Mint or Mentha is a genus of plants that includes about 25 species native to Europe, Africa, North America and Asia. They grow approximately 2 to 3 feet tall and produce four-sided branched stems, opposite leaves and small flowers. These herbs have a tendency to become aggressive and can quickly outgrow their garden boundaries. Mint plants have a variety of culinary and medicinal uses.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita), also called brandy mint, America mint and lamb mint, is a hybrid cross between spearmint (Mentha spicata) and water mint (Mentha aquatica). Peppermint plants reach heights of 3 feet tall and have purple stems, purplish foliage and small pinkish-purple flowers. These plants, which propagate through cuttings and root divisions, are naturalised in the eastern part of North America. They are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 6 through 10. In addition to their use in herbal tea, peppermint leaves have antiseptic properties. Herbalists recommend peppermint as a treatment for sore throat pain, upset stomach and toothaches.
Water mint (Mentha aquatica) is a perennial plant that grows around 3 feet tall. It is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 10. Water mint is native to Europe, but it occurs through much of the United States. This water-loving herb grows best in moist conditions and requires a generous water supply. It prefers full sunlight or partial shade. It has hairy leaves, rounded or oval-shaped stems and yields tiny pink or lilac-coloured blossoms between August and October. It propagates by root division or stem cuttings.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) grows around 18 inches tall with an equal spread. It grows in disturbed areas throughout the United States. This herb has stemless lance-shaped foliage, pink or purple blossoms and has a strong fragrance. It also has a tendency to spread rapidly and aggressively, so it's a good idea to plant outdoor spearmint in containers to prevent it from taking over the garden. Spearmint, which is hardy to USDA zone 6, prefers moist nutrient-rich soil and full sun or partial shade.
Other Types of Mint
European pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), which is native to Europe and Asia, was widely used as a medicinal and culinary herb in ancient times but is rarely used as of 2011. Herbalists prescribed it to repel fleas, relieve cold symptoms and calm upset stomachs. Pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens) has an apple-mint aroma, while corn mint (Mentha arvensis) is used as a culinary seasoning. Other mint species include Mentha verticillata, Mentha gentilis and Mentha dalmatica.
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