Ask a Question forum→Mint starting to smell rubbery! What is going on?

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Dallas, TX
ludog14
Jun 10, 2020 7:20 AM CST
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
Thumb of 2020-06-10/ludog14/67c22a
Thumb of 2020-06-10/ludog14/e76a52

Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Jun 10, 2020 8:07 AM CST
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.
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Dallas, TX
ludog14
Jun 10, 2020 9:09 AM CST
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).
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Jun 10, 2020 9:20 AM CST
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.
Rodney Wilcox Jones, my idol!
Businessman, Orchid grower, hybridizer, lived to 107!
Dallas, TX
ludog14
Jun 10, 2020 9:24 AM CST
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.
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
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BigBill
Jun 10, 2020 9:41 AM CST
Good luck!
I am stumped. Crying Confused
Rodney Wilcox Jones, my idol!
Businessman, Orchid grower, hybridizer, lived to 107!
Name: sumire
Reno, Nevada (Zone 6a)
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sumire
Jun 10, 2020 6:52 PM CST
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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Name: Sharon Rose
Grapevine, TX (Zone 8a)
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Altheabyanothername
Jun 10, 2020 7:05 PM CST
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!
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central ohio (Zone 5b)
PlantingOaks
Jun 11, 2020 12:48 PM CST
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.
Dallas, TX
ludog14
Jun 11, 2020 3:25 PM CST
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.
Dallas, TX
ludog14
Jun 11, 2020 3:29 PM CST
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 !
Dallas, TX
ludog14
Jun 11, 2020 3:35 PM CST
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.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Jun 11, 2020 3:40 PM CST
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?
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central ohio (Zone 5b)
PlantingOaks
Jun 11, 2020 3:54 PM CST
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.
Dallas, TX
ludog14
Jun 14, 2020 3:10 PM CST
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
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Jun 14, 2020 4:05 PM CST
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

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.
Name: Deborah
Southern California (Zone 10a)
Deeby
Nov 30, 2020 6:16 PM CST
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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