The Lamiaceae family, or the mint family, is made up of an enormous variety of plants. There are said to be 236 genera and more than 7000 species within this plant family.

Plants from the mint family are commonly used by humans as ornamentals, herbs, and medicine. Such plants tend to have rather aromatic leaves and small delicate flowers that pollinators are attracted to.

There are a few identifying characteristics that can help you spot a plant from the mint family. Almost all of these plants have square stems and alternating, opposite leaves. The flowers of these plants tend to grow in clusters and are small and tubular.

There are the more obvious members of the Lamiaceae family plus a few that might be surprising. Either way, check out this list of plants that you can grow in your backyard or pots.

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1. Mint (Mentha Spp.)

Well, we will have to start with the mints of the mint family! The Mentha genus is thought to have about 25 species in it with hundreds of different varieties. Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Spearmint (Mentha spicata), Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), chocolate mint (a cultivar of peppermint), and apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) are some of the most common and widely used mints.

Mint can be easily grown from a small root clipping, or sprigs can be rooted in a jar of water and planted, then roots appear. Mint famously spreads and can take over a garden space in a heartbeat. It grows from runners under the ground and pops up all over. If you want to control the spread, you can grow such plants in pots or put barriers in the ground to prevent the roots from running.

Members of this genus make wonderful herbal teas and can be used to flavor smoothies, ice cream, and desserts. Check out these OGP recipes that celebrate mint.

2. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is another perennial herb of the mint family. Like its Mentha cousins, lemon balm tends to spread; though, it does so much more slowly. It is, in fact, the seeds of the lemon balm plant that will have your garden covered if you are not careful. You will need to deadhead the flowers to help prevent this. That said, there are worse things to have growing all over your yard!

Much like Mentha, lemon balm is easy to grow from rooting small sprigs or diving the plant at the root.

Lemon balm is incredibly aromatic—mouthwateringly so! It makes a wonderful tea and is often used as a herb that aids sleep. It makes delicious zesty pesto and adds flavor to green salads and ice cream.

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3. Catnip

Catnip (Nepeta cataria), though famously linked to felines, can be enjoyed by humans. It grows vigorously and may be planted from seed, clippings, or root division from an existing plant. It is a clumping plant but spreads readily by seed, so if you wish to keep some control, you will need to deadhead the spent flowers. Catnip enjoys a sunny spot and well-draining soil. It is fairly hardy and doesn’t need too much attention.

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Catnip may be brewed into a tea by adding two teaspoons of dried catnip to one cup of boiling water. It is often used as a tea to support sound sleep and is thought to help reduce stress and anxiety.

4. Basil

Basil belongs to the Ocimum genus. It comes in many varieties, from sweet or Thai to lemon and lime. Basil is very easy to grow and depending on the type you choose and your growing zone may be annual or a perennial.

Basil can be grown easily from seed or clippings. It needs warm soil and warm temperatures to grow. If you are planning on making pesto, don’t be stingy with the number of plants you start. Basil grows well in containers as it likes moist but well-draining soil. You can start harvesting from your plants when they are about 6-8 inches tall. Picking leaves or taking small clippings will promote more growth which means more pesto!

5. Salvia

The Salvia genus contains the herbaceous favorites, rosemary (Salvis Rosmarinus), and sage (Salvia Officinalis) amongst 960 others! These members of the mint family are herb staples and are used in many savory dishes.

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Rosemary is an evergreen, woody shrub that enjoys warm, humid summers. It doesn’t tolerate freezing weather well, so you will need to grow rosemary in pots that can be protected during the winter or heavily mulch your plants over the cold season. Rosemary doesn’t like too much water so wait until the soil has dried out between watering.

Sage, like rosemary, is a woody shrub that prefers a sunny spot with well-draining soil. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Sage plants are a little hardier than rosemary and can tolerate light frost. However, they will not complain about a good mulch for the colder months.

Plants of the Lamiaceae family are numerous and varied, and the list doesn’t stop here. Bee balm, oregano, marjoram, chia, lambs ear, lavender, and thyme all make the list. They are a family of aromatic, pollinator-attracting, and often delicious plants that can make your garden and kitchen a more exciting place.

Research each plant of the Lamiaceae family for its credibility or medicinal properties individually as they are not all the same. Consult a medical professional before using herbs medicinally. 

Plant-based recipes with mint you can make at home!

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