Cats might not cozy up to catmint (Nepeta x faassenii) as much as they do catnip. However, for humans, this herbaceous perennial still has ample appeal. It is a non-native species that blooms beautiful, fragrant flowers in lavender and white. It’s non-invasive, a charming companion for other flowering plants, and deer, not to mention rabbit resistant. Plus, it is easy to grow and care for and a big draw for beneficial insects.
Catmint is hardy in zones three to eight. Follow these tips to add it to your garden and enjoy it for years to come.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
- Seeds, potted cutting, or plant
- three inch pots with drain holes
- Potting mix
- Larger pot or planter
- Garden hand shears or scissors
STEP 1: CHOOSE YOUR STARTER
You can grow catmint from seeds, cuttings, or a young plant purchased from the garden center. However, there are different varieties of catmint. Decide if you want a bigger plant that will grow three feet wide and four feet tall or, a shorter variety that maxes out at 24 inches tall and wide.
Read the labels of the seed packet, the cutting, or the plant carefully to make sure you get the variety that meets your needs. If you choose seeds, you should start them indoors about four to eight weeks before the last frost.
STEP 2: PICK THE RIGHT SPOT
Catmint basks in full sun or partial shade in any type of well-drained soil in your garden. No need to worry about the pH or whether the soil is sandy, rocky, or otherwise. This perennial isn’t fussy. It can tolerate drought conditions and doesn’t need any regular feeding.
Catmint also enjoys growing in pots, planters, and raised beds. Or, add it to borders and rock gardens for interest, color, and heady fragrance.
STEP 3: SOW SEEDS
You can presoak the seeds for about 12 to 24 hours, but it isn’t essential. If you plan to transfer the plants outdoor, use three inch pots to get started. If you plan to keep the catmint indoors, you can use a larger pot.
Add some potting mix to the pots, sow the seeds on top or at most 1/4 inch deep, and cover lightly. Place them near a window or glass door. They will start to germinate in about seven to 20 days.
To sow directly outdoors, wait until the last frost or until fall before the first frost. Create shallow holes about 12 to 18 inches apart and place two or three seeds in each hole. Cover lightly with soil. If you are creating multiple rows of plants, space the rows about 15 inches apart.
STEP 4: TRANSPLANT YOUR CATMINT PLANTS
For a potted transplant, dig a hole twice as big as the size of its pot and place compost in the hole. Remove the plant or cutting, and gently shake or loosen the soil at the roots so it’s not compact.
Put the transplant into the soil only deep enough so that the tops of the roots are even with the soil line. Press firmly but gently into place and water well.
STEP 5: CARE FOR YOUR CATMINT
Give young catmint plants at least one inch of water each week during their first season. However, skip the watering if you have a period of rain because these plants flourish in dry conditions once they are well-rooted, and there is no need to fertilize them.
To encourage fresh foliage, cut the plant back about two-thirds after its first bloom. Cutting back dead branches in autumn before the first frost will also help the plant be tidier and healthier come spring.
Catmint will survive winter as long as its roots run deep and you cover them with mulch. Bring potted plants indoors in winter and place them near windows or glass doors with bright light but away from direct heat.
STEP 6: DIVIDE CATMINT
If your catmint plants begin to get too thick for your liking or start to look a bit messy, you can easily divide them. When you do that, you can grow the cuttings as new plants. It is very desirable because catmints are not self-seeding and need help to propagate.
Early spring before blooming is the best time to divide catmint. Before you start, make sure the plant is healthy. If it is very bushy, cut it back before dividing (see Step 7). With a shovel, dig firmly around a section of the plant you want to remove (around an area with undeveloped shoots is best). Then carefully lift out the section.
Fill the hole that is left behind with soil. Transplant the section you have removed into another area of your garden and water frequently until the roots have taken hold. Alternatively, use the leaves and stems (and any flowers) for herbs, potpourri, or medicinal home remedies.
STEP 7: HOW TO CUT BACK CATMINT
Before you can divide a very bushy, overgrown catmint plant, you should cut or trim it. Get a pair of garden scissors. Grab hold of a clump of the plant and start to cut very close to the roots of the plant.
Even for a very thick mass of catmint, avoid using a machine to cut it. Animals could be nesting underneath. Also, cutting or trimming by hand is more precise and controlled.
To transplant, the cuttings cut them to about three or four inches first and remove any flowers. Also, remove any leaves near the ends you are planting into the soil. Place the cuttings into the soil about 1/2 inch deep and firmly pat the soil down. Water well.
CATMINT KEEPS ON GIVING
The ultimate no-muss-no-fuss perennial catmint is a great choice for beginner gardeners. It’s versatile enough to grow indoors or outdoors, in pots or beds, and offers up an edible harvest too. While deadheading isn’t necessary, you can do it to enjoy flowers for a longer period each season. So, are you a catmint convert? Tell us in the comments down below.