Most cat lovers are familiar with catnip and the effect it has on cats. Catnip is a hardy and easy to grow plant. In this article, we look at how to grow catnip for your cat as well as drying and storing catnip.
What is catnip?
Catnip is a vigorous perennial herb that is a part of the mint family Lamiaceae. The plant is native to southern Europe and Asia but became naturalised in North America and Canada after being introduced by the colonists in the 1600s.
Botanical name: Nepeta catara
Height: Up to 3 feet
US hardiness zones: 3 – 9
Where can I buy a catnip plant?
Catnip plants and seeds are readily available in your local garden centre, usually in the herb section.
How to grow catnip
Growing catnip plants:
Catnip can be grown in garden beds or pots. Plant in a spot your cat has access to, such as in a cat enclosure.
Location: Catnip likes to grow in full sun but can survive in part shade.
Soil: Light-sandy, well draining.
Plant spacing: Grow 45 cm (18 inches) apart.
Watering: It can survive partial drought once it has become fully established. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
Some cats will roll in catnip plants (thankfully none of mine do), to prevent this plant some bamboo stakes around the plant or grow in a hanging pot.
Pinch out the leaf tips in late spring to promote bushiness.
In most areas, the catnip plant will die back in winter but grow back in spring.
Growing catnip seeds:
When: Grow from seed in spring, after the last frost. Seeds can be sown directly into the garden bed.
Depth: Plant seeds at a depth of 5 mm, cover and lightly water in.
Plant spacing: If planting multiple plants, grow 45 cm (18 inches) apart.
Germination: Two weeks.
Plant reaches maturity: 90 days.
Catnip seeds can also be grown indoors in containers and transferred to garden beds. Place in damp, premium quality potting mix. Cover with clear plastic and store in a warm area. Soil should be damp but not wet. Mist the soil if it dries out.
The number of seeds depends on how many plants you want, but I would allow at least 10 seeds, prune out weaker looking plants.
It takes approximately
How often should you water catnip?
The amount and frequency of water depend on the position of the plant (full sun vs partial shade, indoors vs outside) and environmental temperature. They will need more water in the summer.
Generally, I water, and re-water when the soil is dry. In summer (in Australia), that would be every 2-3 days, in winter, once every week or so. The plant will wilt if it is too dry, but I find they recover nicely as long as they receive water in time.
Can you grow catnip indoors?
Yes, catnip grows well indoors as long as it has plenty of light. In fact, some people in frost prone areas pot up their catnip plant and bring it indoors over winter.
Rotate several pots so that when one plant is nibbled on, it can have a chance to recover.
Catnip is easy to propagate. Pinch out a leaf tip from softwood and dip in rooting powder. Fill a pot with moist potting mix and make a hole. Place the cutting into the hole, and keep in a warm place. Keep the soil moist at all times.
How to harvest catnip:
You can harvest the leaves of catnip at any time, the oils are at their strongest when the plant flowers.
Remove stems and leaves from the plant an place in the oven on very low heat or hang upside down in a dry, ventilated area, away from the sun. It should crumble easily when it is ready.
Store catnip in an airtight container in a cool, dark place or in the freezer.
How often can I give my cat catnip?
As often as you want to. Cats can’t overdose on catnip and once a cat has experienced a catnip high, it will not be responsive to additional catnip for several hours.
Only 60% of cats respond to catnip so don’t be disappointed if you don’t see a reaction.