Is Mint a Creeper? What Are Those Runners?


You might have heard that creeper plants are bad for your garden and perhaps wondering if mint is one of them?

Mint is one of the few creepers herbs. Among the two main types of creepers, mint is the one that produces runners to propagate horizontally over the soil in order to occupy, over time, all available space.

What does that mean for your indoor mint? What should you do?

Mint, a Creeper Herb

A creeper is a type of plant that shows a prominent capability to develop horizontally (either exclusively or not) over the soil rather than vertically.

To help you identify creeper plants, we can classify them into 2 categories:

  1. Those creeper plants whose stems are so weak that they cannot stand upright. Those plants develop exclusively stems that (entirely or almost entirely) lie on the soil;
  2. Those creeper plants that can stand upright, but that also produce the so-called runners to spread horizontally. To note that they spread more horizontally than vertically

Here is where the confusion begins. Many people (even gardeners) think of creepers as only those belonging to the first category. Think about watermelon or pumpkin. In this case, their fruit is so large and heavy compared to the stem that they are “forced” to develop just at ground level.

Runners in Mint

However, this is not the case with mint. This herb grows upright and horizontally over the soil at the same time. One of its main (amazing) features, missing in the first category of creeper plants, is the ability to produce runners.

A runner is a particular “stem” that points downwards, aiming to the soil. Once reached the soil, it will spread horizontally (either slightly below the surface or above), and, from time to time, it will produce upright stems (that will become new mint plants) and new roots. Check this scientific article for more info.

From the outside, these new plants might look independent of the original mother plant (the ones that produced the runners) as they can be quite far away. However, they are part of the same organism.

How To Propagate Mint From Runners in 4 Steps

It is possible and quite easy to propagate mint from runners. You can do it in 3 steps:

  1. Scoop the superficial layer of soil to uncover some runners
  2. Cut a runner that has a list a couple of upright stems.
  3. Place this runner around 1 inch below the potting soil of your new pot.
  4. Wait a couple of weeks to see some shoots coming out from the soil.

To be honest, I do prefer “clone” my herbs trough stem cutting rather than runners (I do not need to dig into the soil, you can check the article explaining how I multiply mint for free). However, if you are interested and want to learn more, check the video below

Stolon Prop Chocolate Mint

It is essential to know that mint runners can be of two types: rhizome and stolons, as discussed by the University of Oregon. They act differently, and one of them is way problematic than the other.

What’s The Difference Between Rhizome and Stolon?

When chatting with some more expert gardeners, few of them confused rhizome with stolons. However, they are different?

Rhizomes differ from stolons for the way they spread. Rhizome develops and runs underground (like roots) while stolons lay on top of the soil. Mint develops rhizomes, not stolons.

It is crucial to keep in mind that both have fewer leaves and can develop roots and shoots. These features make them extremely efficient when their spreading capability is considered.

Rhizomes are way harder to detect than stolons. They might develop for weeks, and the only way to realize their existence (if you do not find them by digging) is when mint plants appear from nowhere on the soil.

How Fast Mint Runners Spread?

According to several studies, mint’s runners spread quite quickly. More precisely, it was found that the mint root system (underground runners are part of it) can grow up to 13cm (5 inches) per month.

For more check the article here. This, of course, applies during its peak (spring and early summer). In cold seasons mint slows down/stop.

Mint is classified as an “invasive” plant. It can take over all the space available (your whole yard) through countless runners. That’s why mint is one of those herbs that really need to be placed in a pot if you want to contain its development.

Below you can check a great video showing how mint runners can invade an entire raised bed (and all the hard work you have to do to get rid of them).

If You Plant Mint in a Raised Bed This Will Happen

A lesson for you? Mint in a pot, either indoor or outdoor. Not in an open ground.

What’s The Difference Between Climber and Creeper

Creepers spread through individual stems that run horizontally either on top or below the soil. Such stems, called rhizome or stolons, can produce roots and shoots. Climber, on the other hand, can develop horizontally, but only thanks to the support of external structures (human-provided or not).

Climbers indeed have the ability to surround any given structure to pull themself up while creeper cannot do that.

The common aspect between creepers and climbers is typically (not always) the weakness of their stem, unable to grow upright on their own.

List of Creeper and Climber Plant

The list of creepers plants and herbs is quite extensive, so the list will be limited to those that you will have a high chance to find around and see in your neighborhood or parks.

Remember, both types of plants make a fantastic display, especially if they have bright flowers. Imagine a wall entirely covered in purple or blue. Climbers can do that. What about your front garden flooded with a blue carpet to welcome (and impress) anyone is coming to visit you. This is possible with creepers.

The most common creepers plants are:

  1. Mint
  2. Sweet Potato
  3. Blue star creeper
  4. Chinese Virginia (and trumpet) creeper
  5. Watermelons
  6. Stonecrop and many ground cover plants

The most common climbers plants are:

  1. Beans
  2. Ivy
  3. Snake vine
  4. Climbing Rose
  5. Bougainvillea
  6. Coral honeysuckle
  7. Trumpet vine

Do You Want To Know More About Mint?

There are countless of mint variety, however, chances are that you have encountered (or you are growing) peppermint or spearmint. Both of them are great culinary herbs but they are quite different.

Chck it out more in the differences between spearming and peppermint article.

Further Questions

Is Jasmine a climber or creeper? Jasmine is an evergreen climber characterized by star flowers with oval-shaped leaves that can grow up to 15 feet.

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Andrea

A young Italian guy with a passion for growing edible herbs. After moving to the UK 6 years ago in a tiny flat, it was impossible to grow herbs outside. So I start my journey in growing indoor and so I decided to share my knowledge.

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