Catnip is a perennial herbaceous plant that blooms from late spring through fall. Native to parts of Europe and Asia, catnip is a thriving member of the mint family and shares characteristics of strong scented leaf oils and appearance.
The pungent aroma of catnip acts as a pest repellent, and its lovely purple, yellow, blue, white, or pink flowers attract beneficial insects, which makes it a sought-after companion plant for fruit and vegetable plants. Additionally, much like its name describes, cats are drawn to this plant.
Follow our robust guide for growing catnip: planting care and tips, so you and your cats can enjoy all of the beauty and benefits of this hardy perennial herb.
Ideal Soil Composition & pH for Growing Catnip
Growing catnip doesn’t require much special care when it comes to soil prep. This perennial thrives in poor soil as long as it is well-draining. Consider growing in sandy soil that ranges from 4.9 to 7.5 on the pH scale.
Catnip Light & Temperature Needs
Plant catnip in an area of the garden which receives full sun or partial shade. Soil should read at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit on your soil thermometer before planting. Catnip grows best when temperatures range between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit daily.
How To Plant Catnip
Catnip can be started from seed indoors or purchased from garden centers and nurseries. The seed starting process for catnip is a bit time-consuming, so if you haven’t planned well in advance for this herb, buying an already established plant and transplanting it into your garden is the easiest way to grow it.
Catnip seeds have particularly hard seed coats. When growing catnip, you’ll have the best germination success when you stratify your seeds before planting.
How to Stratify Catnip Seeds
- Place seeds in a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer for a month.
- Take seeds out of the freezer and allow them to thaw.
- Freeze the seeds once more for the period of one month.
- Remove seeds from the freezer and let them thaw.
- Place thawed seeds in warm water overnight and plant the following day.
Sowing Catnip Seeds Indoors
Once you have stratified your catnip seeds, you can start sowing seeds indoors. You will want to make sure that your two-month stratification period is scheduled in advance so that you can start sowing seeds indoors two months before the last frost in your area.
- Plant them about ¼-inch deep in a moist premium seed starting mix.
- Set seed trays in a sunny location indoors.
- You should start to see sprouts in about three weeks.
- Harden seedlings off so that they acclimate to the outdoor temperatures before planting them in the garden.
- Plants can grow 20 to 40 inches tall with equal width, so plant seedlings a minimum of 20 to 24 inches apart.
Catnip Companion Plants
Growing catnip as a vegetable garden companion plant can help guard plants from pest damage naturally. The oils that are present in catnip leaves repel flea beetles which can wreak havoc on the leafy greens of many plants.
The potent oils and unpleasant aroma in catnip may appeal to cats but are disagreeable to many garden pests, such as:
- Potato Beetles
- Ground Squirrels
Try interplanting catnip with some of these vegetables:
Watering Catnip Plants
Water catnip plants regularly, using care not to overwater because they do not appreciate wet feet. Allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions, and then soak the planting area thoroughly.
Nutrients Needed for Growing Catnip
Catnip thrives in average to poor soil, so fertilization is not necessary for this planting.
Catnip Plant Care: Pruning
Cut back catnip plants with pruning sheers after the plant’s first flowering to promote subsequent blooming. These perennial bloomers can grow quite bushy over time. Divide plants every three to four years.
How To Harvest Catnip
Once the catnip plant produces blooms, it is ready for harvest. Choose a dry day in the late morning when the sun is shining for the best results. Oil levels are highest on plants during the morning, but you want to ensure that any moisture or morning dew has dried from the leaves before harvesting.
- Cut the entire plant off at the base.
- Tie up the stems in twine.
- Hang catnip upside down and store it in a dark, well-ventilated space.
- Once dried thoroughly, store in freezer bags for maximum oil retention.