A favorite for sunny, water-scarce gardens, catmint (Nepeta x faassenii) toughs it out during hot summer weather and dry spells. It's also nearly pest- and disease-free.
Spikes of fine-textured, lavender-blue flowers rise above the aromatic, gray-green foliage, which forms a neat mound. An easy-to-maintain perennial, it requires little care except some shearing after the first flush of flowers to keep it blooming all summer. Plant catmint along a walkway so you can enjoy the aromatic foliage and flowers every time you walk by.
Common name: Catmint
Botanical name: Nepeta x faassenii
Plant type: Perennial
Height: 18 inches
Zones: 4 to 9, depending on cultivar
Family: Lamiaceae (Mint)
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Well-drained
• Moisture: Dry to medium wet
• Mulch: None required except to deter weeds.
• Fertilizer: None required.
• Pruning: Shear spent flower spikes to encourage all-summer flowering.
• ‘Dropmore' has larger lavender-blue flowers; gray, aromatic foliage; and grows 18 to 24 inches tall. Zones 4 to 8.
• ‘Select Blue' has fragrant blue flowers and grows 15 inches tall in a neat, mounding form. Does well in sandy soils. Zones 4 to 9.
• ‘White Wonder' has white flowers. Grows 12 inches tall. Zones 4 to 8.
• Performs well in dry soils in hot sun, except in the deep South, where some afternoon shade is helpful.
• Good for rock gardens, dry gardens, and containers. In colder areas of the country, treat container plants as annuals because cold winters harm plant roots.
• Combine with red valerian (Centranthus ruber, Zones 5 to 8), bee balm (Monarda didyma, Zones 4 to 10), and yarrow cultivars such as yellow-flowered Achillea ‘Coronation Gold' (Zones 3 to 9) or pink-flowered A. millefolium ‘Cerise Queen' (Zones 3 to 9).
• Pests and disease
• Leaf spots occur occasionally.
• Divide in spring or fall.
• Take softwood cuttings in early summer.
All in the family
• Catnip (Nepeta cataria, Zones 3 to 7) is a close relative of catmint. While it's attractive to cats, it's not very ornamental in the garden.
• The Lamiaceae family includes many aromatic herbs used in cooking, such as rosemary, thyme, marjoram, sage, and mint.
• Carpet bugle (Ajuga reptans, Zones 3 to 9), coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides, Zones 11 to 12), French lavender (Lavendula dentate, Zones 5 to 9), and garden sage (Salvia officinalis, Zones 5 to 8) are other well-known members of the family.
Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden Plantfinder.