Catmint, also known by its scientific name Nepeta, is a plant under the mint family Lamiaceae. Its relatives include the likes of rosemary, lavender, and thyme. Mainly planted as an ornamental, it is also equally popular because of the distinct scent of its leaves. It is one of the easier ornamental plants to grow, requiring little maintenance and known to grow well in virtually all seasons. Catmint is even used as natural ground cover, as an edger, or as plants that can complement rock gardens and herb gardens. This article will serve as your guide in growing catmint.
Basic Information and Needs of Catmint
There are many things that make Nepeta a great addition to gardens. Of course, it is remarkably attractive. It mainly grows flowers, which are purplish blue in color, in the early months of summer. From there, it stays vibrant and colorful well until the final months of autumn. As a perennial plant, catmint doesn’t die in the winter. Its grayish foliage still provides a unique look to your garden even during the cold weather. It is also known to grow well with other plants. In fact, it blends well with plants such as roses and lavender.
The catmint plant only needs minimal supervision and nutrients for it to thrive. As it is a plant that has a tendency to grow wide rather than grow tall, provide a lot of space for it. Also, it is a plant that prefers full sunlight, but it also grows well in afternoon shade. Contrary to other plants, you actually don’t need to fertilize your soil before planting. Catmint best thrives in soil that is well-drained and not too rich. Though shearing is not required, it is recommended that you shear it after the first flush of bloom so that the plant will stay neat during its second flush.
Growing Catmint Seeds
The best way to grow catmint seeds is by placing them in soil, whether it be on a pot, a seedbed, or on garden soil. You should see to it that the soil should have good drainage. Press the seeds into the ground, but do not place them too deep, as covering them prevents the seeds from getting enough sunlight. Depending on the seed breed, the seeds are best grown in either full sunlight or in partial shade. If you are not sure, either approach can work, as catmint love its daily dose of sunshine. Lastly, keep the seeds moist (but not to the point of being submerged in water) until they germinate.
Growing Catmint Cuttings (in soil)
Growing Nepeta using cuttings is another popular growing approach. The best way to grow cuttings in soil is to use a pot. Putting holes at the bottom of the pot is crucial because it allows for sufficient water drainage. Soil is best kept damp but never too wet or flooded. Place holes in the soil; these holes is where you would place the cuttings. Cut a portion of the stem using a sterile blade, ideally cutting just below a leaf bump (these bumps are where the roots of the stem graft will grow). Once they start growing into a good size, you can either transfer your catmint to a larger pot or outdoors.
Growing Catmint Cuttings (in water)
An alternative approach for growing Nepeta is to place the cuttings in water. You can use this if you have little or no free soil available. Selecting a stem graft for this technique is the same as when you choose growing cuttings in soil: go for leaf node-rich areas and get a portion that is neither too young nor too old. Fill up your container of choice with fresh, clean water. Ideally, the water should be deep enough to submerge leaf nodes. However, you should keep the leaves above water, as they would rot when submerged. Water should be changed daily to prevent it from getting stale. When the cutting is large enough, you can transfer it to soil, either on a pot or outdoors.
Once the Seeds and/or Cuttings Grow…
As mentioned earlier, you have the choice of either planting them in a plant bed or open soil. Regardless of what approach you would use, it is important that you give the plant enough space to grow. Remember that this is the type of plant that grows wide rather than tall. While this is a plant that is fairly resistant to drought, ensuring that it has enough access to water is critical for its successful growth. Water once daily, twice if the weather is hot and dry, just enough to keep the soil moist. When it’s raining, you don’t have to water them.
As Nepeta reaches maturity, the requirements needed to care for it changes. If you want it to grow bushy, you should pinch off the growing tips. Also, proper trimming is essential to get the most out of this plant. Trimming it after the first bloom increases the chance of a second bloom during the season, plus it keeps it looking fresh and tidy. It must be noted that these plants grow quickly and can be quite aggressive. There will be situations where you got to cut more often than usual. Also, to prevent encroaching, you should place borders made of materials such as wood, rock, or plastic.
Some Tips and Precautions
A quick inspection will help you determine the best portion of stem to use for cuttings. Go for stem portions with little to no flowers and a high proportion of leaf nodes. Also, make sure to plant stems that are neither too young nor too old. As a rule, a stem of the right age should be easy to bend and snap. Also, while catmint is known to grow in unfertilized soil, using fertilizer about 1-2 times every growing season will prove beneficial. When transferring grown seedlings or cuttings outdoors, it is crucial that you place each seedling/cutting at least 12 inches apart from each other as they tend to grow laterally. Last but not least, catmints can attract animals such as cats and bees, so use precautionary measures (ex.: covering) when necessary.