Growing Catnip

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 wherever you’re growing catnip 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 that you can rotate between outdoors and indoors. Growing catnip requires a lot of light, so you’ll need to move indoor pots back out every couple of weeks and bring in new ones.

Also consider growing 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.


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.

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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.