How To Grow Catnip Plants

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Growing your own catnip (Nepeta Cataria) at home will lessen the burden of purchasing this flowering plant every other time your cat needs it.

These herbaceous perennial plants of the mint family (Lamiaceae) grow in abundance in North America, Asia, and Eastern Europe regions.

The leaves of these feline attractants contain an essential oil known as nepetalactone, which is responsible for eliciting a euphoric response in many cats.

Catnip flower clusters have violet spots with white markings in the many tiny blooms that come out through the summer.

If you’re eager to learn how to grow catnip plants, you’ve come to the perfect place. Keep reading this article to pick up all you need to know before growing your Nepeta Cataria plants.




How To Grow Catnip Plants in a Garden

Catnip seedlings are in plenty and available for purchase in flower nurseries. You can also grow this herbaceous from its seed by sowing in good soil.

Catnip Seedlings
Image Credit: Jeab Nuntiya from Instagram

Trim away any dead or dying stems during the plant’s dormant period, typically in late fall or winter, or just before new growth emerges in early to mid-spring.




When To Plant Catnip

The best time to start growing catnip plants is in early spring, just immediately after the last frost has passed in your zone.

Also, you can start catnip seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the projected last frost date and transplant them outside once the weather warms up.




Where To Grow Catnip Plants

Catnip plants thrive in a well-draining sandy or loamy soil garden that receives plenty of direct sunshine throughout for at least six hours per day.

The ideal growing site should not have taller companion plants because they will create shade for your young catnip seedlings for the better part of the day.

If you reside in a hot climate area, your catnip seedlings will appreciate some good afternoon shade to cool off from the scorching heat.

Garden containers can also form good planting sites for catnip. Well-bounded sites such as raised garden beds, stone walls, and large pots can help contain the self-propagation of catnip.




Spacing and Depth Considerations for Catnip Seedlings

Space catnip properly when growing to promote good growth and airflow. It’s recommended to plant individual seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart.

When planting seeds, you should sow the seeds about ¼ of an inch deep and lightly cover them with well-draining soil.

For transplanting, remember to re-plant the seedlings at the same depth they were in their original potting container.

Most catnip plant varieties do not need staking or trellising, as they often tend to grow more as a bush than as a vine.

If, however, you notice the stems getting leggy, especially in the shade, you can then stake them up to keep them from keeling over.




Caring For a Catnip Plant

Despite being nearly carefree, easy to grow, and propagate, your catnip plant deserves good care to flourish in your landscape.

1. Light

Healthy catnip plants thrive in full sun, requiring a minimum of six to eight hours of direct sunlight every day.

Adequate light can cause an all-around better growth, more lush foliage, and increased essential oils (nepetalactone) to attract the cats.

If you are growing catnip indoors, keep it in a sunny window or under grow lights to recreate ideal sunning circumstances.

Despite the plant’s affinity to sunshine, they can become overwhelmed in extremely hot climates. If you live in a hot zone, it’s best to provide an afternoon shade for your catnip plant.

2. Soil condition

Catnip can do well in various soils. The only requirement is that the soil has to drain well to avoid root rotting, and encourage plant growth.

How To Grow Catnip Plants,
Image Credit: Philip Longo from Instagram

Sandy or loamy soil is always a good choice for catnip seedlings, as it won’t allow excess water or moisture to stand.

A slightly basic or acidic soil with a pH of about 6.1 to 7.8 is preferable for a healthy catnip plant to flourish well.

3. Moisture & Water

While catnip can tolerate harsh sunshine, dry soil, and high temperatures, they need regular watering to ensure proper growth.

This does not mean you should over-water your young catnip seedling. A lightly moist soil without sogginess is enough to flourish a catnip plant.

Water at the root zone and avoid moistening the foliage to prevent issues with excessive moisture. Unless extremely necessary, mature catnip plants don’t need watering.

4. Temperature & Humidity

Catnip grows best in moderate climates, though they can cope with a wide range of temperatures. Daytime temperatures between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and cooler nights are favorable for catnip.

Catnips are likely to wilt in hot and humid climates. Make sure to have good air circulation around the plant to prevent fungal problems, especially in highly humid environments.

5. Weeding

Keeping a weed-free area around your catnip plants is important because it prevents the competition for nutrients, water, and sunlight.

6. Fertilizer

Catnip is not a heavy feeder and will not typically need a consistent supply of fertilizer.

A light application of a balanced compost manure during planting season can be helpful. If your soil is not rich in nutrients, feel free to use liquid plant food to nourish your mature catnip plants during spring.

7. Pollination

Catnip is a self-pollinating herbaceous plant, requiring no external help from bees or other pollinators to produce seed.

But the foliage will also attract bees and other farm-friendly insects that help in cross-pollination to produce bigger seed yields and enhance genetic diversity.




Harvesting & Storing Catnip

Start harvesting your mature catnip leaves once the plant is around 6-8 inches tall. We recommend picking up your catnip leaves after the morning dew has evaporated, and before the leaves wilt up.

The best time to do this is right before the flowers bloom since this is when the nepetalactone is most concentrated.

Use clean scissors or shears to cut the stems about 4 to 6 inches above the ground. This method helps the plant grow bushier and allows for a second harvest later.

After harvesting, you have a few ways to store your catnip. The easiest is drying the leaves. Lay them out in a single layer on a clean, dry surface in a well-ventilated area, keeping them out of direct sunlight.

Turn the leaves every so often to ensure they dry evenly. Once the leaves are dry and brittle, crumble and store in airtight containers. Keep these containers in a cool, dark place.

A mature flowered catnip plant
Image Credit: Bree McArdle from Instagram

Another option is to freeze fresh catnip leaves. Wash and dry the leaves, then put them in a freezer-safe bag or container.

Frozen catnip keeps its potency for months. You can also make catnip toys by stuffing small fabric pouches with dried or fresh leaves.

Remember to label and date your catnip containers. This helps you keep track of their freshness. Properly harvested and stored catnip can give your cat months of joy and enrichment.




How To Grow Potted Catnip Plants Indoors

Growing catnip seedlings indoors is a favorable option for people living in apartments and those in colder climates.

Having this herbaceous plant in a controlled environment will also prevent it from spreading further into unwanted places.

Choose a planter that’s at least 12 inches deep and wide, and make sure it has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Fill the pot with a well-draining potting mix, e.g. a mixture of herbs or earthworm casting.

Make sure to plant your catnip seedling at nearly the same depth it was in the previous gardening container to ensure proper growth.

Cat nip in handmade, blue glazed pot measures seven inches diameter
Image Credit: Foraged Goods from Instagram

If you’re using seeds, plant them about ¼ inch deep and lightly cover them with a moist (not soggy) potting mixture.

Place the pot in a bright spot that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. A south-facing window works best for indoor plants.

You can use ‘grow lights’ if there’s not enough natural light. Water the plant regularly, allowing the top inch of soil to dry slightly between waterings. Be careful not to waterlog your precious plants.




How To Propagate Catnip in Seven Steps

The good news is that your catnip plant will spread on its own once given the right conditions for growth and propagation.

But you can also propagate your homegrown catnip by cutting on the stems to promote bushier growth on the parent catnip plant.

We recommend taking your cuttings during springtime or the early weeks of summer. Here’s how to do the procedure:

Slightly bigger catnip seedlings
Image Credit: golden poppy herbs from Instagram

Step 1: Always choose healthy, non-flowering stems with new growth and look for stems about 4 – 6 inches long with several sets of leaves.

Step 2: Use clean, sharp scissors or pruners to cut the stem just below a leaf node (the point where leaves attach to the stem). Make a clean cut at a 45-degree angle to maximize the surface area for root development.

Step 3: Remove the lower leaves from the cutting, leaving only a few at the top. This reduces moisture loss and encourages root growth.

Step 4: Fill a small pot or container with moist potting mix. Make a hole in the center with a pencil or your finger and insert the cutting into the hole, burying the bottom node. Gently firm the soil around the cutting.

Step 5: Cover the pot with a plastic bag or humidity dome to promote rooting. This creates a warm, humid environment that encourages root development. Place the pot in a bright location but away from sunlight.

Step 6: Keep the potting mix consistently moist but not waterlogged. Mist the cutting regularly to maintain humidity.

Step 7: After about 2 to 3 weeks, once the cutting has developed a good root system, transplant it into a larger pot or outdoors after the last frost.




How To Prune a Catnip Plant

Pruning a catnip plant is mainly done to achieve bushier growth, limit spreading to unwanted places, and tidy up the plant.

A simple method of pruning is to pinch stem tips to encourage branching. To discourage further spreading, you can cut off the new sprouts from the underground runners.

During the first weeks of fall, you can cut back an entire mature catnip plant by just leaving a tiny stem in the soil, and watch it get a new growth in the spring.




Catnip Plant Common Pests & Diseases Control

Luckily enough, catnip plants are not susceptible to lots of pests and diseases like many other home-grown garden plants.

Some of the most common insects that can infest a catnip bush include Aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies.

During hot months, you might notice some of your catnip leaves having a white coating due to powdery mildew. This harmless condition doesn’t need any action and it normally resolves on its own.

Catnip pots in a tree nursery
Image Credit: King’s Nursery from Instagram

Waterlogging your precious catnip plants can cause the roots to rot and acquire various fungal infections such as brown spots, yellowing, and wilting.

If your cats are attracted to the mature catnip plant and keep rubbing and rolling on the foliage, they will potentially destroy the stems in due course.

You can prevent this by placing a sturdy fence around your catnip plant or erecting some stakes to provide support to the weakening stems.




Conclusion

We hope this guide has shed light on how to grow catnip plants both indoors and outdoors and how to care for the plants.

Catnip seedlings are available for purchase in nurseries and garden centers around you. They are often clustered with other herbs in or in the perennials section of the nursery.

Be sure to talk with your nursery grower about the type of catmint plants (other than Nepeta cataria) that do well in your climate.

Remember to check new seedlings for signs of damage and disease such as yellowing and black spots before planting them in your garden.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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