Catmint - A Guide to Growing Irresistible Catmint PlantsA long bloom season, handsome foliage, and carefree performance are just a few of the allures of this versatile perennial
‘Cat’s Meow’ catmint (Nepeta faassenii). Photo by Proven Winners.
If you’re looking for a tough-as-nails plant that will bloom for months on end with very little pampering, catmint is sure to make you purr with delight. Unlike its close relative catnip (both are members of the mint family), catmint is better behaved and much showier. The soft gray-green foliage and billowy clusters of lavender-blue flowers are like a cool breeze on a hot day, creating a refreshing counterpoint to more vivid colors in the summer flower garden.
You’ll also be delighted by the range of diversity a catmint plant offers. With variations in flower and foliage color, height, bloom time and growing conditions, these multipurpose workhorses can be used in almost any area of the garden.
Varies by species. Most catmints are cold hardy to zone 3.
9 inches to 3 feet
Various shades of lavender-blue, pink, violet, or white, often enhanced by calyces that are deeper in color.
Fuzzy gray-green to medium green leaves with scalloped edges.
Full sun to light shade.
Typically, late spring to early fall, although some varieties bloom earlier and longer.
- Heat and drought tolerant.
- The minty, aromatic leaves repel deer and rabbits.
- Attracts bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.
- Provides year-round interest, with the gray-green foliage fading to brownish to gray-taupe over the winter months.
VARIETIES OF CATMINT
- Nepeta ×faassenii (Faassen’s catmint): By far, the most popular catmint cultivars grown for ornamental use belong to this hybrid, which has sterile flowers that won’t self-sow and don’t require deadheading.
- Nepeta subsessilis (Japanese catmint): Unlike other catmint varieties, this one prefers moist soil and partial shade, making it a good option for cooler, wetter climates.
- Nepeta racemosa (Persian catmint): Also called “dwarf catmint”, this low-growing species forms rounded mounds that spread as wide as the plants are tall. Ranging in height from 12 to 18 inches, it is often used as a colorful groundcover.
- Nepeta cataria (catnip): More aromatic than catmint, this is the plant that frisky felines go crazy for, but its ornamental attributes are lacking and it tends to be weedy and invasive. In the garden, it offers the most value as a culinary herb or as a repellant for certain insects, including mosquitoes, aphids and squash bugs.
HOW TO PLANT
Where to plant:
Although most catmints prefer full sun, they won’t mind a bit of afternoon shade, especially when grown in hot climates. Catmint will grow in just about any soil type as long as it’s well drained. Wet or soggy sites can lead to root rot.
When to plant:
From spring (after the last threat of frost has passed) through early fall.
How to plant:
Although catmint can be grown from seed, it’s easier and more reliable to purchase nursery-grown plants since hybrids may not grow true to seed and some varieties are sterile. Provide ample space between plants, since many tend to grow wider than tall.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Use catmint in mixed containers like this “Brooklyn Heights” recipe that includes ‘Cat’s Meow’ catmint, Angelface® Blue Angelonia, and Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® bacopa. Photo by Proven Winners.
The beauty of catmint is its plant-it-and-forget-it nature. Very rarely will it need supplemental watering. The exceptions are new plants or transplants, which should be watered during periods of drought until they become established. Japanese catmints (N. subsessilis) also benefit from watering to keep the soil moist.
Don’t bother. Given the right growing conditions, catmint is unlikely to run out of gas. Applying additional fertilizer will only result in floppy stems and fewer flowers.
Some catmints may go into a summer lull after the first flush of blooms has faded. Shearing your plants back by a third or more will reenergize them for a second bloom cycle and produce lush new foliage. Even without being sheared, catmints will often repeat bloom, although not quite as prolifically. Deadheading is unnecessary to prevent self-sowing because the seeds of hybrid catmints are sterile. However, it may help stimulate new flower development.
Catmint is one of the easiest plants to divide, and doing so every 3 or 4 years will help to keep it vigorous. Simply use a spade to separate rooted sections of an established plant and then replant the divisions, spacing them about a foot apart. Catmint can also be propagated from stem cuttings taken in the spring before flower buds form.
Pests and Diseases:
Catmint may be bothered by thrips, which are best treated with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Catmint, especially catnip (N. cataria), is known to repel pests such as mosquitoes, aphids, squash bugs, cabbage loopers and more.
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12 to 18 inches
18 to 20 inches
Introduced in 2019, this new hybrid may be the most flamboyant catmint yet. Unlike most catmints, which produce flowers only at the tops of the stems, this one is smothered with indigo-blue blooms from the stem tips all the way down to the base. Even after the blooms peak in midsummer, rosy purple calyces remain to prolong the colorful display.
2 to 2½ feet
2½ to 3 feet
Don’t let the name fool you. This lovely cultivar, dubbed after the garden in Ireland where it originated, bears upright plumes of lavender-blue flowers nearly a foot long. It blooms profusely for months on end, from late spring through midsummer. Named the 2007 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.
16 to 18 inches
2 to 3 feet
This compact version of ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint is covered from May to September with bright lavender flowers, held in dense clusters above attractive mounds of blue-green foliage. Selected as one of Colorado State University's Top Perennial Performers for the 2013 season, praised for its vigor, floriferous habit, and sterling performance as a groundcover.
9 to 12 inches
12 to 18 inches
Brimming over with royal blue flowers from late spring to early fall, this charming dwarf catmint is just the right stature for edging flower beds and walkways or for use as a long-blooming groundcover. Selected as a Plant of Merit by the Missouri Botanical Garden for its outstanding quality and dependable performance.
14 to 18 inches
18 to 30 inches
A striking combination of periwinkle blue flowers enshrouded in dark purple calyces create an impressive show from late spring until the first frost. Will nearly double in breadth (to over 2 feet across) the second season after planting, quickly filling in your garden’s bare spots.
‘Six Hills Giant’
2 to 3 feet
3 to 4 feet
Growing up to 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide, this is one of the largest catmint cultivars and easily one of the showiest. From late spring onward, masses of fragrant two-lipped lavender-blue flowers tower above the dense gray-green foliage, creating an eye-catching display for the middle or back of sunny garden beds.
10 to 12 inches
18 to 24 inches
Offering a change of pace from the blue and lavender tones typical of catmint, this cultivar is blanketed by delicately scented snow white flowers from late spring to early fall. Forms a neat low-growing mound that is perfect for the front of the border or edging a pathway. It also looks gorgeous when intermingled with its purple-hued counterparts.
2 to 3 feet
2 to 3 feet
This true catnip is easily grown full sun to part shade, in average, well-drained soils. Catnip is extremely drought tolerant, but prefers some afternoon shade in hotter, southern climates. White with purple spotted flowers bloom in clusters at the end of stems from late spring into summer. Its leaves have been used for many years as a medicinal herb and is loved by housecats. Catnip also acts as a repellent for many garden pests including aphids and squash bugs. It can get out of hand in some areas, see more information on where this species is considered invasive.
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LANDSCAPING WITH CATMINT
Butterfly gardens, borders, herb gardens, mass plantings, groundcovers, rock gardens, and along the edges of walkways. Can also be used as a substitute for lavender, since they share a similar color palette.
Catmint’s cool-toned foliage and flowers blend well with most other colors, particularly reds, deeper purple tones, pinks and yellows. Red roses and catmint are a classic combination, but equally attractive red-flowered companions include Veronica spicata 'Red Fox', Monarda didyma 'Pardon My Cerise', and red valerian (Centranthus ruber). In the purple color spectrum, try pairing catmint with ‘Purple Ruffles’ basil, drumstick alliums and purple coral bells, such as Heuchera Dolce® 'Wildberry'. Just about any yellow-flowering plant looks good alongside catmint, but those sharing similar growing requirements and bloom times include Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Early Sunrise’, Achillea ‘Moonshine’ yarrow, and yellow daylilies, such as Hemerocallis ‘Stella de Oro’.