Most people think of wild kitties when they think of catnip, but this pretty plant can make a striking addition to the garden long before it is dried and hidden inside cat toys. Fairly straightforward to plant and cultivate, catnip adds to your greenery and even contributes small purple flowers similar to lavender. Why not add this plant to your flower garden next season?
Grow catnip by planting either seedlings or seeds. The best times for planting are around the beginning of spring or early fall. Should you decide to grow catnip from seeds, they will need to be stratified. Place them in the freezer for approximately 12 hours, then remove them and transfer them to a bowl of water for one day. Plant them in early spring at a shallow depth in rich loamy soil, then water the area well. Plant seedlings in pots or outdoors, approximately 18” apart.
If you or someone you know already has a catnip plant, you can grow a new one from harvested seeds. You can also propagate catnip by dividing existing plant roots. Simply uproot one plant, cut off some roots and plant these where required. Lastly, cuttings from existing plants can grow new plants as well. Dip them in hormone growth, and plant in sterile soil.
Catnip thrives in areas where there is good drainage. Although catnip should be watered regularly, it is best to allow the ground to dry out completely before watering again. Unless you keep these shrubs relatively dry, the roots may begin to rot, and the entire plant will die. Catnip can survive extremely dry conditions, which is why it should not be over-watered.
Your catnip plant will thrive in good sunlight — ideally up to six hours of direct light, as long as the location also gives it a few hours of shade later in the day. One exception is if you live in an extremely dry area; in these cases, your plants will likely appreciate a bit more shade so they can better preserve their moisture.
You can plant catnip in a pot or planter; this is a good choice for people concerned about the fast-growing plant taking over their garden. You can also first pot your catnip and then plant the pot in the ground to give the impression of a ground plant without having to deal with the overgrowth. Either way, choose a pot with a depth of at least 10” and a similar width. Any pot material works as long as it has sufficient drainage so the roots do not soak in water.
This hardy herb will do just fine in normal potting soil; in fact, it will flourish in almost any kind of soil as long as its other care requirements are met. To make the environment friendlier, ensure that garden soil is loose rather than too densely packed — again, for proper drainage — and avoid enriching the soil with too many nutrients, as the plant does best with minimal added minerals.
Despite catnip being a tough plant, it is susceptible to certain pests. Insects such as aphids will devour and destroy catnip, and spider mites, flea beetles, thrips, and whiteflies also tend to cause a lot of damage. Keeping an eye on the plant and promptly dealing with any pests is the best way to ensure your plant recovers. Regular watering, fertilizer, and pruning can help strengthen catnip and its resistance to pest damage.
Fungi and viruses can sicken and even kill catnip. Watch for yellow leaf drop and treat it promptly with a copper-based fungicide. If you notice yellowing leaves with red centers, a bacterial leaf spot has set in. If the signs are widespread beyond a few stalks, you may need to destroy the entire plant to keep it from infecting others in your garden and beyond. Also remember that touching your plants too often when they are wet can spread and existing diseases.
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Because catnip is so hardy, no specific nutrients are necessary. As long as the soil is allowed to dry before the next watering, your plant will stay in good shape. Regular pruning to maintain a comfortable space between plants, and enough daily sunlight, will also ensure you catnip plants remain in good health.
Air dry your catnip plants with the flowers attached to the stalks. Keep your cats away as you do this since they're likely to have a snack and this can both reduce your supply and potentially spread illness if you're drying them for human consumption. Once dry, store the leaves in an airtight container. Other than a treat for kitty, catnip can help with headaches, lack of sleep, and nausea.