Catmint (Dwarf catnip, Catnep, Field balm, Catswort) got its name ‘Nepeta’ after ancient Etruscan city ‘Nepete,’ nowadays known as ‘Nepi’ in Tuscany, Italy. It is known that all of about 250 recognized species of this plant originated in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The special benefit of these pollinators is the possibility to attract bees, most butterflies from your neighborhood, and hummingbirds.
I like its delicate and aromatic grey-green leaves and spikes of 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) long white, pink, or lavender-blue flowers. Thay flourish throughout summer with often re-blooming in fall. However, be careful. This vigorous, easy-spreading flower can become quite invasive if left unchecked.
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History of Catmint
The earliest hybrid of this flower is Faassen’s catmint. It was developed by J.H. Faassen in his nursery in Holland in the 1930s.
In the 1970s, Patricia Taylor discovered Walker’s Low variety in one garden and brought cuttings to England. It was named after the owner of that particular garden.
Catmint was highly popular in England before Chinese tea came to the UK. The English used the plant to make tea and considered it a stimulant.
The European colonists brought Catmint to North America. After discovering how useful it is, a few Native American tribes started cultivating it for medicinal purposes. They used the plant to support the immune system and treat muscle cramps.
The most popular varieties of Catmint
|6 Hills Giant||Nepeta x Six Hills Giant||Lavender-blue flowers|
36 inches (91.5 cm)
|Nepeta sibirica||Blue flowers|
24 to 36 inches
(61 – 91.5 cm)
|Nepeta subsessilis||Lavender-pink flowers||24 inches (61 cm)|
|Walker’s Low||Nepeta racemosa||Lavender-blue flowers|
24 inches (61 cm)
|Nepeta X faassenii||Blue or violet flowers||18 to 36 inches|
(76 – 91.5 cm)
|Persian catmint||Nepeta racemosa||Lavender blue flowers|
12 to 18 inches
(30.5 – 76 cm)
|Nepeta govaniana||Yellow flowers||12 to 18 inches|
(30.5 – 76 cm)
|Felix||Nepeta nervosa||Lavender-blue flowers|
12 inches (30.5 cm)
Benefits of Catmint
Nowadays, we know that Catmint is a valuable plant containing:
- Vitamins – Catmint includes a high percentage of vitamin C, as well as vitamin A and vitamin K.
- Minerals – It is an excellent source of iron, potassium, and manganese.
- Nepetalactone – It is an active ingredient of Catmint responsible for the calming. It has a stress-relieving effect on people.
It is highly likely that nepetalactone alleviates the stomach upset, menstrual cramps, and may solve an issue with anxiety and insomnia. Catmint also contains properties of mucilage, which may suppress coughs.
Thanks to many anti-inflammatory properties, you can use Catmint if you suffer from hemorrhoids, arthritis, or swelling after bug bites. It is an excellent solution for preventing or treating fever and lowering high body temperature.
Since it is full of essential oil, it is often used as an insect repellent. If you have a problem with rats, you can solve it by using this flower. Rats won’t come close to it even when they starve.
Catmint is an Attractive Plant for Cats
The specific aromatic scent of Catmint reminds me of Pennyroyal and Mint. That plant also entirely fascinates my cats, and it seems that they adore its odor even more than I do.
The strange thing is that they enjoy destroying transplanted flowers, but they don’t pay attention to plants grown from seeds. Also, it seems that cats enjoy eating just bruised or damaged flowers, while healthy ones don’t interest them at all.
The results of some studies show that Catmint is attractive to approximately 60 to 80% cats. They enjoy purring, rolling around, and jumping over that plant, which usually leads to the destruction of your favorite flowers.
Fortunately, that effect on cats lasts from 10 to 15 minutes until their olfactory glands get accustomed to the plant. After an additional half-hour, cats’ noses will return to normal, and they won’t pay attention to your plant anymore.
There is a practical way to protect your flowers from your pet. Designate a separate section of your garden and make a unique place for your cat full of plants your beloved pet likes.
For example, you can mix Catmint with other cat-friendly plants. The best choices are lemongrass, Tatarian honeysuckle, silvervine, and cat thyme. Also, you can dry Valerian root and sprinkle the powder around the cat garden.
How to Plant Catmint in Your Garden
Propagation by seeds
If you plan to sow seeds, you should start planting them indoors in January or February. After the last frost in spring, you can transplant your seedlings in the garden.
When you want to sow seeds in autumn, do it as soon as possible to allow young seedlings to establish well and develop roots. Only that way, they can overwinter without the occurrence of transplant bruising.
Propagating by seedlings
If you don’t have an opportunity or will to start Catmint from seeds, you can purchase seedlings from the nursery or the Net. Plus, some hybrids are sterile, and you can get them only that way.
Since most Catmint varieties tend to grow in width, you should provide enough space between single shrubs. Plant smaller varieties 18 to 24 inches (46 – 61 cm) apart, but taller ones will need at least 30 inches (76 cm) of free space.
The procedure is simple. Pick out the proper digging shovel and dig a hole. It should be the same size as a pot with your new seedling. After putting the young plant into the hole, you should water it abundantly and add the soil around. Keep watering for the plant during the first couple of weeks.
Propagating by cuttings
Propagate Catmint by cuttings is a quite simple way to get new plants without paying for seedlings. Do it in spring before forming of flower buds.
Pick out healthy stems and cut off 3 inches (7.6 cm) long cuttings just below leaves. After dipping the cuttings into a rooting hormone, you need to put them into the moist medium. The best ones are perlite, peat, or potting soil.
Don’t forget to water your future plants abundantly. If you have done the job well, you can expect new roots to appear within two to three weeks.
Propagating by division
For some varieties, which are sterile such as Faassen’s catmint (Nepeta X faassenii), the only way of propagating is by division.
In spring, slice off a vertical section of the plant, which is at least 3 to 4 years old. Take care that every piece has a few young shoots with a part of the root system. Re-plant them about 12 inches (30.5 cm) apart and keep them well-watered until establishing.
If you divide your Catmint every 3 or 4 years, you will help it stays healthy and vigorous.
Planting in a pot
Since your Catmint is a quite aggressive plant, you may consider growing it in a pot. Choose to keep them in the porch or bury the pot somewhere into the garden. In both cases, you will control spreading of their roots and prevent over-taking the yard.
When your Catmint grows in the pot, it prefers a porous potting soil. If you want to make your own mix, you should combine gardening soil, perlite, and peat in equal amounts. Sow seeds in flats and transplant seedlings into the pots when getting two sets of true leaves.
How to Care Catmint
Since Catmint tends to spread, you should try to plant seeds at least 12 to 24 inches (30.5 – 61 cm) apart.
In general, this plant will grow in any soil as long as it is well-drained. However, the best option is providing the ground rich in compost or humus. Keep in mind that the lean soil will encourage better flourishing and stronger scent of blooms.
Even though Catmint prefers growing in the sun, you should provide some afternoon shade for it, especially if you live in a region with hot summers. In any other parts of the country, you can grow your flowers in full sun and expect the best flowering.
Once established, Catmint prefers colder temperatures, but it can tolerate higher ones as well. If your plants are too young, they won’t tolerate low temperatures. Therefore, you should use plastic cover to protect them from coldness.
Keep your flower well-watered during the first year after planting. Once established, it will become tolerant to drought. In fact, it will be enough watering it once in a few weeks during the period without rain. Otherwise, you don’t need to water it at all.
Add organic compost to the soil in autumn after planting. Once rooted Catmint won’t need further feeding. Moreover, excessive applying of fertilizer will cause reduced blooming, and the growth of floppy stems.
Catmint can thrive in most regions, but it requires a thick layer of mulch around established plants if it is too cold outside. That way, its roots will stay warm. The bark is perhaps the best choice for this plant.
Pruning and deadheading
If you prune your plant regularly, most of them will re-bloom once more in autumn. Cut stems with garden pruner shears by a third or more to encourage flourishing and the production of the lush new foliage.
Flowers which bloom twice a year will have fresh flowers in fall, but they won’t be such abundant without pruning.
Pruning will be a beneficial action even for varieties which can’t flourish twice a year. However, their leaves will become fresh and tidy after cutting.
Since hybrids are sterile, you don’t need to deadhead flowers to prevent self-sowing. On the other hand, it may stimulate the development of new flowers.
Harvesting Catmint Leaves for Your Cat
If you grow Catmint in your garden, you should consider harvesting its leaves containing nepetalactone to make your cat happy. The concentration of this organic attractant for cats is particularly high during the period of blooming.
Collect the foliage and tie it with a string. Cut it below the string and hang that bunch in a cold, dark place to dry. The second way is to dehydrate leaves in an oven or food dehydrator.
Store dry foliage in an airtight container or freezer, and save it for your pet for a more extended period.
Catmint Pests and Diseases
These parasites live on the surface of leaves and inside the tissue of your flower. The only thing you can do is to kill them with a bactericide once they occur.
If you notice them on the foliage, you should simply use a garden hose and rinse the bugs with water.
You should destroy affected plants in the case of severe infestation. Otherwise, it will be enough to use insecticidal soap and kill those insects.
Slugs and snails
They may destroy the foliage of your plant. Keep them far away from the garden by using beer traps, copper strips, or crushed eggshell.
Your pet will adore eating freshly-transplanted flowers and their foliage.
This plant is deer resistant. Plus, they repel rabbits, mosquitos, and even cockroaches.
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