‘Cat’s Meow’ catmint (Nepeta faassenii). Photo by Proven Winners.
A long bloom season, handsome foliage, and carefree performance are just a few of the allures of this versatile perennial
If you’re looking for a tough-as-nails plant that will bloom for months on end with very little pampering, catmint is sure to make you purr with delight. Unlike its close relative catnip (both are members of the mint family), catmint is better behaved and much showier. The soft gray-green foliage and billowy clusters of lavender-blue flowers are like a cool breeze on a hot day, creating a refreshing contrast to bright colors in the summer flower garden.
You’ll also love the range of options this plant offers. With variations in both flower and foliage color, height, bloom time and growing conditions, these multipurpose plants can be used in almost any area of the garden.
Varies by species. Most are cold hardy to zone 3.
9 inches to 3 feet
Various shades of lavender-blue, pink, violet, or white, often enhanced by darker calyces.
Fuzzy gray-green to medium green leaves with scalloped edges.
Full sun to light shade.
Typically, late spring to early fall, although some varieties bloom earlier and longer.
- Heat and drought tolerant.
- The minty, aromatic leaves make them rabbit and deer resistant.
- Attracts bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.
- Provides year-round interest, with the gray-green foliage fading to brownish, then gray-taupe over the winter months.
- Nepeta ×faassenii (Faassen’s catmint): By far, the most popular cultivars grown for ornamental use belong to this hybrid, which has sterile flowers that won’t self-sow and don’t require deadheading.
- Nepeta subsessilis (Japanese catmint): Unlike other varieties, this one prefers moist soil and partial shade, making it a good option for cooler, wetter climates.
- Nepeta racemosa (Persian or dwarf catmint): This low-growing species forms rounded mounds that spread as wide as the plants are tall. Ranging in height from 12 to 18 inches, it is often used as a colorful groundcover.
- Nepeta cataria (catnip): More aromatic than catmint, this is the plant that frisky felines go crazy for, but its ornamental attributes are lacking and it tends to be weedy and invasive. In the garden, it offers the most value as a culinary herb or as a repellant for certain insects, including mosquitoes, aphids and squash bugs.
HOW TO PLANT
Where to plant:
Although most prefer full sun, they won’t mind a bit of afternoon shade, especially when grown in hot climates. Catmint will grow in just about any soil type as long as it’s well drained. Wet or soggy sites can lead to root rot.
When to plant:
From spring (after the last threat of frost has passed) through early fall.
How to plant:
Although it can be grown from seed, it’s easier and more reliable to purchase nursery-grown plants since hybrids may not grow true to seed and some varieties are sterile. Provide ample space between plants, since many tend to grow wider than tall.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Use catmint in mixed containers like this “Brooklyn Heights” recipe that includes ‘Cat’s Meow’ catmint, Angelface® Blue Angelonia, and Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® bacopa. Photo by Proven Winners.
The beauty of this perennial is its plant-it-and-forget-it nature. Very rarely will it need supplemental watering. The exceptions are new plants or transplants, which should be watered regularly through their first growing season until they become established. Japanese catmints (N. subsessilis) also benefit from watering to keep the soil moist.
Don’t bother. Given the right growing conditions, catmint is unlikely to run out of gas. Applying additional fertilizer will only result in floppy stems and fewer flowers.
Some may go into a summer lull after the first flush of blooms has faded. Shearing your plants back by a third or more will reenergize them for a second bloom cycle and produce lush new foliage. Even without being sheared, they will often repeat bloom, although not quite as prolifically. Deadheading is unnecessary to prevent self-sowing because the seeds of hybrids are sterile. However, it may help stimulate new flower development.
It is one of the easiest plants to divide, and doing so every 3 or 4 years will help to keep it vigorous. Simply use a spade to separate rooted sections of an established plant and then replant the divisions, spacing them about a foot apart. Stem cuttings can also be taken in the spring before flower buds form and used for propagation.
Pests and Diseases:
May be bothered by thrips, which are best treated with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Catmint, especially catnip (N. cataria), is known to repel pests such as mosquitoes, aphids, squash bugs, cabbage loopers and more.