Nobody really knows why the animals are so drawn to catnip. It is clear that it is genetic, but everything else is still in the dark. The four-legged friends love to roll around between and on the plants, paw at them and also eat them. If you are unlucky you will attract a few cats from the neighborhood and they will devastate the bed and often the surrounding area as well. I would put this plant somewhere in the bucket, not necessarily near the terrace, just where cats cannot cause damage. However, I am not particularly keen on bringing strange cats into my garden. I am a dog person and we have a dog too. However, there are differences between the individual types of mint. Not all of them have this effect on cats,

Catnip – appearance

The catnip looks very similar to normal mint. It grows up to a meter tall, has a branched, square and hollow stem that is hairy. The leaves are pointed, egg-heart-shaped notched on the edge, gray-green or green and pubescent. The flowers appear from April to September, depending on the species, are from white to pale blue, yellow and pink to purple. The predominant flower color is pale purple. They are spike-like inflorescences.

Catnip has a good reputation in folk medicine. The essential oils are not only suitable for making teas. This is said to help with colds, flu and upset stomach. It is considered to be fever-lowering, sweaty, antispasmodic, detoxifying, diuretic and slightly euphoric. It also has antibacterial and soothing properties and a few more. You can use both fresh and dried leaves. It is important not to use boiling water, otherwise the good essential oils will evaporate.

Caring for the catnip

Catnip is easy to care for. It is tough and robust. Diseases are hardly known and pest infestation almost never occurs. The plants are also suitable for difficult locations. Flowering takes a long time and, as long as no cats appear, you can enjoy the perennial for a long time. The catnip is mostly used as a border or in rock gardens. Higher species are more likely to be planted in the background of the bed. Nepeta is particularly popular in near-natural gardens.

Location and plant substrate

Most types of catnip like it warm and sunny. But there are also some species that prefer a bit damp and partial shade. So it is cheap to ask about the conditions when buying or to make sure that an exact name tag is attached to the plant. Then you can look up exactly which site conditions are best for the respective species. Generally one can say:

  • All gray-leaved catnips like it very sunny and warm and prefer permeable, rather barren soil. Drought tolerant and do not like fertilizers
  • All green-leaved varieties like it rather shady, need nutrient-rich, fresh to moist, but never wet substrates. They cannot cope with south-facing locations.
  • Sunny and warm
  • Mostly summer warmth loving
  • Not salt tolerant
  • A slightly sandy, loose, loamy soil with a pH value of 6.4 is ideal

Plant Nepeta

Planting catnip is easy. The mostly still small perennials can be planted straight away in the bed. But they are also suitable for planters and the lower varieties for the balcony box. Before planting, the bale should be immersed in water so that it can become fully soaked as a result. That makes it easier to grow. Otherwise there is not much to consider. Do not place the plants too high or too low!

  • Planting distance about 30 cm
  • 8 to 12 plants per square meter
  • Works very well in small groups of 3 to 10 plants or in larger groups.

Watering and fertilizing

You only have to water if it is prolonged drought. The drought-tolerant varieties need significantly less water than the green-leaved ones. The gray-leaved ones do not need fertilizer. But you can add compost. The green leaves, on the other hand, need nitrogen, but not too much either. It is important not to overfertilize the plants.

  • Stickstoffanzeiger
  • Must not be over-fertilized

To cut

You can cut to extend the flowering time. After the main bloom, the cut is made in July to a few centimeters above the ground. The perennial then shoots through again and forms another pile by autumn. But then you don’t cut any more and leave everything as it is as winter protection. Catnip is not cut back properly until spring.

The first pruning prevents the catnip from spreading excessively by itself, which is what it likes to do. This way no seeds are formed. The Nepeta Faassenii plants do not need to be pruned for the seeds. These varieties are largely sterile. If you want to dry the leaves and use them, cut them in July


Catnip is sufficiently hardy, even without extra protection. If the stalks remain standing in autumn, they offer sufficient protection. Even in long and very cold winters, the catnip sprouts reliably again in spring. Before doing this, however, it should be cut off.


There are several options for propagation. All types succeed without any effort. You have to be careful that the plants do not spread by themselves. This can be done very quickly with the ripened seeds. Since at least the gray-leaved species are very undemanding and sprout in almost every crack, you may get a catnip problem in the garden. You can prevent this if you don’t let the seeds ripen and cut them off beforehand.

  • Cuttings – (April to May or autumn) – length 7 to 10 cm, remove the lower leaves and let them take root in a water glass. Change the water regularly
  • Division of the rhizome (April to June) – divide the root ball with a spade, water the pieces abundantly and plant again.
  • Sowing (germination time 1 to 4 weeks) – very easy, outdoors
  • Beware of self-sowing – catnip grows in every crevice, just about everywhere and can be very annoying.

Diseases and pests

The catnip contains insect-repellent substances, which is why insect pests avoid the plants. Bees, bumblebees and butterflies, on the other hand, love the flowers and like to visit them. Diseases are largely unknown. Snails are common pests in wet years. These like the young shoots. The plants should be protected from this. It is best to collect the snails regularly and put something over the plants at night. If you have a snail plague, you have to proceed differently. Then chemistry is mostly used.

Nice varieties of catnip

  • Nepeta racemosa ‘Superba’ – very robust, flowers from late April to early July, lilac-blue and very free-flowering, 20 to 30 cm high
  • Nepeta racemosa ‘Grog’ – very similar to the upper one, but purple-blue flowers and red calyxes, very fresh lemon aroma
  • Nepeta racemosa ‘Odeur Citron’ – very lemony aroma
  • Nepeta racemosa ‘Snowflake’ – pure white flowering, stable and very vigorous, 20 to 30 cm high
  • Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walkers Low’ – very intense purple flowers, the best rated variety of catnip, 30 to 80 cm high
  • Nepeta x faassenii ‘Gletschereis’ – delicate silver-blue flowers, gray-leaved, higher variety
  • Nepeta x faassenii ‘Six Hills Giant’ – large-flowered and somewhat lighter in flower, up to 80 cm high
  • Neptea grandiflora ‘Blue Danube’ – large-flowered and also large in growth, 90 to 120 cm, very free-flowering and long flowering period
  • Neptea grandiflora ‘Down to dusk’ – purple-colored calyxes with lilac-pink flowers
  • Nepeta subsessilis – large-flowered and shade-tolerant, with green instead of greyish foliage

Catnip is not just for cats. There are very pleasantly scented varieties that are also great for human noses. They belong close to seats in the garden or in buckets that can be placed there. You can get advice when choosing. Since nurseries often only sell standard varieties, you can also look it up on the World Wide Web. There are many more varieties on offer, you simply have a larger selection. Of course, cats are to be expected with fragrant varieties. You have to take the risk. Otherwise you can opt for a non-smelling variety.

Catnip is easy to care for, robust and blooms beautifully and, above all, for a long time. The plants are ideal companions for roses and the thorns of the roses also protect against overly intrusive house tigers. All in all, catnip is a good garden plant.

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