Mint is a reasonably cold-hardy perennial, meaning it grows back every year under the right conditions. Just like there are many different kinds of tomatoes (cherry, beefsteak, roma, etc.), there are plenty different varieties of mint, too.
Here’s an overview comparison of three different kinds of mints that grow well for me in Anchorage, Alaska: spearmint, apple mint & chocolate mint.
I’ve heard mixed feedback on whether mint acts as an annual or perennial in Anchorage, Alaska.
In other climates, mint grows so well it’s comparable to a wild weed that’s so successful it can be tough to contain! But some folks here say our long, cold winters kill their outdoor mint, while others are able to over winter it.
Anchorage has many micro-climates, so whether mint will survive the winter in your yard may depend on where you live & exactly where you plant it.
I intentionally chose a garden area close to the house, hoping the extra bit of snow protection & warmth would help overwinter it. We’ve now had that patch of spearmint for 4 years – it comes back strong every spring.
Spearmint is a dependable cold weather mint. It stands up well in the wind, doesn’t get burnt by Alaska’s summer midnight sun, doesn’t mind if our summers get hot or stay cool, & it has proven to be very winter hardy.
Spearmint leaves are smooth. The edges of the leaves look like they’d be spiky or sharp, but they’re flexible and gentle.
When we don’t actively harvest it, our honeybees love the stalks of tiny purple flowers it sends out.
While we’ve had the spearmint for 4 years, we decided to try a new type, too: apple mint. The mint stalks get much taller than spearmint, and the leaves are much larger & softer.
Apple mint doesn’t hold up as well during hot, hot days or in aggressive wind conditions. But it has a nice, sweet mint scent and flavor.
Even though its leaves get massive, I’d consider apple mint to be a more delicate and fragile mint than spearmint.
A patch of outdoor apple mint also doesn’t seem to grow in as densely as spearmint or chocolate mint. It seems to want to spend its energy growing taller rather than sending as many runners out and covering more ground.
Apple mint leaves are actually fuzzy!
You can see their fine little hairs under the leaves and running along the stalks. These fuzzes aren’t obtrusive or annoying when you’re eating it, though. They’re very soft, not abrasive or sharp.
Chocolate mint smells how you think it would – like if you mixed a strong peppermint mint with subtle hints of cocoa.
The chocolate scent is nice, and once you’ve smelled/tasted at least one other type of mint side-by-side, it’s easy to tell which is the chocolate.
Chocolate mint plants have purple stalks and veins in their leaves. The flowers are also purple.
Overall, in my experience:
- Spearmint is the hardiest for outdoor gardens in cool climates.
- Apple mint is the prettiest and makes the best edible bouquets.
- Chocolate mint has the best mint flavor.
I hope this helps you make some decisions for your own outdoor gardens. Happy planting!