Nepeta cataria gets known by various names across the globe by names like catnip Catswort, catwort, and catmint. The species belonging to the Lamiaceae family derives the name from the intense attraction of the cats for this herb.
The herb finds its origin in southern and eastern parts of Europe, Central Asia, and various parts of China. The herbal tea made out of this ingredient proved to possess powerful sedative and relaxant properties within.
Seeds sprout within ten days of sowing in warmer regions, while it takes about 20 days to germinate in colder areas.
Fully matured catnip can reach up to 2-5 inches in height.
The plant prefers sandy loam soil with a sound drainage system.
They demand at least 6 hours of direct sunlight almost every day during their growth period.
Hardiness (USDA Zone)
They fall in the 3-7 USDA hardiness zone.
A spacing of 18-24 inches should get maintained between two plants for better growth.
The blooming time of the catnip plant begins with the onset of spring and lasts till fall.
Non-Toxic, when consumed in large amounts, can show signs of poisoning.
They come with verdant green color with a slight hue of teal.
The plant takes about ten days to sprout from the seeds and 14 weeks to prepare for harvest.
The plants find their nativity in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
The plant demands ample sunlight during its growth period, so placing the plant in a garden area that receives ample sunlight should become the primary maintenance needed for the plant. Potting the plant in soil that possesses a sound drainage system cannot withstand water at its roots. Adding light fertilizers every month helps the plant to thrive.
Catnip plants received the Nepeta cataria from a small town in Italy called Nepeta, and cataria means cat in Latin. They belong to the mint family and find their origin in Europe, the Middle East, and China.
Although there is not much scientific evidence to support the claim, some historians believe Egyptians were the first to cultivate catnip due to their intense love for feline animals. The medicinal properties present in the harvests from the catnip plant made it one of the critical ingredients in indigenous medicine way back in medieval times. In the late 1800s, growing catnip found its way in the USA via the plant-cutting settlers.
Nutritional Facts of Catnip:
The use of dried catnip leaves in making strong-flavored herbal tea has several medicinal benefits for the human body. People suffering from nervousness and anxiety have experienced a relaxing sensation in their bodies when they consume tea made from catnip leaves. They also positively impact people having ailments related to gastrointestinal tracts like indigestions, cramping, and gas.
The diuretic property present in the leaves helps the body excrete more water from the body and causing less water retention in the body. There is well-documented evidence where the use of catnip leaves has fetched affirmative results in treating arthritis, coughs, hives, and fevers.
The nepetalactone oil present in the catnip leaves has a calming effect both on humans and felines. Women and girls struggling with the menstrual cycle can consume catnip tea to relax their uterine walls to have a better period cycle. Infants suffering from the colic disease can drink tea from catnip leaves but under the guidance of their pediatricians.
Nutrients and Minerals for Catnip Plant:
Catnip plants have very little demand when it comes to fertilizers. A water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks proved to have fetched desirable results. Once the catnip seeds get sowed in the soil, fertilize them every two weeks until the summer season sets in; they do not require any fertilizers during the fall and winter as the plant cannot extract nutrients from the soil during this period.
However, mulching the earth helps the ground maintain a specific temperature and obstructs the rapid fall of soil temperature during the winters. Once the winter passes, remove the mulch in the early spring season as the soil becomes capable of maintaining the temperature by itself.
Mulching materials like hay and leaf molds can do the job of covering the earth appropriately. The catnip plant can tolerate soils with low nutrients levels but prefers soil with a sound drainage system to grow in.
However, the soil results raise any alarm bells; cultivators can add all-purpose liquid fertilizers to the earth during the spring. Instead of fertilizers, cultivators can go with aged compost for those looking for an organic solution to the problem.
When to Plant Catnip Plant:
The onset of the spring season initiates the beginning of growing catnip across the globe. The catnip plants cannot tolerate cold weather conditions; once the frost season ends, cultivators can begin with sowing catnip seeds in the soil.
However, cultivators can sow the seeds in containers and pots indoors six weeks before the last frost. This process gives the plant a head start, and people can sow the seedlings in the garden area once the frost season ends. The plant cannot withstand pot soil as they eventually harden, making it difficult for the catnip to grow.
Where to Plant Catnip Plant:
When it comes to growing catnip picking, the location plays an essential role in its growth. Cultivators should always go for a place that receives ample sunlight of about 6-8 hours every day during the growth period.
Though the plant can survive in shaded regions, the sun’s heat helps the plant develop the flavor aroma. The cultivators should ensure no tall plants around the catnip growing area as the shade may not let catnip grow appropriately. People residing in warmer countries can produce the catnip plants in the shade as the plant will cherish the afternoon shades.
People growing catnip in containers or pots should have no worries as the jars’ boundaries or raised beds will significantly restrict the catnip’s spread. A pot of 12 inches deep with an unglazed surface provides the plant with ideal conditions as the unglazed surface will absorb the excess water from the soil.
How to grow Catnip Plant:
Growing catnip with proper spacing between two seedlings helps the plant by providing ample space to grow up. A spacing of about 18-24 inches in the garden area gives the root adequate space to spread.
When transplanting a catnip plant from a container to the garden area, place it in the same soil depth as the pot. The practice helps the plant overcome transfer shock easily and provides a light soil cover on the surface to support the growing shoot. The catnip herbs plant does not need a support system like a trellis to grow.
Pruning the plant limits its spread and thrive. Before sowing catnip seeds in the soil, experts advise newbies to soak them in the water overnight for about a day to promote germination of the seeds.
How to Harvest Catnip:
As the growing catnip starts blooming, they become ready for harvest. Late morning can become the best time for catnip harvest as the dews start drying up with increased temperature.
When the sun is at its brightest in the mid-day, the catnip plant tends to wilt, so harvesting catnip late in the morning suits every aspect. Catnip harvest involves detaching the stems from the plant or detaching the entire shoot. Commercially, catnip gets sold in dried form, and they are hung upside down in a dark, dry room to get rid of the water within them. Dried catnips are available in the market in sachets, tea bags, cat toys, and several other ways.
The room designated for drying catnip should have a well-ventilated structure as better air circulation accelerates the drying process. The catnip herbs take about 2-3 weeks to dry completely, and once they become harvester can crush the catnip leaves and flowers together for storing.
Catnip Plant Care:
Catnip plant prefers direct sunlight for at least 6 hours during its growth period. People growing catnip in shaded places can experience catnips with leggy growth and sparse foliage. Unfortunately, increasing catnip in extreme heat doesn’t yield the desired result, so people living in warmer climatic conditions can grow them in shaded regions.
The soil should always remain within the desired pH level. The plant can withstand rocky and dry ground, but the earth should possess a sound drainage structure. The plant falls under the extreme draught type plant species. So, waterlogging at roots will cause the death of the plant. Keeping the soil lightly moist fits the bill when cultivating catnip. The self-pollinating feature of the catnip plant makes the need for bees and other pollinators very critical.
The attractive color and sweet nectar developed within the flowers helps the plant attract bees and allow the plant to pollinate in the process. Pruning helps the plant grow in a tidy manner and gives the plant a bushier appearance. Catnip plant care involves pinching off the top of the shoot encourages the development of bushier growth.
Types of Catnips:
There are approximately three variants of catnip herbs, and they are as follows:
- Nepeta citriodora: The variant has a lemony aroma, and they come in size smaller than Nepeta cataria. They find its application in cuisines demanding a citrusy taste to it.
- Nepeta camphorate: They do not grow further than 2 feet tall and wide and are commonly known as camphor catnip.
- Nepeta parnassica: The plants bear light pink flowers, and like nepeta camphorate, do not grow more than 2 feet tall. They commonly get called Greek catnip.
Pests and Diseases of Catnip:
Catnip plants are mostly disease resistant, and not many conditions affect them in their lifetime; however, they often fall prey to fungal, viral, and bacterial infections:
- Bacterial Leaf Spot: As the name suggests, the cause of the disease boils down to the bacteria as they initially appear on the leaves. The spot that appears is translucent with yellow halos that darken over time and develop irregular red centers.
They attack the plant when the surrounding temperature remains cool and wet. In extreme cases, cultivators may need to remove the plant altogether to control the disease as they spread from one plant to another very fast. Crop rotation using any plant from the mint family can help to tackle the problem.
- Mottled distorted leaves: The culprit behind the disease can get pinned down to viruses. They jaundice young catnip plants and start showing stunted growth. An insect that comes to pollinate the plant propagates the disease rapidly from one plant to another.
- A fungus named Cercospora commonly attacks catnip cultivation and causes the drop of leaves. They are easy to recognize due to the haloed yellow spot formation on the leaves that turn darker red as the disease progresses.
There is a wide array of dishes for feline animals where catnip uses to find its relevance:
- Tuna and catnip kitty treats.
- Carrot and catnip kitty cat treats.
Catnips are arguably one of the easiest plants to grow as they require little to no maintenance. Little watering from time to time and the addition of liquid fertilizers once every month should do the job.
Catnips are easy to grow when compared to other herbs. Cultivators should pick a garden area that receives ample sunlight for about 6-8 hours every day. They require thick mulching before going through the winter season, and pruning the plant once every season helps the plant get rid of old and shoots and bear new ones.
Cultivators quite often grow catnip in their backyard due to its low nutrient demands. A routine watering system coupled with direct sunlight for 6-8 hours every day helps the plant thrive. They do not require a trellis or other support systems for their growth.
Once the flower starts to bloom, catnips can become ready to harvest. Harvesters should pick a late morning period to go for harvesting as the condensed dew on the leaves starts evaporating without compromising the aroma of the catnip herbs.
There are various methods when it comes to harvesting catnips. Some cultivators go for cutting a part of the shoot and let the plant live for continuous supply, while some go for cutting the entire plant down for a one-time harvest.
Catnips become ready for harvest when the flowers bloom, as at this point, the catnip herbs peak in aroma and flavor. Harvester should pick a spot a few inches above the soil and cut. Once harvested, they can hang the harvested part in a cool, dry, well-ventilated room for it to fry. It takes about 3-4 weeks for catnip leaves to dry and become ready for consumption.
They are one of those high drought-resistant category plants that require very little to no water once they establish them. In the growth phase, watering once every day helps the plant to establish itself quickly.