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Avatar for ludog14
Jun 10, 2020 7:20 AM CST
Dallas, TX
Hello,

I am having a bit of a head scratcher. I purchased small mint plants from my local home depot to plant in a pot on my balcony.
The mint was labeled spearmint, and after matching up photos online, can confirm that it is spearmint.
I planted them in well draining potting mix, and have been watering them each morning. They are positioned in full sun, and I am in Dallas, TX. They have started to develop extensive roots and are sending out runners.
An interesting thing has occurred however, When i first purchased them, the leaves smelled fresh, minty, and fragrant to the touch. Now however, they are giving off bad undertones.
The leaves are starting to smell of rubber, or burning diesel, with a slight hint of mint. The smaller young leaves smell less of this odor, but i think they will also smell like this soon.
I've attached photos of the plants, taken on 6/9/2020.
What is going on? and what can I do? Any help would be appreciated.

-L
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Jun 10, 2020 8:07 AM CST
Name: Big Bill
Livonia Michigan (Zone 6a)
If you need to relax, grow plants!!
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Where did you get the soil that you planted them in? My initial thought was contaminated soil maybe?
Mint is a very aggressive plant and for that reason are difficult to keep maintained.
Orchid lecturer, teacher and judge. Retired Wildlife Biologist. Supervisor of a nature preserve up until I retired.
Avatar for ludog14
Jun 10, 2020 9:09 AM CST
Dallas, TX
BigBill said:Where did you get the soil that you planted them in? My initial thought was contaminated soil maybe?
Mint is a very aggressive plant and for that reason are difficult to keep maintained.


I got the soil from home depot as well. It is branded as Miracle grow for cacti and citrus plants (well draining).
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Jun 10, 2020 9:20 AM CST
Name: Big Bill
Livonia Michigan (Zone 6a)
If you need to relax, grow plants!!
Bee Lover Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Region: Michigan Hostas Growing under artificial light
Echinacea Critters Allowed Cat Lover Butterflies Birds Region: United States of America
Miracle Grow for cacti and citrus is not exactly the correct soil. Both of those are for a rapid, quick drain whereas the mint might do better in regular old Miracle Grow potting soil.

But that is not really the issue when you have an odor of burnt diesel and rubber. Those are petroleum products. There is no possible reason that I can think of that would account for that when you are dealing with potting soil and mint plants.
I can't figure it out either.
Orchid lecturer, teacher and judge. Retired Wildlife Biologist. Supervisor of a nature preserve up until I retired.
Avatar for ludog14
Jun 10, 2020 9:24 AM CST
Dallas, TX
BigBill said:Miracle Grow for cacti and citrus is not exactly the correct soil. Both of those are for a rapid, quick drain whereas the mint might do better in regular old Miracle Grow potting soil.

But that is not really the issue when you have an odor of burnt diesel and rubber. Those are petroleum products. There is no possible reason that I can think of that would account for that when you are dealing with potting soil and mint plants.
I can't figure it out either.


thanks for your input! ill post back if i figure it out.
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Jun 10, 2020 9:41 AM CST
Name: Big Bill
Livonia Michigan (Zone 6a)
If you need to relax, grow plants!!
Bee Lover Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Region: Michigan Hostas Growing under artificial light
Echinacea Critters Allowed Cat Lover Butterflies Birds Region: United States of America
Good luck!
I am stumped. Crying Confused
Orchid lecturer, teacher and judge. Retired Wildlife Biologist. Supervisor of a nature preserve up until I retired.
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Jun 10, 2020 6:52 PM CST
Name: sumire
Reno, Nevada (Zone 6a)
Have you been fertilizing? Many herbs maintain their best scent/flavor when they are not fertilized. Found this out the hard way with my rosemary and basil when they both lost their flavor and smell. No telling what the underlying smell of spearmint is....
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Jun 10, 2020 7:05 PM CST
Name: Sharon Rose
Grapevine, TX (Zone 8a)
Grace of the Lord Jesus be with all
Amaryllis Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Salvias Lilies Irises
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I agree regular potting soil. The only thing I could come up with are you near 635/ LBJ or 75? Heavy traffic odors being absorbed by the plant. I hope you can figure it out.

Good Luck and May your balcony garden bring you much enjoyment!
One to take to heart....1 John 4 ..............................................Where there is smoke...there is fire...in most cases the smoke will kill you long before the fire consumes you. Beware of smoke screens! Freedom is not free and when those who have not paid the price or made the sacrifice...think that only they are right and entitled to speak...they bring us tryanny.
Avatar for PlantingOaks
Jun 11, 2020 12:48 PM CST
central ohio (Zone 5b)
Do they smell stronger than when you purchased them, or just different?

Noses are funny, it could be that the scent they are producing has gotten so strong that your nose has started reading it as something else entirely.

Just a guess. I'm very curious if someone does have an explanation.
Avatar for ludog14
Jun 11, 2020 3:25 PM CST
Dallas, TX
sumire said:Have you been fertilizing? Many herbs maintain their best scent/flavor when they are not fertilized. Found this out the hard way with my rosemary and basil when they both lost their flavor and smell. No telling what the underlying smell of spearmint is....


I haven't added any fertilizer to the soil, but the miracle grow potting soil probably has some amount of fertilizer already in it. I'll make sure not to add any fertilizer and see if the scent improves over time. Thanks for the advice, I would have never guessed that less fertilizer is better.
Avatar for ludog14
Jun 11, 2020 3:29 PM CST
Dallas, TX
Altheabyanothername said: I agree regular potting soil. The only thing I could come up with are you near 635/ LBJ or 75? Heavy traffic odors being absorbed by the plant. I hope you can figure it out.

Good Luck and May your balcony garden bring you much enjoyment!


I'm about 1 mile away from the closest highway, which I think makes it safe to say traffic pollution is less of a factor. If they continue to smell weird through this growing season, i'll replant into regular potting soil to see if that changes anything. Thanks !
Avatar for ludog14
Jun 11, 2020 3:35 PM CST
Dallas, TX
PlantingOaks said:Do they smell stronger than when you purchased them, or just different?

Noses are funny, it could be that the scent they are producing has gotten so strong that your nose has started reading it as something else entirely.

Just a guess. I'm very curious if someone does have an explanation.


Yeah, i'm not sure what is going on either. I feel like I can't trust my nose anymore haha.
Strength wise, i would say that the plant is giving off a slightly strong scent, maybe 10% increase in fragrance.
It's just that the scent if overwhelmingly becoming more and more rubbery and chemical-like.

I was reading that some herbs will change in scent when they begin to flower, and will return to their more 'normal' scent afterwards. I'm hopeful that this is what's happening.

I will post back in a month to update everyone.
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Jun 11, 2020 3:40 PM CST
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
I doubt new soil will make a difference. I grew it in California in the native soil, never watered it, never fertilized it, my husband ran it down with the tractor at least twice a summer and all it did was get bigger. But, it never lost its smell making me think water and fertilizer, causing fast growth, is the culprit.

We need someone who understands the chemistry of aromatic herbs. Who knows what taste/smells go into making mint smell like mint. Any flavorologists out there?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Avatar for PlantingOaks
Jun 11, 2020 3:54 PM CST
central ohio (Zone 5b)
I know in general plants will have more pungent leaves if slightly stressed. i.e. more sun and less water. The chemicals that make leaves smell are a form of insect deterrent, so if conditions are flush, the plant will just push out lots of weak, watery growth and hope to beat out the pests on quantity. If times are leaner, they will concentrate protective (and smelly) compounds in the leaves they have in the hope insects will go elsewhere. Now, obviously, if things are really rough they are spending all their resources just staying alive and don't have any to spare for insecticides, so it's a balance.

I don't know how much of this applies to mint in specific, it's more general theory, and mint does require more water as a baseline than standard herbs like rosemary or oregano, so there may be quite a bit more nuance to it.
Avatar for ludog14
Jun 14, 2020 3:10 PM CST
Dallas, TX
So I decided to harvest the mint. Before harvesting, the leaves still smelled rubbery with a slight hint of mint.
I placed the harvested mint in a cup of water and then into the refrigerator.
The next day, they smelled normal! Really fragrant and fresh mint Green Grin! .

So i think mint smells different when it is still on the plant, but will be good after harvesting and placing in the refrigerator.
Not too sure why this is happening
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Jun 14, 2020 4:05 PM CST
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
The cut mint would have more water, at least temporarily. Now you need to leave the mint in the jar of water until it just starts to wilt to see if the odd smell returns. Smiling Of course, the other possibility is the cold made the smell return...
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Avatar for Negr0Nell
Nov 20, 2020 4:32 PM CST

This is a COVID thing. People have been reporting mint smelling like dumpster water recently and we're all assuming it has something to do with the virus somehow.
Avatar for Deeby
Nov 30, 2020 6:16 PM CST
Name: Deborah
Southern California (Zone 10a)
Rabbit Keeper
I'd hose off the mint thoroughly from time to time. I wouldn't eat it smelling like that. Or you can cut it all off to the soil line. It'll come back from the roots.
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