Nepeta cataria | ‘Catmint’, ‘Catnip’, ‘Catswort’ | 100 seeds
Commonly known as ‘Catnip’, Nepeta cataria is a short-lived herbaceous perennial which is native to large parts of central Asia, China, Europe and the Middle East. A member of the Lamiaceae family (which includes other great plants such as the heavily aromatic ‘Spearmint’ and the beautiful species comprising the Salvia genus), this species is also often known by the names ‘Catmint’ and ‘Catswort’.
Growing between fifty centimetres to one metre high and roughly the same across, Nepeta cataria is fairly typical to the plants of the Lamiaceae, being square-stemmed and loose-branched, blue-green to brown-coloured and forming coarse-toothed, triangular to elliptical leaves. Blooming around late spring to autumn, Catnip’s small, attractive and fragrant flowers are generally either coloured white (finely-speckled with pale purple) or pink. Several popular cataria subspecies and ornamental cultivars also exist, including the ‘Lemon Catnip’, subsp. citriodora.
The colloquial names for cataria (and many of its related species) derive from the incredible effect it has on many cats (approximately two-thirds of them – the others must make do with other feline-attractant plants for their fun, such as Valeriana officinalis!). Domestic cats affected by Catnip commonly exhibit strange and amusing behaviours when they come into contact with it, which may include rolling around and chewing, licking, pawing or rubbing it.
Should a susceptible pussycat actually eat the plant, they’ll often act a little odd, biting, dribbling, growling, jumping, meowing and purring in bizarre routines. The effects generally wear off after for five to fifteen minutes or so, subsequently leaving most felines a little sleepy! Interestingly, there have been a few studies among the larger cats indicating that cougars, leopards, lynxes and servals are often strongly affected by catnip in a similarly-consistent fashion to domestic cats, although lions and tigers are not so consistent in their reactions to the plant.
Besides its function as a cat-dementing agent, the species is grown as a butterfly-attractant and as an ornamental. Its extracts are useful to repel insects such as aphids, cockroaches, flies and mosquitoes and termites, while it’s foliage and stems have a long history of use in traditional herbalism (smoked, used as a poultice or consumed as an infusion, juice, tea or tincture).
While a very easy species to grow from seed, Nepeta cataria needs to be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9. Plant in averagely-moist (dry to medium) and well-drained soil, leaving roughly forty-five centimetres by forty-five centimetres within which each plant can reach maturity. Note that Nepeta cataria is fairly drought-tolerant. Position in full sun to partial shade, but be aware that Catnip can be somewhat intolerant of heavy humidity and high heat. A more shaded situation is ideal in such circumstances. Once the plant is well-established and generally healthy, it may be further propagated via division.
Why not gift your beloved cat their very own self-sufficient Catnip patch and watch them act even more demented than usual!
All the seed sold by Arkham’s Botanical was freshly and ethically sourced in 2018