If this is your first time growing mint, you might be surprised to find that your plant has started flowering. After all, the mint plants we buy at the grocery store never seem to have any flowers on them!
A mint plant flowers once it reaches maturity. While this is a very natural process, it can cause your mint leaves to lose their flavor. If you regularly use mint in your water or smoothies like me, you know how frustrating this process can be, especially after how much time you dedicate to growing them in the first place.
To help combat this, you can take a few proactive steps to prolong the growing season, including pruning your mint plant and harvesting its leaves regularly. Below, we provide some helpful tips on how you can easily prolong the growing season and combat floral growth to keep your mint leaves tasting as cool as ever.
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What causes mint to flower? This is an extremely common question, but you’ve come to the right place because we have the answer. Because we typically don’t see it growing in its natural state, many people may be surprised to learn that the mint plant actually flowers.
If you’re new to growing your own mint plants, this may be a huge shock, so what should you really know about this? Why does the mint plant flower in the first place?
Plants undergo reproduction just like people do. When a plant reaches maturity (aka becomes fully grown), they produce seeds which in turn are pollinated by bees, which helps promote new growth.
So, when your mint plants start to grow flowers, it’s essentially symbolizing that it’s ready to produce seeds and produce new plants. In other words, it’s demonstrating that it’s ready for the next phase of the reproductive cycle.
While this is a natural part of the growth process, flowers can diminish the overall flavor of your mint plants. This is why it’s recommended you remove the leaves about midway through the growing cycle, as to avoid diminished flavor.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help prevent your mint plant from flowering.
Contrary to popular belief, trimming your mint plant will actually help it to continue growing. More specifically, regular pruning can help prevent your mint plant from flowering. So how do you do this?
The most common way is to trim the mint right above one of the nodes. A plant node is a small bump on the stem where new leaves emerge. So, anytime you want to either propagate a mint plant – or in this case, prune it to help it grow better – you will want to make the trim right above this to encourage new growth.
Keep in mind that the best time to trim your mint is right at the start of the summer, as this is when they usually start to develop flowers.
Yes, you can eat mint after it develops flowers, as well as use them as ingredients in your food and beverages or as a safe bug repellent in your garden or inside your home. The only real difference is that eating or using mint after it flowers usually comes with a less powerful taste.
As briefly mentioned before, mint leaves are at their best when they’re used about halfway through the growing process. While you can certainly still use them and take advantage of that unique flavor, they won’t be as strong as they could have been had you plucked and used them earlier.
Now that you know the effects flowering can have on your mint plant, you may be learning toward doing whatever you can to prolong the mint growing season. Here are five tips to keep in your back pocket (and steps to take to prolong the mint growing season):
1. Snip Flowers as They Appear
While it’s not necessary to remove flowers from your mint plant, snipping them as soon as you notice them can help shift the plant’s focus. As mentioned earlier, once a plant develops flowers, it’s ready to reproduce, but by snipping the flowers, you’re essentially sending a message to the plant to focus on producing new leaves, as opposed to seeds.
2. Start Pruning at the Start of the Summer Season
We briefly touched on this already, but if you want to prolong the mint growing season, be sure to prune your plant at the start of summer before temperatures get too hot. There’s a big reason for this, too.
Flowers begin to develop when exposed to hot temperatures, so the summer season creates the perfect environment for this development. The sooner you start pruning in the summer, the better your results will be.
3. Harvest Your Mint Plant Often
The more you harvest the leaves off your mint plant, the bigger and better it’ll grow. Just remember that when you’re harvesting your mint plant, try to avoid damage to the stem. Use only plant shears or scissors to harvest the leaves. Don’t pull them off with your fingers.
4. Plant in a Shady Location:
Remember earlier when we said that flowers grow in hot temperatures, well this is one proactive step you can take to ward off floral growth and prolong the mint growing season.
Not only should you plant your mint in an area that gets partial shade, but you should also add mulch to the base of the plant to keep it in its place, so it doesn’t accidentally tip over to a sunnier area.
5. Use Compost or Another Growth Fertilizer
Though mint doesn’t need to be planted in super nutrient-rich soil, that doesn’t mean it can’t benefit from a growth fertilizer or compost that is chock-full of nitrogen.
Nitrogen is a key component in plant growth and yields successful results. Keep in mind that it’s best to use a slow-release fertilizer.
According to Tom Kalb, an Extension Horticulturist, when it comes to fertilizer, you have to “…follow the directions carefully; most of the time a single application of a slow-release fertilizer is enough for the season.”
By taking these five steps, you’ll be well along your way of prolonging the mint growing season.
Once your mint plant has flowered, you may be wondering if and how you can harvest the seeds. The first thing you should know is that you can, indeed, harvest the seeds from your flowering mint plant.
When your mint plant has finished flowering, snip a few of the flowers off with either a pair of gardening shears or scissors. Leave a few of the flowers on your mint plant until they start turning brown.
The next thing you’re going to have to do is dry out your flowers. Most plant experts agree that leaving them in a paper bag is sufficient since the area can remain sealed and therefore dry. Leave your seeds in a paper bag for about two weeks.
Once the two weeks are up, remove them from the paper bag and start to crush them in your hands. Because of how dry they’ll be, they’ll shrivel up and fall apart pretty quickly, revealing the seeds once you’re done.
Now, there are two methods you can choose once you officially have your mint seeds. The first one is to place them in an airtight container or an envelope and place that in the refrigerator for further use. If kept stored at a temperature below 50 degrees, they will keep for about a year. In some cases, they may be able to last up to five years! This method is good if you plan on growing mint for years to come.
However, if you don’t plan on keeping your mint seeds around for the next couple of years, you can just place them in either an envelope or an airtight container and just store them in a cool, dry place like inside your kitchen cabinets. Since these seeds are kept out at room temperature, they will generally only last for about a year.
When you’re ready to finally plant your leftover mint seeds, you will first have to determine if you want them planted inside the house or in the backyard. This is because each process requires different steps and treatments.
For example, if you want to plant them outdoors, dig a hole about 6 mm deep in a partially shaded area. Add your seeds, cover them with soil and watch them start to germinate in as little as 10 days. If the weather is warm, you can do this as soon as you want to.
However, if it’s chilly out, you’ll want to either wait until the last frost of the season or you’ll want to grow them indoors and transplant them to their new location once the temperature has warmed up.
The process for growing them indoors is relatively the same: dig a hole about ¼ inch deep and cover it with a thin layer of moist soil. If you’re growing your mint seeds indoors, you’ll ideally want to keep your interior temperature around 70 degrees. When planted indoors, most mint seeds start to germinate within a week or two.
Even though flowering is a normal part of a plant’s life cycle, it’s completely normal to want to combat this kind of growth to keep your mint plant as healthy and effective as it is once harvested. These tips can provide you with the insight you need to grow mint plants both now and in the future.