As a member of the Lamiaceae family, catmint grows via underground runners or seeds that are produced from its small flowers which can be white, pink, blue, or purple and are attractive to butterflies. Of the 250 species found within the Nepeta genus, some plants are grown for their ornamental qualities or for their attractiveness to cats. Catmint is a great companion plant because it repels some harmful garden insects and leaf-hungry deer. These plants are well-adapted to dry conditions, and different types will bloom between late spring or autumn.
Common Catnip is an easy to grow perennial herb whose strong aroma makes it the most attractive species of catmint for our feline friends. Not just for cats, Common Catnip also has beneficial properties for humans. Plants can reach 3 feet in height, sporting small purple flowers and downy greyish-green leaves. If you do have cats, it might be a good idea to protect the plants with some wire mesh or bamboo stakes to keep your fuzzy friends from damaging the plant with their affection during growth.
Seed: Seeds will need to be stratified by placing them in the freezer overnight. Then soak them in water for a day before starting.
Seed Depth: 1/8–1/4″
Space Between Plants: 18–20″
Space Between Rows: 24–30″
Germination Soil Temperature: 60–70°F
Days for Germination: 7–10
Sow Indoors: 6 to 8 weeks before average last frost date. Set out transplants after all danger of frost has passed.
Sow Outdoors: Early spring after all danger of frost has passed, or late fall.
Vegetative: Easily propagated by taking cuttings of either the leaf or stem. You can also make more plants by diving mature plants in spring or fall.
Grows best in a temperate climate. Mature plants can withstand hard freezes, but seeds need temperatures over 60°F for proper germination. Introduced to North America via Europe, plants can be found growing wild in the northern United States and Canada.
Natural: Full sun to partial shade.
Artificial: Grows well under fluorescent or HID lamps. Provide at least 5 hours of light per day.
Soil: Grows best in well-drained sandy or loamy soils. A pH of between 6.0 and 7.8 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Germinate seeds in a soilless mix containing perlite, coco coir, and vermiculite. Keep container plants in a well-drained soilless mix.
Hydroponics: Thrives in a variety of hydroponic systems.
Aeroponics: Thrives in aeroponic systems.
Water: Requires low to moderate levels of water. Be sure not to overwater, as plants are susceptible to root rot if kept too moist. Regular watering is best, allowing the soil to dry out between each one. Plants are fairly drought tolerant.
Nutrients: Requires low to moderate levels of nutrients. Apply a dilute liquid fertilizer two or three times per growing season.
Foliar: Will benefit form a foliar feeding of liquid seaweed or compost tea.
Pruning: Plants need regular pruning to establish a compact, bushy growing habit. Pinch back the tips of new stems to encourage branching. You can also remove flowering stems to keep the plants from reseeding themselves.
Mulching: Use a light layer of mulch to suppress weeds.
Pest(s): Rarely bothered by pests, but watch for:
Deficiency(s): A phosphorus deficiency may cause plants to develop purplish or reddish leaves.
Rotation: You can rotate plants every 2–3 years by digging up and dividing the root ball or replanting cuttings in a new location. Avoid replanting in areas where you previously grew other plants in the mint family.
Companions: Grows well with beets, hyssop, squash, collards, tomatoes, potatoes, and pumpkins.
Harvest: It’s best to take leaves when plants are in bloom; this will usually be in mid to late summer. However, feel free to harvest at any time during the growing season. Cut stems a few inches above the ground to allow for regrowth. It’s best to harvest in the morning when the day is still cool but after any dew has evaporated.
Storage: Fresh leaves will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Once dried, it can be stored for several months in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place.
Seed Saving: When the flowers begin to turn brown and dry out, gently rub seed heads between your fingers over a bowl or fine mesh to separate the small dark seeds from the chaff. Allow seeds to fully dry before storing in a small envelope.
Naming Issues: Americans and Europeans don’t follow the same rules for the naming of catnip and/or catmint. In Europe, N. cataria is known as catmint, or sometimes catnep (yes, with an ‘e’). Americans, however, almost always call this particular species catnip, reserving catmint for all other plants in the Nepeta genus. Confused? One thing we can all agree on is that planting N. cataria, whatever you may call it, will make our cat friends happy as can be!
Preserve: Can be dried for later use. Freshly cut stems should be loosely bundled and hung upside down in a well-ventilated area out of direct light until they are fully dried. Gently crush leaves and flowers, and if they easily come apart, they are ready to be stored.
Prepare: Use fresh or dried leaves to make a catnip tea. See our Warnings section for further information before consuming. Leaves can also be used to add a lemony minty flavor to dishes including soups, stews, and sauces.
Nutritional: Provides vitamin(s) A, C, and B, as well as magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, sodium, and sulfur.
Medicinal: Tea has been used as a sedative and to treat pain, headaches, stress, flatulence, indigestion, cold, flu, fever, and anxiety or nervousness. Use as an insect repellent by rubbing leaves or diluted essential oil on skin or clothing. It has been shown to exhibit anti-fungal, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties.
Warnings: Only consume in small doses and with extreme caution. Avoid use entirely for children, if you are pregnant, nursing, have liver, kidney, or psychiatric disorders, or are taking medicines that effect the central nervous system. Additionally, avoid use if you have heavy menstrual periods, as it may effect your flow.
Make some simple, soothing Catnip Tea by following these directions.