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Whether you haven’t started growing mint yet or already have a mint plant that you would like to make bushier, this article can help you grow the bushiest and fullest mint plants by just following a few simple tips. Let’s get into it!
1. Use a 12-Inch or Larger Terra Cotta Pot to Grow Mint
How you grow your mint has a huge effect on how the plant turns out, including how bushy it becomes. You can grow mint both in pots and directly in the ground, but I highly recommend using a pot as it is much easier and can also help make your mint bushier or fuller if done right. Allow me to elaborate.
Mint plants grow horizontal runners that the plants use to spread over a wider and wider area. The runners grow out from the bottom of the plant and spread either right above or right below the ground until they establish themselves by setting roots and growing new stems and leaves, thereby making the overall plant winder and winder.
Potted mint can become bushier than mint growing directly in the ground. The reason is that the runners mint plants produce will stay inside the pot and grow roots and stems there, rather than spread horizontally away from the original plant, thereby making the whole plant denser and bushier.
The primary reason why I (and many others) recommend growing mint in a pot and not in the ground is that the runners make it extremely difficult to contain mint once it starts to spread. The fact that it becomes bushier in a pot is just a great bonus. There are also advantages to growing it in the ground, but if you’re interested in that, head over to this post.
A good general rule of thumb when picking a pot to grow mint in is “the bigger, the better”. You can technically grow mint in pots of any size, but it won’t grow very big in a small pot, so I recommend 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter or more. That will be large enough for your mint to grow big and, at the same time, contained enough for the runners to help make the plant bushier and bushier.
There are more things than just size to keep in mind when choosing a pot for mint, but instead of getting off-topic, I recommend you head over to this post if you want help picking the best pot for your mint.
2. Harvest Frequently by Cutting or Pinching off New Shoots
The key to growing bushy mint is to make the stems split into two or more stems instead of just one. The easiest way to do that is to simply harvest often, but for it to work, you need to know the right harvesting technique because using the wrong one will make your mint less and less bushy.
Harvest your mint by pinching off new shoots or cutting stems to make the plant bushier. Doing so will make two or more stems grow from the one that was cut. Make sure to not harvest from the same part of the plant too frequently to allow it to grow back.
If you harvest like this often, your mint will quickly become bushier and bushier. Just make sure you don’t harvest from the same part of the plant every time, but instead harvest from different parts to let the new stems and leaves grow a bit before you harvest them.
The most intuitive way to harvest mint is probably to just pick the leaves you need, but I don’t recommend doing that. Picking leaves like that will not cause the stems to split, so it won’t make the plant bushier, but instead actually make it less and less dense the more leaves you pick. So instead, cut or pinch off new shoots or cut the stems of existing growth when you harvest mint to make your plant bushier.
It is important that you use clean and sharp tools for cutting your mint to avoid introducing diseases to the plant. If you don’t already have pruning shears, I highly recommend these (link to Amazon). I use them myself and I am very happy with them.
You can actually start harvesting like this very early on. You can technically do it (more or less) as early as you want, as long as you don’t remove all the leaves. I don’t recommend starting before there are at least three sets of leaves, though, as it will take a while for new growth to grow back if there are less than that.
3. Give Your Mint a Heavy Pruning in the Late Summer
If you know how to prune your mint correctly, you can make it grow much faster, produce a lot more tasty leaves, and most importantly, mint becomes a lot bushier after a thorough pruning. Here is how you do it.
The easiest way to prune mint plants is to cut back each stem by at least half, using a pair of sharp pruning shears. For large mint plants, grab a handful of stems and cut them at the same time to make the pruning process faster. The ideal place to cut stems is an inch above sets of leaf nodes.
Keep harvesting frequently throughout the growing season, as I explained above, but also give your mint a heavy pruning in the late summer to make it as bushy as possible.
If you want a more thorough guide for pruning mint plants, I recommend reading this article where I explain and show photos of every step to make it as easy as possible for you.
According to this article from BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, the best time to cut back, or prune, mint is in the late summer after flowering is done. They also recommend cutting your mint all the way back to just above soil level.
I usually cut my mint plants back to just above the ground at the end of the season when they start to die back and I have talked to plenty of other gardeners and even some true experts who agree with this. You can read more about what to do with mint at the end of the season on this link.
4. Pinch or Cut Off Flower Buds as Soon as They Appear
Flowering typically means that the growing season for a plant is coming to an end. However, if you know what to do when your mint is flowering, you can actually not only extend the growing season but also make your mint bushier than ever. Here is what you need to do.
Remove mint flower buds as early as possible to make your mint plants bushier. Doing so makes the stems split in two or more, resulting in denser and bushier plants. This also delays the flowering process, allowing the plants to produce more growth, thereby making them even bushier.
Remove flower buds either by cutting them with some clean pruning shears (such as the ones I recommended earlier in this article) or simply by pinching them off with your fingers.
You can also let your mint flower, but I don’t recommend that if your goal is to make it as full and bushy as possible. When mint is flowering, almost all the energy goes towards that process, so the plant won’t grow new leaves nearly as fast as before it was flowering.
You can learn more about what to do when mint is flowering in the article on this link.
5. Place Your Mint in Full Sun in Rich and Well-Drained Soil
Where you plant and grow your mint has a huge impact on how well it grows and how full and bushy it gets.
Grow mint in full sun and in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil to get the best looking, most productive, and bushiest plants. Mint can grow well both indoors and outside but generally grows faster outside since there is usually more sunlight than indoors.
Generally speaking, you should just grow your mint wherever it will get the most sunlight as that will help the plant produce more leaves and thereby become bushier.
The sunniest place will usually be somewhere outside, but it can also grow very well if you have a place indoors that gets a lot of sunlight, for example, next to a south-facing window (or north if you live in the southern hemisphere).
Growing mint indoors and outside each have their advantages over the other, but instead of going away from the main topic of this article, I recommend you head over to this article if you want to learn more about that.
6. Water Your Mint Frequently to Keep the Soil Moist
Water is essential for all plants to grow, and mint is, of course, no exception. Mint stores a lot of water in its leaves and will only produce new leaves if it has enough water to do so, but do not overwater it either as that can damage it.
Therefore, to make your mint as happy and bushy as possible, proper watering is important. Here is what you need to know.
Water mint whenever the top inch of the soil is dry. Mint grows best in soil that is moist but not wet nor dry, so check the top of the soil to find out when a mint plant needs water.
It is very common to see recommendations such as “water your mint every X days”, but that is generally not good advice because everybody has different growing conditions. How much sunlight a mint gets, where it grows, what soil type it grows in, how big it is, and a lot more variables impact how much water it needs.
So instead of watering on a fixed schedule, you need to wait for your mint plant to ask for water to give it the best conditions for becoming big and bushy. As mentioned, the easiest way to tell that a mint needs water is to stick the tip of a finger into the soil, and if it comes out dry, the plant needs water.
It is really important not to overwater your mint as that can cause some serious damage to it, but if you follow the rules for watering I wrote here, you should be fine. Still, should you be unlucky and overwater your mint, or do you suspect that you might be overwatering it, you can find help to save it right here.
7. Keep Your Mint at 65-70° F (About 18-21° C) Or Warmer
As a Mediterranean herb, mint grows best and becomes bushiest at warm temperatures, but it is a versatile plant that can actually grow even when it gets really cold.
Mint grows best at temperatures between 65-70° F (about 18-21° C) but can technically also grow at temperatures just above the freezing point. Mint grows slower the colder it is and flowers faster the warmer it is, so aim for 65-70° F (about 18-21° C) if possible, as that is the ideal temperature range for mint.
Of course, it can be difficult to control the temperature. Especially if you grow your mint outside, but you really don’t have to worry too much about it. As long as it is warm enough during the day and doesn’t dip below the freezing point at night, your mint should be fine and grow nice and bushy if you also follow the other tips in this article. In fact, mint expects cold temperatures at night since that is how it is in its natural habitat.
If you grow your mint indoors, you really don’t have to be too concerned about the temperature. In my experience, mint grows really well and can become nice and bushy at room temperature, as long as it gets enough sunlight.
8. Use a Liquid Herb and Vegetable Fertilizer Once per Month
Proper fertilizing can really pump up a mint plant and make it dense and bushy, but doing it wrong can harm or even kill the plant.
I want to recommend two methods for fertilizing mint. One that I learned from a gardener at a local plant nursery and one I learned about in a paper from Utah State University’s Horticulture extension.
The way I usually fertilize mint is really simple. I just use an organic, liquid all-round fertilizer for herbs and vegetables. I mix the fertilizer into the water that I use to water the mint about once every 2-4 weeks, depending on the size of the plants.
The gardener I talked to at the local nursery told me that she had been using that method for more than a decade, and she claimed that it worked better than any other method she had tried. So naturally, I wanted to try it too, and in my experience, it also works really well.
The method for fertilizing mint from the paper from Utah State University’s Horticulture Extension is very different. This is what they recommend:
One early spring application of a slow release, complete fertilizer incorporated into the soil will supply adequate nutrients for mint. Use one teaspoon of a 16-16-16 fertilizer per plant as growth resumes in the spring. Over watering and fertilizing promotes rust and diminishes mint oil production.Kristie Buckland and Dan Drost, Vegetable Specialists (Source).
Both of these methods will undoubtedly work very well for you, so figure out which one you like more and go for it. I promise you that your mint plant will thank you for it if you do it right and reward you by getting nice and bushy and super productive.