Pros And Cons Of Growing Mint Plants

fresh potted mint plant
(Image credit: redhumv / Getty Images)

Issues with growing mint aren't rooted in difficult care or growing conditions. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Mint is tenacious, and it spreads quickly and effectively. Unsuspecting gardeners plant it with the best of intentions, and then they're stuck with it forever. Because of this, the overwhelming majority of gardeners would say there aren't many reasons to plant mint in the garden. Yes, the plant has a tendency to become invasive when left to its own devices, but growing mint responsibly is another thing altogether. Let's examine both the good and bad aspects of growing this herb so you can determine the best course of action to take.

Pros of Growing Mint in the Garden

Nikki's viewpoint: Some of us see nothing wrong with planting mint in the garden - if it's done with care. If done responsibly, there can be many pros of growing mint, most of which you can easily enjoy and reap from. So what exactly are the benefits of mint in the garden? Mint advantages abound, and here are just a few reasons to plant mint in the garden.

First of all, there are so many varieties of mint to choose from that you're certain to find one that suits your needs, and your site. Speaking of which, it's a hardy little plant that grows nearly anywhere and tolerates various conditions so you have little to worry about with regards to keeping mint alive.

Got an area in need of coverage? Mint makes an excellent ground cover in a suitable location well away from your other garden plants. Simply plant it in an out-of-the-way nook and enjoy! Yes, some types of mint have runners, which make its spread inevitable, but for the most part these are easy to pull up. Those that don't have runners are easier to pull when young and if you grow the herb for use in the kitchen, frequent harvesting can help keep the plant more behaved.

And while it can be a bit aggressive at times, there are ways to tame the beast while taking advantage of its plus sides. For example, you can grow mint in a container. Likewise, you can opt for a raised bed if its own. Mint doesn't just thrive in containers, it grows well indoors, too, given the right conditions. Heck, you can even cut the plant way back and easily root the cuttings for an endless supply in the kitchen.

In addition to the plant's ornamental value, mint is a useful herb having a number of uses that include both culinary and medicinal. It's also nutritious, being high in fiber and vitamin A. The plant is great when used to complement dishes, and makes a wonderful addition to tea and other drinks.

You can use mint for aromatherapy too, from peppermint and spearmint to chocolate mint and pineapple - they all smell wonderful! In fact, the herb is well known for its ability to relax muscles, soothe indigestion and serves well as a mild decongestant when you're all stuffy and can't breathe. That's not all mint is good for though. In the garden, the plant attracts beneficial insects and repels pests, including fleas, mosquitoes and mice.

Cons of Growing Mint Plants in Gardens

Liz's viewpoint: Mint is one of those infamous plants, one that you hear horror stories about. When my mother bought her house 40 years ago, there was mint in the garden. And it's still there. This is because mint plants have strong, complex root systems that take hold easily and hold on tight. Even if you cut mint back drastically, it will still come back from small pieces of its roots.

Another problem with mint is that it spreads quite effectively. A mint plant will put out horizontal underground roots, called runners, which pop up out of the ground elsewhere and put up the shoots of a new plant. This means that even if you decide you're okay with having a permanent mint installation and you pick the perfect spot for it in your garden, it's not going to stay in that spot. Instead, it will put out runners and start taking over neighboring beds, choking out some plants and popping up unattractively among others.

The major cons of growing mint are that it spreads so well and it's hard to get rid of mint in the garden once the plant has taken hold. These problems can basically be gotten around if you limit your mint to container gardening.

As long as your mint plants aren't growing in the ground, they ought to be hassle free. If you really want to have a bed of mint in your garden, you should line it with a buried wall of metal or plastic sheeting to keep the runners from spreading.
Alternatively, you could plant your mint in a large container and place the entire thing in a hole in the garden bed. As long as the runners aren't able to travel, you should be fine.

Final Thoughts on Mint Advantages vs. its Issues

You shouldn't have any big issues with growing mint, as long as you do it carefully and responsibly. If you just plant it in your garden without any precautions, however, the downsides of mint are serious and numerous. You'll be digging up runners for a long time. Just like any other plant in the landscape, you should ensure it's in the right place. Growing mint responsibly is key to overcoming any future problems. Go ahead and take advantage of all the benefits of mint. Overall, the reasons to plant mint far outweigh the reasons not to.

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.