out!

  2. Hi, I pulled up some mint from a friend's yard and replanted them within 6 hours. It's been 2 days and the plants are still drooping and haven't recovered.
    Should I trim off the drooping parts (top half of the plant) or give it a little more time to recover?


  3. Please help me! My mint suddenly started wilting from the bottom up. The bottom leaves turned brown and fell off but the leaves at the end of the stem are still green. I checked for aphids and couldn't find any. What could be the problem?