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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - April 26, 2011

From: Kendallville, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Problem Plants
Title: Non-native mint invading flower beds in Kendallville IN
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

A few years back we were given two sprouts of something referred to as peppermint tea. We planted in our flower bed and now it has taken over. It seems to start slow in the spring but doesn't take long to over grow all the other plants in the mix. When we try to remove it the "runners" pull up fairly easy but go on forever it seems. Can you please give us any hints on how to remove this invasive species so we can enjoy our plants again?

ANSWER:

When we went looking online for a plant called "peppermint tea," what we got were recipes for, well, peppermint tea. So, we looked at a couple recipes to see what plant they used, although we already suspected we knew. From wikiHow, here is how to make Peppermint Tea from scratch. And, from Adago Teas, here is a discussion of Peppermint.

The mints are various species of the genus Mentha and, like most plants referred to as "herbs," are native to the Mediterranean Basin. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants grow natively. As you pointed out, mints are very invasive because of their roots spreading. Sad to say, anything you spray on them to kill them will be more likely to kill your other plants. The mints are somewhat protected by their extensive underground root structure which the poisons cannot reach. By the same token, freezing winter weather will probably not eliminate them. Most herb gardeners recommend that mints be confined to pots and trimmed back fairly severely often.

Your best chance is to pull them out and keep pulling them out. Start as early in the Spring as you can, watching for those leaves to begin popping up and get them out, getting as much root each time as you can. Theoretically, with no leaves above ground to produce nutrition for the roots, the roots will eventually starve. Theoretically.

Advice we would give to any gardener is to thoroughly investigate any plant before it is purchased or planted. The best way to eliminate an invasive plant is to never plant it.

 

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