Known to humans by a variety of names, catnip, cat mint, Nepeta, a cat will know it by its intense smell. Be aware that once the cat becomes aware of it, it will probably not take long to devour, dig up, and squash it from rolling around in it. It’s exceptionally useful for cats which are teething.
Nepeta is a perennial plant, which means it will come up year after year. It will also seed itself, so a small patch – even one plant – can take over an entire area quickly. As with all mints, unless there is a large area for it to grow freely, it should be kept in check, either in a container or a strict border.
Cat mint will also send up new plants through its own roots. It is very easy to propagate from root cuttings, leaf cuttings and seeds. It grows in bunches and can get up to three feet in height. Leaves have a soft “fuzzy” coat and stems tend to be woody. Flowers range in color from whitish pink to deep blues and purples.
Cat mint needs very little water and can thrive in the most unfavorable soils. It can be sown by seed any time of the year and can be divided in early spring or late fall. It will grow in full sun, partial shade and full shade. It can be mowed down at the end of the season and will be one of the first plants up early the next spring.
Obviously it is a favorite of cat lovers. The aroma and taste gives a cat a euphoric feeling. Although they will probably leave the plant alone until some of the leaves are bruised or cut, cats become very playful and even more lovable after rolling in or chewing on catnip. It can be a great natural green for indoor cats especially, who don’t get enough in their packaged diet. They like it either fresh or dried. It is a very easy herb to dry and retains most of its properties when it is dried.
Catnip can be used medicinally for humans, too. Brewed in tea, the flowers and leaves can ease indigestion, calm nerves and relieve menstrual cramps. It can also be applied externally to treat minor cuts and scrapes. It can be given in weak, cool infusions to safely relieve colicky infants.
Catnip can make a fun time for cat lovers. It is a very easy herb to grow and can give countless hours of entertainment for cats and cat owners. It is also easy to dry and use, using dried leaves for cat toys or just to let them eat out of the garden. Flowers and leaves can be used dried or fresh for teas and poultices, as well. Catnip is an enjoyable herb that every garden should have.
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