How-To: Homegrown Catnip

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Catnip, Nepeta, is a pretty plant that will thrive in most everyone’s garden. This potent plant is known for driving cats wild, a fact that often overshadows how lovely it is to grow.
Catnip is a flowering perennial, meaning once you plant it, it lives year after year. The leaves are silvery green and heart-shaped with a serrated edge. The flowers are generally pale purple and they look a little bit like a lavender flower. Harvest its leaves to entice the cat, and it will be a fun-filled addition to your landscape.

For best results, buy a small plant, and allow it to grow into a larger one. Catnip can be planted in the ground in full sun, or in partial shade. Use well-draining soil and water it when the dirt dries out.
Never spray the catnip with any harmful pesticides or fertilizers. Organic is essential, because your kitty will be eating it. To encourage growth, pinch off the blossoms to prevent the plant from making flowers. This will force the catnip to direct its energy towards growing new leaves.
My cat Fiona thinks she can “prune” the catnip back whenever she wants. To avoid stunted and pathetic specimens, I’ve learned to keep potted catnip in a plant stand, where she won’t be tempted. I just set the entire stand in the garden with my other plants.

My cat Roscoe was a maniac for it. Click on the video to see him in action with a toy filled with dried leaves. If you plan on making your own toy, I would recommend using corduroy or denim. Both materials will withstand the crazy claws. When I want to encourage Fiona to play, I bring the plant down and crush a few of the leaves for her. The scent drives her wild. Dried leaves can also be used to fill simple sewn toys, or just sprinkled on cat scratchers, like the cardboard Catnip Castle from Craft Volume 01. Meeee-ow!

6 thoughts on “How-To: Homegrown Catnip

  1. Melissa A. says:

    I don’t have garden space, so if I plant this in a large pot to grow on my balcony, can I leave it out there all winter or do I have to take it in? I live in Nova Scotia and our winters are wet and messy.

  2. kedawen says:

    I planted a whole lot of catnip seeds out in my garden, and only one plant came up. But boy is it a nice plant. My kitty loves it when I bring a leaf in for her (every week or so). I’m considering putting my one plant in a pot since its a little bit overshadowed in my vegetable garden, but we’ll see. I can’t wait to see it flower!

  3. Brookelynn says:

    Hi Melissa! So, catnip won’t love the frost, but during the winter you can try covering the catnip with a clear plastic bag. The bag will protect the plant from frost, and amplify the sunlight into a pseudo greenhouse effect. Also, water plants generously on nights you think it might be below freezing. Good luck!

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