You’ve enjoyed the lovely mint plants in your garden all season, but suddenly they start to flower. Are they dying? Can you still use the leaves? This article will cover everything you need to know about using and taking care of your flowering mint plants.
Like many other plant species, mint plants will flower when they are ready to reproduce. These flowers attract pollinators, like bees and butterflies, which help the plant produce viable seeds to create even more mint plants. This flowering is often triggered by higher temperatures and drier conditions, signaling the peak of the summer growing season.
If your mint plants do start to flower, don’t panic! They aren’t a lost cause and won’t die off quickly after starting to flower. There is still plenty to do to keep your plant healthy and ensure you can enjoy your mint for the remainder of the season.
What to do if mint is flowering?
If your mint plant starts to flower, signaling the start of the final stages of its life cycle, there are a few things you can do to delay this from happening.
If your plant has just started flowering, you will want to pinch off any buds and flowers immediately to stop the plant from developing more.
You can do this by simply cutting off any flowers with scissors or shears, ensuring the whole flower and a few of the leaves below it are removed.
Buds are often delicate enough they can simply be pinched off of the stem using your fingers, this way you can safely remove them from a plant before they begin to flower fully.
Removal of flowers and buds will stall the plant from flowering again right away, as it directs more energy into growing back the portion you removed first.
Your plant will continue attempting to flower throughout the season, however, so be sure to check it regularly for buds and flowers and remove those as they appear.
There are also a few things you can do to try and delay your mint plant from flowering in the first place. When your mint plant flowers, it sometimes means it has grown large and healthy enough to put energy into producing flowers in order to reproduce.
The process of producing flowers uses so much energy, it will actually weaken the flavour of the rest of the plant, making this less than ideal for gardeners who keep mint to use in the kitchen.
To delay flowering, you can prune your mint plants significantly during the growing season. You will want to wait until your plant is healthy, pest free, and established, so don’t heavily prune mint which is only in its first year of growth.
Prune your plant by cutting back to just above a leaf node on each stem, following the rule of thumb to never prune more than one-third of the entire plant.
This will encourage the plant to put energy into new growth, roots, and branching instead of flowers, delaying the flowering time a little longer.
As an added benefit, your mint plant will grow bushier and produce more leaves for you to use while cooking. Once a plant is established and healthy, you can prune it regularly (about once a week) taking only a little at a time to allow the plant to thrive.
As an added bonus, this regular pruning will help to control the size of your mint plant, to prevent it from dominating you garden and competing with other plants you are growing.
Store the mint you removed on the counter in a jar of water (like a bouquet of flowers) and use these leaves while your plant continues to grow.
Mint branches should last about a week if stored this way when removed from the plant. To help your mint cuttings last a little longer, place a bag loosely over the stems in the jar of water and place the whole thing in the fridge to keep it cool.
Another way to help prevent mint flowering in the first place is to ensure proper growing conditions. For mint, this means planting in an area that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight a day, and watering regularly to ensure the plant does not become dry and stressed.
Using a fertilizer high in nitrogen on your mint plants will also encourage leaf and stem development rather than flower production. Finally, mulch around your mint plant (even if planted in a pot indoors) to help control the soil temperature and retain moisture around the roots, potentially preventing the triggering of flower production.
Can you use mint after it flowers?
If your mint plant starts to flower, one of the worst things you can do is stop using it! By allowing your mint to finish flowering, become pollinated, and go to seed, you have allowed it to complete its life cycle. After this happens, your plant will slowly die off until the next growing season comes around, and the quality of the leaves will decline rapidly.
Luckily, mint can still be used even after flowering. Some plants, like oregano, will develop a bitter flavour after flowering and are less enjoyable to use.
When mint plants create flowers, some of the essential oils (oils found in the leaves that give mint its taste) are lost as the plant directs more of its energy into producing flowers.
This reduces the quality and strength of the flavour of the leaves. You may find you have to use a higher quantity of mint to achieve the same amount of flavour as before the plant flowered, but you won’t experience a bitter or unpleasant aftertaste.
Other than having to use more, you can enjoy mint leaves from your flowering plant in all the same recipes as before, such as mint tea, desserts, salads, and cocktails.
By regularly taking cuttings from your mint plant for use, you will also be preventing further flowering and stimulating more leafy growth on your plant.
What does it mean when your mint plant flowers?
If your mint plant flowers, it was possibly under some kind of stress to trigger the reproductive response. This is often caused by a lack of watering during the peak summer heat.
Mint plants also often don’t flower until their second year, so if this is the first year of growth for your plant, you likely won’t have to worry about flowers yet.
Stress and age are not always a factor though. Even under ideal growing conditions, a healthy plant will still try and flower to reproduce and spread its seed.
This is why it is important to inspect your plant regularly for budding indicating the development of flowers, and prune back your plants as well as removing any buds or flowers to prevent this from occuring.
Are mint plants supposed to flower?
As mentioned before, mint plants flower when they are ready to reproduce. By flowering, they will attract many pollinators that will aid the plant in becoming pollinated which will allow the development of viable seed to produce more plants. Mint plants are supposed to flower, although many gardeners will take steps to prevent this to extend the life of their plants if they intent to use mint leaves in their cooking.
The good news is that by cutting back your plants and delaying the flowering process, you will actually increase the size and vigor of your mint plant, giving you even more mint to enjoy.
More good news is that your mint plant will still spread and expand even without being allowed to flower and go to seed. This is because mint also spreads through roots underground (called rhizomes), so you will still have a healthy, growing mint patch while stopping flowers from developing on your plant.
Should you cut the flowers off mint?
As covered earlier, you should definitely cut the flowers off of your mint plant if you want to continue to use it this year. By removing the flowers, your plant redirects its energy into roots and stem growth, delaying the process of flowering a little bit more.
You can remove all the flowers off your plant at the same time without worrying about negatively impacting the health of your mint, as long as you follow the rule to not reduce the overall size of the plant by more than one-third (33%).
Keep an eye out for additional buds and flowers. Your mint plant will continue to attempt to flower and reproduce after it recovers from the first removal of any flowers.
Buds and flowers can be removed as soon as they appear to continue delaying the flowering of your plant. When making cuts, be sure to use clean, sharp scissors or shears to ensure even cuts and avoid crushing the stem.
Whenever you cut any plant, you run the risk of introducing pests or disease, so by using clean tools you reduce this risk and ensure your plant will remain healthy and happy even after being pruned.
Can mint flowers be eaten?
Although less flavourful than the leaves, mint flowers can be eaten and used in many of the same recipes where you would use mint leaves.
Some people find that the flavour of mint flowers is slightly different than the familiar mint flavour found in the leaves, and certain species may even have fruit-like hints as well as and overall floral taste.
This can be enjoyable depending on the dishes you use the mint flowers in. Like the leaves, you can use mint flowers fresh or allow them to dry and steep them along with dried leaves to make a mint tea.
Since they are so attractive, fresh mint flowers also make a nice addition to a dish as a garnish. Add them to the tops of cakes and baked goods to show off the delicate flowers, or sprinkle them into a salad for a special touch. You can even freeze fresh mint flowers in ice cubs to create a picture perfect pitcher of homemade mint iced tea!
Even though you can use mint flowers in your cooking, it isnt recommended to allow your plant to flower often and produce lots of them.
This is because when mint produces flowers, the leaves loose some of the essential oils that give them a “minty” flavour. This weakens the overall flavour and strength of the rest of the plant.
Unless you really enjoy mint flowers specifically, you should promptly trim off buds and flowers when they appear, and prune your plant regularly to keep it healthy and happy.
When does mint flower?
Mint will flower when it is ready to reproduce, which often means one of two things. The plant is either big and healthy enough to support flower development (possibly due to a lack of pruning), or slightly stressed which triggers the need for the plant to flower and pass on its genetic material by creating the next “generation” of plants.
Other triggers for mint to begin flowering include increased temperatures and the resulting dry conditions, like those often found later in the growing season depending on where you are planting.
In the northern hemisphere, this means the flowering season for mint (depending on species) is usually from July until September. Some species of mint will flower almost continuously for this entire 3 month period, before going to seed and dying off in the fall and early winter.
This means you have plenty of time to prune flowers off of your mint to prevent it from finishing this stage of growth, but you shouldn’t leave flowers on for too long if you don’t want to risk losing the quality and flavour of the leaves.
If your mint plant is being grown inside in a pot or planter, it is potentially less likely to be triggered by this seasonal cycle of flowering and going to seed, and may flower when it has not been pruned regularly enough to prevent the growth of flowering stems.