Native to North America, this perennial can grow up to four feet high. The light green foliage is covered in a velvety down and produces small white or lavender flowers. Nepeta cataria is a member of the mint family and produces a strong lemony-mint fragrance found attractive to cats, bees, butterflies and some birds. Leaves can be dried for tea and cat use.
- Garden planning. Catnip will grow in full sun or partial shade. The plants prefer an average, well-drained soil compared to the rich soil needed for some herbs. Catnip is a prolific grower and will often overpopulate small gardens. If this will be an issue, remember to put catnip in an area it will not overcrowd other plants. You can also place a separate barrier around your catnip crop.
- Seed propagation. Catnip can be grown from seeds, cuttings, root balls or seedlings. Most garden centers will have seedlings and seeds available. Catnip can be planted both indoors and outdoors. Indoor space is a concern as this plant grows tall and can become quite bushy. Catnip grows well when planted in the ground or by using hydroponics. If planted outdoors, catnip will produce a denser crop when seeds are planted late in the fall for the following spring. Seeds should be planted about 1/8" deep in the soil and watered regularly without over watering.
- Maintain crop growth. Sprouts should appear within 10-20 days of planting seeds. After the plants have reached a height of five inches, they will need to be spaced out to one plant every 15-20 inches. When the first set of leaves sprout from the main stem, prune the plant just above the leaves. After a few days, a new stem will begin growing at the base of the leaves. Continuing this process will result in doubling the number of leaves per plant and the end result will be a much thicker plant. Removing the flower heads will reduce the amount of excess plants produced.
- Harvesting. Catnip can be harvested around mid-summer and generally will regrow for about 3 complete harvests. After cutting, hang upside down to dry for use. At the end of the growing season, trim down the stems for new growth the following spring.
Catnip can be grown with very little care and has many uses. Catnip can develop spider mites though this is unlikely with proper care. Fertilizer is generally unnecessary unless the soil quality is rather poor. Most growers prefer to fertilize in the fall and once again in the early spring before planting.