Want a never-ending supply of mint for cocktails? Try growing mojito mint plants! Here's how to keep them producing tasty leaves all summer!
Nothing hits the spot on a warm summer evening like a cold drink out on our deck. One of favorite cocktails is the classic Cuban Mojito, with its refreshing combination of lime and mint.
When I was shopping for herb plants recently, I spotted a specific kind of mint that I knew I had to try growing myself: mojito mint.
Mojito Mint, also known as Mentha x villosa, was almost impossible to get outside of Cuba until about 10 years ago. It has a milder flavor than spearmint or peppermint, with hints of citrus that make it a popular choice for an authentic mojito. The large leaves are perfect for muddling in cocktails, and can also be used for cooking.
Like other mint plants, it can spread quite easily, so I'm planting mine in a pot on the deck to control its growth. While it looked quite small in the beginning, it quickly grew into a two foot tall and wide plant that will provide us with plenty of mint leaves for years to come!
Here's how to care for mojito mint plants in your garden!
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Ideal Growing Conditions for Mojito Mint Plants
Just like any plant, mojito mint thrives when given the right environment. While you can grow mint from seed, it can take up to two weeks to germinate. For the quickest results, you may want to buy a plant at the garden center instead.
Here’s what you need to know to ensure it grows lush and flavorful!
Mint prefers mild climates, and is hardy in zones 6-9. If you live in an area with colder winters, consider growing it in pots that can be brought indoors or provide a protective mulch cover or frost cloth.
Mojito mint thrives in full sun to partial shade. However, if you live in an area with extremely hot summers, a little afternoon shade can help protect the leaves from getting scorched.
This spot on our deck receives a good amount of sunlight during the day but has some protection from the hot afternoon sun.
If growing indoors, place your pot near a sunny window or under grow lights to ensure it receives adequate light for at least 6-8 hours a day.
Mojito mint isn't overly picky about its soil, but it should be well-draining to ensure the roots remain healthy and not waterlogged. It prefers a slightly acidic to neutral pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. Any high quality potting soil will do!
A single mint plant can grow up to 2 feet tall and spread around 2 to 3 feet wide. If I had planted it amongst the other herbs I bought, it would have quickly overtaken them.
Make sure to choose a pot that is at least three gallons in size, so the plant has enough room to grow and thrive.
When planting multiple mojito mint plants, provide a spacing of 18-24 inches between each plant. This gives them room to spread out and ensures adequate air circulation, reducing the risk of fungal diseases.
Mint plants thrive when their soil is evenly moist. I have mine set up on a drip irrigation system with a timer that goes off for 20 minutes every morning during the dry summer months.
If you're unsure whether your mint needs water, it's a good idea to check the top layer of the soil. The soil should feel damp but not soggy. If it feels dry, it's time to give your plant a good soaking.
However, overwatering can lead to root rot and wilting. Make sure your pot has plenty of drainage holes so excess water can flow out easily.
Mojito mint, like other members of the mint family, is fairly undemanding when it comes to fertilization. I just sprinkle a handful of Bio-Tone starter fertilizer into the soil when planting.
If you notice the leaves turning yellow, it might indicate a nitrogen deficiency, which can be rectified with a balanced nitrogen-rich fertilizer. However, be cautious not to over-fertilize, as excessive nutrients can lead to lush growth but a diminished flavor in the leaves.
Mojito mint, like many of its mint relatives, can be quite vigorous in its growth. Regular pruning helps keep the plant in check, ensuring it doesn’t overtake its allocated space, especially in garden beds.
Pruning encourages the plant to grow outward, not just upward, leading to a denser, bushier appearance. This means more leaves for harvest!
Mint plants can quickly spread and become invasive if allowed to flower and produce seeds. To avoid this, I make sure to cut off any flower buds as soon as I notice them.
Pinch off or cut the stem just above a leaf node (the point where leaves emerge from the stem). This promotes branching from that node.
At the end of the growing season, cut back the majority of the plant, leaving a small portion above the ground. This might seem drastic, but mint is resilient and will bounce back in the spring.
Pest and Disease Management
Mojito mint plants can sometimes be troubled by common pests, including aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. These little critters are attracted to the plant for its essential oils and usually feed on the sap.
If you notice an infestation, gently remove the pests by spraying the leaves with a water hose or wiping them with a damp cloth. For more severe cases, you can use an insecticidal soap or neem oil spray.
Mint plants can be vulnerable to certain fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew, rust, and leaf spots. To prevent these diseases, use well-draining soil, provide proper air circulation, and avoid overwatering.
Remove and dispose of any affected leaves as soon as you notice them, to prevent the spread of the disease. Applying organic fungicides such as copper spray or sulfur can also be beneficial in controlling fungal growth when used as directed.
Harvesting and Storing Mojito Mint Leaves
The culmination of your gardening efforts is undeniably the harvest. Proper harvesting and storage techniques will ensure that your mojito mint retains its robust flavor and aromatic qualities, allowing you to enjoy the fresh taste longer.
When to Harvest
The best time to harvest mint is in the morning before the sun starts to heat the day. This is when the essential oils in the leaves are most concentrated, and the flavors are at their peak.
To harvest, simply pinch off the leaves or use scissors to snip the stems just above a pair of leaves. This encourages the plant to bush out and produce more leaves for future harvests.
Storing Fresh Leaves
Place freshly harvested mint stems in a glass of water, like a bouquet, and cover the leaves with a loose plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator, changing the water every couple of days. This method can keep your mint fresh for up to two weeks.
You can also dampen a paper towel and wrap it around the mint leaves, then place them in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. Check the paper towel periodically to ensure it remains damp, but discard them if they start to get moldy.
Freezing Mint Leaves
If you want to preserve mojito mint for a longer period, you can freeze the leaves. There's two different ways to do this:
- Blanching: Briefly immerse mint leaves in boiling water, followed by a cold water bath. Pat dry and freeze in a single layer on a tray. Once frozen, transfer to freezer bags or containers.
- Ice Cube Trays: Place chopped mint leaves in ice cube trays, fill with water, and freeze. Pop out the cubes and store in freezer bags. These are perfect for dropping into drinks!
Now that you know how to grow mojito mint plants, you can enjoy a never-ending supply of fresh leaves for your drinks and cooking!