Aquatic mint, or Mentha aquatica, is a subtle addition to most ponds or water gardens. The lavender flowers are attractive to pollinating insects like bees and butterflies, and the foliage is a repulsive food to deer; thus, water mint is a hardy, quick-growing, easy to maintain and aromatic feature most water gardeners enjoy.
Water mint is native to wetland areas of Europe, Southeast Asia and northwest Africa. It is now found growing naturally on both the east and west coasts of America, and portions of the Mississippi River valley. Mentha aquatica is the Latin name for Aquatic mint and was named after the Greek nymph Menthe.
As the story goes, Hades, the god of the underworld, fell in love with Menthe. Upon pursuing her he was caught by his wife Persephone, who transformed Menthe into a tiny mint plant so she would be easily stepped on.
Oblong leaves with jagged edges and purple flowers that bloom from July to October are a few of the characteristics that identify Aquatic mint. The most notable characteristic, though, is the wonderful fragrance emitted from the leaves that make this plant desired by many pond owners. Mentha aquatica is hardy to zone 6 but tolerates a light frost.
As a plant that reproduces through an intricate network of tiny underground rhizomes, water mint flourishes in a variety of growing conditions. From full sunlight to partial shade; sandy alkaline to clayish acidic soils; and moist water levels to partially immersed in the water, Mentha aquatica is a fairly easy plant to grow in any pond or water garden.
The fragrant leaves of aquatic mint are used as an herb for a variety of purposes including: mouthwash gargles, essential oils and a repellent for mice and flies. Perhaps the most common use for the foliage of Mentha aquatica is an herbal tea which is used to treat headaches and digestive disorders. Large dosages of this plant can be toxic, so take caution when consuming water mint.
As a very hardy plant with prolific growing tendencies, propagating Mentha aquatica is a fairly easy task. The best method of propagation is by simple dividing. Using clean shears, cut back the foliage to about 4 inches and divide the roots into sections.
Replant the divisions into separate pots to regrow. Seeding and transplanting mature seedlings is another method of propagating water mint. Both methods should be carried out in early spring for the best chances of successful cultivation.