I am trying to grow mint. I did repot the plant cutting away excess roots. I placed the plant where it gets direct sunshine for about half a day and water the plant occasionally. It does pretty well with leaves showing up in a few weeks.

The questions I have is about "harvesting" the mint leaves. I read about cutting the flowers when the plan starts flowering, but I have no idea what the flowers look like(especially new ones). Also when I cut the leaves off a branch, the branch seems to dry up and die in a few weeks. So I would like to know about which leaves to cut, where (leave a little leave stem, all of the stem, etc.), distribution(all on one stem, location), leaf size, etc.

In the picture below, the plant has plenty of leaves, but the stem on the right seems to be dying because I took all the leaves from that stem?


7 Answers 7


Here's a picture of my mint plant showing a flower (left) and most of the plant (right). The way I harvest is to pick a few leaves (how much ever I need), but never all from the same stem. I pick the biggest leaves from different parts of the plant, and by the time I need more, the plant will have produced lots more. As you can see, I have way more than I need.

However, if you find that your mint requirements are generally more than what you can reasonably take from the plant at once, I would suggest getting a second or a third plant and cycling between them. That way, you pick from the first, then from the second the next time, then the third and so on. By the time you come back to the first, it would have produced more leaves. I also explain this in a related answer pertaining to cilantros.

Click to enlarge
enter image description here enter image description here

Now coming to the leaf "drying" up, it could be because it has bolted or because the plant is rootbound. However, I do not think this is the case in your plant above. Now, there's no way for me to tell if it's rootbound or not, but the stem definitely does not look dried up. In fact, it looks healthy to me.

I believe the thin "dried" stem that you see in the right is a stolon, which is how mint propagates. Stolons generally spread horizontally along the ground surface. However, by their very nature (technically being stems), they seek out light and since there is no way to grow horizontally in a pot, they grow upwards. In my plant, since it's in the ground, the stolons just spread outwards, instead of upwards.

Another identifying feature of a stolon is that they have longer internodal distances. What I mean by this is that if you look at the distance between the "notches" (where the leaves form) in the thin stem on the right and in the other thicker ones, you'll see that it's longer, which further confirms my suspicion.

  • 1
    "I placed the plant where it gets direct sunshine for about half a day and water the plant occasionally" <-- Is that enough sun or mint to thrive? Also I thought mint was a herb that preferred moist soil conditions, have I got that correct or wrong?
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Oct 30, 2011 at 0:09
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    @MikePerry Mint grows in a reasonable variety of sunlight conditions. You can grow it in partial shade or about 6 hours of sun, but it grows great in full sun. Mine is in full sun, and as you can see, it's growing like crazy. In general, it is not recommended that mint be planted in the ground, as it can (and eventually will) take over. But you're right about mint preferring moist soil. Commented Oct 30, 2011 at 0:55
  • @yoda Thanks for a very nice answer. When breaking the leaves, should I break them very close to the stem or leave a little bit and break just where the leave ends?
    – Doc
    Commented Oct 30, 2011 at 18:11
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    @Doc You can either break close to the stem or where the leaf ends, it shouldn't be a problem. However, you ought to be careful when you break close to the stem, for if you don't do it right, it can start peeling off the skin from the stem instead of breaking cleanly. The resulting open wound can potentially infect the plant. So if you're unsure, you can remove it where the leaf ends or use a clean, sharp scissors to cut it off. Commented Oct 30, 2011 at 18:37
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    your mint is incredible. I am so jealous. Commented May 16, 2012 at 23:13

If you had more mint, I'd go with what Yoda said.

But for a plant you're harvesting as hard as shown, pulling the biggest leaves will result in a lot of bare stems and a pretty lanky plant - as shown. So I'd suggest going the opposite way. Harvest from your tallest stem, starting at the top, and pruning back as you harvest. When you get down to around 2-3" from the bottom, repeat with another stem.

My sense is that you'll have a lot more attractive, healthier, more productive plant that isn't wasting a lot of effort pushing nutrients up long, leafless, nearly woody stems.

  • Thanks. I do think too that I am harvesting it a bit hard. My first time growing something.... I hope I'll learn.
    – Doc
    Commented Oct 30, 2011 at 18:12

I am growing one variety of mint in my garden and I always harvest it much in the same way that Ed Staub suggested.
Namely, I take the younger leaves, not the older ones. I don't just harvest the leaves, but I break the stem somewhere in the middle. Over time, new "shoots" are formed from this stem.
I sometimes even use scissors and cut down several stems, especially in the end of the season. I have heard that this propagates growing of the mint.
However, I am raising my mint in the garden and thus I have a lots of it. I am not sure if this method will be beneficial for potted mint.


In addition to the above helpful hints: You can help spread your plant by cutting about four or three inches off the top of a few stalks, harvest the leaves you need and re-plant the stem in the soil an inch deep. I have done this with store-bought mint leaves on stalks and they have propagated very well. Very happy with my pot of mint.


Like many of the others, I just harvest the youngest leaves of my mint plants. If I am chopping them up to cook, I find it easies to just pinch off the little cluster of 4 leaves at the top of each stem. They are tender and mild, and easy to chop up. As an added benefit, harvesting this way causes the plant to grow bushier, so it looks nicer in the pot.

If I need a full sprig, for example if I am adding it to lemonade or a pitcher of water, I just snip off the top few inches of a stem. Again, this causes the plant to fill out.


i actually have this same plant. the kentucky mint. I would definitely replant it if i were you because this plant produces more roots than stems and will create about 30 to 40 more plants at the beginning of next year if you grow it to its full potential. I know I'm kinda late but give the plant more sunlight and more time for the leaves to grow.


Personally, I would take leaves, stems and all, as much as you want. More stems will grow from the roots. I recommend trying to get it to grow bushy. Leaving tall stems for long doesn't seem conducive to bushiness.

If I were you, I would take cuttings with the long stems (as a backup in case your mint doesn't behave like mine), and just mow the whole thing over (no higher than a few inches; just harvesting all the tall parts of the stems without shoots would be sufficient) and let it grow back bushier. You can take cuttings of mint very easily. They grow roots in water, fast. I've tried that.

Here are a couple links about trimming/mowing mint that should be insightful, at least for outdoor mint.

I think the main issue with indoor mint is that it may get rootbound. Taking cuttings to start new plants occasionally can help you to continue your mint indoors indefinitely. The right fertilizer may also help, but some people think fertilizer affects the flavor and/or smell. Your mint sounds like it's growing pretty slowly for mint. I would suggest giving it more light to remedy this, if you can. However, direct sunlight for half the day is more than enough, if it really is that much sun. It may also be lacking certain nutrients.

You don't need to wait for flowers to harvest it, unless, of course, you want the flowers. I've used just stems (with leaves) of mint for herb tea before, and it works well (put them in a cup, boil some water, pour the water on the leaves/stems, and let it sit for about ten minutes). Then you can pull the stems out or leave them in. I'm sure there are other uses for mint that may require flowers.

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