Flaming Rusty Mint

One of my potted mints has been looking a bit sick for a while.

While the rest of my mints are happily celebrating Spring and putting on heaps of new growth, this one has been looking sadder and sadder by the minute.  On close examination you can see orange dots all over many of its stems.  They look like this:

I had a bit of an explore on google and diagnosed mint rust.  Now there are a couple of recommended treatments for mint rust.  Apparently you could remove the plant from the pot and wash it, including roots, in a mixture of bleach and detergent.  But I had no bleach and besides the other suggested option involved setting stuff alight, so naturally that’s the course of action I took.

I cut the plant to ground level.  I put foil around the exposed plastic of the pot it is planted in.

The foil protects the plastic for the heat of the fire.  You can employ a similar technique when sowing seeds, which require smoke to germinate (many Australian native plants do), in plastic seed trays.  I then covered the top of the pot with scrunched up newspaper and topped it with some chicken wire to stop flaming paper from blowing around the garden.

Then I set it alight.

The idea behind this is that the heat from the fire kills the rust spores but the mint roots are protected by the potting mix and survive to grow again.

Whether or not it works remains to be seen.  A few things could have gone wrong.  I may not have killed all the rust spores.  The fire may have been so hot it killed the mint roots.  The plant may simply not want to grow for someone who sets it on fire…

I removed most of the ash after this photo was taken. I will water the pot tomorrow, but not too much as the rust likes damp conditions.  Hopefully it wont take too long before the plant grows back, I do have other healthy plants but I also eat a lot of mint.

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26 Responses to Flaming Rusty Mint

  1. Daphne says:

    I’ve never heard of mint rust before. I didn’t think anything could harm mint. Though mine does get powdery mildew if I forget to water and let it wilt.

  2. Katie says:

    Even if it doesn’t work, I bet that was fun.

  3. Patsy says:

    That is very interesting! I hope it works for you. And I never knew there were plants that required smoke to germinate. There’s always something new to learn!

    • Liz says:

      Yeah a lot of the Australian natives need smoke (or heat) to germinate – in nature it would come from bushfires but when sowing seed you need to reproduce it in some way.

  4. Sarah says:

    Extreme gardening! Will be interested to hear if this works, the advice I read was to put the roots in hot water but your way sounds like a lot more fun!

  5. Balvinder says:

    I feel the same as Daphne. Mint is the only herb that grows like weeds. Who will think mint can also be susceptible to disease?

  6. I’ll beinterested to see if it will work. I love mint too.

  7. Mark Willis says:

    The new Australian mint cultivar: “Mentha Pyromania”? An interesting technique for sure. Let’s hope it works.

  8. Jo says:

    Hopefully it works:) My kids would have had fun anyway setting something alight!

  9. Washing a plant in bleach sounds a bit excessive although I do pop a small amount of bleach into water in vases to prevent it from becoming smelly!

    Hope you mint recovers.

  10. Tracey says:

    love it!

  11. L says:

    That’s funny! I have the same problem and was planning exactly the same solution, but I didn’t have your brilliance to think of protecting the pot with foil. I thought i needed to unpot the whole plant, hence it hadn’t happened yet. I may now just wait to see how your plant recovers. If it works I will break out the blowtorch 😉

  12. Really interesting and I’ve learnt something too!!
    BTW Liz-love the last photo with the hosepipe in the background-was that just in case??

  13. bumblelush says:

    How interesting! I’ve never seen this. I always read about mint growing like a weed that is difficult to get rid of, but I guess everything has a weak spot! I’ll be interested to see if it comes back.

  14. It’s like a cleansing prairie fire! It’s been recommended that we burn our field to keep it healthy, but never thought the idea about applying the idea at the micro level of a container — brilliant!

    • Liz says:

      I think it might actually be working too – I saw some new growth today and as yet no sign of rust – but it is early days.

  15. Danielle says:

    How is your mint looking now? This year has been a terrible year for rust! My mint, basil, oregano and sage have all been affected and I’ve found it quite difficult to eliminate, so I’ll have to keep your treatment method in mind.

    • Liz says:

      It worked! The mint has come back really well – a little slow at first but its now growing really well and looks rust free. The method worked really well for mint – not sure how it would be for the sage or basil but I think it might work for oregano as I imagine it would sprout well from its roots (I haven’t tried though).

      • Danielle says:

        I seem to have the rust problem under control at the moment (touch wood) but if I have any further problems, at least I know how to treat it. I’ve cut oregano back quite aggressively in the past so I imagine it would bounce back after the treatment but agree that it probably wouldn’t work so well for the basil or sage. Regardless, setting them alight anyway would at least help alleviate my frustration over the rust! 🙂

        • Liz says:

          He, he, he – it did help me no end in that respect! By the way the treatment worked really well – no sign of rust and the plant is doing really well after an initial slow start.

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