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Mastering Moroccan Mint: A Comprehensive UK Guide on Growing and Nurturing

Mastering Moroccan Mint: A Comprehensive UK Guide on Growing and Nurturing.

Mastering Moroccan Mint: A Comprehensive UK Guide on Growing and Nurturing.

Moroccan mint, known for its ease of growth and hardiness, is a popular variety among mint plants. Its clean and crisp scent makes it a perfect addition to mint sauce, tea, and mojitos, and it maintains its aromatic qualities from early spring through autumn. 
With its identity rooted in the spearmint family, Moroccan mint (Mentha spicata var. crispa) has become an indispensable component in the renowned Moroccan mint tea, cherished widely in Morocco for its refreshing taste.
As an invasive and hardy perennial, Moroccan mint thrives in diverse UK climates, tolerating temperatures down to -20°, making it a resilient choice for British gardeners. Its bright green, slightly crinkled leaves bear small, white summer flowers and exude a clear, sweet mint flavour, lending a unique character to gardens and culinary creations alike. 
This guide aims to navigate through the nuances of growing and nurturing Moroccan mint, equipping you with the knowledge to harness its full potential in your garden or kitchen.

Choosing the Right Variety of Mint

Moroccan mint (Mentha spicata var. crispa 'Moroccan'), distinguished by its RHS Award of Garden Merit, is a stellar choice for gardeners and culinary enthusiasts alike. This variety thrives in various soil types, including chalk, sand, loam, and well-drained, fertile soils, making it versatile for various garden settings. Its preference for full sun and its ability to tolerate partial shade allow it to adapt to different garden spaces. Importantly, Moroccan mint enjoys a partly shady position, especially where its roots can stay cool while its leaves bask in the sunlight.

Growth and Usage

Hardiness and Growth: Moroccan mint is a hardy perennial with a robust growth habit. It can withstand temperatures down to -20°C (hardiness rating H6). It grows up to 60 cm high and produces vibrant lavender/lilac flowers that are not only beautiful but also edible.
Culinary Flexibility: This mint variety is ideal for various dishes and beverages - from mint tea and mojitos to flavouring salads, potatoes, and lamb. Its leaves are integral to creating authentic Moroccan mint tea, renowned for its sweet spearmint flavour.

Purchase and Planting Options

Moroccan mint is available in several forms to suit various gardening projects:

Starter Plants: Typically offered in sets of three, these are perfect for beginners.

Established Plants: Available in 9cm pots, these are ideal for those looking to add to their garden without the wait.

Container Suitability: Due to its vigorous nature, Moroccan mint is excellent for container gardening, allowing easy management and placement in optimal growing conditions.
This variety's ability to attract pollinators adds an ecological benefit, making it a functional and attractive choice for any garden. 
Selecting the Perfect Spot and Soil
Moroccan mint, celebrated for its vibrant flavour and aromatic leaves, thrives under specific soil and light conditions. To cultivate this herb successfully, understanding its preference for moist, well-drained soil is crucial. Ideally, the soil should be rich in nutrients, which can be achieved by incorporating  well-rotted horse manure or enriched garden compost. This preparation ensures the mint has all it needs to grow robustly.

Ideal Location and Soil Composition

Sunlight and Shade: Moroccan mint performs best in a location that receives partial to full sunlight. However, it appreciates shade during the hottest part of the day, especially to keep the roots cool. A west-facing, south-facing, or east-facing exposure is optimal, providing the necessary light without overwhelming the plant.
Soil Type and Drainage: The plant is versatile, growing well in chalk, clay, loam, and sand soils. Regardless of the type, the soil must be moist but well-drained to prevent waterlogging, which can harm the plant's roots. For gardeners dealing with heavier soils, amending with organic matter to improve drainage is beneficial.
Controlling Growth
Moroccan mint's vigorous growth habit requires some management to prevent it from overtaking other plants in your garden. Planting it in a large pot or a bottomless bucket sunk into the ground helps contain its roots and control its spread. This method not only keeps your mint contained but also makes it easier to harvest and maintain. Regular mowing around the plant can further help manage its expansion, ensuring it adds beauty and flavour to your garden without becoming invasive.

Planting and Propagation Techniques

Planting Techniques for Moroccan Mint

Potting for Growth Control: To manage Moroccan mint's expansive nature, it is advisable to plant it in pots or containers. This method restricts its roots and prevents it from overtaking other garden spaces. When received, the plant will be in a 9cm or 12cm pot, which can be directly placed in a larger container filled with peat-free multipurpose compost.
Choose a location that provides partial sunlight and some shade during the hottest parts of the day. This balance ensures optimal growth while keeping the roots cool, essential for maintaining the plant's health and vigour.
Soil and Watering: Moroccan mint thrives in moist, well-drained soil. Ensure the soil is rich in organic matter to support robust growth. Water the plant regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist but not soggy.

Propagation Techniques for Moroccan Mint

Using Cuttings: Propagation by cuttings is a straightforward method. Take a stem cutting about 4-6 inches long, ensuring it is healthy and not flowering. Remove the lower leaves, leaving only a few at the top. Place the stem in a glass of water in a well-lit area and change the water every few days. Within two weeks, roots should develop.
Planting Rooted Cuttings: Once the cuttings have been rooted, prepare a pot with good quality, peat-free compost. Make a hole, place the rooted cutting in, and gently firm the soil around it. Keep the soil moist and place the pot in a suitable location as described above.
Division: In spring or autumn, Moroccan mint can be propagated by division. Carefully divide the root ball into smaller sections, each with several shoots and roots. Plant each section into its container with fresh compost, ensuring adequate space for growth.

Managing Growth and Health

Regular Maintenance: Trim the top growth to encourage bushier and more vigorous growth. This not only improves the plant's appearance but also enhances the flavour of the leaves.
Monitoring: Keep an eye on the moisture level of the soil and the overall health of the plant. Adjust watering as necessary and inspect for any signs of pest problems or disease. Regular maintenance helps ensure that your Moroccan mint remains healthy and vibrant, providing fresh leaves for culinary use throughout the season.

Ongoing Care and Maintenance
Regular Pruning and Harvesting

Pruning for Health and Vigour: Regularly shearing the tops of Moroccan mint encourages lateral growth, making the plant bushier and more productive. It's best to prune by removing faded stems in early spring, just before new shoots appear.
Harvesting Leaves: Regularly pick the mint leaves and new shoots to maintain a compact plant structure and encourage new growth. This not only keeps the plant healthy but also ensures a continuous supply of fresh mint for culinary use.

Watering and Pot Management

Watering Requirements: Moroccan mint needs consistent moisture, especially during dry spells, to stay lush and productive. Regular watering is crucial, but ensure the soil is well-drained to prevent waterlogging.
Pot Size Adjustments: For those growing mint in containers, it is vital to increase the pot size to accommodate growth regularly. This helps prevent the roots from becoming too cramped, which can stress the plant and reduce its vigour.

Seasonal Care and Mulching

Seasonal Cutting Back: At the end of the summer, give Moroccan mint a hard cut back to the lowest point of green growth. This prepares the plant for winter and ensures robust growth in the spring.
Mulching: Apply a layer of compost around the plant occasionally, especially if the soil is poor. This enriches the soil and helps retain moisture, which is beneficial for the Mint's growth.

Pest and Disease Management

Mint Rust Management
Mint rust, caused by the fungus Puccinia menthae, presents as small, bright orange or yellow pustules on the undersides of Moroccan mint leaves. This can lead to significant leaf damage and drop. To manage this, affected plants should be removed promptly to prevent further spread. An effective treatment involves immersing the roots of the plant in hot water at 44°C (111°F) for 10 minutes, followed by immediate cooling with water. This method can help control the spread of the fungus.
Aphid and Thrip Control
Aphids and thrips are common pests that can affect Moroccan mint. Aphids, appearing as small, soft-bodied insects on stems and leaves, secrete honeydew, which leads to sooty mould. Thrips, on the other hand, cause leaves to appear stippled and silvery. Managing these pests involves:

1.     Pruning infected areas to control mild infestations.

2.     Using reflective mulches to deter aphids and thrips.

3.     Applying insecticidal soaps or oils like neem for more severe cases.

4.     Ensuring plants are not placed next to onions, garlic, or cereals, which can attract thrips.
Addressing Cutworms and Spider Mites
Cutworms and spider mites pose significant threats to young Moroccan mint plants. Cutworms may sever stems at the soil line, while spider mites cause yellow stippling on leaves. Effective strategies include:

1.     Foil collars should be used around stems to prevent cutworm damage.

2.     Applying diatomaceous earth around plant bases to deter cutworms.

3.     Spraying plants with water to reduce spider mite populations.

4.     Treating severe mite infestations with insecticidal soap.
Regular monitoring and early intervention are crucial in maintaining the health of Moroccan mint against these pests and diseases.
Harvesting and Using Moroccan Mint

Harvesting and Using Moroccan Mint

Harvesting Techniques for Optimal Growth
1. Regular Harvesting: Moroccan mint can be harvested throughout the growing season, from spring to autumn. Regularly picking the young leaves and shoot tips encourages bushier growth and prevents the plant from becoming leggy.

2. Timing: The best time to harvest is in the morning when the essential oils are most concentrated in the leaves, providing the strongest flavour and aroma.

3. Method: Use sharp scissors to snip stems, taking care not to damage the plant. This method ensures clean cuts and promotes quicker healing and regrowth.

Culinary and Medicinal Uses

1. Tea Preparation: Moroccan mint is renowned for its use in mint tea, a refreshing beverage that aids digestion and relieves stress. Simply steep the fresh or dried leaves in hot water to enjoy their full flavour.

2. Cooking: The leaves are versatile in the kitchen, enhancing salads, pea and potato dishes with their sweet, crisp flavour. They can also make mint sauce, pesto, and various desserts.

3. Health Benefits: Apart from its culinary uses, Moroccan mint serves as a natural sugar substitute due to its inherent sweetness and is used in traditional remedies for its soothing properties.

Sustainable Practices and Ecological Benefits

1. Attracting Pollinators: Allowing the mint to flower provides nectar for bees and other beneficial insects, supporting local biodiversity.

2. Container Gardening: To prevent invasive growth, Moroccan mint can be planted in containers. This not only manages its spread but also makes it easier to move the plant to optimal locations throughout the season for better growth.

3.Companion Planting: While Moroccan mint should be planted alone in containers due to its aggressive nature, in garden beds, it can be paired with plants that require similar growing conditions, helping to create a lush, aromatic garden space.
The journey from planting to harvesting Moroccan mint underlines its value not just as a culinary staple but as a component contributing to ecological balance and promoting biodiversity. 
Adopting these practices can transform routine gardening into a sustainable, enriching activity, providing not only fresh flavours for a host of dishes but also presenting an opportunity for gardeners to contribute positively to their local environment. 

Frequently asked questions about Moroccan Mint.

How much sunlight does Moroccan Mint require for optimal growth?

Moroccan mint thrives in rich, moist soils and prefers full sun or partial shade. It is adaptable to various soil types, except those that are dry.


What are the uses of Moroccan Mint?

Moroccan mint is a versatile herb that enhances the flavour of foods, can be brewed into tea, and adds a refreshing scent to your patio. It is particularly renowned for its use in making Moroccan mint tea, a popular and healthy beverage in Morocco.

Is Moroccan Mint a hardy plant?

Yes, Moroccan mint is a hardy perennial. It tends to spread quickly and is best grown in a pot to contain its growth and prevent it from becoming invasive.

What health benefits does Moroccan Mint tea offer?

Moroccan mint tea is beneficial for boosting immunity as it contains essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, fluoride, and selenium. These minerals work together to strengthen the immune system, helping to protect against bacteria and viruses.