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How to Grow Catnip for a Catnip Kitty, with Funny Catnip Video

Updated on November 29, 2010

Catnip, or Nepeta cataria, is a perennial herb of the mint family. It often grows almost three feet tall. The leaves are heart shaped, and both the leaves and stems are covered with fine white fuzz, giving the plants a grayish appearance. In the summer, the mature plants bloom with clusters of small bell-shaped flowers. The flowers might be white or pale lavender, with dark purple specs.

Catnip originated in Europe but was bought to the New World by colonists. It has long been used for medicinal purposes by humans, and catnip effects on felines is legendary. Why do cats like catnip? The herb emits a strong, pleasant aroma that is processed through receptors in a feline’s mouth and nose. The chemical in the catnip oil acts like a sex pheromone to most cats, although some are totally unaffected by the herb. many cat owners enjoy growing catnip for their cats - especially natural catnip.

Growing catnip is easy. When we lived on a mini farm, I grew it, and judging from my cats, it was the best catnip around! I found catnip seeds at a local feed and seed store. I started my catnip seeds in small peat pots indoors, under a grow light. If you’re starting the catnip seeds indoors, water the plants once or twice every day. Make sure the soil is well drained. When the catnip plants were about five inches tall, I transferred them to my garden after the danger of frost had passed.

You don’t have to start the catnip plants indoors. You can plant the catnip seeds directly in the garden or sow them in pots on your deck or patio. Be careful, though – cats in the neighborhood will come to the catnip plants like bees to honey! You might want to put the plants in tomato cages to keep them safe.

Catnip plants or seeds should be planted about eighteen inches apart. You can sow the catnip seeds more closely and then thin them to the proper distance once they get a few inches tall. This will ensure that you have plenty of healthy plants to choose from.

Catnip will thrive in full sun and partial sun and will even grow in partial shade. In you live in a very hot climate, you might need to shade the plants some in the hottest part of the day. You can accomplish this by planting it on the morning side of a taller garden crop like sweet corn or okra.

To make your catnip plants bushier and fuller, you’ll have to trim them back. When the plants are very small, this can be accomplished by pinching the stems to remove them. When the plants get bigger, you’ll notice a tiny pair of leaves growing in the fork of larger stems and leaves. Once these babies grow out a little, leave them and trim back the larger, older stems and leaves.

Catnip doesn’t require a lot of fertilizer. Add some to the soil when you plant the catnip seeds or the catnip plants, and then maybe just one or two more times through the season. In most locations, however, the catnip plants will require a lot of regular watering.

When the catnip plants bud, cut the seed pods. Most of the catnip oil is here, so this is the best catnip. These can be used as fresh catnip for your catnip kitty, or they can be dried. To dry the leaves and buds, spread them out on a screen and place them in a dark, dry place for three or four weeks. Stalks or entire plants can also be dried by hanging them upside down in a dark, dry room or closet for several weeks.

Any catnip you use for cats should be organic catnip. Organic catnip is catnip that hasn’t been sprayed with insecticides and that has been fertilized with compost or other natural fertilizers. Insects don’t like the catnip oil, so pests shouldn’t be a problem with growing catnip. Natural catnip or organic catnip is great for stuffing into toys, and it's safe for your pet.

This fragrant herb is very prolific and will take over your garden, if you let it. My mom often grew it around her shrubbery, and she was constantly pruning it and even pulling many of the plants up by the roots in order to control the sprawling growth.

To see catnip effects on catnip kitties, watch a catnip video below!

To learn more about catnip and about how to make catnip toys, click the article links below:

Grow catnip!
Grow catnip!

Catnip kitty with a catnip mouse.

Catnip kitty with fresh catnip pillow.

Catnip video - fresh catnip leaves.


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