Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is not a natural plant. It was created by crossbreeding watermint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). Hybrids are identified by the X in the scientific name. Peppermint is not a new creation--the plant has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks. All of the varieties of mint come from Europe. The plant is low maintenance, easy to grow and used in a multitude of ways.
The basic peppermint plant has several different cultivars that are suitable for a home garden, including Mentha × piperita Candymint, Mentha × piperita Citrata, Mentha × piperita Crispa, Mentha × piperita Lime Mint, Mentha × piperita Variegata and Mentha × piperita Chocolate Mint. Different varieties are available in different areas.
The plant grows up to 12 inches tall with a spread that is almost unlimited. Toothed leaves measure from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long. Tiny purple-pink flowers grow in clusters at the tips of the stems. Candymint has red stems. Citrata has hairless leaves with the scent of orange mint. Crispa has wrinkled leaves. Lime Mint has the scent of lime. Variegata has leaves mottled with green and yellow. Chocolate Mint has the scent and taste of chocolate.
Peppermint likes full sun or partial shade and a soil that is moist to wet and not allowed to dry out. It will need to be watered if there is a lack of rain. The plant is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8. When planted in zone 8, peppermint needs to be in partial shade.
Leaves of the peppermint plant are dried and used to make potpourri and teas. Leaves and stems are distilled commercially and used to make peppermint oil. The plant also has uses as an ornamental plant. Plant in a vegetable garden, as a border plant or in rock gardens. Peppermint is also a good choice for container gardens.
The main problem with peppermint is its ability to spread wherever it want to unless it is constrained. Plant in a pot and put the pot in the ground so the roots cannot send out shoots to establish new plants. Dig up the pots at the end of the season and make sure no cracks have developed that the roots can escape through. Put a metal border around the plants underground. Caterpillars damage the leaves and rust appears as bright-orange marks on the leaves.
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