This our guide on mint and mint flowers including some photos. Let’s dive in!
No herb garden is complete without a variety of mint. Due to the similarities of mint species, it can be hard to figure out which one you have growing in your garden. The easiest way to differentiate the species is through their flower stalks. For that reason, we have provided you with information about the flowers of a few of the popular mint varieties.
Mint plants are considered invasive in many areas. They enjoy sunny areas or partial shade with good soil drainage. If left unchecked, they can spread rapidly and steal nutrients and root space from other plants. Some people choose to prune the flowers as they appear, but the plants still have other methods of propagation.
If you want to enjoy the fresh flavors of your mint plant while preventing it from invading your garden, keep reading below.
Types of Mint Flowers
There are around 20 species of plants in the genus Mentha. Some of the most popular varieties include spearmint, peppermint, and apple mint. They all share many of the same characteristics, such as beautiful dark green leaves that are a bit fuzzy and thick, fast-spreading roots called rhizomes. As we have outlined below, the species are most easy to differentiate by analyzing their flowers.(1)
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) flowers in the summer, producing blooms from July to September in the northern hemisphere. Spearmint plants produce their flowers in spikes or stalks, with each bloom being pink or white in color. The flowers of M. spicata produce relatively large seeds that measure just under 1mm.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) produces flowers from the middle of summer until fall. The purple flowers of M. piperita are about ¼ inch long and form around a thick spike that protrudes from the stem. Peppermint is a hybrid species and is therefore unable to produce healthy, viable seeds. Any offspring will likely be a poor quality mint plant that you definitely do not want in your garden.
Apple Mint Flowers
Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) produces flowers from the middle of summer until fall. Similar to the other mint species, apple mint flowers grow on a spike that protrudes 1.5 to 4 inches into the air. The flowers of M. suaveolens surround the spike and are white or pink in color. The best way to differentiate this species from spearmint is through the much taller stalks and larger leaves.
Purpose of Flower for Mint Plants
Mint plants, like many flowering plants, produce flowers so as to allow the plant to bear seeds. When pollen is transferred from the anther (male part) of a plant’s flower to the stigma (female part) of another plant’s flower, it fertilizes the flower and forms seeds.(2)
Hybrid plants can be formed when two species are “cross-pollinated”, such as in the case of peppermint. Peppermint is a hybrid species that is a cross between watermint and spearmint. For this reason, the flowers are unable to produce healthy seeds and the plant is best propagated through rhizomes. The rhizomes are roots that spread away from the plant and form new mint plants nearby.
Unlike many other herbs, other mint varieties also can spread through rhizomes. This is what gives the mint family a reputation as an invasive species.
Mint Can Be Fun For a Season
Mint can be fun…but it can also be a weed/invasive plant. Sometimes it can be very hard to remove from your garden as it spreads and returns each year. Removing the flowers from your mint plants can help stop some of the spread of the mint patch. Even if you remove all of the visible greenery, the underground rhizomes still have the ability to send up new shoots and continue growing new leaves.
If you have a hybrid species like peppermint, then removing the blooms almost becomes a necessity. If allowed to go to seed, the resulting plants will be a low-quality mint variety. Knowing all of this, you have to determine if you want to let your specific mint plant flower and produce blooms.
If not, then prune the flower spikes as they appear. You can allow the plants to flower for a short time to enjoy their beauty. Just prune the stalks before any of the flowers begin to form seeds. The flowers don’t have to go to waste, as they are edible and taste similar to mint leaves. Feel free to use the flowers in any recipe for a subtle mint flavor and a burst of color.(3)
Even if you prune your mint plants, they will still have the opportunity to spread through the underground rhizomes that they send out. To prevent this, we have one more tip for you.
Expert Recommendation: Plant in a Pot
Mint plants can be housed in pots to prevent their rhizomes from spreading to all parts of the garden. This is a perfect way to enjoy the mint for its culinary purposes, while not allowing the rest of your garden to be taken over by the invasive species. Even more, keep these pots far away from your garden in case any seeds happen to be produced.
This is also a great way to have mint available for the wintertime, as you can bring the pots into your home or greenhouse. Additionally, planting in pots will allow you to keep track of the individual mint species that you are cultivating. If left to grow outside, they may intermingle and create hybrid species of the plant.
Once mint takes over in an area, it is almost impossible to get rid of. You can avoid this with some preventative care: trimming the flower stalks, planting in pots, and removing and enjoying the mint leaves as they grow!