Growing Catnip

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Bright green catnip leaves growing in garden.

The vibrant green leaves of catnip are not only attractive to cats but are popular in tea as well.

In the Garden

Plant catnip in a place where your cats can rub and roll in it without hurting adjacent plants. Some cats like catnip so much that they lie on it, roll on it, and chew it to the point of destruction. If you find that to be the case, place some 1- to 2-foot-long bamboo sticks or thin dowels every 2 to 3 inches within the canopy of the plant to make it impossible for a cat to lie on top of the plant.

Catnip grows as a loosely branching, low perennial. In a flowerbed, you can plant catnip in front of purple coneflower, which blooms about the same time. The plant bears tiny, white blooms that are not very showy. You can also grow it in containers.

For indoor cats, grow several pots outside to rotate to the indoors. Plants need a lot of light, so you’ll need to move them back out every couple of weeks and bring in a new one.

Also consider planting catnip near the vegetable garden as a way to attract your cat and thereby keep down the rodent population.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Catnip plant with sticks used to protect plant from cats.

Use smooth sticks or dowels placed 2 to 3 inches apart within the canopy of your catnip to keep your cats from flattening it.

Set out plants in the spring after the last frost, spacing them 18 to 24 inches apart. Keep plants full by pinching the growing stems and flower buds when they appear. The small white flowers that appear in the summer will form seeds that sprout; the plant also spreads via underground runners. Some cats are very rough on plants. To keep plants from being loved to death, cover each with an arch of chicken wire. The stems can grow up through the holes, yet the plant’s base and roots are protected. Or, try interspersing with bamboo stakes to prevent cats from rolling on top of the plant.

Troubleshooting

A black and brown cat rubs against a catnip plant in a large red pot

Many cats can’t resist the fragrance and flavor of catnip. You can move a pot inside for an indoor cat, but be sure to bring it back outside so that the plant will get enough sunlight.

Harvest leaves by cutting the stems anytime during the growing season. The foliage keeps its scent best when air-dried.

Harvest and Storage

You can stuff sachets and cat pillows with dried leaves. Dried leaves are also popular for herbal tea.

Download our How to Grow Herbs instructions. They are in .PDF format.

FAQs

I bought catnip for my cat, but she doesn’t seem to even notice it. What’s wrong?

Not all cats respond to catnip. The ones that do can kill a plant—and anything planted around it—with their enthusiasm. If your cat enjoys catnip, tuck several plants into different areas of the garden, using care to leave a margin around each one. However, if your cat doesn’t like it, you can enjoy its nice foliage and experiment with catnip in herbal teas.

16 thoughts on “Growing Catnip

  1. I love your site! As a new garden owner, I am really enjoying growing herbs and have found your site so helpful! I have never thought of growing catnip, although I have a cat. I may just try that this year. I have a silly question. Is catnip only for cats? Is there anything about it that would be used in cooking? I have never seen it in any reciepe so I am assuming that it is only for the cats pleasure.

    • Hi Susan,
      Catnip is an herb in the mint family – it has uses in teas, pretty flowers (in my opinion), but is best known as the plant of choice for kitties. -Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  2. I’m curious if you have ever seen a cat go “catnip crazy” with Mexican Mint Marigold? Mine has gone bonkers and is treating it the way she usually treats catnip!

    • Hi Barbara,
      I have not! That must be a site :) – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  3. i planted catnip seeds last year and they didnt come up til this year?? I dont understand. and now i have planted more seeds that arent showing any signs of popping out. Plus i have searched every local store, farmstand etc in my area and cannot find any catnip plants..any suggestions?

    • Hi Krishna,
      That is great that the catnip came up. Germination rate on seed can be low. Did you directly seed it outside? The tiny seeds hold no competition with nearby weeds – catnip is usually transplanted. You have catnip coming up now, but want more? You can find all the Bonnie Plants retailers near you by using this Find Our Plants locator. just plug in your zip code to find all near you. -Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  4. I have purchased so many Bonnie catnip plants, I have lost count. I do have a green thumb, but I cannot keep the catnip. I tried it all – full sun, partial sun, moist soil, dryer soil, bring them in, take them out, etc. – and for some reason, they just die. All of my flowers and herbs are doing great and flourish. I live in South Florida. Any suggestions? PLEASE.

    • Hi Diane –
      You are right, in your hot Florida sun, catnip will thrive best when it is given afternoon shade and morning sun. Keep it well- watered until becomes established ,then keep the soil evenly moist. A good layer of mulch can help with the moisture. If you have a kitty enjoying the catnip, try your best to keep the kitty from munching on the catnip or laying in it until it has become established. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  5. Is catnip as invasive at other mints? I want to plant it near my cats outdoor hiding places, but I’m not sure if it’s such a good idea…

    • Hello.
      Catnip will spread rather quickly so be sure and give it plenty of room. From experience, it does not spread as rapidly as some of the other mints…although that is relative. It is taller than some of the others at 1 1/2 to 3 feet high. Your cat is going to love it.
      -Danielle, Bonnie Plants

    • Hi Kristiiina,
      I’m not sure what you mean by “water budding at the top,” but you can easily snip or trim the tops of your catnip. You can easily keep the plant full and bushier by pinching off the stems above a set of leaves. Read the tabbed information in this article under “Soil and Planting” and “Harvesting and Storage” for detailed descriptions. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  6. I grew catnip this year and picked the tops for my two inside
    cats. They just ignored it. But, they roll in and eat the stuff
    I bought from the store. What am I doing wrong? I thought they liked it fresh or dried. Could it be the wrong variety of
    catnip or something that looks like but isn’t. Confused.
    Terry in Kazoo

    • Hi Terry,
      I don’t think you need me to tell you that cats never do what you want them to do, right? :) Only kidding. However, I would like to know if you bought a Bonnie Plants item labelled as Catnip (Nepeta cataria), or something from another supplier? It may be that you purchased “Catmint,” or Nepeta faassenii. The names are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably. Catnip makes them crazy (crazier?) and catmint only mildly entices them. Check out the link and description/photo above and see if it matches what you have. Good luck! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

      • Mary Beth,

        It’s definitely possible that Terry somehow ended up with Catmint rather that Catnip and that is why her kitties are not exactly impressed by it.

        But here’s a tiny bit of cat trivia. The strong reaction that cats have to catnip is a genetic trait. About 25% of cats just don’t possess the gene required to go crazy over catnip. Perhaps Terry’s felines just both happened to get that recessive “no-likey-catnip” gene.

    • Hello Terry….I’m new this site. Three years ago, I planted both catnip & catmint in my herb garden. Catmint is milder and less pungent. I’ve heard the bud of catnip is the MOST puungent part of the plant. Your cats mike like them better.

      Of all my cats over time, Oliver, my persian, had the most intense reaction. He would roll around in freshly cut stems for 10-15 minutes. Then he would seem “stoned” for awhile. I’ve had other cats that would sniff it and simply walk away…..Judy

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