Mint is a fantastic herb that is great for beginning gardeners yet still a favorite of the more advanced. The mint plant is resilient and can survive the cool temperatures of winter so long as it’s been properly overwintered. So what exactly is overwintering, and why should you overwinter your mint plants?
Overwintering mint is the process of preparing your potted mint plants for winter. Mint dies back in winter only to return in the spring. However, if mint gets too cold, it won’t overwinter properly and will die. Overwintering helps keep mint plants warm and safe from the elements during winter.
In the rest of this article, I will provide answers to several important questions about overwintering mint, the benefits/drawbacks of this method, and how to overwinter your mint plants. So, if you want to learn more about caring for your mint during winter, read on.
What Is Overwintering?
First, it’s essential to understand overwintering and how the process works. All plants need special care during winter, and mint plants are no different. However, with proper care, these plants will return each spring. So what exactly is overwintering?
Overwintering is the process of preparing a plant for winter. The preparations generally include pruning back the plant, insulating its container, and placing the plant somewhere it won’t completely freeze during the winter. You can overwinter plants both indoors and outdoors.
Overwintering is the best way to ensure your mint plant returns with healthy growth each year. Essentially, mint plants go dormant during the winter months taking in very little water and nutrients. The plant then returns in the spring, taking off like a weed.
Should I Cut Back Mint Before Winter?
When overwintering your plants, preparing them for the cold weather is essential. In addition, mint will significantly benefit from winterizing. Typically, most plants enjoy some pruning before going into the winter months, but what about mint? Does mint need to be cut back before winter?
You should cut back mint before winter. Doing this allows the plant to better overwinter and return with more vigorous growth in the spring. However, you should not remove too much of your mint plant, as this will weaken it against the cold. A light pruning of your mint plant is best.
You should cut back your mint until it’s about 1 inch (25mm) high. Pruning will ensure enough of the plant is left to keep itself warm and shoot back up in the spring. Always be gentle when pruning your mint plants.
Does Potted Mint Grow Back Every Year?
The mint plant is known for its explosive, almost weed-like growth. Thus, many gardeners opt to plant mint in controlled spaces like pots. Given mint’s incredible growth rates, should you expect potted mint to grow back every year?
Potted mint grows every year so long as the plant is correctly overwintered. Despite being relatively cold resistant, mint can still die during winter if it gets too cold. Insulating your mint plants or placing them somewhere safe from the elements during winter will ensure their return in spring.
Mint is considered a perennial herb, meaning it will return each year after a brief dormant stage through winter. Your potted mint plants can live 5 -10 years with proper care. The best way to ensure your mint’s safe regrowth each year is to overwinter them.
Can Potted Mint Stay Outside in Winter?
Mint is a resilient little plant. The plant prefers temperatures between 55 – 70°F (13 – 21°C). However, if appropriately overwintered, mint can survive much cooler temperatures, which begs the question, can potted mint plants stay outside during the winter?
Potted mint can stay outside in winter. However, outdoor mint should still be overwintered by insulating the pots, placing the mint out of high wind areas, or keeping them covered. If you live someplace with frigid winters, more insulation is needed to ensure your mint plants grow in spring.
With proper care, mint certainly can be left outdoors during the winter. Potted mint is especially easy to overwinter as the containers are generally small and portable. Also, less overwintering is required if you live in a warmer climate.
Pros and Cons of Overwintering Mint Grown in Containers
Overwintering is an excellent option for keeping your mint plants alive during the cold months. However, there are both benefits and drawbacks to overwintering. Let’s take a quick look at these pros and cons.
Overwintering offers the following benefits:
- Keeps mint plants warm during the winter
- Ensures that your mint plants return each spring
- It’s easier than replanting mint each year
- Allows plants to grow more quickly during the spring
- Prevents possible cold damage to the plant
- Aids in good root growth
There are drawbacks, too, such as:
- The process is time-consuming
- Choosing an overwintering method can be difficult
- Sometimes your mint plants will still die
As you can see, there are many benefits and a few drawbacks to overwintering your mint plant.
The most challenging part of overwintering is deciding how you want to go about it. There are several ways to overwinter your mint plant, and some methods work best together. So it’s up to you to decide just how much insulation your mint will need for winter.
How To Overwinter Mint Plants in Containers
Now that you understand why overwintering is essential, it’s time to learn how to carry out the process.
Overwintering is relatively simple. However, how many steps you need to take depends on your winter temperatures.
For example, someone who lives in a warm tropical climate likely won’t benefit from over-insulating mint for winter. On the other hand, overwintering will be essential for your mint plants’ survival if you live somewhere with bitterly cold winters.
How to overwinter mint plants in containers:
- Select a container that won’t crack in cold weather. Some pots are fragile and cool weather can lead to problems like the pot breaking. Choose a container that is well insulated or can be easily insulated.
- Weed your mint containers. Even potted plants get the occasional weed, so removing them is essential. Weeds can easily choke out a plant as they compete for soil nutrients.
- Prune back excess growth. Your mint plants need to be trimmed about 1 inch (25mm) above the ground. Pruning ensures that your mint will grow back more easily in the springtime.
- Check that your containers have adequate drainage. Suitable drainage holes are essential as mint plants will require less water in the winter and need a way for excess water to drain. Water that pools on your mint plant’s roots will lead to root rot and end up killing your plants.
- Add mulch to the plant’s container. Mulch can trap water and protect your mint from the cold. Using mulch helps insulate your mint plants and provides better protection from the winter elements.
- Stop fertilizing your mint plants. During the winter, mint tends to go dormant and will not require the nutrients you typically add to the soil. If you add fertilizer before winter, you can risk overfertilizing your mint and burning its roots.
- Water your mint less as winter approaches. During the cold months, mint will require less water, so it’s important to avoid overwatering. Watering less frequently or bottom watering are great options here.
- Place your mint containers someplace safe from the elements. Ideally, you should overwinter your mint in a garage, indoors, covered porch, or buried in the garden. Mint needs to be kept from areas with high winds during the winter. Placing your mint plant directly on the ground is ideal as platforms get cold drafts above and below them.
- Cover your mint plants. You can use a wool blanket or another type of plant cover for this. Covering your mint will trap in heat better, keeping your mint plants warm all winter long.
Overwintering isn’t incredibly complex. However, there are a few key steps to take. Ultimately, these are the best steps to follow if you want to overwinter your mint outdoors. Additionally, if you want to overwinter your mint indoors, you can. Follow the above steps, then bring your plants inside before the weather becomes cold.
Overwintering Indoors vs. Outdoors
Finally, it’s time to discuss the two types of overwintering you can do. Generally, you will decide between overwintering your mint plants inside or outside, but which one is better? Also, should you be overwintering indoors or outdoors?
Overwintering your mint plants indoors is simple, and many opt for this method of cold protection. It’s easy to control the temperature of our homes, and there is far less risk that your mint will die off in the winter. Additionally, there are fewer steps to caring for an indoor mint plant in the winter as they won’t need to be so heavily insulated.
Overwintering mint plants outdoors is the most common method as mint generally thrives outside. However, if you live somewhere cold, it’s crucial to ensure your plant stays well insulated during this period. Coverings and large roomy pots help keep your mint plants warmer during the cold months.
Overwintering your mint plant is easy and can be done either inside or outdoors. The key to properly overwintering your mint is proper insulation and selecting a location safe from harsh elements like the wind. Mint is a perennial and will return each spring if adequately cared for during winter.