Catmint/catnip – planting, care and tips

Catmint with a wool bee
Catmint with a wool bee

The catmint is a classic in the perennial garden. There are many good reasons to buy and plant catmint. The most striking feature of the beautiful perennial is the strong scent of its leaves. If you rub a leaf lightly between two fingers, a milder, hard-to-describe and very intense smell rises in your nose. With its relatively small flowers, it may at first seem inconspicuous, but it takes on a not to be underestimated role in the perennial flowerbed. With her elegant restraint, she puts the magnificent perennials that surround her into the spotlight and supports them in their effect.

Profile of catmint:

Scientific name: Nepeta

Plant family: mint family (Lamiaceae)

Other names: catnip, catswort

Sowing time / Planting time: February – May

Flowering period: May – October

Harvest time: April – October

Location: sunny

Soil quality: nutrient-poor, loamy

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, slopes, containers, rose companion, farmers garden, roof garden, rose garden, rock garden

Winter hardiness: hardy

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of catmint

Plant order, origin and occurrence of catmint

The genus of catnip (Nepeta) includes about 250 deciduous perennials that are native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. and belong to the mint family (Lamiaceae). In nature, many of them occur in dry locations, but a few also grow in forests or on damp mountain slopes. Only about 20 of them are also used as ornamental plants in our gardens and are popular because of their decorative, mostly gray-green foliage and their long flowering period. In addition, the perennial is very easy to care for and its flowers are swarmed by insects of all kinds.

Characteristics of catmint


Particularly striking dark purple flowers, for example, the blue-flowered ‘Walkers Low’ (Nepeta x faassenii), has reached heights of growth of up to 90 cm and excellently cut off in the perennial sighting. To the highest catnip mints belongs with a stature height of up to 1.40 cm the blue-violet-blooming large-flowered catnip ‘pool bank’ (Nepeta grandiflora). She has received in the Staudensichtung the best rating among all species and varieties. The higher species grow horstig and appear with their fine inflorescences and foliage very delicate and easy. But there are also cushioning, lower species. These include some varieties of blue teal, for example ‘Kit Cat’, and the catnip (Nepeta racemosa), whose varieties only reach heights between 20 and 40 cm.


Their silver-gray to fresh green leaves are opposite to the stems, that is, always two leaves are at a height, and smell intense.


The heyday of catnip is between April and July. Depending on the species and variety, the violet, blue, white or pink flowers are in narrow inflorescences, which consist of countless single flowers, up to 1.40 m high stems.


Catmint – cultivation and care


Most species thrive best in sunny locations with sparse, well-drained soils and tolerate dryness very well. These include above all the gray-dusty species. But also on fresh to moist, nutrient-rich soil species of catnip grow, for example, the Japanese catnip (Nepeta subsessilis) or the Chinese dragon’s head (Nepeta prattii). Properly wet soils do not like these green-leaved species either. While most of the catnip prefers sunny locations, these species also thrive in secluded spots in the garden.


A pruning after flowering leads to a slightly weaker flowering in late summer. For areal plantings one sets about eight perennials per square meter.


The green-leaved varieties should be regularly supplied with fertilizer. The best is compost. It is not recommended to use artificial fertilizers because they like to use too much nitrogen. In contrast to the green-leaved varieties, the gray-powdered varieties require no fertilizer.


If you cut back the catnip after the main flower near the ground, the plant is thereby stimulated to a second flower in late summer. At the same time this prevents the perennial from sowing itself.


One can divide the perennials in the spring or multiply by cuttings. But they like to sow themselves.


The catnip is perennial and hardy. Nevertheless, it is important to choose a warm location for them, so that they survive the winter time without damage.

When kept in a pot, the pot should be covered with fleece or jute during the winter so that the roots do not freeze. Furthermore, it is recommended – both in the field and in the pot – not to cut off the stalks of catnip in the fall. They serve as protection against freezing wetness.

Diseases and pests

Catnip is generally considered very robust. The young plants of Japan catnip are sometimes nibbled by snails. In addition, there is occasionally the risk of infestation with powdery mildew.

Use in the garden

The low species of this genus such as catnip (Nepeta racemosa) are very suitable for bordering of beds. Especially recommended are the varieties ‘Superba’ and ‘Snowflake’, which form dense cushions and thus give the other plants in the bed a beautiful frame in violet or white. But they can also be used to plant pots and pots. Higher species such as blue-flowered, with their filigree growth, are beautiful partners for roses. Especially the violet varieties are in good contrast to shrubs with fresh green foliage and green-yellow flowers such as the steppe spurge (Euphorbia seguieriana ssp. Niciciana). The filigree foliage also fits very well to large-leaved species in perennial. Since the plants of this genus are very robust and easy to care for, they are often used as an alternative to lavender. Anyone who owns a cat and wants to prevent it from rolling around in the plant should use a lemon-scented species, such as the common catnip (Nepeta cataria), as it is avoided by the cats.

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