Catnip Plant: How To Grow And Care For Catnip

catnip plant nepeta cataria

Commonly known as the “Catnip plant” Nepeta cataria is a hardy perennial mosquito repellant herb belonging to the mint family. It’s pungent fragrance highly excites and attracts cats. Another Nepata  commonly known as catmint, Nepata mussinnii, does not generally appeal to cats.

Naturalized in parts of North America, catnip grows to 3-4 feet with downy and light green foliage. It produces small lavender flowers on spikes up to 5” long. [1]

How To Grow And Care For The Catnip Plant

While planting catnip, till the soil to a depth of 3 to 4 inches, and add 1 inch of compost. Work the compost into the top soil.  Catnip does well in many soils but prefer a moderately rich loam soil which drains well. [2]

Plant seeds 15 to 18 inches apart with the seeds slightly covered. Water lightly after planting, try to keep the soil moist during the growing season.

Catnip grows in a pH range of 6 (mildly acidic) to 7.5 (mildly alkaline). Seeds germinate in 7 to 10 days but can sprout in as few as 5 or 6 in propagation media such as oasis root cubes.

When grown outdoors in USDA zones 3a through 9b, catnip prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade. They can grow indoors under standard fluorescent lights and will do exceptionally well under high output T5 fluorescent plant grow lights.

Watering Catnip

Water young plants twice a week for the first two weeks, reduce watering to every other week after plants become well established. During the dry season and  high temperatures, increase watering to once a week or even more if needed.

Fertilizing The Catnip Plant

Feed catnip plants with a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks. Begin fertilizing two weeks after planting and continue until the first week of the summer season. Suspend fertilizing during fall and winter as the plants will not use the nutrients. Follow instructions on the label for proper application.

Mulch Application

Apply a 1 to 2 inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant during late fall before the first frost. Mulching helps plants survive the cold temperatures. Remove the layer of mulch in early spring as soon as the new growth emerges. Hay, bark or leaf mold works well for mulching catnips.[3]

Pruning Of The Herb

Remove spent flowers by pinching them off to prevent self-seeding. After flowering, catnips become scraggly and need cutting back.

Prune after the first bloom to encourage a second flowering before the winter season. Cut the catnip plants down to 3 or 4 inches after the first frost. This helps encourage new healthy growth during the spring.

Propagating The Catnip Plant

Propagate the catnip herb via stem tip cuttings during spring and summer. [4]

  • Use 3-4 inch long cuttings.
  • Remove all the leaves except the top two or four.
  • To encourage branching, pinch the cutting at the tip.
  • Dip the end in rooting hormone and place in a rooting medium.
  • Keep cuttings moist and monitor them for a week or two.
  • Cuttings take around 5 days begin to show roots.

Pests and Diseases

Catnips are susceptible to spider mites and whitefly. Since the herb comes from the mint family the herb is prone to diseases such as mint rust, anthracnose and verticillium wilt. [5]

Uses For The Catnip Herb

The herb is often taken as tea to calm stomach upsets and also help with sleep. Also used for medicinal purposes for treating:

  • Headaches
  • Coughing
  • Insomnia
  • Smallpox
  • Scarlet fever

Studies have also shown it used as a natural healing quality when applied on cuts. Other medicinal uses are as an:

  • Astringent
  • Antibiotic
  • For toothache

… and much more.

All in all, the primary uses for the catnip herb are for culinary or medicinal purposes.[6] [7]

Catnips are also used for landscaping as a ground cover and considered a mosquito repellant plant. They also attract bees, butterflies and birds.

Catnip Cautions

In some areas catnip is considered an invasive plant or noxious weed.

The plant self-sows, remove the flowers to reduce volunteer seedlings the next season.

Pregnant women should avoid catnips as it induces uterine contractions which are dangerous.

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