Catmints are hardy perennials that grow up to 3 feet tall, depending on the type. Most have gray-green willow-like leaves that are somewhat hairy, especially on the bottom. The leaves have a characteristic, mint-like fragrance. Plants bloom in summer and may continue blooming or bloom again in autumn, depending on the selection.
- Common name: Catnip
- Botanical name: Nepeta spp.
- Zones: 3 to 9, depending on species
- Size: To 3 feet tall
- From: Areas of Europe and Asia
- Family: Labitae (mint family)
- Sun: Full sun is best; partial shade will do. Afternoon shade might be beneficial in hot climates.
- Soil: Well-drained soil is important.
- Moisture: Water in times of drought.
- Mulch: A layer of mulch (up to 4 inches deep) around the base of the plant helps reduce competition from weeds and helps the soil conserve moisture in times of drought. Organic mulches add to the soil's structure over time.
- Pruning: Cut the plants back in autumn after freezing temperatures kill the foliage or leave the stems standing in winter for winter interest and cut back before growth begins in spring.
- Fertilizer: In all but the poorest of soils, the plants don't require fertilizer. In very poor soils, use an all-purpose garden fertilizer in spring.
- Seed: Sow seeds in spring indoors or directly outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Light helps the seeds germinate, so do not cover them.
- Division: Divide established plants anytime, though spring and autumn are best.
- Fungal diseases: If portions of the plant rot or have spotted leaves, the plant may be suffering from fungal disease. To prevent these diseases, try to avoid wetting the plants' foliage, especially after mid-afternoon. It is also helpful to divide plants so that the clumps do not become especially large. This will ensure good airflow, which also discourages these diseases.
- Harvest in early morning (before the dew has completely dried) or in the late afternoon.
- For most uses, hang the shoots upside down in a warm, dry place in the dark.
- Use for cat toys, crafts, as well as making catnip tea. (When using any herbs from the garden, be sure that you have correctly identified your plants.)
- In the right conditions, catnip can spread a bit quickly-especially through self-seeding. Some gardeners consider it invasive.
- Nepeta cataria: Species to 3 feet tall with purple-spotted, white flowers. Zones 3 to 7.
- Nepeta x faassenii: Grows to 2 feet tall and has lavender-blue flowers over a long period. Zones 4 to 8.
- Nepeta x faassenii ‘Blue Wonder': Grows to 15 inches tall. Has lavender-blue flowers and larger leaves than many other selections. Zones 4 to 8.
- Nepeta nervosa: Species to 2 feet tall with purplish flowers. Zones 5 to 9.
- Nepeta ‘Pukehou': Selection to 18 inches tall with purple-blue flowers. Zones 4 to 8.
- Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant': A selection to 3 feet tall with blue flowers. Zones 4 to 8.
- Nepeta subsessilis: Species to 3 feet tall with bright-blue flowers. Longer blooming period than other species and tolerates moist soils better. Zones 5 to 9.