Nepeta is a genus that contains about 250 species of flowering plants. These species belong to the Lamiaceae family and some of them are known as Catmint or Catnip plants. They are native to regions of Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and naturalized in North America.
Catmints are low-maintenance plants. You should watch out for cats as they are the most common pests that might occur. No, seriously! These plants contain an organic compound called nepetalactone that can give your cats a few minutes of euphoria when indigested or smelled.
These herbs are usually grown for ornamental purposes, but some people use them in several culinary recipes. Their minty foliage serves as an excellent spice for sauces and soups. Also, tea made of Catmint leaves has a stress-relieving effect and can be used as a treatment for nausea, insomnia, and toothache.
- The aromatic flowers and leaves of Catmint plants attract butterflies, bees, and other insects. If you are lucky enough, your Catmint might be an interesting halt for hummingbirds.
- They look similar to lavender plants and are often used by gardeners as a replacement in regions where lavender cannot grow properly.
- Nepetalactone is a great cockroach, mosquito, and termite repellent.
- Catmints are valuable herbs that contain a high percentage of vitamin C, vitamin A, and Vitamin K. Also, they are an excellent source of potassium, iron, and manganese.
- Catmint capsules are available on the market and they are used as a herbal remedy for digestive problems and headaches.
- Many cats prefer to eat Catmints, but the most exciting part is when they smell it. However, some cats do not experience any behavior change when interacting with these plants.
- Although they are often compared to marijuana or LSD, catnip plants are not harmful to cats. No matter how much catnip your pets consume, the plant will not cause addiction.
- Most cats react to catmint by rubbing, flipping, rolling, and eventually zoning out. They might meow, growl, and become aggressive or hyperactive. This will usually last around 10 minutes, after which your cat will start to lose interest.
- Catmints are light lovers. They prefer to grow in full sun for at least 6 hours a day. When proper light is provided, they will produce the most gorgeous flowers.
- They can grow in any type of well-draining soil. They are tolerant of drought, but soggy conditions can result in root rot.
Catmint Features: An Overview
- The most popular species from the Nepeta genus are N. Sibirica, N. Subsessilis, N. Cataria, and the hybrid N. × Faassenii.
- Catmints are herbaceous perennial plants that can reach from 24 to 36 inches (0.6-0.9 m) in height and 12 to 36 inches (0.3-0.9 m) in width. Some varieties grow smaller or up to 4 feet (1.2 m) tall and 3 feet (0.9 m) wide.
- They have light green to gray-green, heart-shaped leaves that grow opposite on a sturdy stem.
- Their aromatic foliage does not attract deer or rabbits, but it might have a funny effect on your cats.
- Typically, catmint plants bloom from late spring to early summer. If proper growing conditions are met, they will flourish again in autumn.
- They produce tubular flowers that can come in numerous shades of violet, blue, lavender, white, or pink. Some species may exhibit petals that are spotted with small purple dots.
- They bear smooth, slightly ribbed, or warty nutlets.
- If you do not want your Catmint plant to feel alone, you can effectively pair it with European sage, Jupiter’s beard, Lamb’s ear, yarrow, roses, poppy mallows, or peonies.
Catmint plants are one of those friendly companions that will tolerate your neglect. They can thrive in almost any environmental conditions as long as you love them unconditionally and properly care for them when they are in need.
If you are interested in Catmint plants, keep in mind that they need to be planted once the last wind of winter has passed. You can grow them from seeds, but your first catmint should be nursery-grown, as hybrid species may not grow properly from seed. You can plant your store-bought catmint anytime from spring through early autumn. Choose a roomy location in your garden that allows it to grow as tall and wide as it needs.
These perennial herbs do well when they are grown in a location with full sun to partial shade. However, if you want your catmint plant to produce the best blooming, make sure you provide it with plenty of bright and direct light.
In general, catmint plants prefer cool temperatures and are not very tolerant of extreme heat. They are comfortable in temperatures between 55 and 85 °F (12-29 °C). Once they reach maturity, catmints can withstand hard frost quite well but it is better to bring them indoors during the winter. If you live in a warm region, these plants will enjoy some afternoon shade.
Many Nepeta species can grow healthy in a wide range of soil types without a problem. You can plant your Catmint plant in any soil you want as long as it is well-draining. Look for potting mixes that are slightly acidic and rich in humus or compost.
Catmints do not have high demands regarding fertilizing. But! Young plants will benefit from an organic compost added in the fall after planting. This should be a one-time process, as they will not require further feeding once rooted.
Pruning these beauties will help them go through another cycle of flowering. If you shear them back after their initial blooming, you can encourage most catmint species to flourish again. However, some might not exhibit new colorful blossoms, but their foliage will have a fresh and tidy look.
Besides their common feline enemies, catmints are rarely a subject of interest for pests. Their scented leaves usually protect these plants from possible infestations.
Even so, you might notice some leaf spotting once in a while. If you notice any sign of infestation, you can cut the entire plant back or simply trim off the unhealthy parts from it. Pests like thrips may bother your plant, but you can easily treat them with neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Catmint plants need extra care only during their first year. Young catmints will benefit from regular watering during their first growing season. Make sure you provide your plant with about one inch (2.5 cm) of water once a week until they settle in their new growth environment.
Once established, catmints are pretty tolerant of drought and will require watering only once every three weeks. Water the soil until it is moist but be careful not to over-water these plants, as they do not appreciate extremely wet conditions. Some species of Catmints, such as N. Subsessilis, prefer regular watering to maintain the soil damp.
They are not tolerant of high levels of humidity, so it is better to keep the air dry around your catmint plants. If you grow these plants indoors, you can use a dehumidifier or you can place them in a room near an air vent.
With love and proper care, Catmint plants will grow and produce flowers for years. However, if you are down to propagating these beauties, there should be no problem. They are one of the easiest plants to propagate through division. Also, catnip plants are fast growers, so the propagating process will most likely be a success.
All Nepeta species respond well to propagation, especially if you do it during the spring. To avoid damaging the plant, it’s best to propagate plants that are already comfortable in their environment.
Dig out your Catmint plant with a shovel and remove the excess soil around its root. Slice the root vertically using a spade and divide it in as many sections as you wish. Look for sections of the plant that have undeveloped shoots, as these are the most effective to propagate. Plant your divisions in fresh, well-drained ground soil and water them regularly until they settle in.
If you do not want to pay for another round of catmint seeds, you can also propagate these plants by stem cuttings. Look for healthy stems and cut about 3 inches (7.6 cm) off them using a sharp and sterilized knife. Dip the cuttings into rooting hormone, then plant them in a fresh and mid-damp potting soil mix, such as peat or perlite.
Make sure you keep the pot in a bright, warm area and water the cuttings abundantly. You should notice new roots in about two or three weeks after planting.
Catmint is very easy to care for and you can grow it both indoors and outdoors without much effort. It requires full sun to bloom sporadically, mid-cool temperatures, slightly acidic organic and well-draining soil, and regular pruning. This plant is pretty tolerant of drought, so you do not need to worry about how often it should be watered.
How could you resist these gorgeous and exciting plants? If you find yourself among the happy owners of a cat (or more), you must add catmint plants to your garden as soon as possible. They are colorful, minty-fragrant, and they will provide you with daily fun when your cat approaches them.