PlantFiles: Cuban Mint, Mojito Mint Mentha x villosa
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Hardiness: USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F) USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F) USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F) USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F) USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F) USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F) USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F) USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F) USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F) USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
Sun Exposure: Full Sun Sun to Partial Shade
Danger: Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction
On Jul 31, 2010, LaurieMM from Los Gatos, CA wrote:
I have not had this wonderful plant long, a little over a month. I placed it in the sun. In the first two weeks, I completely fried it to dried up scraps beyond recognition. I put it next to another plant that shaded it from the 90 degree heat, and it came back very quickly. It makes the most delicious and amazing tea. I gave some to a neighbor who came over to visit and she could not stop commenting on it, she loved it so much. Now whenever I see her, she asks for that wonderful tea. It is really good! Today I am going to put it in a bigger pot, it is only in a 6 inch pot. I will try to post back in a few months to let you know how it is doing. I plan to bring it inside in the winter.
I have been looking for the authentic mint for mjoitos and I think mentha x villosa is it. Wikipedia.com says this: “Also called… Cuban mint, mojito mint, and is known as Yerba Buena in Cuba.” The Yerba Buena notation sealed the deal since that’s what I’ve been reading about for years. I bought several plants from Chef Jeff (see the Herbs page at http://www.chefjeff.com) under the category of Summer Coolers titled “Mint Mojito.” I don’t know how Chef Jeff distributes products around the US Midwest, but they are carried by Ace Hardware garden stores in my area (Nebraska). The large plastic tag has a full description with growing instructions plus a mojito recipe. It says full to part sun, height (12-18”) and spread (18-24”). If it’s like most mints, it means plant it and then get out of the way. The original grower was Hybels from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
On May 13, 2010, Prospero1960 from London United Kingdom wrote:
My wife is from Cuba and we spend a lot of time there with her family, so naturally I came to love this type of mint in mojitos made with Cuban rum. I started growing some at home a few years ago, originally bought as rooted cuttings from a very helpful chap called Ian Rees, who used to sell them here in the UK through a site called mojitomint.com.
At first I had some problems with mint rust and mildew during winter here, and I think perhaps I was underestimating how hardy the plants are. Ian and his venture seem to have disappeared in recent years, so I don't expect he'll mind me passing on the advice he gave me here:
"I have been growing these plants in the UK now for 4 years. They do require some care and I will attempt to outline this below:
In the middle of summer healthy plants will quickly outgrow their pots and need potting on fairly regularly. You can simply divide the root ball up and replant with plenty of fresh compost. In winter the plants go quite dormant unless brought inside (room temperature > 18 deg celcius) and given plenty of light.
I have friends who have planted this variety of mint in the border and it has grown into a large bush over a few seasons (again going dormant in the winter) and surviving a few mild Oxfordshire frosts.
Like all mints (and perhaps more so) this variety is succeptable to powdery mildew and mint rust. These conditions are made worse by cold greenhouses or conservatories. These are both fungal diseases. Most fungicides are not recommended for use on herbs because of the risk of people absorbing these nasty chemicals (although there are some very expensive ones available to commercial growers that are OK). The best route is to go organic!
If you notice yellowing of the leaves with spots and the plant looks sickly then it is likely to be mint rust. The best cure I have found is to cut the plant down to ground level, take it out of its pot and stick it in the barbecue! (outdoors of course) Build a fire out of straw and newspaper and set light to the whole affair (nothing too dramatic - all the straw is consumed in a couple of minutes). The fire scorches the earth and any protruding stems and kills any fungal spores while the roots buried beneath ground level are undamaged. It might seem a bit extreme but I have found that this totally eliminates mint rust and a very health crop can be expected after this treatment.
If you notice powdery mildew on the leaves then pick them off. If it has got to the stems then a harsh pruning followed by treatment with yellow sulphur powder can be effective.
Other pests in the summer are whitefly (not too much damage) or caterpillars (major damage, tiny green ones that sew the upper leaves together with silk to make a cocoon and leave small black droppings everywhere! There are a number of pesticides that are OK to use on herbs to deal with these common bugs.
So in summary I would not recommend keeping your plants in a cold conservatory over winter - they are better off outdoors where the airflow tends to reduce the spread of fungal disease. Even better would be to keep them indoors - maybe on the kitchen window ledge? Don't forget to repot regularly in summer as they quickly become root bound.
Hope you find this information useful and get to enjoy some mojitos soon.
A couple more notes:
In my experience the plant prefers loam-based composts to peat-based or other alternatives. Regular potting on with John Innes No. 2 produces very strong growth, until ultimately as Ian points out above, the plants can be planted out into a border in summer, when they will have time to establish themselves well enough to survive the winter outside.
Something nobody has so far mentioned here is that this is the plant known as "Yerba Buena" (sometimes spelled "Hierba Buena") in Cuba, which literally means "good herb". However, there are are other types of mint and indeed other herbs that are referred to by this name in Latin America. This one, Mentha × villosa, is the correct Cuban variety for authentic mojitos. It is a hybrid of M. spicata × M. suaveolens (Spearmint × Apple Mint). Another synonym for the plant is Mentha nemorosa Willd.
On May 5, 2010, dianne99 from Brookville, KS (Zone 5b) wrote:
I got this at Nature's Way in Wichita KS and have it growing in a large pot since mid April. It is delicious, my favorite mint ever. It took it 3 weeks to recover from transplant shock and start growing.
On Jun 11, 2009, coras_garden from Walla Walla, OR wrote:
I ordered these plants from Reitcher's, which is located in Toronto, Canada. My plants were in poor condition when they arrived but I got them in the ground right away. Out of 12 plants, I had 9 survive. This is the second year and they look great! They are sturdy and upright and have a very different flavor than my other spearmint plants. So far they are about 18" tall and are pest and disease free. The leaves are very thick and healthy. I love the flavor of this mint. My suggestion is if you order anything from Reichter's that you plant whatever you receive as soon as you get it. It took about 5 weeks for my order to arrive. Just to add, Walla Walla is in Washington, NOT Oregon. I am in zone 6b.
On Oct 15, 2007, GmaRhonda from Wichita, KS wrote:
My first experience with mojto mint was while I was working as a bartender in Orlando, Florida 22 years ago when a friend introduced me to the traditional Cuban drink. I had forgotten about it until after traveling to Kansas City last year with my 4 sisters-in-law when we ate at a restaurant where they served authentic Mojitos. After months of searching I was able to find some live plants through Richter's but can't seem to find any specific information on raising them. The information that came with the plants was VERY generic and I have two plants (of 12) remaining. We (myself and my sisters-in-law) were hoping to introduce this mint to our large extended family during one of our numerous family gatherings. Can anyone offer any suggestions?
On Jun 11, 2007, seedpicker_TX from (Taylor) Plano, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:
Here is what Richter's has to say about this mint:
"Cuba’s famed mojito cocktail, once a daily favourite of Ernest Hemingway, has enjoyed a meteoric resurgence in popularity ever since James Bond drank one in the movie Die Another Day. The mojito, made with rum, powdered sugar, lime juice, club soda and Cuba’s unique mojito mint, is now an essential staple of cocktail lounges everywhere. While recipes call for any available variety of spearmint, the real mojito can only be made with the true mojito mint. This mint was impossible to get in North America but thanks to Toronto mojito enthusiast Catherine Nasmith who visited Cuba in 2006 we now have the authentic plant from Cuba. It is clearly different from most other mints -- its scent and flavour are agreeably mild and warm, not pungent nor overly sweet like other mints. In a perhaps typically Cuban understated way its warm embrace lingers until you realize you want more. Like all mints it is easy to grow and will happily provide more than enough fresh sprigs for your mojitos. Salud!"
wanted to say this mint was not worth ordering in my opinion. It was bitter, and the plant I got from Richters was so small that it only had two sets of leaves. I was told I was lucky to even get that, because there was such a demand, that they had been running out. Well, it isn't that special, just marketed well. Plenty of better tasting mints out there, to muddle in your mojito, in my opinion...
This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:
Los Gatos, California Stockton, California Cutler, Florida Granite City, Illinois Brookville, Kansas Clarksville, Tennessee Dallas, Texas Humble, Texas Wytheville, Virginia Walla Walla, Washington