Catmint (Nepeta) is a perennial herb that is a member of the mint family. It is an extremely easy-growing plant with few pests or problems. Nepeta has slightly aromatic gray-green foliage with a delicate, lacy appearance. Its billowing foliage is topped with spikes of flowers in early summer, with repeat blooms throughout the season. The flowers can be white, pink, or lavender-blue.
Pictures of Catmint
||10 to 24 inches tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
||Full sun to part shade
||Acidic to alkaline (5.0 to 8.0)
||Late spring, summer
Ecological habits of the Catmint
Most catmint varieties have a somewhat sprawling growth habit, making them nice plants for edging planting areas and for running along paths. However, there are a few tall-growing varieties, like'Six Hills Giant',with a more upright habit. As with many scented, gray-foliage plants, catmint is deer-resistant. It grows quickly and, in most climates, can be planted from spring to early fall.
Catmint Distribution Area
E. Asia - China, Japan, Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea.
How to Grow and Care for Catmint
You will get the best flowering if you plant your catmint in full sun, however, the plants will also grow well in partial shade.
Humus-rich, well-draining soil is ideal. Many species grow easily in a wide range of soil types, including dry clay and sandy or rocky soil.
First-year plants need frequent watering, but once rooted, catmints are drought-tolerant.
Temperature and Humidity
Catmints like cool temperatures and benefit from afternoon shade in warm climates. They are often not tolerant of high heat and humidity.
Add compost to the plant’s base in the fall, but once rooted it needs no further fertilization.
Uses of Catmint
Catmint can be used fresh, dried, or frozen for both culinary and herbal use. Harvest leaves as flowers begin to bloom, cutting the top leaves, stems, and flowers if desired. Spread out to dry in a cool, ventilated area and store the dried herb in an airtight container or bag to preserve its potency. The leaves and shoots can be added to soups and sauces. Tea made from the leaves and flowers can be used for calming nerves and relieving coughs, congestion, and menstrual cramps.
Varieties of Catmint
There are dozens of African daisy species and varieties, including:
'Blue Wonder' Catmint
Nepeta x racemosa 'Blue Wonder' is compact at 12-15 inches tall. Its neat wrinkled leaves are grayish-green and show off the 6-inch terminal spikes of two-lipped dark blue flowers. Zones 5-9
Nepeta cataria, otherwise known as the common catnip, is a herbaceous perennial that makes cats crazy. Zones 3-7
'Little Titch' Catmint
Nepeta racemosa 'Little Titch' is a lovely dwarf plant forming a compact mound of green foliage with blue flowers. It grows just 8-10 inches tall and spreads up to 12 inches wide, making a great border or edging plant. It blooms almost constantly from late spring through fall. Zones 4-8
Nepeta × faassenii is a tough perennial herb that thrives in hot, dry weather. Plants feature mounding sprays of silvery-green foliage with a flush of blue flowers. Deadhead or cut back after the first flush of bloom to encourage more flowers. It grows 1-2 feet tall and spreads up to 2 feet wide. Zones 4-9
Nepeta × subsessilis bears the largest flower clusters of any catmint. Bloom spikes may be 8 inches long and 3 inches wide on plants that grow up to 4 feet tall. Sturdy stems keep the plant from requiring staking or shearing to maintain their strong upright habit. Like other catmints, it has a long season of bloom. Zones 4-8
This plant is really quite trouble-free, but we’ll touch on a few problems you might encounter.You may see aphids, leafhoppers, slugs, snails, spider mites, or whiteflies. For aphids, blast them off with a stream of water. In the case of leafhoppers, if the infestation is bad, you might have to pull up affected plants. If it’s not too bad, use an insecticidal soap such as this one from Bonide, available from Arbico Organics.
You can get rid of slugs and snails with a bait such as Sloggo, copper strips, beer traps, or with crushed egg shell. Learn more about defeating slugs and snails. Spider mites can be treated with neem oil. If you see whiteflies, consider using pheromone traps. In hot and humid conditions, gardeners might see disease caused by the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas. This can be controlled with a bactericide.
Butterfly gardens, borders, herb gardens, mass plantings, groundcovers, rock gardens, and as an edging plant along walkways. Can also be used as a substitute for lavender, since they share a similar color palette.
Catmint’s cool-toned foliage and flowers blend well with most other colors, particularly reds, deeper purple tones, pinks and yellows. Red roses and catmint are a classic combination, but equally attractive red-flowered companions include Veronica spicata 'Red Fox', Monarda didyma 'Pardon My Cerise', and red valerian (Centranthus ruber). In the purple color spectrum, try pairing catmint with ‘Purple Ruffles’ basil, drumstick alliums and purple coral bells, such as Heuchera Dolce® 'Wildberry'. Just about any yellow-flowering plant looks good alongside catmint, but those sharing similar growing requirements and bloom times include Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Early Sunrise’, Achillea ‘Moonshine’ yarrow, and yellow daylilies, such as Hemerocallis ‘Stella de Oro’.
Bee balm is a wonderful plant for attracting butterflies and helpful bees. This prairie native has spiky flowers in jewel tones of red, pink, purple, and white, surrounded by dark bracts. They grow atop substantial clumps of dark foliage. The aromatic foliage is sometimes used for making tea, and bee balm is often grown in herb gardens. Established plants tend to spread, especially in damp soil. This plant is extremely prone to mildew problems, so be sure to plant in full sun and seek out cultivars touted as resistant to mildew diseases.
Perhaps the best-loved perennial, herbaceous peonies belong in almost every garden. Their sumptuous flowers—single, semidouble, anemone centered (or Japanese), and fully double—in glorious shades of pinks and reds as well as white and yellow announce that spring has truly arrived. The handsome fingered foliage is usually dark green and remains good-looking all season long. Provide it with deep, rich soil with plenty of humus to avoid dryness, and don't plant the crowns more than 2 inches beneath the surface. But these are hardly fussy plants. Where well-suited to the climate, they can thrive on zero care.
These vigorous growers are beautiful additions to the garden. They vary from tall, stately plants suitable for borders to others that can be planted as creeping groundcovers. Flowers, too, vary from tight spikes of 1/2-inch to 1-inch cups carried alone or in whorls. Humus-rich, moisture-retentive soil is recommended; some varieties enjoy wet soil and ample water. Several sorts may become invasive and need to be corralled. Note: These are not the invasive purple loosestrife, which has been banned in many parts of the United States.