Fresh mint leaves can be one of the most enticing flavours in your herb garden. We want to show you how how to avoid buying new plants by taking cuttings or using roots to propagate.
To grow a lifetimes supply of mint all you need is one plant. We have chosen to take 3 ways to propagate it to show you how easy it is. Firstly you can grow mint from cuttings when you leave them in water for two to three weeks, or directly in the soil. Or you can grow mint from roots. It is so invasive that it will appreciate this opportunity!
Propagating Mint From Cuttings In Water
- You will need a mint plant, one from the supermarket is fine, we are not snobby here. You will also need a pair of clean secateurs, an old plastic bottle, peat free compost, a pot and a little stick to poke a hole in the pot.
- This can be done any time of year, but it is optimum in Spring time when the plants are all feeling the urge to grow. Cut beneath a node. A node is the part of the herb where the leaves are branching out, almost like it is about the start doing the YMCA dance. Cut it at around 45 degrees as that increase the surface area the new roots can grow from. The cutting should be between 4-6 inches in length and from a non flowering part of the herb.
- Remove the bottom leaves. You will need the top two fully grown leaves, then the sort of bunched up bit will have around a further four leaves. But these are lovely fresh leaves, not yet fully formed.
- The stem that is left now have openings on it, from which the new root growth will be able to easily burst forth. Mint appreciates a moist medium to grow from. In this case we are going to put it straight into water. So it should be happy!
- Place the cutting away from direct sunlight and change the water every two days. It will need to be warm but not hot.
- Two weeks to three weeks is all it takes and you will have a nice set of roots on your cutting. You may even have new growth as mint is so hardy it will shoot on up!
- You can now plant out in a pot with good drainage and plenty of room to grow.
Propagating Mint Directly In Soil
- You will need peat free compost, one healthy mint plant, a small pot and rooting hormone.
- Make the cutting about 4-6 inches long, just below a node. cut at an angle of around 45 degrees. Just to give a larger surface area, so don’t get hung up with a protractor here! Mint is kind of a monster and will thrive even if you get it slightly wonky!
- Remove those lower leaves and keep the top leaves ready to keep the plant thriving.
- This is where people differ a lot some people will pot it on as it is. Others will use local honey. I use Organic Rooting Gel The reason to use it is that it stops the chance of root rot. It inhibits the development of fungal infections. It is important to use an organic type as it wont affect the rest of your soil, why pay all of that money for potting compost just to then kill off all of the helpful microbiomes too?
- So whether dipped or naked, now use the pokey stick to make a hole in your prepared soil. Push the mint cutting into the soil and with fingers either side of the cutting gently firm it in place. Really key that there are no air gaps to allow water to sit on the stem. Soggy bottoms are bad all round!
- Now you can cover the pot with an old plastic bag or you can leave it open but in a warm location. This really depends on your zone and climate. In winter I may even be tempted to put it into a covered heated propagator.You want some sunlight, but not strong direct sunlight.
- Two to three weeks of making sure that the soil does not dry out, but is not soaking and you will be ready to perform a gentle tug test. By this time we find that the mint has actually grown new leaves, so a tug test isn’t too much of a concern. However if you are uncertain you can gentle try to pull the cutting upwards. If there is resistance then it has grown roots!
- Do a little celebration dance and be glad that you now have a new mint plant for free! Give it a little bit of time before harvesting leaves for teas and or mojitos.
- Throughout the first year, keep pinching the leaves out and ensure it remains a bushy healthy plant.
- You may need to repot the mint to a larger home, but be aware of runners if you are potting it outside in the ground. Seriously we have had mint pop up all over the garden when it has come from pots and used the drainage holes as escape routes!
Propagating Mint From Runners / Roots
Mint plants are excellent survivors, some might even say weeds in any other location! However this makes a very useful property in it’s runners. Runners are the mint plants root system. This is why it is invasive. The roots want to grow and have tremendous stored energy and nutrients.
In the image above you can see a straggly old mint. This is not an uncommon problem with mint and you will find lots of advice on pinching it out as it grows, but this is too far gone.
So your best option is to take cuttings where you find any healthy growth. Then dig this up and take the runners into account. You will need an ideal length of about 6-8 inches, any shorter and you are basically preparing it for compost. As a rule of thumb I cut to about the length from my little finger to my thumb when my hand is extended. I try to avoid using rulers and measuring tapes in my garden!
This is not complicated at all and you will see that there is fresh looking growth on the roots, so you can then just lay it flat into a prepared bed or large container.
Cover with around a thumbs worth of compost and water in well. This is best done in warmer months when the fear of frost has been forgotten.
Within a few weeks the first shoots of mint will have emerged and within a few months you will be happily pinching out the leaves again.
There really is no such thing as having to buy new plants any more!
Mint Issues And How To Overcome Them
Mint can be prone to rusty leaves. If you notice golden rust spots on the underside of the leaf you will need to discard the entire plant.
During the propagation period it is important to keep the cuttings out of direct sunlight as they will wilt. Any cloudiness of the water will mean that it needs to be changes immediately. By keeping it fresh and replacing the water every two days you will avoid this worry.
By following these instructions you should avoid having to ever buy mint again. However if you do want a more specialised mint plant, like a spearmint of an ‘after eight’ mint plant then you can have a look at any online specialist.
We love mint in a muddle for any cocktail. It gives a real twist when added to any gin based drinks as well. Something about the light zesty notes of mint really lifts the juniper of the gin.
You can plant mint strategically. Use it to deter garden pests, especially those of the flying variety that like to annoy us during alfresco dining. We have planted out mint in pots that we then use around any outside eating areas. Try it yourselves! Once it is free to grow you may as well grow lots of it!
For more on debunking gardening terms and jargon check this article out.