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Plant Profile: Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

If you want to do something nice for your cat grow catnip. Most cat owners swear by the effectiveness of catnip to make their cats playful, even euphoric, but I must confess that my cats have never given it a second look. The eight cats I have had over the past 50 years have all been Siamese and perhaps they don’t have the right genes to appreciate the herb. But the head gardener had cats of various sorts before he met me and they loved it either fresh from the garden or dried and made into a sachet. Growing catnip is easy and if your cats don’t like it all is not lost; you can make a pleasant tasting tea with the dried leaves and flowering heads or use the leaves in a salad as the ancient Romans did.  A native of Eurasia that has naturalized in North American, it is a relative of the mint family and has stems that are square in cross section.

Type: Sort lived perennial herb.

Bloom: Small (1/4-1/2”) white, tubular flowers are borne in massed spikes in summer.

Foliage: Coarse, toothed, opposite, egg-shaped, 2-3” long gray-green leaves with whitish, downy, undersides.

Size: 1-3’ H x 1-3’ W.

Light: Full sun to part shade.

Soil: Average, sandy, well drained, pH 6.6.

Hardiness: Zones 3-9.

Care: Gather leaves and tops in late summer when in full bloom and dry by hanging upside down in the shade.

Pests and Diseases: Cats can be a problem if they find a patch as they like to roll in it; none other of significance.

Propagation: Cuttings taken in spring, mid-summer, or fall; seed but cuttings easier..

Comments: Catnip is related to mint as can be determined by the stems that are square in cross section. Although native to Eurasia, catnip has naturalized throughout North America.

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