Spearmint or spear mint (Mentha spicata) is a species of mint native to much of Europe and Asia (Middle East, Himalayas, China etc.), and naturalized in parts of northern and western Africa, North and South America, as well as various oceanic islands.It is a herbaceous, rhizomatous, perennial plant growing 30-100 cm tall, with variably hairless to hairy stems and foliage, and a wide-spreading fleshy underground rhizome. The leaves are 5-9 cm long and 1.5-3 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The stem is square-shaped, a trademark of the mint family of herbs. Spearmint produces flowers in slender spikes, each flower pink or white, 2.5-3 mm long, and broad.
Hybrids involving spearmint include Mentha piperita (peppermint; hybrid with Mentha aquatica), Mentha gracilis (ginger mint, syn. M. cardiaca; hybrid with Mentha arvensis), and Mentha villosa (large apple mint, hybrid with Mentha suaveolens).
The name ‘spear’ mint derives from the pointed leaf tips
HOW TO GROW
- Purchase a mint seedling or small mint plant.You can find mint seedlings at most nurseries and garden stores. There are many varieties of mint, such as sweet mint, chocolate mint, spearmint, lemon mint, apple mint, and peppermint. Spearmint is most commonly used for cooking. Mint is a fast-growing, fast-spreading plant and is perfect for one of your first attempts at growing plants.
- Choose the best time for planting the mint.Ideally, you should plant your mint in the spring, or in the fall if you’re in a climate that is free of frost. Though mint is a resilient plant, it’s best to start growing it under optimal conditions.
- Transplant the seedling or rooted sprig into a container.Potting mint is the most popular way to grow it because you can easily keep it in check this way, as well as keeping it close to your kitchen so you can use it frequently. Mint spreads rapidly, and its roots have a tendency to choke out the roots of other plants. As a result, it is often best to plant mint in a container without other plants. Use a 12-to-16-inch wide pot for 1 plant. You should add a water-retaining polymer to the potting soil so that it stays moist and doesn’t dry up.
- Plant the rooted sprig or seedling 5 centimeters deep.If planting multiple seedlings, plant them 15 centimeters apart. This will give each seedling enough room to grow.
- Choose a location with adequate sunlight.When you plant your mint or place down your potted mint plant, you’ll need to chose an area that receives morning sun and partial afternoon shade. You want the plant to get some light without drying it out completely. Mint grows best in deep, moist soil, so you want to keep it that way. You can even place your mint pot indoors, on a windowsill, as long as it’s in a location that will get enough sunlight.
- If you’re planting it in the ground, then use a damp area with full sun or partial shade.The best conditions for growing mint in the ground require a fertile soil with a pH that is between 6.0 and 7.0. Though it can grow on its own without a problem, a little bit of fertilizer every few weeks won’t hurt it. Make sure that the soil is moist by placing some mulch around the plant to protect the roots.
- If you’re planting your mint in a flower bed, submerge it in a container first.If you go this route, you should submerge your mint in a container, such as a pot or a mesh bag that is at least 5 inches deep. You should leave the rim of the container above ground level so that the plant’s root system will be contained. If you don’t do this, your mint will take over your garden and your lawn like a weed.
- Water your mint frequently for the first year.Test the soil with your finger to determine how dry it is. Keep the soil damp, but don’t soak it. If your mint is in direct sun, water it more frequently. Check on it frequently to make sure that it gets adequate water, but not too much.
- Keep the top of the plant trimmed.Doing so prevents it from growing too tall and encourages it to grow more leaves to the side. This also creates a better harvest. When you check on your plant to see if it needs water, see if the plant has gotten too tall.
- Trim the mint’s flower buds to keep the plant compact.A mint plant’s small flowers will typically bloom from June to September. You should trim the buds before they have a chance to open so the plant doesn’t grow out of control. Pinching off the plant’s flower buds as they appear will also extend your plant’s harvesting season.
- Split your plant every two or three years.After a few years, your mint will match the size of the container, causing its roots to become cramped. De-pot it and carefully split apart the mint into several plants. Lifting and replanting your mint every 2-3 or even 3-4 years will help keep the scent and the flavor of the mint nice and strong.
- Treat your mint with a fungicide spray if it gets infected by rust.Rust, a fungus that creates orange-brown patches on the undersides of a plant’s leaves, is one of the few diseases that mint is susceptible to.
- Watch out for pests and diseases.Your plant may fall victim to diseases such as verticillium wilt or mint anthracnose and it may be infested with insects such as flea beetles, root borers, spider mites, or root weevils. This is not a likely occurrence, however, since the strong odor of mint wards off most insects and other pests. Just provide good air circulation and soil that is well-drained to keep your plants healthy. If you notice any insects, spray them off with a garden hose.
- Harvest fresh green leaves as desired from the late spring through the early autumn.Never harvest more than 1/3 of the leaves at once and allow the plant to regrow before harvesting more. You can just harvest as much mint as you need at a time.
- Minimal care is needed for mint. For outdoor plants, use a light mulch. This will help keep the soil moist and keep the leaves clean.
- For indoor plants, be sure to water them regularly to keep the soil evenly moist.
- At first, mints develop into well-behaved–looking bushy, upright clumps, but they soon set out to conquer new territory with horizontal runners and underground rhizomes. Unless you block the advance, a pert peppermint plant can turn into a sprawling 4-foot giant in just 1 year. It’s not the stuff of horror movies, however. Mints benefit from picking and pruning. They are shallow-rooted and easy to pull out, so there’s no reason to worry, as long as you provide physical barriers such as walls, walkways, or containers.
- Powdery mildew
- Leaf spot
- Stem canker
- Spearmint is pleasantly aromatic herb, packed with numerous health benefiting vitamins, antioxidants and phyto-nutrients.
- Its leaves and herb parts carry essential oil, menthol. Unlike in peppermint, spearmint leaves compose only small amounts of menthol, 0.5% compared to that 40% in peppermint. Less menthol content would make this herb least pungent and subtly fragrant herb in the mint family.
- The herb has low calories (about 43 calories per 100 g), and contains zero cholesterol.
- The chief essential oil in spearmint is menthol. Other important chemical components of spearmint are a-pinene, pinene, carvone, cineole, linalool, limonene, myrcene and caryophyllene. These compounds in mint help relieve fatigue and stress.
- The herb parts are also very good in minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron (148% of RDA), and magnesium. Iron is required for enzymes in cellular metabolism and synthesis of hemoglobin. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is utilized by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
- Further, the herb is also rich in many antioxidant vitamins, including vitamin A (provides 4054 IU or 135% of RDA), beta-carotene, vitamin C, folates (26% of RDA), vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin and thiamin.