These Mediterranean natives spread rapidly by underground stems and can be quite invasive; to keep them in bounds, grow them in pots or boxes. Tough and unfussy, they grow almost anywhere but perform best in light, moist, medium-rich soil. Not favored by deer. Plants disappear in winter in colder part of range. Replant about every 3 years; propagate by division or runners.
M. xgracilis. GOLDEN APPLE MINT. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Grows to 2 ft. tall. Smooth, deep green, 112- to 3-in.-long leaves with yellow variegation have a spicy apple fragrance and flavor. Produces inconspicuous flowers. Use them for flavoring foods. Foliage is excellent in mixed bouquets.
M. xpiperita. PEPPERMINT. Grows to about 3 ft. tall. Strongly scented, tooth-edged leaves to 3 in. long, dark green often tinged with purple. Small purplish flowers come in 1- to 3-in. spikes. Leaves are good for flavoring tea.
M. xp. citrata. ORANGE MINT, BERGAMOT MINT. Grows to about 2 ft. high and produces small lavender flowers and broad, 2-in.-long leaves with a slight orange flavor. Orange mint is used in potpourris and for flavoring foods.
M. pulegium. PENNYROYAL. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Creeping plant 416 in. high, with inch-wide, bright green, nearly round leaves. Small lavender flowers in tight, short whorls. Strong mint fragrance and flavor. Poisonous if consumed in large quantities but safe as a flavoring. Needs a cool, moist site.
M. requienii. CORSICAN MINT. Creeping, mat-forming mint reaches only 12 in. high. Tiny, round, bright green leaves give it a mossy appearance; leaves release a delightful minty or sagelike fragrance when bruised. Can be used as an aromatic filler between stepping stones (but won't take heavy foot traffic). Bears tiny, tubular, light purple flowers.
M. spicata. SPEARMINT. Grows to 13 ft. high. Dark green, toothed leaves are slightly smaller than those of M.xpiperita. Leafy spikes of flowers in pale lilac, pale blue, or white. Clip leaves and use them fresh from the garden or dry them and use to add flavor to foods, cold drinks, or jelly.
M. suaveolens. APPLE MINT. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Stiff stems reach to 1123 ft. tall, bearing rounded, somewhat hairy, gray-green leaves 14 in. long. Produces purplish white flowers in 2- to 3-in. spikes. Aromatic foliage combines the fragrances of apple and mint. 'Variegata', pineapple mint, has white-marked leaves with a faint pineapple scent.