Catnip Plant: How To Grow And Care For Catnip

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So you are interested in growing catnip, an easy-to-grow hardy perennial herb?

It is commonly known as the Catnip plant or Catswort, Nepeta cataria, one of the top mosquito repellant plants and a member of the Lamiaceae or mint family.

blooms of growing catnip - nepeta cataria - in a large outdoor locationPin

It’s native to Central Asia, parts of China, and southern and eastern Europe.

Cats find its scent addictive, so if you grow catnip in your herb garden, expect many cats in your neighborhood to stay and play around with this plant.

Its pungent fragrance highly excites and attracts cats. Another Nepata commonly known as catmint, Nepata mussinnii, does not generally appeal to cats.

The leaves of catnip plants work as marijuana for cats and appear coarse-toothed and elliptical to triangular in shape.

Apart from attracting cats to your garden, anyone can use the leaves and other parts of the catnip for a variety of purposes.

Naturalized in parts of North America, catnip plants grow to 3′ to 4′ feet tall and wide with downy and light green foliage. It produces small lavender flowers on spikes up to 5” inches tall from late spring through fall. 

It also has square stems with gray-green, fuzzy foliage.

Nepeta Cataria Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Nepeta cataria
  • Common Name(s): Catnip plant, Catmint
  • Synonyms: N/A
  • Pronunciation: Ne-pe-ta ka-te-ri-uh
  • Family & Origin: Lamiaceae family, native to Central Asia, parts of China, and southern and eastern Europe
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: 3-9
  • Size: 3′ to 4′ feet tall and wide
  • Flowering: Blooms with small lavender flowers on spikes from late spring through fall
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Humidity: Average humidity
  • Temperature: Between 39° to 70° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Soil: Rich loam and well-draining soil
  • Water: Water regularly, but do not overwater
  • Fertilizer: Fertilize water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks
  • Pests & Diseases: Attracts cats, prone to spider mites and whitefly and diseases like mint rust, anthracnose, and verticillium wilt
  • Propagation: Propagate by seed or stem tip cuttings
  • Plant Uses: Attracts pollinators, used in teas, medicinal plants, and as a natural insect repellent.

Tips For Growing Catnip – Caring For The Nepeta Plant

With proper growing and catnip plant care, you will easily grow catnip and help it produce more white flowers with purple dots.

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 topsoil.

Catnip does well in many soils but prefers moderately rich loam and good drainage soil.

However, it can also tolerate poor soils and other soil types. You can also use coconut coir or standard potting soil as the best-growing mediums.

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

Is catnip a perennial?

The perennial plant catnip grows in a soil pH range of 6 (mildly acidic) to 7.5 (mildly alkaline). Catnip 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 to partial shade. Remember to give it plenty of sun, about 6 hours of sun a day, to thrive.

They can grow indoors under standard fluorescent lights and will do exceptionally well under high-output T5 fluorescent plant grow lights.

The ideal temperature ranges between 39° to 70° degrees Fahrenheit.

Why Do Cats Love Catnips?

Ever wonder why cats roll around the leaves of the catnip plant?

This is because of the active ingredient called nepetalactone. When cats smell this substance from the leaves or stems, it stimulates their receptors that detect pheromones.

Due to this, cats experience an overwhelming amount of happiness. Some will roll around while licking the catnip leaves, while others would just sniff it.

Catnip nepeta works as a mild feline hallucinogen. However, it does not pose any danger to cats. Catnip contains the same properties as male cat urine. This may cause the feline friends to appear as though in heat.

Some pet owners use catnip to keep their cats indoors. First, dry the catnip leaves by hanging or over-drying.

Then, they sprinkle dry catnip leaves on a pillow, cushion, or an old sock making it a homemade catnip toy. You may also use fresh catnip leaf as it provides more excitement.

Catnip plant, small white flowers blooming at the top growing in a pot.Pin

Watering Catnip

Remember, after planting the catnip plant in the spring or after the threat of frost, water the young plants twice a week for the first two weeks.

Also, reduce watering to every other week after plants become well established.

The plant is drought-tolerant and can resist heat as it grows older. It also prefers average humidity because this plant struggle in hot, humid climates.

During the dry catnip season and high temperatures, increase watering to once a week or even more if needed.

Fertilizing The Catnip Plant

Feed catnip with a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks. Begin fertilizing the soil 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 the 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 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 catnip flowers by pinching them off to prevent self-seeding. After flowering, catnips become scraggly and need cutting back.

Prune after the first bloom, which is usually around late spring to early summer, to encourage a second flowering before the winter season.

Cut Nepeta plants down to 3″ or 4″ inches after the first frost. This helps encourage new healthy growth during the spring.

Moreover, pruning the catmint also helps keep the pests at bay. Snipping the flower buds will also help encourage leaf growth.

Propagating The Catnip

Apart from seeds, you can propagate the catnip herb via stem tip cuttings during spring and summer. [4]

  • Use 3″ to 4″ inches-long stem 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 powder hormone and place it in a rooting medium.
  • Keep the soil and cuttings moist. Monitor them for a week or two. Make sure it has enough drainage holes.
  • Cuttings take around five days to begin to show roots in the soil.

Pests and Plant Diseases

Catnip plants are susceptible to spider mites and whitefly. So you can encourage beneficial insects to control the pest population. 

Since the herb comes from the mint family, the herb is prone to diseases such as mint rust, anthracnose, and verticillium wilt.

Uses For The Catnip Herb

The herb is often taken as a 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 is used as a natural healing quality when applied to 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 culinary or medicinal purposes. The catnip tea serves as a mild sedative, especially if combined with mint, chamomile, and lemon balm. [6] [7]

Catnips are also used for landscaping as a ground cover and are considered a mosquito and insect repellent plant.

Extracts from the plant can be used to create essential oils. The catnip oil also repels cockroaches, dust mites, deer mites, and ticks.

It can also be used as a culinary herb, with its flowers and leaves as an alternative to mint. It also has a strong bitter flavor.

Apart from cats and lots of cats, the effect of true catnip can also attract bees, butterflies, and birds.

Catnip Cautions

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

The plant self-sows and removes 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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