Nepeta: Catnip

Catnip, also known as Catmint, is aptly named. Cats love it, and it is a member of the mint family. This plant's botanical name is Nepeta.

catmint and roses

Photo: Anne Norman

An underplanting for roses and shrubs, it provides a soft contrast of both color and texture.

Catnip, also known as Catmint, is aptly named.  Cats love it and it is a member of the mint family.  This plant’s botanical name is Nepeta.  Nepetas specialize in blue flowers and strong smelling leaves, so deer dislike them, despite their alluring effect on domestic cats.

Nepeta Mussini originated in Persia.  It is used as a groundcover or underplanting or edging plant and it is easily grown.  In fact because of its membership in the mint clan, some might say it is too easily grown!

Great for Weeds

However its low growing habit of about 12″ and its wealth of blue flower spikes, above soft gray leaves makes it an appealing plant for many gardeners.  I find it easy to dig out when it over-extends, and I like the way it stifles many weeds.

An underplanting for roses and shrubs, it provides a soft contrast of both color and texture.  It thrives in dry sites with average soil.  It can be sheared back after its June flowering and quickly puts out new foliage, as well as some additional bloom throughout the growing season.

Nepeta is what we commonly call a “Pass-along” plant, as most gardeners who grow it have plenty to share.  The most intoxicating variety if you are growing it for a special cat is Nepeta Cataria which has woolly leaves and grows to three feet and has small white flowers.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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