All mint plants are classified under the family Lamiaceae; however, the hundreds of variations of mint are each classified differently under the genus Mentha. The most common types of mint are Peppermint (mentha piperita) and Spearmint (mentha spicata).
Common features among mint varieties are their aromatic qualities and fast-growing tendencies. The mint plant's quick growth can make it an invasive plant under ideal conditions. Most mint plants grow best in direct sunlight with only partial shade and in moist soil conditions with good drainage. Often, mint plants growing in the wild are found next to streams and ponds.
Each variation of mint has its own taste and aroma; however, many varieties have the ability to cross pollinate. This cross pollination yields a plant that has some characteristics in common with each parent plant.
Mints are most commonly used for culinary purposes. Other uses for mint include medicinal, aromatic and aesthetic uses.
Peppermint is the most recognized variety of mint used in both cooking and personal care products. Spearmint, on the other hand, is mainly found in products that contain a mint flavoring, such as toothpaste and gum. Other common varieties of mint are catnip, basil, bergamot and lavender, which is a member of the mint family but is separate from the Mentha genus.