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Growing Catnip

Updated on December 3, 2012

Catnip is very easy to grow.

In fact it has become an invasive weed in many parts of the US and can be found growing along hedgerows, near streams, on waste ground and especially anywhere there is calciferous soil as they prefer soil that is alkaline.

To grow catnip well you need to be in USDA zones 3 - 10, or their equivalent. Catnip plants were introduced from Europe where they grow wild, especially around the Mediterranean basin, to the US in the last century.

Catnip, or catmint as it is sometimes called, is a herbal plant and member of the mint family. Its correct botanical term is nepeta cataria.

An upright plant, it grows to around 3' tall.

It's leaves are a serrated heart shape, not unlike the common nettle, and are pale green in color.

Catnip plants produce flower heads in their stalks in late summer and the flowers appear in small conical clusters with colors ranging from blue or a white backgound with varies hues of pink or lilac.

A member of the mint family, nepeta cataria spreads by its extensive underground root system and also by wind-borne dried seed heads.

Unlike mint, the catnip (or catmint as it is sometimes known as) does not require regular watering to stay healthy. The catnip plant is drought-resistant and very hardy.

the catnip plant
the catnip plant
catnip flowers
catnip flowers
catnip in a pot
catnip in a pot
an attractive variety of catnip to grow
an attractive variety of catnip to grow

How to Grow Catnip

If there is some catnip in your area, by far the easiest way to grow it is to simply dig out some rooted offshoots from the parent plant and replant where you want to grow catnip.

Plant it in an area where it can receive full sun, if at all possible.

Take care when first replanting your catnip plant, as any handling causes bruising of the leaves or stem which may be invisible to the naked eye, but not to your neighbourhood cats, whose highly developed olfactory senses will immediately scent it out and quite possible destroy it while it is in a weakened state, having not yet sent out new roots to stabilise itself.

Cats are highly attracted to nepetalactone, a substance contained in the leaves, stems and flowers of the catnip plant.

Bruising the plant will release the oils that contain nepetalactone and the wind will carry the scent downstream to every cat for miles around.

Protect your baby catnip plant with netting or similar.

If you wish to grow catnip from seed, simply rake the soil up and scatter the seed where you want them to grow, rake them into the soil very lightly, and water well.

It may be easier to plant the seed in straight rows, then thin out as required when the seedlings appear. Remember they grow to around 3' high and are bushy plants, so they need space.

Young seedlings will need protected from passing cats, so either fence your seedlings in, or cover them with nettings.

While most catnips are perennial, some are annual and if you grow catnip from seed it is important that the seller tells you which type you are buying.

Perennial plants will return years after year if frost cuts them down, or in warmer climates they simply do not stop growing, ever, though they will grow less in winter.

Annual plants grow for one season only and need to be grown from seed again the following year.

If your catnip plant is an annual variety, simply save from seed from the parent plant when flowering is finished and the seed heads have turned brown.

Seed collected before this will not be mature enough to grow new plants with.

cats can destroy your catnip plants
cats can destroy your catnip plants

Other Uses for the Catnip plant

The catnip plant has some medicinal properties as well as being attractive to cats. Its leaves, flowers and stems can all be collected and used fresh or dried.

They can be chopped up and made into a tea infusion which makes a pleasant tasting drink said to help coughs, fevers, aid sleep, or given to babies to help with colic.

The leaves can be added to culinary dishes including salads, where its taste is described as being slightly minty.

If you grow catnip in your garden, you may as well make the most use you can find of all parts of the plant.

Dried, the catmint plant makes a great insecticide around the house.

To dry, simply cut the plant off at the base and hag it upside down to dry in an airing cupboard. When completely dry, the stems will snap if slight pressure is applied. If it bends it still contains moisture.

Once it is completely dried, it was be chopped up or pulverised in a blender, then bottled in an airtight container, else sealed polythene bags.

Cat toys can be made form dried catnip. Simply sew the dried catnip into a cat sized bean bag or similar for hours of fun with your cat.

bee on a catnip flower
bee on a catnip flower

Bees are attracted to catnip

Even if you don't like cats nor want to use it for its herbal remedies, you should grow catnip plants in your garden, preferably in containers to stop them spreading, because they are very attractive to bees.

As every gardener knows, bees are very beneficial in the garden with their pollinating abilities that bring us ripened fruit and flowers year after year.

The catnip plant also deters unwelcome pests like the flea beetle. They would make good companion plants in the vegetable garden.

Rats and deer also do not like the catnip plant.

Read more about growing catnip and other plants on my blog - Gro Garden


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    • profile image

      vanessa 7 years ago

      hi lol dam

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      that must be so much fun to watch!

    • Jane@CM profile image

      Jane@CM 7 years ago

      I have a friend who grows it and drys it in her over, the cats go crazy while it is drying!

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      LOL @ Mr Grumpy!

    • humagaia profile image

      Charles Fox 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      I hate the smell of catnip. Perhaps that is a side effect of an allergy to cats!

    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 7 years ago from At the Gemba

      A very easy to grow and attractive plant, thanks for your great hub.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Ahh..Ether...spring is only around the corner:)

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Wonderful. Much needed this UK autumn evening

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      I've been keeping an eye out in the campo for catnip, seeing as it is supposed to grow wild here in southern Spain. The shops only sell catnip grass which isn't quite the same plant. I might have to buy it online!

      That said, I've grown catnip grass and my cat stuck his nose up at it! I'd love to have a cat that reacted to catnip.Must be great fun to watch :)

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 7 years ago from Northern, California

      We have purchased the dry catnip for our girls (Miss Kitty and Chance). They loose their minds over this stuff! Rubbing their little faces in it and rolling around in it, makes me a little jelouse! The catnip seems to be very pleasing to our cats.

      I was unaware that growing it would help attract bees, this would be enough of a reason to grow it for me, but the girls think it's a great way to 'score' the freshest catnip around! Thanks for the super good information. Can't wait to get planting!