Nepeta cataria
Common Name: catnip
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Lamiaceae
Native Range: Europe, southwestern and central Asia
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to September
Bloom Description: White with pale purple spotting
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Herb, Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil, Air Pollution

Culture

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Thrives in dry soils and is very tolerant of drought. Site plants in full sun in northern areas. Plants are somewhat intolerant of the heat and humidity of the deep South where they generally appreciate some afternoon shade. Shear flower spikes after initial flowering to promote continued bloom. Easily propagated by division of established plants. Wet soils in winter can be fatal. Easily grown from seed. Plants will self-seed in the garden, often profusely.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Nepeta cataria is the true catnip that is loved by house cats. Although native to Europe and Asia, it has over time naturalized in many areas around the world, including much of southern Canada and the U.S. In Missouri, it is typically found throughout the State growing in fields, waste areas, open woodlands, railroad right-of-ways, roadsides and along streams (Steyermark). Catnip typically grows in a spreading clump to 2-3' tall. Erect, branched, square, grayish stems are clad with aromatic, opposite, coarsely-toothed, triangular to ovate, gray-green leaves (to 3" long). Leaves (above and particularly beneath) and stems are downy which helps give the plant its gray-green appearance. Small, two-lipped, white (with pale purple spotting) flowers (1/4" long) bloom in spike-like terminal clusters at the stem ends from late spring well into summer. As a medicinal herb, catnip leaves have been used (fresh or dried) for making an herbal tea that reportedly helps reduce anxiety, induce sleep, promote perspiration (fever/cold relief), soothe sore throats (cough suppressant) and comfort upset stomachs. As a culinary herb, fresh leaves (minty flavor) may be chopped and added to soups, stews, sauces, vegetables, or pasta. As a garden plant, catnip acts as a repellant for certain insects, including aphids and squash bugs. Nepetalactone is the active ingredient that affects most cats. To harvest catnip, cut stems to the ground and hang them upside down to cure in a warm location with good air circulation. When leaves are totally dry, crumble them into bags for storage or use immediately for a variety of purposes including herbal teas, potpourris and cat toy fill. Catnip is a vigorous and weedy mint family member that is easy-to-grow, but spreads easily and is not particularly noted for its ornamental qualities in the garden. The common name of catnip is reserved for Nepeta cataria. The similar common name of catmint is given to most other species in the genus. Catmints with showier flowers, better-behaved garden habits but less excitement for cats (leaves less enticing) include certain edgers to 12" tall (Nepeta x faassennii and Nepeta racemosa) and certain taller plants (Nepeta subsessilis, Nepeta siberica and Nepeta grandiflora). Nepeta racemosa 'Blue Wonder' (Missouri Botanical Garden Plant of Merit) and 'Walker's Low' are popular ornamental cultivars in commerce today.

Genus name comes from the Latin name for certain aromatic plants that included catmint.  It  may honor the city of Nepete (known as Nepi today) located north of Rome in Etruria which was the ancient country located between the Arno and Tiber Rivers and was recognized, prior to the rise of Rome, as the center of the Etruscan civilization.

Specific epithet means pertaining to cats.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Borders, path edging, cottage gardens or herb gardens. Good for dry areas. Containers. Grow as an ornamental, for herbal use and/or for your cat.