A member of the family Lamiaceae, red raripila mint plants (Mentha x smithiana) are hybrid plants composed of the corn mint (Mentha arvensis), watermint (Mentha aquatica), and spearmint (Mentha spicata). More commonly used in Northern and Central Europe, acquiring red raripila plants may require a bit more research, as other mint varieties are more popular in the United States and Canada, but well worth the effort for its lovely, green/red leaves with red stems.
Red Raripila Mint Information
Pollinated and extremely popular to bees and butterflies makes the red raripila mint extremely susceptible to cross-hybridization. Growing red raripila mint plants are, however, not attractive to deer, making them a nice addition to rural landscapes. Red raripila mint is also a great companion plant to vegetable crops such as cabbages and tomatoes as they act as a deterrent to troublesome insect pests. As mentioned, it may be a bit more of a challenge to obtain these plants in North America, but if one does obtain seed, be aware that this little hybrid is generally sterile and thus, the seed will usually not breed true. If, however, seed is acquired, it may be sown in the spring in a cold frame and has a relatively quick germination. Once the red raripila plants attain some size, transplant them to pots or another restrictive growing area. Red raripila mint is easily divisible and should be done in spring or fall, although the plant is fairly tolerant of division most any time of the year. Any portion of the root is capable of creating a new plant and will establish rapidly with a limited amount of fuss.
Care of Red Raripila Mint
Care of red raripila plants, as for all mint varieties, is fairly simple. Like all mint plants, red raripila plants are aggressive spreaders once established and should be planted either in pots or in a confined area. Easy to grow, this little perennial succeeds in almost any type of soil as long as it is not too arid, including heavily clay-laden soils. Care of red raripila mint includes slightly acidic soil. Growing red raripila mint plants may be sown in areas of full sun to partial shade, although to boost the production of essential oils, full sun exposure is most advantageous.
How to Use Red Raripila Mints
Like most mint varieties, red raripila mint is excellent brewed as a tea and can be used fresh or dried. The flavor of red raripila mint is reminiscent of spearmint and has the resulting refreshing taste and similarity of use. The essential oils derived from red raripila mint plants are used in everything from ice cream to beverages and are extremely popular in Northern and Central Europe and down under in Australia to flavor fresh peas or mint jelly for the lamb and mutton dishes popular in those countries. These essential oils are also offensive to rats and mice, so it has also been spread in granaries and other areas of grain storage to discourage the rodent population. Medicinal uses have been associated with this plant as well. The oils from red raripila mint are thought to aid in digestive distress and are often used for their antiseptic properties. As with many mint species, red raripila has been used in the treatment of headaches, fevers, digestive distress, and other minor medical issues. Chewing on the leaves will also, like spearmint, freshen one's breath. Like all other members of the mint family, red raripila mint plants' essential oils should be limited or avoided by pregnant women as the ingestion has been known to trigger miscarriages.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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