Now that you’re on your own (kinda), you get the privilege of handling your own budget. And you have no idea how to do that. Mint takes care of the details, keeping you apprised of exactly how much you have and how much you owe.
Mints come in an array of leaf sizes, colors and flavors. You can easily find a mint that suits your taste or fills the right spot in your garden design or recipe box. Some common mint varieties include: ‘Kentucky Colonel’ spearmint (the go-to mint for juleps and mojitos), ginger mint (gold-streaked leaves taste great in teas), pineapple mint (variegated green and white leaves, fruity flavor), ‘Hillary’s Sweet Lemon’ mint (a cross between apple and lime mint) and apple mint (large fuzzy leaves on tall plants).
Mints weave a striking tapestry in the vase, adding different leaf textures, colors and scents. Count on mint to hold its own as a centerpiece, or use it to add movement and refreshing green shades to other garden-fresh arrangements. A fresh mint bouquet inside offers an easy way to take a quick snip when prepping favorite dishes. In terms of flavor, mint is at its freshest when first picked. The longer mint sits in water, flavor notes shift and may become bitter, especially if you see roots forming along submerged stems.
Give summer’s favorite thirst quencher a refreshing twist by adding mint sprigs to your pitcher. Just add washed mint stems to a pitcher of lemonade, and let it sit at least 30 minutes. Strain before serving—or not. Serve over ice in tall glasses garnished with a mint stem and lemon wedge. Mint also blends well with iced tea and makes a cooling herb water. To maximize mint flavor, before adding leaves to your brew, crush them slightly to release essential oils. Bruised edges will brown, but it won’t harm your beverage. Simply strain leaves before serving.
If you want to lure pollinator insects to your garden, including lawn grub-eating beauties like this blue-winged wasp, grow a patch of mint and let it bloom. Mint flower spikes feature many small blossoms, the kind that pollinating insects can’t resist. Expect to see bees, beneficial wasps, flower flies, sweat bees and butterflies. If you want to harvest mint for drying, do so before flowers appear. Once blossoms start to form, the flavor profile of leaves shifts to become bitter.
Mint tea is good for what ails you, and it whips up in a jiffy. Steep fresh (bruised) or dried leaves in hot water for a pure cup of natural goodness. Mint tea is a go-to cure for an upset stomach, indigestion, gas pain or cramping. Sip it warm and inhale the menthol aroma to help alleviate a stuffy nose, or drink it chilled for a refreshing cool drink.
Citrusy-smelling orange mint tea is best when served cold. Brighten its flavor by adding fresh orange and/or lemon juice, and garnishes of sliced oranges and lemons. It’s a refreshing beverage for warm summer days.
Despite the name and some online reviews, chocolate peppermint doesn’t taste or smell strongly like chocolate. It bears more resemblance to a chocolate after dinner mint—a hint of chocolate and mint. Use leaves fresh or dried to flavor water or tea. The flavor is best when leaves are harvested before the plant flowers.
This diminutive beauty is content in even the smallest pot. Don’t let the small size fool you—this plant is big on fragrance. The leaves release a refreshing minty aroma when brushed. A sunny window yields best growth. Botanical name: Mentha requienii
Mint green walls encompass the laminate flooring, wood-treated dresser, metallic wall hangings and neutral bed with layered throw pillows of this country bedroom. The soothing color scheme and plush, layered bedding create the perfect feel for this cozy bedroom.
Mint adds an alluring flavor to many vegetables, including peas, asparagus and carrots. In this rendition, mint kicks up the bite in a salad of ribbon-cut summer squash, peas, shaved ricotta cheese and green onions. Mint also plays well in a tomatillo and lime ceviche, pairs yummily with pork and helps cool spicy Indian food when blended with yogurt. Play with different mint varieties in the kitchen to find the flavor blends your family likes.
In the garden, mint can be a thug, growing aggressively and invading surrounding soil rapidly. It spreads by above- and underground stems. Planted near stepping stones or pavers, mint quickly grows around, beneath and between them. The best way to keep mint contained in the garden is to plant it in a submerged container that is at least several feet below soil. Allow a few inches of the container to extend above soil to keep mint from wandering out. This mint is effectively contained in a half-buried plastic trash can with drainage holes drilled in the bottom.
Mint is a workhorse in the garden when it comes to giving insects the brush off. To release the strong mint oils in leaves, brush against plants or crush leaves and rub on skin or clothing. Try tucking lightly bruised leaves (still attached to stems) into pockets or bouquets on your porch or patio to confuse and repel mosquitoes. This minty beauty (foreground) is variegated pineapple mint, but you can also use any mint, including spearmint, lemon mint or peppermint. Mints spread aggressively in the garden. Always plant it in containers, even in beds, keeping the edge of pots elevated at least an inch above soil. When mint flowers, the blooms attract beneficial insects, including ones that sting, like wasps. If you don’t want these insects near seating areas, keep plants trimmed so blooms don’t form.
While you don't often see heucheras grown as houseplants, these low-light perennials can be potted up in fall and briefly enjoyed indoors. Just be sure to return them to the garden when the weather warms back up. The plants, also known as coral bells, bloom in spring, so give them the cool, spring-like temperatures they prefer. They'll also benefit from being housed in a deep pot, rather than a shallow one. Shown here: heuchera 'Mint Julep'
The classic corsage flower, gardenia delivers on fragrance—many times over. Pure white blooms contrast beautifully with waxy, deep green leaves. Plants grow 2 to 8 feet tall and wide, depending on type. The secret to a happy gardenia in the landscape is thick mulch, no soil disturbance (roots like to be left alone) and monthly feeding with an acid fertilizer, blood meal or fish emulsion. Hardy in Zones 7 to 10.
This beauty goes by many names: Texas tarragon, yerba anise and false tarragon. The leaves deliver an anise-like flavor that can sub for French tarragon in dishes. Gold blooms appear late in the season and linger into fall. Petals are edible and make a nice addition to autumn salads and desserts. Harvest leaves as needed, or pick many at once and air dry for long-term storage.
Mint is one of the garden’s easiest herbs to propagate. Simply gather a few sprigs of mint, and place into water. Remove any leaves that would fall beneath the water line. Within 10 to 14 days, roots will start to form along submerged stems. Wait to transplant mint cuttings until stems are full of roots.