How to Grow Catmint (Nepeta faassenii)
Catmint, or Nepeta faassenii, is a low maintenance, durable plant that is easy to grow in many Southwest gardens. These plants spread easily, growing to about 18 inches wide so it makes an excellent groundcover. It’s purple flower spikes rise to about the same height. A member of the mint family, this fun plant attracts bees, butterflies and like other Nepetas also attracts cats, which find its aroma irresistible.
Catmint can survive some drought and heat, but don’t be frightened if your catmint slows down when temperatures get over 90 degrees. It will start blooming again as the summer cools and continue until hard frost. With a little cutting back, you can have catmint bloom in late spring, early summer or midsummer, depending on your region and that year’s weather.
Common Name(s): Cat’s Pajamas, Cat’s Meow, Walker’s Low, Junior Walker, Blue Wonder, Purrsian Blue, Six Hills Giant, Snowflake
Scientific Name: Nepeta faassenii
Zone: USDA Zones 3 – 8
Height & Spread: 9 inches to 4 feet tall, 1 to 3 feet wide
Light: Full sun to light shade.
Water: Low once established
Pests & Diseases: Thrips, aphids, leafhoppers, slugs, snails, spider mites, or whiteflies
Catmint is one of the easiest plants to grow in the more moderate climate areas of the Southwest. It doesn’t react badly to over pruning and will regrow if cut short. If not cut back it could lead to leggy plants or overgrowth. Because Catmint is a mint, it can become invasive.
Be sure to remove the blooms just as they begin to fade to prevent re-seeding and also produce another wave of blooms. In the fall or early spring, give it a deeper cut closer to the ground to rejuvenate the plant.
Types of Catmint
While there are several hundred varieties of Catmint, here are some of the most common that you will be most likely to find at your local Nursery.
Faassen’s catmint – this popular hybrid, which has sterile flowers that won’t self-sow is commonly planted for ornamental use. Faassen’s catmint has spikes of pale lavender-blue flowers and silver- gray-green foliage with scalloped edges however, not as drought tolerant as many of the other varieties of Catmint.
Siberian Catmint – gorgeous blue-green leaves and red stems that have a cinnamon-like smell, attractive to butterflies, bees and birds but cats mostly ignore. Taller than most Catmint, it can grow up to 4 feet in height and spreads about 24 inches wide.
Six Hills Giant Catmint – another popular variety, Six Hills Giant Catmint is also a sterile hybrid which is somewhat larger than most catmint. It grows in a clump to about 3 feet tall and slightly wider. This variety has longer spikes of fragrant blue-lavender flowers and is slightly less heat tolerant.
Snowflake – to throw in some variety, Snowflake Catmint has white flowers with gray-green, aromatic foliage, thrives in the heat and is also drought tolerant. Smaller than other varieties, it grows 10-12 inches tall which makes it well suited for ground cover.
Japanese Catmint – prefers wetter soil and partial shade so it’s more suited for cooler, wetter climates. Japanese Catmint has maroon spotted bell-shaped flowers that are larger than other Catmint varieties. It grows to a height of 18-23 inches and has a spread of 1 to 2 feet.
Walkers’ Low Catmint – known for blooming for months on end, Walker’s Low Catmint produces foot long spears of white, blue, and purple flowers. It is als one of the more aromatic varieties, which hummingbirds, bees and butterflies find more irresistible than other varieties.
Junior Walker Catmint – a more compact version of Walker’s Low, Junior Walker is better suited for warmer climates and can be grown in Zones 5 – 9. It has compact clusters of bright lavender flowers and grows to 16 to 18 inches tall, 2 to 3 feet wide.
Light & Temperature
Most varieties of Catmint prefer full sun to partial shade for warmer climates. Most varieties of Nepeta survive in zones 4 through 8, and some also survive zone 3 chill and zone 9 heat. In warmer regions you can plant Catmint in a container or make sure the plant gets plenty of afternoon shade for best health and blooming.
Water & Humidity
Most varieties are drought tolerant and require little water once established. Japanese Catmint however, prefers wetter soil so it prefers regular waterings. Only Walkers’ Low Catmint is tolerant of humidity where most other varieties prefer drier climates.
What Type Of Soil Is Best For Catmint
These plants prefer dry, well-drained soil that is either neutral or alkaline.
What Fertilizer To Use For Catmint
Fertilizer isn’t necessary in the right planting environment and can actually cause the plant to droop in some cases.
How To Propagate Catmint
Catmint are easy to propagate in the spring by taking cuttings before blooming starts. Plants can also be divided fairly easily with a spade to separate rooted sections.
When To Prune Catmint
Pruning is not necessary but if your blooms have faded in the summer, you can shear back the plants by about a third to promote new growth and another full bloom cycle.
Though pests are not common, you might occasionally find Thrips, aphids, leafhoppers, slugs, snails, spider mites, or whiteflies and all can be treated with insecticidal soap or neem oil
These plants are virtually disease-free. However, avoid over watering as it leads to root rot.
What To Plant With Catmint
Catmint is best used as ground cover, in rock gardens, or as a border plant. It’s blue flowers mix beautifully with all the other flower colors, particularly reds, deeper purple tones, pinks and yellows.