Are you looking for an easy-care, beautiful plant that looks incredible in the flower garden all season long and helps keep mosquitos away? Learn how to grow nepeta with these simple tips.
One of the first perennial plants I grew in my flower garden when I was just starting out was nepeta. It’s a low-maintenance gorgeous flower that adds lots of texture to the garden.
And you just can’t beat its billowy appearance and pretty purple blooms in the beds. It looks great all season long and you can even get a second set of flowers if you treat it right.
Not to mention, it’s also one of the best mosquito repellent plants to grow.
Learn how to grow and care for nepeta with these simple tips.
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Nepeta, also known as catmint, is an herbaceous perennial plant in the Lamiaceae (mint) family that thrives in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8.
The size of Nepeta plants can vary depending on the specific species or cultivar and growing conditions but are generally about 12 to 24 inches tall and wide.
The nepeta plant has fragrant foliage. Cats are fond of the aroma, and sometimes, I find my catmint plants flattened out because a neighborhood feline slept in it overnight.
Nepeta prefers full sun, which means it needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day so it produces vibrant blooms and maintains a compact, bushy shape.
However, it can tolerate light shade, especially in regions with hot summers. In areas with intense heat, partial shade during the hottest part of the day is OK.
Catmint plant likes things on the drier side and prefers well-draining soil that doesn’t stay excessively moist.
It is adaptable to different soil pH and can tolerate a variety of soil types, including sandy, loamy, rocky, and clay.
Additionally, regular watering, especially during the establishment period, is essential, but once established, nepeta plants can be drought-tolerant.
Nepeta produces small, tubular flowers that are typically blue, lavender/purple, or white in color.
I’ve seen hummingbirds zip by and stop in while weeding my garden around my catmint. So the hummers definitely enjoy them.
Catmint plant also attracts butterflies, as well as other beneficial insects such as hoverflies and parasitic wasps, which can help organically control garden pests naturally.
Nepeta is considered deer-resistant because they dislike the plant’s aroma which deters them from browsing.
I like to plant cat mint among plants that deer typically browse because it the aroma helps protect those susceptible plants from damage. It’s not foolproof but is a helpful deer-proofing strategy.
Mosquito Repellent Plants
If mosquitos are a problem, nepeta is one of the best plants to keep mosquitos away. Plant them in containers or in the garden around your outdoor living spaces or garden rooms to help keep the bugs at bay.
Pest and Disease Problems
Nepeta is generally a low-maintenance and hardy plant that is not highly susceptible to pests and diseases. However, like most plants, it can still encounter some issues when its growing conditions are not optimal.
I’ve noticed my cat mint plants develop fungal problems if the soil doesn’t drain well. To remedy this, I dig them up and relocate them to a section of my garden that is better draining.
Planting nepeta is a breeze. If you’ve never planted it before, here’s how to do it.
- Choose the Right Location: Nepeta prefers full sun but can tolerate light shade. Ensure your chosen spot has well-draining soil.
- Prepare the Soil: Work in some compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility and drainage.
- Planting: Depending on the variety, you’ll space plants about 12-24 inches apart to allow for their mature size. But read the plant label for specific spacing recommendations. Dig a hole that’s about twice the size of the root ball, place the plant in, and then backfill with soil.
- Watering: Water thoroughly after planting.
Nepeta is a real breeze to take care of, but a little maintenance can go a long way.
- Fertilization: In general, nepeta doesn’t require fertilizers. Focus on providing good soil quality instead by amending the soil with organic matter.
- Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around the plant base to help retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and maintain an even soil temperature.
- Deadheading: To encourage continuous blooming, remove spent flowers periodically. I typically don’t do this, but instead cut it back once during the season.
- Cut Back: In mid-summer when the blooms fade, trim nepeta back by about one-third to promote a flush of new growth and blooms.
- Divide: Every few years, divide catmint plant to keep it healthy and vigorous.
Growing Nepeta in Containers
Growing catmint in containers is a great option if you have limited garden space or want to enjoy its beauty on a patio, balcony, or other small outdoor areas.
When I’ve grown them in containers, I keep them near my outdoor seating areas because they are considered to be plants that repel flies and mosquito.
To successfully grow them in containers year-round, choose a variety that is two times your hardiness zone.
A word of advice though. If you want to grow them for more than a year or two in pots, you’ll need to either plant them in the ground or repot them with fresh potting soil.
And, if you choose the latter, gently remove as much soil off the roots as you can and then repot in fresh potting soil. You can either repot in the same container or go one size up.
Here’s how to grow catmint in containers.
- Select a container that is at least 12 inches in diameter and has drainage holes at the bottom.
- Use a high-quality, well-draining potting mix. You can also add some perlite or coarse sand to improve drainage.
- Fill the container with the potting mix, leaving a few inches of space at the top.
- Remove the nepeta plant from its nursery pot and gently loosen the roots.
- Place the plant in the container, ensuring it sits at the same depth as it was in the nursery pot.
- Fill in any gaps around the plant with more potting mix and press it down gently to secure the plant.
- Place the container in a location where it receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
- Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Containers tend to dry out faster than garden soil, so check the soil regularly and water when the top inch feels dry to the touch.
- Water at the base of the plant to avoid wetting the foliage, which can help prevent fungal issues.
- In regions with cold winters, you can help protect it from harsh weather by moving it to a sheltered location or insulating it with burlap or bubble wrap.
If I were growing catmint in containers and wanted to keep them year-round, I’d use an all-weather planter to help prevent cracking or damage to planters during harsh New Jersey winters.
While you can propagate catmint a few different ways, I prefer to divide them in fall or early spring.
Nepeta can be propagated by:
Choose the method that best suits your preferences. I like dividing them because it needs to be done anyway every few years and is just easier than seeding or taking cuttings.
While seeding nepeta or taking a cutting and dipping it into rooting hormone is pretty easy to do, it requires a little more effort. To me, dividing nepeta is a more low-maintenance approach to propagating them.
Also, since different catmint flower varieties are readily available, I’d rather save my seed starting space for other blooms like zinnias, snapdragons, calendula, etc. that are not as easy to find at the garden nursery.
To divide nepeta, follow these simple tips.
- Choose a cool, overcast day to divide nepeta. This will help prevent the roots from drying out. The easiest way to do this is after lots of rain because the ground will be easier to dig and the plant will have been watered well making the process a little easier.
- Dig up the entire root clump with a spade shovel. It’s easier to go around the perimeter of the plant first, and then slice through to create sections so you can remove a nepeta clump with ease.
- Gently shake off the excess soil from the roots, and then use a clean garden knife or sharp spade to divide the plant into smaller clumps. I don’t use a sharp knife for this, but I know some gardeners that do.
- Each clump should have several healthy new shoots and a good root system.
- Replant the smaller sections in their new location at the same depth they were originally growing, and water them thoroughly.
- Mulch around the plant base to help retain moisture.
- And give them lots of water after transplanting. They need it!
Why Choose Nepeta?
Because nepeta is a hardy perennial that comes back year after year, it’s a great choice for gardeners who want to grow a beautiful garden without a ton of upkeep.
But there are lots of other reasons catmint is a great plant to grow in your flower garden. Here’s what you need to know.
- Low Maintenance
- Attracts Pollinators
- Drought Tolerant
- Deer and Rabbit Resistant
- Aromatic Foliage
- Long Blooming Period
- Versatile Plant that Can Be Used in a Variety of Settings
- One of the Best Plants Mosquitos Hate
How do I collect seeds from my nepeta plant?
If you have Nepeta plants in your garden, you can collect seeds from mature seedheads in late summer or early fall.
Allow the seedheads to dry on the plant, remove, and separate the seeds. Then store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to sow them.
I’ve not done this before as I find catmint plants to be readily available at the garden nursery. So I don’t feel the need to start them from seed.
Does nepeta like full sun or shade?
Nepeta generally prefers full sun to thrive. It grows and produces the best blooms there. Full sun means that the plant should receive 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
While nepeta prefers full sun, it can tolerate partial shade, especially in regions with hot or intense summer sun.
In such cases, providing catmint with some afternoon shade can be beneficial to protect it from excessive heat stress in hotter climates.
I garden in zone 6a New Jersey and find mine do best in full sun.
Is nepeta the same as catnip?
Nepeta is the genus name that includes various species of aromatic plants, many of which are commonly referred to as catmint.
While they are somewhat they same in some regards, they are different.
Catnip specifically refers to one species within the nepeta genus, known as nepeta cataria, and is well-known for its strong attraction to cats. It also has a more weedy look in the landscape than catmint.
So, while catnip is a type of nepeta, not all nepeta plants are catnip.
How do I cut back nepeta to get a second set of blooms?
The best time to prune nepeta for a second set of blooms is after the initial flowers have faded, typically around July.
This allows enough time for the plant to produce new growth and bloom again before the end of the growing season.
To prune the plant for a second set of blooms, follow these tips.
- Assess the Plant: First, examine the plant and identify the parts that have finished blooming and are starting to look a bit tired.
- Gather Pruning Tools: You’ll need a pair of clean and sharp hedge shears, pruners, or garden snips. I usually use hedge shears to get it done quickly but use what works best for you.
- Prune Back: Trim the nepeta back by about one-third to half of its overall height. Make clean cuts just above a set of healthy leaves or nodes. This encourages new growth to emerge from these points.
- Remove Dead or Spent Flowers: While you’re pruning, be sure to remove any dead or spent flower clusters. These are the parts of the plant that have already finished blooming.
- Water: After pruning, water the plant well to help it recover from the pruning shock.
What time of year do you plant nepeta?
You can plant nepeta anytime during the year as long as the ground can be worked but in general, it’s best to do it in spring or fall while the plant is dormant and temperatures are seasonable.
Early spring is an excellent time as it allows nepeta to establish itself before the heat of summer.
But fall is also a great time because the temperatures are cooler and the plant can develop a good root system before winter sets in.
I would avoid planting in summer. While it can be done, you’ll need to coddle the plant to help it establish during the heat. It’s much easier to plant and grow catmint in spring or fall.
Favorite Nepeta Varieties
I’ve got a few different varieties of nepeta growing in my gardens. But there are so many great ones out there!
Here are a few you should consider planting.
- Walker’s Low
- Six Hills Giant
- Cat’s Meow
- Blue Wonder
- Purrsian Blue
- Cat’s Pajamas
- Summer Magic
More About Growing Nepeta
Are you growing nepeta in your garden yet? If so, what’s your favorite variety? I would love to know more in the comments below.
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- Gardening basics to set you up for success
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Garden Supplies I Use
I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. From pruners to deer repellents, here are some of my favorites in no particular order.
- I like to use a good-quality, potting soil, garden soil, compost, and perlite when planting. While I make my own compost, you can easily buy it ready-made for use.
- I have used this deer repellent with great success. But now, I’m all about this deer repellent that is systemic instead of topical. This means the plant takes it in as opposed to it just smelling bad.
- Hands down this is my favorite hand-weeding tool. You can use it to get underneath roots and loosen soil, and it cuts down on the weeding time because you work much faster.
- But I also love this long, stand-up weeding tool to really get around roses from afar.
- I use THIS ORGANIC FERTILIZER for roses because the blooms are more prolific and it’s organic.
- And I use this organic fertilizer for my vegetables and herbs in the potager garden.
- You’ll need a sharp set of pruners when working with plants and flowers. I buy a few so I can stash them around.
- I use these garden snips to deadhead and cut flowers from my gardens.
- Where pest and disease problems are concerned, if I need to, I generally use this insecticidal soap or neem oil to help control infestations depending on the issue. When using, only apply when pollinators are less active.
- This is my favorite set-and-forget slow-release fertilizer for houseplants, annuals, and container gardens.
- Whenever I stake my peonies or other plants, I generally use these grow-through garden supports because they work really well and keep the blooms upright.
More Easy-Care Flowering Plants You Might Enjoy
If you’re seeking flowers that offer beauty without the hassle, there are several easy-care options that can effortlessly brighten up your garden or living space.
Wait until you see how easy and fun these blooms are to grow!
- How to Grow Lavender
- Growing Sedum Autumn Joy
- Growing the Prettiest Heuchera Plants
- Hassle-Free Hosta Care
- How to Grow Zinnias and Enjoy the Flowers
- Growing Snapdragons
- How to Grow Bearded Iris
- 5 Reasons You Should Grow Lenten Rose
- How to Grow Peonies
- Purple Coneflower Care
- Black Eyed Susans and Their Care
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