Catmint: expert tips on buying, planting & pruning

Lea
Lea
Lea
Lea

Having studied organic farming, I enjoy trying out new cultivation methods and other gardening experiments with friends in our community garden. I care deeply about exploring sustainable and mindful approaches to working with nature. This is my biggest passion, but I am also a real ornamental plant enthusiast!

Favourite fruit: strawberry, mango, guava
Favourite vegetables: artichoke, tomato, rocket

If you want to do something good for your furry friend, plant catmint. Let us show what you should know about buying, caring for and the effects of catmint.

Catmint flowers
Catmint is not only great for cats but also for cooking

Irresistible to cats, a feast for the eyes in the garden and also versatile in the kitchen – catmint (Nepeta) can do it all. In addition catmint is low-maintenance and undemanding, making it a real jackpot for your garden, room or balcony. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the origin, purchase, planting, care and use of catmint.

Catmint is extremely versatile: they go very nicely with roses in perennial beds; small-growing species are often used for bed borders or to stabilise slopes. It also fits just as well in a fragrant bed as in a herb bed. Bees love to feast on the lush blooms, as do other beneficial pollinators. Cats love the smell of the herb, the flowers and leaves can also be used as a medicinal plant and herb. There are so many good reasons to grow your own catmint. You do not even necessarily need your own garden for this. Catnip thrives just as well in a pot on the terrace or in a balcony box. It even does well as a houseplant. It is therefore high time to get yourself this miracle herb.

Catmint: origin and properties

Originally, this special mint variety came from different continents: Europe, Africa and Asia. This also explains why more than 250 different species of this genus exist. Meanwhile, you can find catmint on almost every continent. Whether in hot and dry regions, in high mountains or steppe landscapes – members of the catmint genus are pretty much found everywhere.

Most catmint species are perennial, but there are also annual species. They are mostly herbaceous plants that form clumps. Depending on the species, the stems can be smooth or covered with small hairs. The leaves of catnip are arranged opposite on the stem. They are also predominantly greenish or greyish depending on the species and exude a pleasant minty and lemony fragrance. Between April and July, catnip blooms purple, white, blue or pink, depending on the variety.

Nepeta species and varieties

There is a wide range of catmint species and varieties – so the choice is not always easy. Below, we have gathered the most popular species and some associated varieties:

Nepeta x faassenii:

  • ˈWalkers Lowˈ: this variety features striking purple flowers and a long flowering period
  • ˈSnowflakesˈ: this white flowering variety is ideal for perennial beds
  • ˈGlacier iceˈ: this variety is extremely hardy and blooms heavily in white and blue

Nepeta racemosa:

  • ˈOdeur Citronˈ: the French name already indicates the intense, lemony scent of this variety; but it is generally avoided by cats
  • ˈGrogˈ: this grey-leaved variety captivates owners with its subtle lemony fragrance and pink flowers

Nepeta grandiflora:

  • ˈDawn to Duskˈ: this variety is known for its compact growth and pink to purple flowers
  • ˈWild Catˈ: this variety is very strong-growing and can also grow quite large
'Dawn to dusk' catmint variety
The ‘dawn to dusk’ catmint variety does not need much space [Photo: photowind/ Shutterstock.com]

Nepeta subsessilis:

  • ˈSweet Dreamsˈ: this catnip variety captivates with magnificent, light pink flowers with a purple edge.

Planting catmint

Properly planting catnip requires knowledge of both the correct planting time and the environmental requirements of the plant. Nothing can really go wrong when planting your catmint if you have instructions at hand. The plants are best planted outdoors between late April and mid-May. If you prefer to grow your own catnip, the best time to do so is in the spring, between mid-March and late April.

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Although this special herb is considered relatively unpretentious, there are still some criteria to pay attention to when choosing a suitable location.

Growing requirements of catnip at a glance:

  • Sunny and bright
  • Permeable, loose and nutrient-rich soil
  • pH value around 6.5
  • Not too wet
Catmint in a garden
Catmint does best in a bright and sunny location [Photo: Peter Turner Photography/ Shutterstock.com]

Once you have found the ideal location for your catmint, it is time to plant it. Do this as follows:

Planting catmint: instructions

  • Weed and loosen soil well at the planting site
  • Fertilise soil with compost or organic, slow release fertiliser
  • Dig the planting hole
  • Planting distance: 30cm
  • Water well

Step-by-step instructions and other important tips for planting catmint can be found here.

Caring for catmint

Catmint is said to be very easy to care for with little attention required – and it is. Still, there are a few things you can pay attention to in order to keep your plant doing just fine.

Watering

Catnip can be found in almost all regions of the world. It is therefore not surprising that the watering requirements of individual species are not always the same. A good rule of thumb is to pay attention to the colour of the leaves. Grey-leaved species are more hardy and can also cope well with prolonged drought. Green-leaved species, in turn, are more sensitive and need to be watered regularly so that they do not dry out. In general, you should be careful not to water too much, as waterlogging can be extremely harmful to the plants. It is better to water moderately and more often if necessary.

Summary: Watering catmint

  • Grey-leaved species: drought tolerant
  • Green-leaved species: water regularly
  • It is better to water too little than too much
  • Avoid waterlogging

Pruning catmint

The most common reasons to prune catmint are to extend the blooming season or to prevent the plant from spreading. If you would like to enjoy catnip blooms for as long as possible, we recommend cutting the entire plant back to just above ground level after the main blooming period in July. This allows catmint to bloom again in the autumn. To prevent the herb from spreading, you can also cut the shrub back to just above ground level in the spring.

Cat eating catmint
Most cats cannot get enough of catmint [Photo: Anna Hoychuk/ Shutterstock.com]

Fertilising

Catmint is proven to be very frugal when it comes to nutrients. Fertilising is usually not necessary. Too many nutrients are more likely to harm the plant, so when fertilising catmint, the general rule is: less is more. If you have enriched the soil with compost before planting, or with a fertiliser with long-term effects – such as our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food – there will be no need to fertilise again for the next two years. In the third year after planting, you can fertilise your catnip again with nettle liquid feed or slow-release fertiliser after pruning in July, if needed. Again, the distinction between grey- and green-leaved species applies: frugal species with grey foliage usually do not require fertiliser at all, while those with green foliage may require annual fertilisation.

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Effect of catnip on cats

There is, of course, a reason why catnip has its name. Cats are magically attracted to the herb. Some cats become euphoric and energised by the plant, on others it has a calming effect. What’s the reason for this? Researchers do not yet know exactly. What is clear, however, is that catmint contains a substance called nepetalactone. This resembles a sex hormone in cats and therefore puts them into a frenzy-like state. So if you want to excite your cat, put a catnip in the garden or in the room. If you do not care for cats, you might want to reconsider catmint.

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