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How to Grow, Harvest, and Prune Mint: The Complete Guide

Mint is one of the easiest herbs to grow, harvest, and store, but you’ll still need to collect the leaves and stems sustainably so you don’t kill the plant. However, if you harvest it correctly, there’s no end to the ways you can store and use it!

Mint is mainly grown in the northwestern United States (Oregon, Washington, and Idaho), and if you’re thinking of growing mint commercially, the price per pound for peppermint was $19.80 in 2018.

Even if you’re not starting a commercial venture, mint is a must-grow herb. There’s no such thing as too little space. This plant is incredibly accommodating and will grow happily in tiny areas or containers.

So, let’s look into how to harvest and store mint leaves for tea, meals, medicinal purposes, and more without killing the plant.

How to Harvest Mint Leaves

how to harvest mint without killing the plant
You can pinch or snip off mint leaves or stems when harvesting them.

To harvest mint leaves, you can pick individual leaves if you only need a small amount. However, you can also harvest most of the plant at once without killing it. You’ll just need to leave a small portion of the stem and the bottom-most leaves on the plant.

To remove just a few mint leaves, you can pinch them off with your fingers or use sharp scissors.

However, if you want a heaping helping of mint, you can harvest the whole plant. To do so, cut just above the second set of lower leaves, usually around 3-5″ above the ground. The plant will replace every stem you cut with two new shoots!

When Is the Best Time to Harvest Mint Leaves?

The best time to harvest mint leaves is in the morning when the essential oils are most concentrated. You’ll get the most intense flavor just before the mint plant begins to flower. Young mint leaves are more tender and have a sweeter taste than older, larger leaves.

It would be best to start harvesting mint leaves on spring mornings as soon as the plant has leafed out. Continue to gather as often as possible throughout the summer. Harvesting mint leaves frequently keeps the herb in check and encourages the plant to produce new leaves.

The more you pick, the more mint leaves grow, so keep picking throughout the growing season.

Tips for Harvesting Mint Leaves and Plants

how and when to harvest mint tips without killing the plant
Simple tips for harvesting the best mint!
  • Pinch single leaves with your fingers or sharp scissors
  • Harvest the whole mint plant without killing it by cutting just above the second set of bottom leaves.
  • Harvest mint leaves in the spring just before they start to flower.
  • Harvest the leaves early in the morning.
  • Pick fresh, young leaves.
  • The more you pick, the more they will grow.

Mint Harvest How-To

harvesting-dried-herbs
Mint is one of the easiest herbs to prune! It grows with vigor – so you have leverage when pruning and harvesting the tender mint leaves. After your mint plant begins growing – harvest mint leaves as you wish – and harvest at will!

Your mint plant is full of life. You can smell its beautiful aroma from feet away. It’s time to harvest the delicious leaves and preserve them for later use.

1. Harvest Your Mint At Its Peak

Wait until you see buds form, indicating that the mint will soon bloom. If your plant is young and does not flower yet, harvest when the plant reaches 90 days of maturity. You’ll notice that it’s very aromatic and has a vibrant green color.

If its leaves begin to yellow and it has a subtler smell, your mint plant has passed its peak.

2. Check for Pests or Diseases

Look over your mint for eaten leaves or discoloration.

If you need to rid of pests, use an organic method only. Do not use pesticides, as the plant will absorb them and you will have to wait for another harvest season. Organic methods may be used, but wait a week before harvest.

3. Cut Plant Stems Down to Just an Inch or Two

Use a good pair of shears for cutting. Make sure to leave an inch or two of each stem so your mint will regrow.

4. Dry Your Mint for Storage

To preserve your mint for later use, loosely hang stems upside down.

Use a string to tie around each stem for easier hanging, and so the leaves aren’t crowded. It’s important that they receive good airflow so your mint doesn’t develop mold.

Choose a dry, well-ventilated, and warm area for curing (hanging). Keep mint stems out of the sun, as this can reduce the flavor and promote mold growth.

5. Store the Dried Leaves In an Airtight Container for up to a Year

Keep your herbs out of the sunlight and in a dry, cool spot. Separate leaves from the stems, and store them in an airtight container.

Keep them whole until you are ready to use them, so they retain their flavor for longer.

How to Harvest Mint Without Killing the Plant

Although it’s true that the more mint leaves and stems you harvest, the more the plant will grow, there’s a limit to how much you can take.

Overharvesting your mint will kill the plant, so ensuring that you don’t take too many leaves and stems is critical if you want to keep this herb happy and thriving.

To harvest mint without killing the plant, leave at least two layers of leaves on every stem you harvest from. Mint plants may survive if you remove all of their leaves. However, the plant will replace the foliage and stems you harvest more quickly if you leave some fresh greens.

Mint Harvest Season

Mint thrives well in all types of climates. In climates that don’t experience frost, mint will grow year-round. In zones that get below freezing, it will go dormant and begin growing again in the spring.

Read More – What Herbs to Grow Together So They Grow the Best!

Mint in Zones 3-7

If you’ll be enjoying a white holiday season, your mint plant will need to be harvested sometime between July and September. Look for flower buds, and cut your mint before they bloom.

It’s important to pinch off the buds if you do not harvest your plant. This will promote growth in the next growing season.

Even if you don’t harvest, you will still need to prepare your mint for the winter. Most gardeners will agree that cutting it down is the best way to do this. Plants that are kept to die off will suffer breakage from cold weather and heavy snow.

Mint in Zones 8-13

For those who have a year-round growing season, you can harvest your mint every three to four months. Look for buds that indicate blooming will commence soon. Usually, this is three months after the plant’s last harvest.

At this time, the leaves are at their strongest flavor because they are packed with essential oils. If you’re not ready to harvest, keep your mint growing by pinching back the flower buds before they bloom.

How to Grow Mint In Your Garden Or a Container

growing and  when to harvest mint in a garden or container

The better you grow mint, the more mint leaves you can harvest! Let’s dive into some tips to cultivate the most and best mint:

  • Mint prefers loose, rich soil.
  • Prepare the soil with a liberal sprinkling of lime. If your soil is alkaline, use gypsum instead.
  • Plant the mint in full sun or partial shade.
  • Water regularly, especially during dry spells. Mint prefers not to dry out completely.
  • Essential oil content will be highest when you grow them in full sun. However, in hot climates, mint grows better with protection from the hottest sun hours.
  • Trim them regularly for nice, bushy growth.
  • There are many different varieties of mint, growing between 6 inches to 3 feet tall.
  • Some mint varieties are susceptible to mint rust, especially in humid climates. If you spot small, orange, powdery spots, cut the stems immediately and destroy them. Check regularly throughout the season – be vigilant!

A word of caution:

Mint plants develop creeping rootstock, both above the ground and beneath it. When they’re happy, they can spread rapidly throughout your garden.

This rapid growth is beneficial if you grow them as a groundcover, in your orchard for example, or amongst larger shrubs. Mint effectively keeps weeds down and acts as a living mulch. However, you may wish to keep your mint in a pot in smaller gardens since the mint can obliterate other plants with its rapid growth.

How to Propagate Mint

how to propagate mint plants
You can propagate mint plants in water, in soil, or by layering.

Mint plants are very easy to propagate using several different methods.

You can harvest cuttings from runners, roots, or stems to propagate mint. Mint cuttings, runners, and roots grow quickly using water, soil, and layering propagation methods.

You can also propagate mint plants from seed, but cuttings are the best way to ensure you get the exact mint variety you are looking for.

How to Propagate Mint Cuttings In Water

Mint stem cuttings root quickly in water.

To propagate your mint in water, take a cutting of at least 4″ long and place them in a glass of water. Keep the glass in a well-lit spot, such as your windowsill. Cuttings will start forming roots in a matter of days.

You can transfer the cuttings from the water to the soil as soon as the new roots are at least one inch long.

Once you plant your water-rooted cuttings in your garden or container, keep them well-watered for the first couple of weeks. Water-grown cuttings grow weak, water-dependent roots that are susceptible to drying out.

How to Propagate Mint Runners In Soil

Runners are another straightforward propagation method. Identify a trailing branch. Lift it gently – you’ll most likely see some roots already developed. Cut this branch off and replant it in your garden.

Water it generously, then let it grow. You should have plenty of fresh mint in no time!

How to Use Layering to Propagate Mint Plants

If none of the trailing branches have developed roots yet, you can use a method called layering.

To use layering to propagate your mint plant, cover a portion of a branch with soil and ensure it stays down. You can place a rock on top if it wants to pop up.

After a week or two, check your branch – you should see some nicely developed roots. You can now harvest this rooted mint runner without killing the plant. After cutting it away, replant it wherever you want to add a patch of mint!

Indoor Herbal Tea Growing Kit - Lavender, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, and Mint
$29.99

Enjoy a fresh cup of tea, straight from your home garden! This tea garden kit comes with heirloom, non-GMO mint/peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, and lavender herb seeds to start your very own herb garden.

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12/09/2022 12:23 am GMT

Where to Grow Mint

Most plants, including mint, grow much better and healthier in the ground. Containers come with the dangers of dehydration, over-watering, and infertile soil.

However, mint will grow well in a large, roomy container on your patio, in a small container on your kitchen bench, or in a shady place in the garden where other plants may not grow.

If you have the space and choose to grow mint in the garden, ensure there are no fragile, small plants nearby. Mint will outgrow most plants.

To stop it from getting out of control, you can bury your mint in a container in the ground or use garden edging to keep it where you want it.

If you have plenty of space or want a large crop, you can grow your mint plants straight in the ground. I haven’t found mint to be a problem since it makes an excellent ground cover. It grows fast enough to keep the weeds down, which is fantastic news for mowing day!

Mulch your mint plants to prevent weeds, retain moisture, and control spreading roots.

There are different times in the year when you may need to prune your mint plant, depending on its size and age.

This guide to how to prune mint will help you to determine when to cut back your mint, the best way to cut to promote new growth, and what to do with your harvest.

How to Prune Mint Plants

Potted mint plants, especially those grown indoors, can be picked during their entire growing season. If you just need to use some mint in a recipe or for your tea, just pinch off a few leaves with your fingernails.

To promote new growth quickly, pick a small harvest a few times per month during the growing season. It’s best to pinch back the first sets of newer leaves at the top of the stems.

Make sure to pinch right at the base of the leaf, careful not to damage the stem. Use your fingernail for a clean cut.

The exceptions to regular trimming are young plants that have not yet reached four inches in height. Let your mint establish its roots before you give it a cut.

Read More – The Delightful Herb Called Wild Bergamot!

how-to-prune-mint
Mint is a tremendously hardy perennial that grows beautiful violet or purple flowers. Mint plants are fun and stress-free to prune because they’re prolific growers. New leaf growth also has the mintiest flavor. Another reason to prune your mint plant’s sprigs and leaves often and regularly!

How to Use Your Mint Leaf Harvest

To use up your mint leaf harvest, you can store and preserve it for later, use it in your cooking, and make medicinal tea from the leaves. Mint also has a lovely fragrance for making sachets and potpourri.

How to Store and Preserve Mint Leaves

dehydrating mint leaves to store them and make mint tea
You can use dry mint leaves as a seasoning, tea, or fragrance. Plus, they’ll last about a year after dehydration if you store the mint in a dry, cool place.

If you want to make your fresh mint harvest last longer, store it in the fridge with the cut ends in a jar of water or wrap the leaves in a damp paper towel.

However, if you want your mint leaves to last up to a year, you can dehydrate them.

To dry them thoroughly, either run the leaves through a dehydrator or hang bunches of your mint upside down in a cool place with plenty of ventilation.

After the leaves get crispy, which should take around two weeks if you use the hanging method, you can crush them or leave them whole.

Once fully dry, store your mint in an airtight container and keep it in a cool, dry place. An old glass jar is a wonderful container for storing your mint leaves. I like to use old tea tins and empty spice jars as well.

It’s also a good practice to write the date on your mint container when you store it. That way, you’ll know precisely when it expires, which will be in about a year.

How to Use Mint In Cooking: Some Fresh Ideas

how to use mint to make mint chocolate
Fresh minty chocolate, anyone? Melt down some dark chocolate chips and add crushed mint leaves for the best mint chocolate you’ll ever taste!

There are many ways to use your mint leaf harvest in your kitchen. Some of my favorite ways to use my mint harvest are:

  • Twist a few clean leaves to release the oils, and add the crushed leaves to a cup of hot water. Steep the leaves in hot water for a few minutes to make a soothing mint tea.
  • Freeze mint leaves, some berries, and water in ice cube trays to make fresh, flavored ice cubes.
  • Potatoes, mint, and peas are the perfect combination, but try mint with eggplant.
  • Toss mint leaves into fresh fruit salad or add them to salad dressings and marinades.
  • Garnish platters, tapas, and antipasto with the lime green mint leaves.
  • Chop some mint sprigs into your salad. It’s the best!
  • Make mint jelly, my favorite topping on roast meat or fish and vegetables.
  • Try candied mint leaves for that special cheesecake dessert.
  • Add crushed fresh mint leaves to melted chocolate, then pour the mixture on a baking pan to cool. Then, cut it into bars for homemade chocolate mints!
  • Grow mint (particularly pennyroyal) as a flea and insect repellent.

A note of caution – Pennyroyal can be toxic if ingested in excess. Never take it during pregnancy. Always consult your health professional before taking any herbs or other substances.

How to Use Mint Leaves as a Medicinal Tea

According to scientific studies, mint has a calming effect on the body and can help in areas where the body feels congested or inflamed. Plus, it’s a delicious herb that presents no side effects! What’s not to love?

One of the quickest and easiest ways to benefit from mint’s healing properties is to have it as a tea. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Place two teaspoons of fresh mint leaves or one teaspoon of dried mint leaves in a teapot or tea strainer.
  2. Pour one cup of hot – not boiling – water over the leaves.
  3. Steep for about 5-10 minutes to get the full benefits and flavor.

A cup of mint tea may help to:

  • Reduce the susceptibility for the growth of bacteria and viruses in the body.
  • Relieve gas and indigestion.
  • Alleviate morning sickness.
  • Relieve a congested nose.
  • Freshen breath.

How to Use Mint as a Pest-Repelling Fragrance

Mint can repel pests, including mice, cockroaches, deer, and ants. It contains pulegone, an ingredient in many natural insect repellents. However, aside from its pest-repelling properties, it smells fantastic!

The smell from freshly-harvested mint leaves is divine and healing – just keep bunches of it around the house in vases everywhere and feel invigorated, motivated and fresh.

However, you can also use dried mint leaves to make your own pest-repelling sachets. To make some, stick some dried mint leaves in an envelope, then put it on a shelf or in a drawer with your linens. Your fabrics will smell incredible, and they’ll also stay bug-free.

You can also put dried mint leaves in your hand soap or in a spray bottle with white vinegar to make your own scented cleaning products.

Best Mint Plant Seeds for Regular Pruning – and Harvesting!

We love mint for delicious iced tea brews, pasta salads, and even seafood dishes!

Mint is also famously easy to prune. So much so that peppermint can even become a garden invader if not managed.

Another problem is that there are over 600 mint cultivars! How are we supposed to choose the best mint for regular pruning? And home growing?

No worries!

We assembled a lovely list of the best mint plant seeds for new homesteaders and herb gardens.

These mint cultivars are relatively easy to grow – and will provide ample pruning opportunities.

We hope you enjoy them!

  1. Peppermint Herb Mint Seeds (Mentha Piperita) | Seed Needs
  2. Peppermint Herb Mint Seeds (Mentha Piperita) | Seed Needs
    $7.99 ($4.00 / Count)

    Peppermint is one of our favorite heirlooms for pruning that dates back centuries. Peppermint is a cross combination between water mint and spearmint. The leaves have a strong scent and crush perfectly into meat dishes or refreshing iced teas.

    Their leaves are beautiful - and about one to two inches long. The plants grow to about two feet tall. Peppermint leaves also have smooth red-colored stems and purplish blooms. And they're easy to prune!

    Get More Info

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    12/08/2022 02:43 pm GMT
  3. Catmint Herb Seeds (Nepeta Mussinii) | Seed Needs
  4. Catmint Herb Seeds (Nepeta Mussinii) | Seed Needs
    $5.99

    Want an aromatic and attractive herb perfect for spicy and minty flavors? Add catmint to your list of seeds to sow! Catmint is a perennial herb with beautiful blooms. Catmint reaches about two to three feet tall. The plant produces tiny leaves, and the stems are somewhat spindly. These seeds are non-GMO and derive from open pollination.

    Get More Info

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    12/09/2022 01:48 am GMT
  5. Culinary Herbs Seed Vault | Home Grown
  6. Culinary Herbs Seed Vault | Home Grown
    $25.99 $22.95 ($1.53 / Count)

    Want to start a massive and flourishing herb garden for cheap? Peppermint and mint are only two of the herbs you get in this herb seed ensemble. You also get basil, chives, arugula, dill, garlic chive, lavender, and oregano seeds. The herb seeds are non-GMO heirlooms - and the reviews are also stellar.

    Get More Info

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    12/09/2022 03:36 am GMT
  7. Mint Seed Collection | Seed Needs
  8. Mint Seed Collection | Seed Needs
    $9.99 $7.99 ($2.00 / Count)

    Can't decide which mint cultivar is best for new herb gardens? Try a variety! This collection of mint seeds contains four mint cultivars. You get peppermint, lemon mint, pennyroyal mint, and spearmint. You'll probably notice that mosquitoes detest peppermint and spearmint. These mint seeds from Seeds Needs are non-GMO and derive from open pollination plants.

    Get More Info

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    12/09/2022 02:28 am GMT
  9. Large Herbal Tea Garden Seed Collection | Sow Right Seeds
  10. Large Herbal Tea Garden Seed Collection | Sow Right Seeds
    $16.99 ($1.70 / Count)

    Here's a breathtaking tea and mint seed medley containing heirloom mint, lemon mint, peppermint, lemon balm, lavender, plus more herbs. The packet has easy-to-follow instructions so you can germinate the seeds without fuss. Sow Right Seeds operates with a solar-powered operation - guilt-free herb seeds! The seeds are also non-GMO.

    Get More Info

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    12/09/2022 07:13 am GMT
  11. Lemon Mint Seeds (Monarda Citriodora) | Seed Needs
  12. Lemon Mint Seeds (Monarda Citriodora) | Seed Needs
    $4.99

    Lemon mint is one of the best-looking mint varieties. They grow to about one to two feet high. When lemon-mint blooms - they have breathtaking purple flowers. Lemon mint leaves are green and somewhat tiny. The best part is that lemon mint helps attract hummingbirds, honeybees, butterflies, and bumblebees.

    Get More Info

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    12/09/2022 03:08 am GMT
  13. Coleus Chocolate Mint Seeds | Outsidepride
  14. Coleus Chocolate Mint Seeds | Outsidepride
    $6.49 ($0.32 / Count)

    Coleus mint is one of the weirdest varieties of mint on this list. It has deep-red or burgundy foliage, unlike other mints we've seen. Coleus mint grows perfectly in growing zones four through ten and makes for a perfect perennial plant for indoors. The leaves have a green trim - but expect a maroon-dominant theme.

    Get More Info

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    12/08/2022 05:58 pm GMT
  15. Peppermint Stick Zinnia Seeds (Zinnia Elegans) | Seed Needs
  16. Peppermint Stick Zinnia Seeds (Zinnia Elegans) | Seed Needs
    $5.99

    Our list of the best mint plants for pruning wouldn't be complete without peppermint stick zinnia seeds! Peppermint stick isn't for eating - but it's still one of the most rewarding. Peppermint stick zinnia grows two to three feet tall, and the flowers are two inches - and kaleidoscopic. We love the beautiful blooms of pastel colors, spots, and stripes.

    Get More Info

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    12/08/2022 11:58 am GMT

Conclusion

Mint is a rapid-growing plant that is easy to harvest and store. Plus, it’s very versatile, and you can use it in many things. Add it to your favorite dishes, use it as a fresh-smelling pest repellent, or make a healthy medicinal tea with it, and you’ll never want to have a garden without this powerful plant!

We thank you so much for reading our mint pruning guide!

If you have questions about mint pruning – or if you have tips for harvesting the best mint leaves possible?

We invite you to share.

Thanks again for reading.

Have a great day – and happy pruning!

More Reading On Growing and Harvesting Herbs

Authors

  • Sue Harris

    Sue is the grandmother of 4 beautiful grandchildren whom she adores and loves spending time in the garden with. She was brought up on a sheep and cattle station, is a retired registered nurse, and likes to eat healthy vegetarian food. She comes from a long line of avid gardeners who have lived in different countries, climates, and cultures but who have always made it a priority to make or maintain a garden and grow some food for the kitchen. Wherever possible, we had a large vegetable garden and fruit trees and vines for the kids to pick. Sue has retired from nursing and spends her time visiting friends and family around the world. She lives in a bus on her son's homestead for several months of the year! Sue's love of gardening comes from the belief that, if you have a garden, you always have something to give.

  • Aimee LaFon

    An enthusiastic fiber artist, woodworker, and experimental archaeologist, Aimee LaFon loves spending time spinning fiber from invasive plants, foraging for dye materials and medicinal herbs, snuggling with her two dogs, reading up on historical crafts, crocheting, caring for her large brood of indoor and outdoor plants, and dreaming up her next project. She has tall dreams of becoming a professional yarn maker and herdswoman and will never stop writing about her experiments. No matter where she is, Aimee would rather be crocheting in a field right next to a cow.

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