All About Growing & Caring For Catmint (Nepeta)
Colorful, powerful, and easy to grow: catmint checks all the boxes.
Catmint (Nepeta) is a perennial in the mint family with blue/purple flowers that bloom in late spring, and with proper care, they don’t stop until fall! It’s one of the best-selling perennials among gardeners of any skill level for a good reason. This popular plant is fantastic for beginners or for those who want beautiful blooms but need more time for meticulous maintenance. It’s also heat and drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, highly fragrant, and loved by pollinators and will no doubt be a superstar addition to nearly any sunny garden.
Here, we’ll show you how to grow and care for catmint, discuss how to use catmint, and answer frequently asked questions.
How to grow catmint (Nepeta):
- Soil: Catmint is drought-tolerant and thrives in dry soils once established. Plant in average, dry to medium, well-draining soil and avoid excessive moisture.
- Light: This perennial grows best in full sun (>6+ hours sun/day). It is somewhat intolerant of the deep South’s heat and humidity, especially in the afternoon, so try planting it in a spot that receives some relief during the hottest parts of the day. Gardeners in cooler regions shouldn’t have to worry.
- Water: Catmint dislikes excessive moisture and is drought-tolerant once established. Water your catmint for a few weeks after planting, but keep it light! After establishment, minimize your watering to keep the soil medium-dry.
- Spacing: Spacing depends on the size of your catmint. Smaller varieties can be planted much closer than larger ones, but in general, space them 1 to 2 feet apart.
- Fertilizing: If your soil is rich or average, fertilizing isn’t really necessary. Too much fertilizer encourages floppy stems and foliage, so if you’d like to give it a boost in spring, we’d recommend doing so with a light hand.
- Winterizing: Leave spent foliage in place over winter to help protect the crown. Wait until early spring to cut it back to promote new growth.
- Maintenance & pruning: Cut back flower spikes after the first round of flowers start to fade to promote continuous blooms. If the foliage of your catmint plant becomes too leggy, shear back some of the foliage to promote more flower production.
What are the benefits of catmint (Nepeta) in the garden?
Long-lasting, highly fragrant blooms
One of the most notable benefits of catmint is the longevity of its flower spikes, with most varieties emerging in late-spring or early summer and blooming all the way through the first frost in fall. Some varieties will even continue blooming through a few hard frosts as well. The fragrance is also complex and simply delightful, with notes of bold mint and sweet lemon. Try placing catmint in a cut-flower arrangement or crushing the cuttings to release the aromatics indoors!
Drought-tolerant & durable
We mean it when we say this plant is tough-as-nails. You can almost plant it and forget about it – which is why it’s commonly used for landscaping in public areas. Catmint requires little to no maintenance and infrequent watering, meaning you can enjoy it all season long without all the hard work. As long as it’s in a sunny spot with well-draining soil, catmint will flourish. That’s why we recommend it to gardeners of any skill level, especially beginner gardeners.
Attracts pollinators, but not pests
Catmint is a fantastic addition to your pollinator garden. The blue/purple flower spikes are irresistible to pollinators. Its long-lasting blooms also ensure bees, butterflies, and more have a reliable food source in your garden for months. Even though you’ll be inviting beneficial insects to your garden, you can rest assured you’re keeping deer, rabbits, and other pests at bay. Horticulturists at Rutgers University gave catmint an A-rating for deer resistance, which means it’s rarely damaged thanks to its fragrant foliage.
The perfect companion plant
Catmint’s ability to adapt to various sites and soils makes it a common choice in landscape designs. Try using it as a border alongside shrubs, or pair it with smaller perennials in a container! Our main tip: avoid planting it alongside plants that prefer wet soils, which may lead to a complicated watering schedule or an overwatered catmint plant. Start looking for companions in our sun-loving and drought-tolerant collections. Some of our favorites include stonecrop (Sedum), roses, coneflowers, butterfly bush, or allium.
Frequently asked questions about catmint (Nepeta):
Is catmint safe for pets?
Even though it’s called catmint, this plant is safe for both cats and dogs. Keep in mind – just because they are safe does not mean your furry friends should eat them. Great Garden Plants advises that pets, children, or adults DO NOT consume flowers, weeds, trees, or bushes. Ornamental plants are intended to be just that – ornamental. People or pets should not consume them.
Is catmint the same as catnip?
Catnip and catmint are different plants, though they are very closely related. Both are in the genus Nepeta in the Lamiaceae family. Both names are derived from the ability to attract cats with their bold, minty foliage. Catmint, however, has more ornamental value for humans with its flowers and isn’t known to be as appealing to cats – though our customers have reported that neighborhood cats have grown fond of them!
Do hummingbirds like catmint?
Catmint isn’t just for the bees! This perennial also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds with its tubular florets. Its long-blooming nature means your garden will be a pollinator buffet all season long.
What is the winter care for catmint?
Preparing your catmint plants for the wintertime is fairly simple. Leave any spent foliage in place to protect the plant’s crown during the chilly months. It’s also a good idea to give the plant one last thorough watering just before the first frost. Once it’s spring, prune back any spent foliage to encourage new growth.
Is catmint invasive?
Catmint is not considered invasive and does not self-seed or spread easily without intentional dividing. However, other members of the Nepeta genus, like catnip, can spread fast and get out of control without intervention in the right growing conditions.