You might have heard that creepers are bad for your garden. Is your mint plant also a creeper?
Yes. Mint is one of the few creeper herbs because it spreads everywhere and takes over space entirely.
What is a creeper?
A creeper is a type of plant that grows along the ground by means of extending stems or branches. A creeper tends to grow horizontally over the soil, rather than vertically.
You can classify creepers into two types
There are certain creeper plants that have very weak stems.
The stems are so weak that they cannot stand upright by themselves. They need external support. Such plants develop stems that exclusively lie entirely or almost entirely on the ground.
Then there are certain creeper plants that have stems that can actually stand upright.
However, they also produce runners that spread horizontally. They can grow upright as well as horizontally at the same time.
A lot of people do not know about the different types of creepers, and they think that only the first type exists.
Fruits like watermelon or pumpkin are creepers. In their case, the fruits are so heavy that the stems are forced to grow at the ground level as they cannot carry the weight of the fruits.
What is a runner?
A runner is a stem that points downwards and tries to reach the soil. Once it touches the soil, it will grow horizontally along the ground, either above or below the surface of the soil.
It will produce new stems and roots that become new mint plants. The new plants look as if they are differently planted plants, independent from the others, as they can grow much farther away from the parent plant.
However, they are part of the same plant.
Propagating mint from runners
It is very easy to propagate mint from runners.
Firstly, you need to gently scoop some of the upper layer of the soil near your mint plant. You will be able to find some runners that are hidden inside the soil.
Cut a runner that has at least 2 to 3 upright stems.
In a new pot, fill some potting mix for your runner. Place the runner carefully in the potting mix, around one inch below the mix.
Take care of the runner and in two to three weeks, you will be able to see new shoots growing from the soil.
A lot of people propagate mint by directly cutting the stems of the plants, instead of digging and searching for the runners in the soil. However, this is also an option.
It is also important to know that runners are of two types: rhizome and stolon. Both of them are different in nature, and one can cause some problems.
Difference between rhizome and stolon
Rhizomes are part of the main stem and grow horizontally under the ground like roots.
Stolons are the offshoots of the existing stem of the plant. They may not have grown from the main stem. As they grow, they can also look like the main stem, but they grow horizontally over the soil.
Both rhizomes and stolons have fewer leaves, but both have the ability to develop roots and shoots.
A rhizome is much more difficult to detect than a stolon. Stolons grow above the ground, so they can be spotted easily.
However, rhizomes can be detected only through digging.
If you do not manage to find them that way, then you would only know of their presence if new mint plants suddenly start sprouting up from the soil around the main mint plant.
How fast do mint runners spread?
Mint is termed as an invasive plant. It is a very fast spreader, which means that when grown outdoors beside other plants, the mint can invade the space of the other plants in no time as well. It can take over the entire space through its numerous runners.
According to research, mint runners spread very quickly. The mint root system, including the underground runners, can grow up to 13 cm, or 5 inches every month on average.
This applies during the spring and early summer seasons when the growth of the mint is at its peak. During winters, the growth slows down.
So, if you do not want your mint to grow out of control, the only option is to grow it in a pot, whether you grow it indoors or outdoors.
Difference between climber and creeper
Creepers usually grow horizontally through individual stems, or runners, that grow along the ground, either above or below the surface of the soil.
These stems are either rhizomes or stolons, and they can also produce roots and shoots.
On the other hand, climbers grow upright with the help of an external object. Climbers can surround an object or structure and pull themselves up with the help of that structure.
Creepers do not do that, as they are mainly on the ground, useful for providing ground cover.
The similarity between climbers and creepers is that they are plants with weak stems, and cannot grow erect on their own.
Some common creepers are watermelon, pumpkin, mint, sweet potato, etc. Some common climbers are bougainvillea, ivy, beans, honeysuckle, etc.
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How to deal with creeping mint that has invaded the space?
To deal with a creeping mint that has taken over all your space, you will need to take a garden fork and lift the entire plant out of the soil.
You need to do it very gently so that the long roots of the mint will stay intact as they are lifted from the soil. Usually, the roots will be grouped in one area where the main root system grew.
Try and remove all the roots. If you leave out any roots in the soil, they will resprout and regrow again.
Once you have successfully removed the mint roots from the soil, check all the roots to see which are healthy and which have turned brown. The healthy roots will look white, while the brown, unhealthy roots can be discarded.
While discarding the brown roots, make sure that you throw them away or dispose of them completely.
If you try to use the roots for your compost or the worm farm, they might resprout as soon as they touch the soil and grow again, taking over that space.
How to re-pot creeping mint?
If you can keep your mint under control, creeping mint can be a good plant to grow.
To keep the mint contained, you will need to grow it in a pot or container. Or if you want to grow it outdoors in the soil, you will need a garden bed that had defined edges, so that it does not grow out of control.
Choose a pot, preferably large in size, and put in some good quality potting soil. Mint needs rich soil. You can also mix in some fertilizer or manure into the soil.
The best time to transplant mint is during the cold season when it is dormant. It is also easier to remove it from the ground, in case it has invaded any space.
When you replant the mint, it could look droopy and dead during the winter. However, it will grow back healthy when the winter season ends and spring starts.
Place the healthy, white roots about 1 inch below the soil, and water it as you would normally.
Benefits of creeping mint
Here are a few benefits of the creeping mint plant.
Free mint plants
Because mint is a fast spreader, it reproduces very quickly and can grow mint plants fast even through its runners.
Even if you buy just one mint plant, you will not have to worry about buying mint again if you take care of it properly.
Too take cuttings from the mint stems, cut a 4-inch piece, and remove the lower leaves. Place the cutting in a jar of water.
In a few weeks, the mint cutting will start to grow new roots. You can then take the cuttings out and replant them in a new pot with good potting soil.
Creeping mint provides excellent ground cover. As the mint spreads horizontally, it covers the soil. This helps the soil stay rich. It also does not become loose or erodes easily.
The creeping mint all over your garden looks beautiful, especially when the mint starts flowering.
You can also use the mint in your windowsill, or in hanging baskets, or in pretty vases to look pleasant to the eyes.
How to care for creeping mint?
It is easy to care for a creeping mint and to make the best use of your mint plant.
Mint requires moist soil and therefore needs to be watered frequently, especially during the summer months.
If you live in a region that gets very hot summers, you should place your mint in a place where it gets partial shade.
Too much direct sunlight can cause sunburns to the mint. The water will also evaporate quicker, making the soil dry.
Keep it contained
Mint is best grown in a pot, as it can be contained.
Otherwise, mint can be a fast spreader and wreck your garden. Further, planting mint in a container will also help you move it in and out of sunlight and shade as required.
During its dormant state in the cold months, mint becomes brown and looks unattractive. During that time you can just keep it out of the way in a corner if you do not want to mess with the good view.
Giving your mint pelleted chicken manure during spring when it starts to grow again will give it a nitrogen boost so that it grows healthier with good foliage.
Mint is a creeper. So, if you do not want to contain your mint in a pot, make sure you plant it in a space where you are okay with being taken over by mint.