Mint? Gardeners should know better. Members of this family are notorious for leaping out of their beds and sprawling across the yard, unless they’re either contained or continually reprimanded. Nevertheless, they’re hard to resist. They’re tough, pretty, fragrant, and easy to grow, and it’s hard to find another plant that’s so useful in summer drinks. Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) will tempt you yet again. It’s got that thing that all its cousins have—whatever it is that mints do that keeps us coming back for more. In apple mint, you’ll find aromatic, fruity-tasting, light green leaves, and midsummer spikes of white or pale pink flowers. It’s OK to lose your heart one more time; just keep those clippers handy.
Common name: Apple mint
Botanical name: Mentha suaveolens
Plant type: Perennial herb
Zones: 4 to 9
Height: 1 to 3 feet
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Rich, moist
• Moisture: Average to moist. Doesn’t adapt well to dry soils.
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: Cut the top of the plant after flowering to encourage bushier growth.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By cuttings or division.
Pests and diseases
• Rust, anthracnose, powdery mildew, and leaf spot can be problems.
• To get the most from the fragrant leaves of apple mint, plant it where you’ll be walking or working.
• Take advantage of apple mint’s habit of spreading rapidly by rhizomes: Use it as a ground cover.
• If you don’t need a ground cover, but want a taste of apple mint, keep it in a container or plant it behind a barrier.
• Use apple mint in a salad or as a flavoring for teas.
• Butterflies are attracted to apple mint.
• ‘Variegata’—also called pineapple mint—has green leaves splashed with creamy white.
All in the family
• Many culinary herbs are in the Lamiaceae family, including basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Lavender and coleus are also in the mint family.
• Apple mint is a native of southern and western Europe.
• Two other popular garden mints are Mentha x piperita f. citrata (lemon mint) and Mentha x piperita f. citrata ‘Chocolate’ (chocolate mint).
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo of Mentha suaveolens by Tracy Walsh)