Nepeta cataria, or catnip and catmint, is a hardy perennial herb that belongs to the Mint family. The best catnip is most famously known for the euphoric effect it has on cats. Conversely, it’s just as well know for its sedative effect on humans and dogs.
It has many uses, including medicinal properties. This can help with headaches, nausea, anxiety and even sleeping disorders.
It is sometimes even used as insect repellent or even as an addition to food and teas. Whatever you may wish to use catnip for, you can actually grow this plant for your own usage.
How to grow catnip from seed
Catnip is a fairly hardy plant which makes it fairly manageable to grow. This section will go into detail on how to grow catnip from its seeds.
Obtain some catnip seeds
You can typically find and purchase catnip seeds from your local home and garden stores. In fact, you may even find small catnip plants ready for planting.
You could also potentially check out your local pet store since they may also carry either the seeds or the plants. Another option would be to reach out to someone who already grows catnip. They could offer you some plants or seeds for free.
Planting seeds outdoors
If you are trying to plant catnip seeds in the spring, they can be sown outdoors. However, it is important to note that you can only do this during the spring. If you are planting these seeds directly into your outdoor garden, be sure to sow them as soon as any threat of frost has passed.
You will need to water your seeds well during their germination period, which typically lasts for up to ten days. After this period, you should start to see sprouts appear.
Planting the young seedlings
The catnip plant prefers full sun exposure in most locations. The exceptions include a hot and dry climate. If you do live in such a hot and dry environment, you should consider an area where the plants can get some shade from the afternoon sun.
Catnip needs at least six hours of full sun but due to the harshness of the sun in certain locations in the south, the sun at its highest and hottest points can potentially damage the catnip leaves.
If you are growing catnip in containers, you should use standard potting soil or whatever soil you already have in your garden. The soil that you use shouldn’t be too rich or compacted since catnip, like most other herbs, tend to thrive within poor soil conditions. While catnip is relatively hardy and can grow in most types of soil, sandier soil tends to yield more aromatic catnip plants.
Be sure to space your plants 18 to 20 inches apart as well so as to ensure that the young plants are given ample room to grow and to also prevent overcrowding. Initially, this spacing might seem overkill but over time, this space will be very important and necessary.
You should continue to water the plants frequently upon first planting. After a few weeks or after you see that the plants have adjusted to their transplanting and are starting to grow well, then you can start to water. Make sure you do this only after the soil has dried, a few inches below the ground level.
Plan for the catnip’s aggressive growth
Catnips tend to grow aggressively and can end up taking over an entire garden. In order to prevent them from invading and destroying your whole yard, you should consider growing the plants in a controlled environment.
Hence, if you grow it in the garden, you can consider using permanent stone dividers that will help control the growth. However, if you don’t have that, you can also used containers that will actually offer total control of where and how your catnip plants grow.
If you wanted to keep the aesthetic of a herb garden but also do not want to risk a catnip takeover, you can plant the seedlings in containers and then bury the containers in your garden.
This makes sure that the roots are confined and controlled in a way that will not cost the rest of your garden. However, take caution and look out for new shoots and sprouts that may try to grow beyond the pot. You must pull these new shoots if you see them so that they don’t start to grow aggressively as well.
Maintain your catnips
While the previous sections have emphasized keeping your catnips hydrated, it is also important to allow the soil to dry out before watering.
To test this out, just use a finger to touch the soil before deciding if your catnips needs to be watered. If the soil seems to be too moist or wet, just don’t water your plant then and check back on it either later on in the day, or the next day.
Since catnip plants are quite hardy and drought-resistant, they prefer drier soil and the roots of the plants can rot if they have been set in soil that is too moist.
Hence, you should be more careful about over-watering them rather than not doing enough watering. However, when you do water your catnips, make sure to thoroughly soak the soil to saturate the roots.
When your plant’s first flower blooms finish, remove the spent flowers. You should shear back the plants by one-third to promote the new growth and new bloom of flowers.
Hence you must remove any dead or dried leaves regularly. By maintaining your plants, you can yield a bushier plant that will flower more consistently.
Another thing to do to maintain your catnips involves propagating or making new plants by dividing the plant’s root system.
You can dig up a cluster of plants that have at least two to three stalks and remove them from their container or pot if you used one.
Then, you should soak the root ball to the point of complete saturation and then use a clean trowel or garden knife to divide that root cluster in half. After separating all of these, then you should replant each of these as new plants.
This division of plants can help control overgrowth, renew fading plants, or even allow you to share the plant with another friend who may also be interested in growing catnips.
How to grow catnip indoors
If you prefer to grow your catnips indoors, you can also do so. You should exercise caution about this decision because some people find the odor of catnip to be particularly pungent. If you dislike the smell, you should seriously reconsider growing this plant indoors. However, if you think that this is not a problem, you can definitely do so.
The procedure is fairly similar to growing the plant outdoors but there are some small differences in details.
Sowing your seeds indoors
If you are sowing seeds indoors, you can plant them in both the spring or fall. You should plant the seeds in small individual pots or in a seed trough or bed. To prevent the seeds from growing too leggy, you must ensure that these seeds receive enough sunlight. If you cannot provide the seedlings with enough sunlight, you can supplement them with light from a fluorescent lamp. Similar to growing these seeds outdoors, the seeds require sufficient water while they germinate.
If you are sowing these seeds indoors in the spring, grow the plants till they get to about 4-5 inches tall. Then transplant them outdoors after the threat of frost has passed. If you are sowing these seeds indoors in the fall, try to grow them by a sunlit window. Make sure they can receive at least six hours of sun daily.
Then, when the danger of frost has passed (usually in the spring), you should transplant these seedlings outdoors. By sowing the seeds in the fall, the plants tend to yield a denser, bushier crop. If you still want to keep them in pots inside, you must divide and transplant the plants into bigger pots once they have more than six mature leaves.
Where does catnip grow
Catnip is a hardy perennial herb that is native to Eurasia but it thrives in most of North America and is fairly easy to grow. Catnip can be a very aggressive plant and gardeners often find catnip too weedy since they spread very intensely.
This is also because catnips are quite resilient and can grow well in most kinds of soil. Specifically, catnip plants can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9.
Growing your own catnip can be extremely satisfying. You get to obtain your very own catnip that is free of any pesticides or fertilizer. You can also have easy and ready access to this multi-purpose herb. Which you can then use for yourself or your feline friends. Just remember that catnip is known to attract bees, butterflies, birds and even wandering cats. Hence, you should be prepared for these visitors.
Additionally, take note to maintain your catnips. They can end up as an invasive plant if you have other crops. Also be sure to remove flowers if you don’t want sudden, new sproutings of catnip plants that may infestate the area!