If you have cats at home, you’ve probably thought about planting some catnip just out of curiosity. As this plant contains properties that cats love, especially for their mild hallucinogenic effects, you may have wondered how your cat reacts to it.
But there’s a lot more to catnip than that. Because it attracts cats, catnip also works as a repellent for rabbits, rats, snakes, toads, and frogs. More interestingly, it has a strong scent and produces certain chemicals that some insects detest.
That’s why learning how to grow catnip at home is an excellent idea. Whether it is for pure fun with your cat or for garden-safety reasons, you’ll love having catnip at home.
Below, we explain everything about this plant so you can grow and care for it without wasting any time or effort. Care to learn more about it? Then take a peek!
What Is Catnip?
Its scientific name is Nepeta. It belongs to the Lamiaceae family where you can find plants like sage, lavender, oregano, thyme, and mints.
All these herbs produce unique oils and chemicals with strong scents. Catnip’s fragrance, for example, has all kinds of effects on animals. Cats adore catnip for its soothing and psychedelic effects. Meanwhile, animals like deer and some insects hate it.
The plant is originally from Europe. It was eventually spread worldwide due to its ability to soothe felines, which humans used to control all kinds of pests. Catnip owns its survival and evolution to its ability to repel its common predators by attracting felines (as well as some canines).
Types of Catnip Plants
The exact classification of the catnip is Nepeta. But such a category includes other species, similar to catnip in both appearance and effects on animals. Here’s what we’re talking about:
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
This is the typical type of catnip, also known as the catwort, catswort, and catmint. It can grow up to 40 inches outdoors but generally stays between 20 and 30 inches.
The Nepeta cataria produces white to mildly-purple flowers. It blooms between spring and fall. These flowers produce a strong essence that cats and butterflies love, but deer and some pests hate.
Eastern Catmint (Nepeta racemosa)
Also known as the dwarf catnip and raceme catnip, it is a more ornamental species of the Nepeta. Instead of growing like an indoor plant, this one requires more space because it grows like a bush. It can grow to 12 inches tall and over 40 inches wide.
The “racemose” name comes from the Latin term “racemes,” which means bunches. In contrast with other catnips, this one produces bunches of purple flowers. These flowers are also enticing to cats and butterflies while repelling mosquitoes and cockroaches.
Faasen’s Catnip (Nepeta x faassenii)
Being a lot denser than other catnips, this one produces rounded leaves instead of the typical triangular shape. Apart from that, it grows up to 24 inches tall and about 36 inches wide.
The flowers of the Faasen’s catmint are purple and grow like the original catnip. However, these flowers, while fragrant, don’t produce the same effect on cats. They mostly work as a repellant for insects like cockroaches, mosquitoes, and flies, as well as deer and rabbits.
Is Catnip Invasive?
Considering the species above, you can say that most types of Nepeta are invasive. Thanks to their repellant ability and how attractive they are to cats, they spread fast on garden soil and even pots.
But this mostly happens with the Nepeta cataria (standard catnip) and Nepeta racemose (Eastern catmint). The Nepeta x faassenii (Faasen’s catnip) is not as invasive, as it doesn’t attract cats as much as the other two.
Having said that, all catnip species can become a massive problem in most gardens. Without proper care, they may easily overgrow other plants by reseeding consistently, to the point of becoming a weed-like perennial.
Will Catnip Attract Other People’s Cats?
Yes. Catnip’s fragrance will bring any cat around your house. In fact, cats from several blocks away may also feel attracted to your catnip, so your home is likely to become a place for cat encounters.
This happens because catnip produces a unique chemical called “nepetalactone.” Such a substance is uniquely stimulating to cats as it goes directly into their pheromone receptors. It is specially stimulating to female cats, as the substance resembles the male cat’s urine pheromones.
Because of that, you are likely to see everyone’s cats in your garden, female and male. We recommend planting catnip in a pot and placing indoors if you want to prevent that.
What Do You Need to Grow Catnip?
Growing catnip is not hard in the slightest. In fact, it is one of the easiest plants you can grow at home. As a perennial herb, it requires little to no attention. Even then, you should ensure the proper conditions. Below, we explain a bit more about those:
Space & Potting
Catnip doesn’t need much space to grow. Most species will fare well in small pots of 6 to 12 inches in diameter. In this case, the plant may grow a bit over 20 inches.
If you grow catnip in a garden, it is essential to set it apart from other plants. As an invasive plant, it can grow and propagate too fast, trumping other plant’s growth.
Soil & Fertilizer
You won’t need special soil to make catnip thrive either. Like most perennials, it loves well-drained soil with just a bit of fertilizer.
Catnip prefers soils with moderate pH ranges. Anything too acidic (below 6) or too alkaline (over 7.5) will eventually trump its growth.
Water & Humidity
Because catnip requires little humidity to thrive, it can handle dry environments without problems.
It is crucial, however, to keep their roots consistently humid. For that, the soil needs to hold enough water over time.
It’s recommended to only water catnip once the topsoil looks dry. Overwatering catnip can produce all kinds of diseases, attract more insects like mealybugs and aphids, and eventually rot.
Light & Air
Considering catnips thrive in mildly dry places, you can also guess they like a lot of sun exposure. For this reason, you will do well by planting catnip in a place where it receives full sun (at least 6 hours per day).
You can still grow catnip indoors with partial sun and air exposure (less than 6 hours). However, the plant may not grow as dense or blossom as quickly in that case. You can replace natural sun exposure with grow lights if necessary.
Temperature & Environment
Despite being dry-resistant and demanding a lot of sun exposure daily, catnip is not a hot-weather plant. It can generally survive in places of up to 85 degrees, but it’s not recommended.
As for the low range, you should keep it at no less than 55 degrees. It thrives in temperatures around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Grow Catnip Plants in 5 Steps
With a better idea of what catnip needs to thrive, it’s time to put hands to work and make it so. Below, you’ll find several steps to follow.
1. Choose the Source
Catnip is one of those plants you can plant directly from a seedling sprout, leaf cut, or seed directly on the soil. Depending on what you pick, the initial process will be a lot different.
For seeds, you’ll need to start the planting process in the fall. This makes it easier for the seeds to achieve a mature state by spring, ensuring healthier growth.
But if you’re starting from seedlings or leaf cuttings, then we recommend growing in spring. This will make it possible for the plant to absorb more nutrients in its best growing season.
2. Prepare the Plant
Whether you’re planting a seedling or seeds, you’ll want to do it properly. And either way requires specific preparation.
Catnip seeds, for example, are thicker and more rigid than the standard seed. For that reason, you’ll have to stratify the seed before planting. This means you’ll have to break the shell so it can sprout.
The easiest way to stratify catnip seeds is to leave them to freeze in a fridge overnight. Once they’re frozen completely, placing them on warm water and leaving them for a day or two should soften them up. The seed should sprout more quickly once it’s planted.
As for cuttings or seedlings, you won’t have to do much apart from making sure they have no rotten parts, and the root is sufficiently large. It’s recommended to start with pots if you’re growing from seedlings or cuttings.
3. Groom the Soil
While catnip grows in almost any soil, it is recommended to prepare the right mix before planting. This typically includes a bit of fertilizer. You can start by pouring some of it inside a pot (covering a third of the space) and then add some of the fertilizer.
In already fertilized and groomed gardens, you won’t have to do much. As long as the soil is well-drained and loamy, there shouldn’t be any problem.
4. Plant the Catnip
Now you can place the seedling or seeds on the soil. As said before, it is a mildly invasive plant, so you may want to place the seeds and seedlings at about 15 to 20 inches apart from each other.
If you’re using seeds, you should cover them entirely under the soil. We recommend burying them at about 0.2 inches or less.
Seedlings will sprout even if you plant them at half an inch in the soil. Just make sure the green part of the plant can receive sufficient light.
5. Let It Sprout
Once the catnip is planted, you should water them moderately and put them under the sun, preferably. We recommend watering once a day or every time the soil dries up.
The germination process can last up to ten days for seedlings, in which they start to grow larger. Seeds may last up to 3 weeks before they start to sprout, but some may do so in as little as 5 days.
It shouldn’t take more than 4 to 5 weeks for the plant to grow to 5 inches or more. When that happens, you can repot the plant if needed or start pruning it away.
How to Care for Catnip Plants
In weeks you’ll realize how fast catnip grows after planted. But this growth requires proper care. Otherwise, you may experience a wide array of different problems like overgrowth, invasion of other plants, cats invading your home, or sometimes even trumped growth. To prevent all that, do this:
Only Water When It’s Dry
Feels repetitive to say this again, but it’s essential to remember. One of the few enemies of catnip is overwatering. You shouldn’t water the plant more than necessary.
That’s why we recommend only watering when the soil is dry. Touch the soil. If it feels humid, then don’t water. Otherwise, feel free to add an inch of water or a bit more.
Pinch Leaves & Flowers
If you want to keep the catnip growing sustainably, then you’ll cut away leaves and flowers consistently. It may feel counterintuitive at first, but it works. Once the plant is about 8 to 12 inches in height, you can start cutting these leaves and flowers down. This will make it grow further later on.
This is nothing more than just pruning, though. Grab the pruning shears or scissors and cut them down. You can then use these leaves and flowers to please your cat.
Give Them Enough Space
Another catnip’s enemy is lack of space. Even though growing indoors in pots is generally safe, you should still try growing the plant in a sufficiently large place.
For that, you should check whether the plant is overgrowing the pot. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to repot it or transplant it to your garden. Otherwise, the catnip will either stopped blossoming, sometimes it may even die.
Protect It from Cats
Last but not least, make sure the catnip is protected from cats. The felines love crawling over and rubbing on the leaves and flowers. While this may seem harmless, it’s not. It may cause harm to the plant to the point of no return.
We recommend protecting the catnip with an enclosure. Another way to prevent this is by planting bamboo sticks or similar objects around so the cats won’t feel compelled to rub or crawl over it.
Have a better understanding of how to grow catnip now? It requires a bit of effort to get it to sprout and grow. But it’s nothing challenging to be scared or overwhelmed about.
Just follow our steps and recommendations above. Then you’ll have a blast growing and caring for your catnip.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to give your cat a reason to stay home. Plant that catnip now following this guide!