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Fact sheet: Spearmint

Common name: Spearmint
Scientific name: Mentha spicata
Family: Labiatae

Uses: Aromatic, cosmetic, culinary, and medicinal.Fresh or dried leaves scent sachets and potpourris. Spearmint is used in baths to refresh and cool skin, in facials to cleanse the skin, and in lotions. It has a milder flavor than peppermint and is used in candy, gum, teas, meats, fish, vegetable dishes, fruit salad, fruit beverages, mint water, vinegars, jellies, and sauces. It is said to have some medicinal qualities.

History: The Greeks believed mints could clear the voice and cure hiccups. Mints were a symbol of hospitality. Early settlers brought them to America for medicinal uses.

Description: This glabrous plant is found in moist soils. It usually has a strong, sweet scent. The crinkled or smooth stems have a tinge of red. The bright green leaves are pointed, toothed, and lance shaped, growing to about 2 inches long. The lavender flower spikes are 2 to 4 inches long.

Plant type: Perennial
Hardiness: Hardiness zone 5.
Height: 12 to 24 inches
Width: 12 to 24 inches
Soil: moist, rich, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5
Disease: Verticillium wilt, mint rust, mint anthracnose, spider mites, loopers, root borers, grasshoppers, cutworms, root weevils, and aphids.

Cultivation: Seeds can be sown in flats or in the ground. Plants also can be propagated by cuttings. Place cuttings in a medium, keep moist, and transplant once the root system is well established. Spearmint spreads rather quickly by runners. Contain the plants in pots buried to the rim or grow in a large area where they can spread. Frequent cutting or mowing of large plots will keep mints at their prettiest. In late fall, cut back to the ground and mulch if winters are severe.

Companion planting: This plant is said to repel black flea beetles, ants, fleas, and various rodents. The leaves can be placed in drawers to repel moths.

Propagation: Seeds, cuttings, or division.
Flowering period: July to August

Garden notes: To curtail spreading, we planted our 4-inch seedlings in 5-gallon pots with the bottoms cut out and buried the pots in the garden with about 1 to 2 inches of rim exposed. We also removed creeping runners whenever they invaded neighboring areas. The runners wrapped themselves around the inside of the pot many times despite our diligent efforts.

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Sold at Nassau County Master Gardener Plant Sale