Planting Catnip – How To Grow Catnip

By: Heather Rhoades

Catnip plants (Nepeta cataria) can help make your garden a cat-friendly garden. The catnip herb is a perennial member of the mint family that is best known for being attractive to cats, but can also be used in soothing teas. Growing catnip is easy, but there are some things you need to know about how to grow catnip.

Planting Catnip

Catnip can be planted in your garden either from seed or from plants.

If you’re growing catnip from seed, you’ll need to properly prepare the seeds. Catnip seeds are tough and need to be stratified or slightly damaged before they will sprout. This can be done by first placing the seeds in the freezer overnight and then placing the seeds in a bowl of water for 24 hours. This process will damage the seed coat and will make it much easier for the catnip seeds to sprout. After you have stratified the seeds, you can plant them indoors or outdoors. Thin them to one plant per 20 inches (51 cm.) after they sprout.

You can also plant catnip from plant divisions or started plants. The best time for planting catnip starts or divisions is in either the spring or fall. Catnip plants should be planted 18 to 20 inches (45.5. to 51 cm.) apart.

Growing Catnip

Catnip herb grows best in well draining soil in the full sun, but it will tolerate part sun and a wide variety of soil types.

Once catnip plants are established, they need very little in the way of care. They don’t need to be fertilized, as fertilizer can decrease the potency of their smell and flavor. They only need to be provided with water beyond rainfall if you are growing catnip in pots, or if you are having drought conditions.

Catnip can become invasive in some areas, so you need to take steps to control it. Catnip plants spread readily by seed, so in order to control its spread, you’ll need to remove the flowers before they go to seed.

Growing catnip can be rewarding. Now that you know a few facts about how to grow catnip, you (and your cat) can enjoy this wonderful herb.

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Growing Catnip: The Complete Guide to Plant, Care, and Harvest Catnip

Steph Coelho

Steph is a certified Square Food Gardening Instructor who has been gardening for more than 10 years in Canada where the winters are long and cold, and the summers are unpredictable. She is a volunteer for her community's Incredible Edible project. In the past she created an educational gardening space for seniors and taught classes at a local community center where she created her own curriculum and activities. She participated in several local municipal garden days where she set up a booth to educate citizens about the joy of gardening.

Catnip is a perennial herb well-known for its ability to drive felines crazy. What it’s less known for is its potential to help with a variety of human ailments, from anxiety to migraines. Whether you’re wanting a treat for the kitties or an addition to the medicine cabinet, growing catnip is the answer.

The plant belongs to the mint family and contains nepetalactone, which is chemically similar to cat pheromones. Cats love the scent of this plant, so dried catnip is often used in cat toys to entice pets to play. I’ve grown catnip in my garden before, but it didn’t last long. I pulled it out once I realized how quickly cats found their way to my garden.

I planted catnip in an effort to please one of the feline visitors in my garden. The sweet grey cat that I call Bento appeared the first week we moved into our home and never stopped showing up. I planted it away from my main beds in an effort to get her to stop plodding all over my plants.

The introducing of catnip had the opposite effect. Cats came in in droves and used my raised beds as a litter box. Now gone from my garden, the problem has been rectified, thankfully! One day, when I finally have my own cat, I’ll be sure to plant a veritable bounty of catnip. It is easy to grow, after all!

I find it funny how catnip affects felines. As a dog owner, seeing cats react to catnip really differentiates the animal species. Cats are calm and aloof most of the time but show them catnip, and they lose it. Dogs are energetic and attention-seeking most of the time and give them a good bone to chew, and they’ll calm right down.

The Benefits of Growing Catnip in Your Garden

Our cats are such wonderful and amazing creatures, and many of us want to give them a special treat now and then. If you haven’t already thought of it, why not grow some catnip in your garden or your catio ?

Most of us have heard of the euphoric effects of catnip on cats, and may have even witnessed this with our own cats. It’s true that catnip brings on a happy feeling in 75% of cats, large or small.

But are there any other tricks that catnip can do? If you’re into herbs or gardening, you probably know that most plants have many uses, and the same is true for catnip. West Park Animal Hospital thought it would be fun to explore this topic, seeing as the summer is prime time for this blooming herb.

The Benefits of Catnip (Catmint)

Catnip, also known as Catmint (Nepeta cataria), is a member of the mint family. Aside from causing euphoria in cats, it is also beloved by bees and is a prolific bloomer, with pretty white or near white flowers with purple spots, and leaves covered with soft hairs that contain the volatile oils that give catnip it’s distinctive scent.

Other benefits of catnip in your garden include:

Catnip makes a yummy tea – this herb is delicious in tea when dried in a warm spot or after being placed in a dehydrator. It combines well with lemon balm, chamomile or other mints. It is said that these combinations help to reduce stress and promote relaxation and sleep .

Catnip repels mosquitoes, flies, and other biting bugs – some gardeners say that if you rub a handful of plants on your skin, the oils will repel pests for several hours.

Catnip has medicinal properties – it is thought that the water soluble compounds in catnip are antibacterial in nature, lending merit to the age old remedy of washing and cleaning wounds with it.

Catnip In Your Garden

Now that we’ve convinced you that you need to add catnip to your garden, here are some tips for growing it and enjoying it along with your cat.

Catnip grows into a floppy mound three feet wide, and is a hardy perennial that prefers open, dry places. It grows easily and doesn’t mind being cut back severely to harvest the leaves – for your cats and you – in early summer. You can harvest again in late summer if you wish.

Catnip is easy to grow, and although it doesn’t send out runners like other plants of the mint family, catnip sheds significant seeds as it grows. These easily turn into volunteer seedlings which can be either composted or moved to a desired location.

Another great idea for catnip in your garden is to use it as a deterrent. If your or a neighborhood cat is bothering your garden, plant catnip as a border and this may distract them away from the rest of your garden. Interestingly, it is reported that rats and mice are also repelled by catnip in your garden – how’s that for irony!

We hope this has given you some great ideas for using catnip in your garden, and that you enjoy it as much as your cats will. If you already grow catnip for your cats (or yourself), give us a call and let us know!

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Anyone have experience or knowledge on how to prune catnip plants so they will regrow and flower again before the fall harvest?

Thanks in advance for any help

I think it is personal choice depending on how you want them to regrow. I do cut mine way down and they already have nubs of new growth ready on the stem. Cutting partially would keep a bushier look and I think still put out new flowers. That's my 2 cents

Thanks for your input Sally

GreenMeenie said: I've grown 4 catnip plants in containers this year in Southern Ontario Canada. They are now flowering (July 10th) and I want to prune them. Information on how to do this is all over the board! Some say just nip the flowers off down to the next leaf junction on the stem, others say prune the whole stem off down to just above the base and others have said don't prune more than 1/3 of the main stems off.

Anyone have experience or knowledge on how to prune catnip plants so they will regrow and flower again before the fall harvest?

Thanks in advance for any help

GreenMeenie, all of that advice is good, it just depends on your goal. I'm curious, if they're in full bloom, why do you want to prune them? That will involve cutting off the flowers. When the the flowers start to go to seed, you have two options: deadhead or cut all the way back. Not sure about your season length, but if you want to try to get more flowers, try deadheading. Snipping just below the spent flowerhead or a third of the way down won't make a difference, but a third down will result in bushier re-growth. Some catnips can get quite lanky and floppy and benefit from the haircut.

It's a coincidence that there's a similar catnip question on another thread today which I answered. This will tell you about cutting to the base. The questioner said her flowers were finished.

Again, it depends on the length of your growing season, but catnip grows pretty fast. As for catnip being invasive, that can depend a lot on your cultivar. Two popular ones, Walker's Low and Select Blue, are quite well behaved. I grow them both in the ground and have no issues with them being invasive.
Mine are also hardy.

I'll see how this goes. Mine were very tall & lanky so yes, I want bushier plants at this point. I'm afraid they might not survive a strong wind as lanky as they are now. I'll report later on how this worked out.

I really do appreciate all the input here as I was unable to get consistent info. from the internet on this issue

I meant to say in the last post: that's a beautiful plant. Keep doing whatever you're doing.

Caring for Your Plants

Catnip is a low maintenance plant, but giving it a little bit of care will help your catnip plants to thrive. Here are the most important tips for taking care of your plants.


Pests that attack catnip include whitefly and spider mites, but it’s typically a pest- and disease-free plant. Catnip usually suffers the most damage from cats. Seriously.

If you have cats that absolutely love the plant, they will roll in it, lay on it, and even chew it. Mature plants might be able to take this affection, but your new seedlings won’t.

Cats pose the most danger to your newly planted catnip since many love to roll in it, eat it, and lay on top of it. You can protect your transplants with bamboo stacks or small wire cages.

You can prevent your cats from laying on the plants by protecting them with small wire cages or by sticking thin bamboo stakes around and among your catnip.


Catnip really needs a good prune to keep it from becoming scraggly.

Plan to prune your plants after the first bloom is over. Use a pair of garden clippers to cut it back hard. You can prune it as far back as 3-4” above the ground, however, you’ll want to go a little easier on your seedlings the first year.

This pruning will encourage new, bushy growth and a second period of blooming. You can dry and store the clippings you cut off for use later.

Intro: Cats love catnip, and growing catnip on the balcony is easy and a great treat for your cats. Catnip grows so well that it can become an invasive weed in the garden if you don’t grow it in its own plant container. Catnip can grow to 3 or 4 feet tall and looks like mint (it also belongs to the mint family). This herb has tiny white flowers with purple spots. Its flowers will attract bees, butterflies and some birds. Before you learn how to grow catnip, check out these 10 Cute Cats in the Garden (Photos)!

Scientific name: Nepeta cataria

Plant Type: Herbacious perennial

Light: Partial to full sun

Water: Give your catnip well-draining potting soil and water it regularly. Keep the soil moist but never soggy.

Zone: Catnip can be grown from Zones 3 to 9.

Fertilizer: Fertilize once a month with a water-soluble fertilizer.

Pests and Diseases: Some insect pests can include whitefly and spider mites. You should not encounter any diseases with your catnip plants, although you may have problems with mildew.

Propagation: Plant seeds in the spring, and seeds germinate in 5 to 10 days. You can collect seeds from flowers, but the plant will self-sow and grow in the same spot year after year. You can also propagate by taking cuttings or dividing the roots.

Misc. Info: Catnip grows well in hydroponic systems.

Keep your catnip plant trimmed so it grows compactly and looks nice. The trimmed bits can be a treat for your cat. Harvest your catnip and dry it. Then keep it in a cook, dark spot until you have enough to sew into your own homemade cat toy!

Watch the video: How to plant seeds for beginners. Grow your own catnip and make the moggys happy.

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