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Most of us are pretty familiar with the catnip we buy from the supermarket or pet store to give to our cats. The catnip we buy from these places usually comes either in a small box with an inner wrapper of cellophane to help keep the catnip fresh or it comes inserted in a cloth mouse or other toy to give to your cat. We’ve all seen how much cats enjoy the experience of catnip. They go wild for the stuff!
Fewer people know about the catnip plant. Catnip plants are easy to grow. The leaves harvested from catnip plants are much fresher and more potent than the catnip you can buy in the store. What’s more, catnip plants make for a great garden plant, whether you have cats or not. The leaves and flowers of catnip plants are beautiful and fragrant. Read below for a bit more information on this extremely interesting and useful herb.
Types of Catnip Plants
Catnip is known by gardeners and scientists as an herbaceous perennial herb. The word herbaceous refers to plants that have non-woody stems, such as catnip. The word perennial means that the plant grows back in the spring without having to replant it. The visible parts of the catnip plant dies back during the winter months, but the roots survive to leaf out again in the spring.
Catnip is often also called catmint by some gardeners, especially those in Britain. For many, the two terms are interchangeable. However, the species of catnip that most pet owners give their cats is the species Nepeta cataria. Catmint is often the common name for the species Nepeta mussinni. Although both species belong to the same family, they have slightly different characteristics. Catmint is a shorter plant, one that grows more closely to the ground, and has less of the active properties in its leaves that stimulates our pet cats.
Catnip plants grow to the height of about 3 feet and are about 3 feet wide as well. Careful pruning of the catnip leaves will help insure bushier plants with more leaves. To prune a catnip plant, simply pinch off the leaves at the stem. Catnip plants are in the mint family, which gives them their fragrant smell. These plants grow clusters of small flowers that can be white or lilac in color. Both the leaves and flowers are very attractive and make the catnip plant a favorite among gardeners and cat lovers alike.
Conditions for Catnip Plants
Catnip plants are a very hardy variety of herb. They can grow in many gardening zones, including zones 3 to 9. Like many herbs and varieties of mint, catnip plants enjoy being planted where they get plenty of sun, but the can be planted in partial shade as well. The favorite soil conditions for catnip plants are poor or sandy soils that are well drained. They are drought tolerant plants, making them a great choice for areas of the garden or yard that get a lot of strong sun. Nevertheless, catnip plants do like water, especially when they are at the earlier stages of growth, so keep them moist when the plants are sprouting.
Because catnip plants are so fragrant and so well loved by felines, you may have to work a little to protect the plants from interested cats. A bit of fencing might be in order or the plants placed in such a way as to discourage cats from eating and playing in the catnip. Of course, catnip grows very well in pots, so that it can be placed in areas cats cannot reach. Hanging pots of catnip plants are a great solution to the advances of amorous felines.
Purchasing Catnip Plants
One of the best things about growing your own catnip plants is that you will always have fresh catnip to give to your cat. The potency of catnip harvested from you own plants will be much higher. To grow your own catnip plants, you can go one of two routes. Catnip seeds are widely available at pet stores, lawn and garden stores, and on the Internet. Sprouting catnip seeds is easy to do and fun. This can be a great project for the whole family. Catnip can also be found ready sprouted in many garden centers. These plants are usually sold in the same area of the store as other herbs. All that is required is to bring the catnip plants home and transfer them into larger pots or directly into the soil.
You may also want to get a cat tower for when your cat is running around, enjoying the sensations of catnip. Either way, you will be sure to enjoy the experience of growing and tending to catnip plants. Your cat will enjoy the experience even more!
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