Apple mint is a fast-growing member of the mint family that is well suited to moist locations and can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen.
Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) is a typical fruit mint along with strawberry mint (Mentha species ‘Strawberry’) and lemon mint (Mentha x gentilis var. citrata). These are characterised by a low menthol content and a fresh, fruity fragrance. This species makes a delicious tea. Keep reading to find out how to grow apple mint, how to care for it and how to use it.
- Apple mint: origin and properties
- Apple mint varieties
- Planting apple mint
- Plant care
- Is apple mint hardy?
- Uses for apple mint leaves
Apple mint: origin and properties
Apple mint is one of the about thirty mint species that make up the mint genus (Mentha), which is part of the Lamiaceae family. It is native to the UK and can sometimes be found growing naturally in coastal areas and near rivers.
Apple mint, like all mints, is a deciduous perennial that reproduces via rhizome runners. It is a small mint plant that grows to a height of 30 to 60 cm. This strengthens its spreading tendency, and it can quickly take over entire beds if not prevented, for example, by a root barrier.
Mentha suaveolens is also known as round-leaved mint because of its wrinkled, soft leaves. They emit a mildly sweet fragrance reminiscent of green apples when touched. Apple mint’s pale purple flowers bloom from July to August. These are inconspicuous and extremely attractive to insects, yet they contain little nectar.
Tip: Mentha x rotundifolia is often referred to as apple mint. This is a naturally occurring hybrid of M. suaveolens and M. longifolia. As a result, the two species are quite similar and difficult to distinguish.
Apple mint varieties
There are apple mint varieties with exotic aromas, such as pineapple mint and grapefruit mint. However, there are also some differences in the original species Mentha suaveolens. For example, apple mint growing in the wild does not always smell as pleasant. But not to worry, most commercially available varieties are delightfully fragrant and tasty.
Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’ is an old variety from England. Pineapple mint has strongly scented, brilliantly variegated leaves with cream edges and looks beautiful in hanging baskets. It grows slightly taller (70 to 80 cm) but spreads less than apple mint. Plant pineapple mint in a sunny spot, as it will struggle in partial shade. The pale purple flowers of pineapple mint are strikingly similar to those of apple mint and appear around the same time.
Pineapple mint’s aroma is described as ranging from sweet and fruity, reminiscent of ripe pineapple, to bitter and citrusy. As a result, pineapple mint can be used in many different ways. For example, there are recipes that use pineapple mint in summer cocktails and lemonades, as well as in herb rubs for roasting meat and in hearty dishes. Pineapple mint with its low menthol content can also be used to brew mild, fruity teas.
Grapefruit mint (Mentha suaveolens x piperita) is a hybrid between apple mint and peppermint (Mentha x piperita). It is smaller than apple mint at about 50 cm and is clearly less vigorous. The plant’s flowers are pale purple.
This mint is ideal for teas and other refreshing drinks because it is also low in menthol and has a fresh, tangy scent. Grapefruit mint is used in desserts such as fruit salads, but it also adds flavour to Asian cuisines and salads.
Planting apple mint
If you want to grow apple mint, the best time to plant it is in spring.
Location and procedure
The ideal location is in full sun and features a fresh to moist, humus soil with a medium to high nutrient content. For example, apple mint likes to grow along the edges of ponds or in meadows that are repeatedly flooded. If you have very loose or humus-poor soil, work in our Plantura Organic Enriched Compost to improve it. It adds nutrients to the soil while also improving soil structure and water retention capacity due to its high organic content. Furthermore, it is peat-free and made in Germany in a sustainable manner. You can also use mature compost from your own garden.
- Perfect for all crops and ornamental plants with a high nutrient requirement & for raised beds
- Improves soil quality & promotes healthy root growth
- Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition
After you have found a suitable location, prepare the soil. To do this, remove any weeds, loosen the soil with a garden fork and work in some compost. Then dig your planting holes, spacing them 40 cm apart. Place your apple mint seedlings inside. Fill the planting holes with soil and press down a little. Finally, water the seedlings well.
Apple mint seeds
You can also grow apple mint from seed. Start the seedlings indoors in early February. Sow the seeds to a depth of no more than 0.5 cm as these need light to germinate in a nutrient-poor substrate like our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost. At a temperature of about 20 °C, apple mint seeds will germinate after two to six weeks. Grow the seedlings in a very bright place and water regularly. Transplant the young plants outdoors from around mid-April.
Tip: For more detailed instructions on sowing mint and other tips, see our article on planting mints.
Growing apple mint in pots
It is possible to grow apple mint in a pot, which has the advantage that it cannot spread unintentionally. Choose a shallow planter with a minimum volume of 15l. We recommend using our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost, which is also 100 % peat-free. Its nutrient content is lower than that of compost because it is used solely as a planting medium and not in conjunction with garden soil. An oversupply of nutrients would make the young plants more sensitive to disease and cause them to grow at an abnormally fast rate. In addition, the aroma often suffers if the plant grows too quickly.
To ensure a healthy plant, a few points need to be observed when caring for it.
Watering and fertilising
Apple mint likes it moist and can even tolerate waterlogging for a brief time. Regular watering, especially in summer, is an essential care measure. Watering is not necessary if the apple mint is growing near ponds or other bodies of water.
Tip: Mulching, for example with lawn clippings, also helps to keep the substrate moist and reduce evaporation.
If the apple mint is planted in a nutrient-rich substrate, then you will not need to fertilise it when planting. It is best to feed mint twice a year with a slow-release fertiliser, once at the beginning of growth and again in summer, for example after harvesting bunches of leaves. This could be high-quality compost or our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food, for example. Our food has a balanced nutrient ratio, is free of animal products and is safe for pets and garden animals.
- Perfect for a variety of plants in the garden & on the balcony
- Promotes healthy plant growth & an active soil life
- Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly
Pruning apple mint
Pruning apple mint is not required, but it is an excellent method of harvesting the plant, controlling its growth, and keeping it healthy. Because mints tolerate pruning well, individual shoots can be picked from spring until October. However, after flowering, the plant loses a lot of its flavour. When trimming, remember to cut runners that grow close to the earth. Remove dead, wilting twigs in the spring before new shoots emerge.
Tip: If you have cut back shoots and cannot use them all at once, drying the apple mint is a fantastic option. Find out all the methods and how to do them in our article on drying and freezing mint.
Check out our guide on caring for mints to find out how to care for your pineapple mint. It also needs less water and less frequent pruning than apple mint.
Repotting apple mint
Apple mint, like all mints, has a strongly developed root system. Regular repotting is therefore a crucial aspect of caring for apple mint in pots. Every spring, inspect your planter. If the roots begin to grow out of the drainage hole at the bottom, or if the root ball appears white rather than black when lifted out of the pot due to the vast number of roots, it is time to transplant the mint to a larger pot with fresh substrate.
Tip: At the same time, the plant can be divided and thinned out. Carefully pull the root ball apart or cut it with a sharp knife. Place each small new plant in its own pot.
Powdery mildew on apple mint
Although apple mint is not very susceptible to disease, powdery mildew (Erysiphaceae) can occur from time to time. Powdery mildew on apple mint can be recognised by a whitish, powdery coating on the tops of the leaves that can be easily wiped off.
If you spot an infestation, remove and dispose of affected plant parts liberally. Some biological agents can also help to inhibit the spread of powdery mildew, such as calcium carbonate or fennel oil.
Powdery mildew spreads in warm, dry weather. Watering in the morning and only from below to avoid wetting the leaves reduces the risk of infestation.
Is apple mint hardy?
Apple mint is very hardy, withstanding temperatures as low as -23 °C. When overwintering apple mint in a pot, take care to not let the root ball freeze through. Wrap garden fleece around the pot and place the pot on a wooden board or polystyrene to protect it.
Pineapple mint is also winter-hardy, but only tolerates temperatures down to about – 17 °C. To overwinter the pineapple mint, protect the rootstock with some brushwood.
Uses for apple mint leaves
Apple mint has a lower therapeutic effect than peppermint due to its low menthol concentration. Nevertheless, the mint can be used in teas and other beverages such as apple mint lemonade. To make an apple mint tea, pour hot water over 10 to 15 leaves. Allow the tea to infuse for a few minutes before serving hot or cold. Apple mint is frequently used in recipes as a refreshing, distinctive note, such as in salads or desserts. Overall, apple mint is grown as an herb rather than a medical plant.
Tip: In some cases, it is not recommended to consume mint during pregnancy. This is due to its menthol content, which can cause an increase in pulse and uterine cramping. However, as apple mint contains little menthol, consuming apple mint during pregnancy and breastfeeding should not cause any problems for most women. It is still important to not consume too much and to avoid leaf extracts or similar products.
Are you interested in other mint species? Check out our article to find out about all the different types of mint.