Mint Plant Wilting? (How to Solve it)

Why is my mint plant wilting

Mint plants are hardy perennial herbs that thrive in moist compost with lots of sun. However, they are prone to wilting if the soil dries…

The reason for mint plants wilting is usually because of a lack of soil moisture due to sandy soils or under watering. Water the mint as frequently as required to maintain consistently moist soil to prevent the mint from wilting or drooping.

Mint can also temporarily wilt on hot days and recover in the evening with cooler temperatures.

Whilst underwatering or quickly draining soils is the most likely cause of mint wilting there are a few other causes which I have listed below in order of the probability of causing mint to wilt:

  1. Underwatering or quick-draining soils.
  2. Potted mint wilting due to small pot size, or a lack of drainage holes in the base.
  3. Saturated soil which causes root rot.
  4. Mint wilting after planting causing transplant shock.
  5. Leggy mint due to lack of sun, too much fertilizer, or a lack of regular pruning.

Keep reading for how to implement the solutions to these problems and save your wilting mint…

Mint Wilting due to Underwatering

The most common cause by far for mint wilting is due to under watering.

Mint requires soil that is consistently moist and frequently wilts if the soil dries out so frequent watering is a necessity.

To ensure that mint does not wilt due to under watering or a lack of moisture it is important to take several things into account. These are:

  • Compost. Mint prefers rich loam soil or compost (rather than poor sandy soils) as these soil types retain moisture.
  • Pots and containers. If the pot or container is too small then it can dry out quickly on hot days.
  • Climate and weather. In some temperate climates with high rainfall, mint does often not require any water apart from during the hottest weeks of the year. However in hot climates, potted mint may require watering every 2 days.

How to Save an Underwatered Mint

The key to avoiding mint wilting due to dehydration is to adjust the frequency of watering to ensure consistently moist soil to suit the conditions of your garden.

In more arid climates such as California or the Mediterranean it may be appropriate to water mint every other day in Summer whereas in cool temperate climates, a weekly watering may be sufficient to maintain the soil moisture and avoid wilting.

So if the soil is dry and your mint plant is wilting, give the mint a very generous soak. In pots, this means to soak the soil till you can see water trickling out the base which ensures the soil is moist all the way through.

In garden borders give mint a generous watering and afterward add some mulch to help retain the moisture and reduce evaporation on hot days.

Materials such as compost, leaf mold, or well-rotted manure are ideal as they have a great capacity for holding moisture and adding nutrients to the soil as well as improving the overall soil texture.

Plant the mint in generous amounts of compost to help retain moisture and water as frequently as required to keep the soil moist but not saturated and the mint should recover in a few days.

Bear in mind that mint can wilt temporarily in extreme heat and return to normal in the cooler temperature of the evening.

(Read my article, How to water mint plants).

Potted Mint Wilting

The reason for potted mint wilting or drooping is usually because of two factors:

  1. The pot is too small and dries quickly in the sun.
  2. There are no drainage holes in the pot (or excess water is trapped due to a drip tray or the use of a decorative pot).

Smaller pots have less capacity for soil and therefore are not capable of retaining as much moisture.

This is compounded by the fact that mint prefers full sun (and tolerates partial shade). The smaller pot in full sun heats up much quicker than a larger pot and the moisture from the soil evaporates quickly.

Certain types of pots such as metal or black plastic pots conduct heat effectively which exacerbates the drying effect of the sun.

All of this results in a soil that is too dry for mint and causes it to wilt or droop due to a lack of water.

The opposite can be true if the mint’s pot or container does not have drainage holes in the base.

Without proper drainage, excess water accumulates in the pot which makes the soil consistently boggy rather than just moist.

This boggy soil promotes the conditions for fungal diseases and root rot which can cause the mint to wilt and turn yellow or brown.

How to Save Mint Wilting in Pots

Mint in pot.

For mint plants that are wilting due to a small pot, the solution is to re-pot the mint plant into a larger pot. Choose a pot that is:

  • At least 12 inches across.
  • Plant mint in pots made from terracotta, clay, or ceramic for best results.

A pot of at least 12 inches across can contain enough soil to retain moisture for a longer period.

Mint plants require consistently moist soil to prevent wilting so the larger pot with more soil and more moisture will keep the plant healthy and hydrated between bouts of watering.

Water the mint as frequently as required to keep the soil moist according to your climate and weather conditions and the mint should perk up from its wilted or drooping appearance.

Clay, terracotta, and ceramic pots tend not to heat up as quickly as plastic or metal pots which keeps the soil cool and moist in the hot weather.

In terms of mints that are wilting due to boggy soil in pots without drainage holes, the solution is to simply re-pot the mint to a pot with drainage holes in the base so that excess water can escape.

If you are growing mint indoors then a common problem is using a saucer or drip tray to catch excess water from the pot that can drip onto furniture.

I recommend taking the pot of mint outside for watering and then after 30 minutes bringing the mint back inside and placing a paper towel under the pot to absorb any excess moisture and protect your indoor furniture, otherwise, the mint will suffer due to root rot.

The mint should perk up once again when it is placed in an appropriate pot with good drainage.

If there is any yellow foliage then snip it off with a sterile pair or pruners and wipe the blades after each snip with alcohol disinfectant to prevent potentially spreading fungal pathogens.

If mint plant is significantly yellow and drooping and does not show any signs of recovery after a few weeks then it may be worth replacing the plant as prevention can be better than the cure when it comes to mint roots suffering from root rot.

Mint Wilting due to Saturated Soil

Mint can wilt as a result of slow draining or boggy soils as this can promote the conditions for root rot and other fungal disease pathogens such as Verticillium dahliae.

The symptoms of root rot and fungal disease due to slow-draining soils are:

  • A wilting or drooping appearance.
  • Leaves turning yellow.
  • Roots that have turned dark brown and appear soft and rotten.
Mint roots
Healthy mint roots on the left are a light color rather than dark brown on the right.

Root rot in mint plants does not tend to occur if the mint is planted in rich compost because compost has a porous structure that allows excess water to drain away rather than stay boggy and saturated.

Slow-draining soils such as clay, low-lying areas of the garden where water naturally accumulates or pots without proper drainage holes are the most common culprits for causing root rot.

How to Save a Wilting Mint in Boggy Soil

Mint plants that are wilting due to root rot can be difficult to save and prevention is always better than cure when it comes to root rot.

To prevent root rot plant the mint in well-draining, multi-purpose compost and you should not have any problems unless the ground is boggy for other reasons such as undying clay.

In gardens with clay soil or boggy ground, the best way to grow mint is in pots, containers, and raised beds.

Pots and containers have favorable drainage conditions and you can control the soil profile far easier in pots rather than having to amend garden soil.

To save the mint plant that is wilting due to root rot it is important to:

  • Take the mint out of the boggy area and prepare a pot with multipurpose compost to transplant the mint.
  • When you remove the mint from the soil inspect the roots. If the roots look dark brown and diseased rather than a healthy light color then snip away and disease root back to healthy growth with a sterile pair of pruners.
  • Disinfect the blades of the pruners with a cloth soaked in alcohol disinfectant after each cut to prevent potentially spreading fungal pathogens from diseased roots to otherwise healthy roots.
  • Plant the mint in a pot with multipurpose compost and place the pot in full sun.

Whether the mint recovers depends on the severity of the root rot. If most of the foliage is yellow and wilted with few healthy roots then it is best to buy some more mint (or grow from seed) to grow in a pot.

However mint can recover if the damage due to root rot is limited to a few roots and the plant can revive after 2 weeks or so.

Mint Wilting After Planting (Transplant Shock)

Mint plants can wilt or droop as a result of transplant shock.

When you buy the mint from the store or garden center, it has usually been grown in a temperature-controlled greenhouse and the plant has become accustomed to the specific levels of light, watering, and soil nutrients.

When you buy the mint and plant it in your own garden, the mint can wilt temporarily from transplant shock even if you provide the plant with good growing conditions.

This is simply a sign of stress due to the contrast in conditions from where the mint was cultivated to your garden soil or pot.

Do not worry as mint is a hardy, resilient herb that comes back with vengeance!

How to Save Mint with Transplant Shock

The most important step for mitigating transplant shock is to water the mint thoroughly after planting. Mint thrives in consistently moist soil so adjust the frequency of your watering, so that the soil does not dry.

Ensure that the mint is planted in rich compost. The compost should be porous, friable, and retain moisture so good compost can pay dividends when potting up your mint plants and prevent them from wilting.

Mint does not grow well in sandy or stony soils that drain quickly so the more you prepare the planting area with a good quantity of compost the more the mint plant thrives.

Plant mint in a good size pot so that the roots have enough space to establish properly and locate the plant in full sun.

Provide mint with the ideal conditions to grow and it should recover from transplant shock within a week and it is worth emphasizing the importance of regular watering to keep the soil moist so that your mint does not wilt.

Wilting or Leggy Mint (Not Enough Sun or Pruning)

Mint plants can turn leggy and droop over due to a few reasons such as:

  • The mint has not been pruned regularly.
  • Not enough sun (mint prefers full sun or partial shade).
  • Too much nitrogen fertilizer.

Without regular pruning throughout the Spring and Summer, mint plants can grow leggy, less productive, and sometimes droop under their own weight.

Pruning mint plants regularly helps to encourage the growth of more leaves, prevent flowering (which stops mint from going to seed and becoming less productive), and maintain a tidy appearance rather than a leggy drooping plant.

If the mint is in too much shade then this encourages the plant to grow excessively to look for more light which causes a drooping or wilting appearance.

Too much Nitrogen fertilizer can also stimulate significant foliage growth and the stems can become sappy and weaker causing the mint to droop or wilt as the softer growth cannot support its own weight.

How to Save Leggy Mint

To save leggy, drooping mint, ensure that you prune the plant regularly to keep it healthy. You can prune mint at any time during the growing season to use in your cooking or in a mojito at your convenience!

Trim the mint back down to a few inches. Fortunately mint is such a hardy plant that it can tolerate hard pruning and come back stronger so do not worry about making mistakes as mint is very forgiving but pruning back to about 4 inches or so keeps the mint, producing leaves with a good fragrance and flavor.

For a visual guide to pruning mints watch this helpful YouTube video:

Mint plants can grow well in full sun or partial shade with a few hours of sun in the morning or afternoon. However, it does not grow well in full shade which causes the mint to wilt or droop as it searches for light.

If the mint is planted in a pot (which is the best way to grow mint due to its tendency to spread in garden boarders) then the solution is to simply move the pot to an area of more sun. Prune back the leggy growth to around 4 inches and the mint should recover quickly.

Mint plants can respond well to fertilizers particularly if they are in poor soil or in pots with limited access to nutrients (however mint can grow well without fertilizer if the soil is nutrient-rich).

Too much fertilizer or fertilizing too frequently can encourage excess growth and the stems can droop. Scale back the frequency of your fertilizing to once every 4-6 weeks during the growing season and prune back the excess growth that is drooping over.

Use a water-soluble all-purpose fertilizer and consider using half strength for any more applications if your mint has been drooping.

As long as the mint has full or partial sun and the soil is consistently moist the mint should recover and grow well.

Key Takeaways:

  • The most common reason for wilting mint is because of dehydration due to dry soil that drains too quickly or under watering. Mint prefers consistently moist soil otherwise the leaves can droop.
  • Water the mint as frequently as required to keep the soil consistently moist. Potted mints often require more water to avoid wilting so give them a good soak in once every few days in the summer and plant mint in a large pot or container.
  • Mint can droop as a symptom of root rot which is caused by soil that is saturated or boggy. Mint with root rot has a wilting appearance and the leaves can turn yellow as a sign of stress. In gardens with slow-draining soil, plant mint in pots to avoid root rot.
  • Mint can wilt temporarily due to transplant shock because of a contrast in temperatures and conditions between the greenhouse where it was cultivated and your garden. Plant mint in full sun and water regularly and the mint should recover.
  • Mint plants can become leggy due to a lack of sunlight, too much fertilizer, or a lack of regular pruning.
  • Potted mint can wilt due to the pot being too small or the pot does not have drainage holes in the base and the soil can become saturated. Plant mint in pots that are at least 12 inches across and have drainage holes in the base so excess water can escape.

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