Mint Troubles: Why Your Plant is Struggling

Mint is renowned for its resilience and suitability for beginner gardeners. Its hardy nature and low-maintenance requirements make it an ideal choice for potted plant enthusiasts. However, even the toughest herbs can encounter issues that hinder their growth. If you notice your mint plant struggling, it is likely due to one of the following factors:

Under Watering: A Common Culprit

Symptoms: Wilting leaves and stems, often turning brown.

Causes: Insufficient watering and quick-draining soil.

The most frequent reason for a dying mint plant is under watering. Mint thrives in moist soil, and in hot climates or during droughts, it is often one of the first plants to wilt. To combat this, ensure you water your mint regularly and use soil or potting mix that retains moisture. Avoid sandy or stony soils, as they drain too quickly for the roots to draw up the necessary moisture.

Saving an Under Watered Mint Plant

Thankfully, rescuing a wilted mint plant is a straightforward process:

  1. Water your mint frequently to maintain consistently moist soil. The watering frequency varies depending on the time of year and your climate. In hot climates, water every three days, while temperate regions may only require weekly watering.
  2. Plant your mint in rich compost that retains moisture while allowing excess water to drain, avoiding waterlogging.
  3. Monitor the soil moisture by testing it to a finger’s depth, adjusting the watering frequency accordingly. Always water mint generously to encourage proper root establishment and discourage shallow root growth.
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Fighting Root Rot: Saving Yellowing Mint

Symptoms: Yellow or brown leaves with a drooping appearance.

Causes: Over watering, boggy ground, or slow-draining soil.

Yellowing and drooping mint plants are often afflicted with root rot or fungal diseases. These problems arise when the soil is consistently saturated, impeding excess water drainage. Mint prefers consistently moist soil with a porous texture that allows water to escape, preventing roots from sitting in boggy ground. Root rot is usually caused by slow-draining soils, such as clay or compacted soil, and pots without drainage holes.

Rescuing Mint with Root Rot

To save a yellowing mint plant suffering from root rot, take these steps:

  1. Reduce watering to prevent further saturation of the soil.
  2. Transplant the mint to an area of the garden with improved drainage or to a pot.
  3. Ensure the new pot has adequate drainage holes in the base.
  4. Inspect the roots and remove any dark brown or diseased ones with pruners, ensuring you clean the blades between each snip with disinfectant.
  5. Plant the mint in new multipurpose compost, discarding the diseased roots and soil.
  6. Burn the discarded roots, as they may carry the fungus that affects mint.

While not all mint plants recover from root rot, cutting away the affected tissue and replanting in a pot with fresh soil offers the best chance of revival.

The Perils of Potted Mint

Symptoms: Drooping, browning, or yellowing mint with stunted growth.

Causes: Pot size too small, poor soil quality, or a lack of drainage holes in the pot.

Growing mint in pots or containers prevents it from overrunning garden borders and provides good drainage. However, a small pot can lead to drying out too quickly, causing the mint to wilt and turn brown. Additionally, a lack of drainage holes prevents excess water from escaping, resulting in soil saturation and the development of root rot and fungal diseases.

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Reviving Mint in a Pot

To save your struggling potted mint plant, follow these steps:

  1. Plant or transfer the mint to a larger pot, preferably at least 12 inches across, to retain moisture and prevent wilting.
  2. Ensure the new pot has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
  3. With a larger pot, the greater soil capacity reduces drying out, provides more space for root establishment, and access to necessary nutrients.
  4. Water the mint as frequently as needed to keep the soil consistently moist, ensuring it does not become saturated.
  5. Avoid using trays or saucers underneath the pot that can cause water to accumulate and turn the soil boggy.

Leggy Mint: A Matter of Light and Fertilizer

Leggy mint plants with sparse growth can be attributed to two factors:

  1. Insufficient light: Although mint can tolerate partial shade, insufficient sunlight can lead to sparse growth, fewer leaves, and a weaker aroma.
  2. Excessive fertilizer: When mint receives too much nitrogen from excessive fertilizer use, it produces excessive growth with sappy stems that struggle to support the plant’s structure.

Saving Leggy Mint

To save your leggy mint plant, follow these recommendations:

  1. Relocate the mint to a sunnier area if shade is the issue. Increased sunlight exposure should result in a more vigorous plant within a week.
  2. Avoid over-fertilization, as this can harm your mint plant.
  3. Consider pruning the plant to tidy it up. Refer to this YouTube video for a visual guide on mint plant pruning.

Key Takeaways:

  • Under watering and planting mint in a small pot without sufficient moisture and nutrients are common reasons for a dying mint plant showing wilted and brown leaves.
  • Yellowing and drooping mint plants are caused by root rot, resulting from over watering, slow-draining soils, or pots without proper drainage.
  • Mint suffering from a lack of light or excessive fertilizer presents with leggy growth and sparse foliage.
  • Plant mint in well-draining compost, maintaining consistent soil moisture without saturation. Provide mint with full sun or partial shade for optimal growth and recovery.
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For more information on gardening and plant care, visit Ames Farm Center.