Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Catnip / Catmints Print E-mail
Catnip is an herb with a long tradition of use as a medicinal plant, and as a plant to entertain the feline members of the family.  It is a member of the Nepeta family, a diverse group of fragrant plants.

Our "Cat Garden" contains several varieties of catnip and catmints.  In addition to regular catnip, one can caress the leaves of Siberian Catnip or Lemon Catnip for an aromatic experience.  The catmints are ornamental members of the group.  Although they are also highly fragrant, they are not usually used medicinally.  Nor, or they are effective in stimulating cats.  They are grown for their brightly colored blooms, usually in rich shades of blue, but sometimes also purple, pink, or white.  Varietal names are "Souvenier d'Andre Chadron", "Dawn to Dusk", "Blue Wonder", "Six Hills Giant", "White Snowflake", or "Walker's Low."  All are excellent performers in the garden, producing their blooms over a long period, and attracting many butterflies.  They are tidy growers, forming mounds.  As such, the shorter varieties are good edgers.

Common catnip (Nepeta catara) is the plant cats love.  They love to chew on it, or roll in it.  Then they "dance", bat at imaginary butterflies, or chase invisible mice.  This is usually followed by a period of lounging, during which most plants have an enormous grin, then a long nap.  We often gave our cats a catnip treat if we needed to leave them for a while.  Once they reached the lounging stage, we knew we could leave them for several hours, or even overnight, and they would sleep the entire time we were gone.

Research shows that catnip triggers a hormonal reaction that is strongest (no surprise!) in teenage boy cats.  Teenage girls have the next strongest reaction, follwed by adult males, females, then kittens.  Old, fully mature female cats usually have the least reaction.

All catnips and catmints are easily grown, in average soils in a sunny location.  Height depends on variety.  Common catnip may reach 5' in height, whie many of the catmints remain at 10".  Most of them are perennials.  Catnip is easily grown from seed sown in late spring.  The preferred typesof catmints for the flower garden are best grown from a named plant.

Catnip should be harvested just as it comes into full flower, when the oil content is highest.  Dry it out of sunlight in a warm, but not hot, place so the oils do not evaporate.  Place it in an airtight container.  Crumbling the leaves releases the  oils, so we prefer to keep ours as whole as possible until ready for use, whether for teas for ourselves, or toys for the cats.