How to identify mint plants

Written by cat mccabe
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How to identify mint plants
Mint leaves (OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA image by Angel Petrovici from

If there's one mint plant, rest assured there will soon be a hundred if you don't go through and pull them from time to time. That is why learning to identify mint so you can control it is an important gardening chore. Fortunately, the plant is easy to recognise once you know what to look for. Even though there are hundreds of varieties of mint plants, they all have two things in common: a sharp, minty smell and an invasive root system.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Look for the leaf. The most common varieties of mint plants have a distinctive, nubby texture, and each mint stem has a crown of tightly clustered, bright green leaves.

  2. 2

    Pull a leaf from the stem if you're not sure if it's a mint plant. Crush the leaf between your fingers and take a whiff. If you smell a strong distinctly minty odour, it's definitely a mint plant.

  3. 3

    Examine any flowers at the crown of your mint plants. Peppermint, for example, has violet flowers, while spearmint has pinkish to lilac-coloured flowers. Most flowers of the mint family are small and irregularly shaped.

  4. 4

    Measure the height of your mint plant to help determine its variety. Common spearmint plants top out at 18 inches, whereas Bowles mint grows to 3 feet with grey-green, slightly hairy leaves. Corsican mint, on the other hand, is a low grower, rarely exceeding 1 inch in height.

  5. 5

    Check the location of your suspected mint plants. Mint thrives in a sheltered, moist spot where it receives plenty of dappled light. Mint will not grow in dry or rocky soil that gets full sun all day. Most varieties will grow up and around the other plants in your garden and eventually crowd them out, but other varieties, such as Corsican mint, also called Spanish mint, like the crevices between paving stones. You may think they're a weed until you step on one and smell a wonderful scent coming up from the crushed leaves.

Tips and warnings

  • There are hundreds of varieties of mint plants, and they hybridise easily into new varieties. The most common are spearmint and peppermint.

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