Growing Catnip: A Beginner’s Guide

Photo Catnip plant

Catnip, also known as Nepeta cataria, is a perennial herb that is well-known for its ability to attract and stimulate cats. It has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for various ailments in humans, but its popularity among cats is what truly sets it apart. Catnip has a unique effect on felines, causing them to exhibit behaviors that range from rolling around and purring to jumping and running. In this article, we will explore the world of catnip, including why cats love it, how to grow it, and how to use it in homemade cat toys and treats.

Key Takeaways

  • Catnip is a plant that contains a chemical called nepetalactone, which triggers a euphoric response in cats.
  • When choosing a location for catnip plants, consider factors such as sunlight, soil drainage, and proximity to other plants.
  • Catnip prefers well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5, and can benefit from the addition of compost or other organic matter.
  • Catnip seeds can be started indoors or outdoors, but should be planted after the last frost date in your area.
  • Catnip plants require regular watering and occasional fertilization, but be careful not to overwater or over-fertilize.
  • Prune catnip plants regularly to encourage bushy growth and harvest leaves and flowers as needed.
  • To dry and store catnip, hang the stems upside down in a cool, dry place until the leaves are crispy.
  • Common pests and diseases that can affect catnip plants include aphids, spider mites, and powdery mildew.
  • Catnip can be propagated by taking stem cuttings or dividing the root ball of an established plant.
  • Catnip can be used to make homemade cat toys and treats, such as stuffed mice or catnip-infused biscuits.

What is Catnip and Why Do Cats Love It?

Catnip is a member of the mint family and is native to Europe and Asia. It contains a chemical compound called nepetalactone, which is responsible for its effects on cats. When cats come into contact with catnip, whether by smelling or ingesting it, the nepetalactone binds to receptors in their nasal tissue, which then stimulates sensory neurons in the brain. This stimulation leads to a range of behaviors that are often associated with pleasure and excitement.

Cats are attracted to catnip due to their genetic predisposition. It is estimated that around 50-75% of cats have a genetic sensitivity to catnip, while the remaining percentage does not respond to it at all. The sensitivity to catnip is inherited, so if one of your cats loves catnip, there’s a good chance their offspring will too.

The effects of catnip on cats can vary from mild to intense. Some cats may simply become more playful and energetic when exposed to catnip, while others may become more relaxed and sedated. It is important to note that the effects of catnip are temporary and typically last for about 10-15 minutes. After that, cats may become immune to its effects for a period of time before becoming responsive again.

Choosing the Right Location for Your Catnip Plants

Catnip is a relatively easy plant to grow, but it does require certain conditions to thrive. When choosing a location for your catnip plants, it is important to consider factors such as sunlight, soil quality, and drainage.

Catnip plants prefer full sun, so it is best to choose a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you are growing catnip indoors, place the plants near a south-facing window or use grow lights to provide adequate light.

In terms of soil quality, catnip prefers well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. It is important to avoid heavy clay soils that can become waterlogged and cause root rot. If your soil is heavy clay, consider amending it with compost or other organic matter to improve drainage.

When growing catnip outdoors, it is also important to consider the proximity to other plants. Catnip has a tendency to spread and can become invasive if not properly contained. To prevent this, consider planting catnip in containers or using barriers such as edging or mulch to keep it contained.

Preparing the Soil for Catnip Planting

Soil Preparation Metric Measurement
Soil pH 6.0 – 7.5
Soil Type Loamy
Soil Temperature 60 – 70°F
Soil Moisture Moist, but not waterlogged
Soil Nutrients High in nitrogen and potassium
Weed Control Remove all weeds before planting

Before planting catnip, it is important to prepare the soil to provide the best growing conditions for the plants. Catnip prefers slightly alkaline soil with a pH range of 6.0-7.5.

To prepare the soil, start by removing any weeds or grass from the planting area. Loosen the soil with a garden fork or tiller to a depth of about 8-10 inches. This will help improve drainage and allow the roots to penetrate the soil more easily.

Next, incorporate compost or other organic matter into the soil. This will help improve soil fertility and moisture retention. Spread a layer of compost or organic matter over the planting area and mix it into the soil using a garden fork or tiller.

Once the soil is prepared, smooth the surface with a rake and water it thoroughly. This will help settle the soil and provide a good environment for the catnip plants to establish their roots.

Starting Catnip Seeds Indoors or Outdoors

Catnip can be started from seeds either indoors or outdoors, depending on your preference and growing conditions. Starting seeds indoors allows for more control over the growing environment and can result in stronger, healthier plants.

If starting catnip seeds indoors, begin about 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Fill seed trays or pots with a well-draining seed starting mix and moisten it with water. Sow the seeds on the surface of the soil and cover them lightly with a thin layer of soil or vermiculite.

Place the seed trays or pots in a warm location, ideally around 70-75°F (21-24°C). Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, as excessive moisture can lead to damping off disease. Once the seeds germinate, which usually takes about 7-14 days, move them to a location with bright, indirect light.

If starting catnip seeds outdoors, wait until after the last frost date in your area. Prepare the soil as mentioned earlier and sow the seeds directly into the ground. Space the seeds about 12-18 inches apart to allow for proper airflow and growth.

Water the seeds thoroughly after planting and keep the soil consistently moist until they germinate. Once the seedlings emerge, thin them to one plant every 12-18 inches to prevent overcrowding.

Watering and Fertilizing Your Catnip Plants

Catnip plants have moderate water requirements and should be watered regularly to keep the soil evenly moist. However, it is important to avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot and other diseases.

When watering catnip, aim to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Check the soil moisture by sticking your finger about an inch into the soil. If it feels dry at that depth, it is time to water.

In terms of fertilizing, catnip plants do not require heavy feeding. A balanced, slow-release fertilizer can be applied in early spring to provide nutrients for the growing season. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package for application rates and frequency.

It is also beneficial to top-dress the soil with compost or organic matter once or twice during the growing season. This will help improve soil fertility and provide a slow release of nutrients to the plants.

Pruning and Harvesting Catnip Leaves and Flowers

Pruning catnip plants is not necessary for their overall health and growth, but it can help promote bushier growth and prevent them from becoming leggy. Pruning can also help control the spread of catnip if it tends to take over your garden.

To prune catnip plants, use clean, sharp pruning shears or scissors to remove the top one-third of the plant. This will encourage branching and result in a fuller, more compact plant. Pruning can be done throughout the growing season as needed.

Harvesting catnip leaves and flowers can be done once the plants have reached maturity, which is usually around 60-70 days after planting. Harvesting can be done by cutting the stems just above a set of leaves using clean, sharp pruning shears or scissors.

To dry catnip, tie small bundles of stems together and hang them upside down in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area. Allow the bundles to dry completely, which usually takes about 1-2 weeks. Once dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store them in an airtight container.

Drying and Storing Catnip for Later Use

Drying catnip is a simple process that allows you to preserve the leaves and flowers for later use. There are several methods you can use to dry catnip, depending on your preference and available resources.

One method is to hang the catnip stems upside down in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area. This allows the leaves and flowers to dry naturally and retain their aroma. Make sure to tie the stems in small bundles and hang them in a location where they will not be disturbed.

Another method is to use a dehydrator. Spread the catnip leaves and flowers in a single layer on the dehydrator trays and set the temperature to around 95°F (35°C). Allow the catnip to dry for several hours until it is crisp and crumbles easily.

Once the catnip is dry, remove the leaves and flowers from the stems and store them in an airtight container. It is important to store dried catnip in a cool, dark place away from moisture and sunlight to maintain its potency.

The shelf life of dried catnip can vary depending on how it is stored. When stored properly, dried catnip can retain its potency for up to one year. However, over time, the aroma and effects of catnip may diminish, so it is best to use it within a few months for optimal results.

Common Pests and Diseases to Watch Out for

Catnip plants are relatively pest-resistant, but there are a few common pests that can affect their growth. Aphids, spider mites, and flea beetles are some of the pests that may infest catnip plants.

To control aphids and spider mites, you can spray the plants with a mixture of water and dish soap or use insecticidal soap. For flea beetles, you can use row covers or apply an organic insecticide labeled for flea beetle control.

In terms of diseases, catnip plants can be susceptible to powdery mildew, root rot, and leaf spot. To prevent these diseases, it is important to provide good air circulation around the plants and avoid overwatering. If you notice any signs of disease, such as white powdery patches on the leaves or wilting, take action immediately to prevent further spread.

Propagating Catnip Plants for Future Growth

Propagating catnip plants is a great way to expand your garden or share the joy of catnip with others. Catnip can be propagated through division or stem cuttings.

To propagate catnip through division, dig up an established plant in early spring or fall. Use a sharp knife or garden spade to divide the plant into smaller sections, making sure each section has roots attached. Replant the divisions in prepared soil and water them thoroughly.

To propagate catnip through stem cuttings, take 4-6 inch cuttings from the tips of healthy, non-flowering stems. Remove the lower leaves and dip the cut end in rooting hormone powder. Plant the cuttings in a well-draining potting mix and keep them in a warm, humid environment until they root.

Both methods of propagation require regular watering and care until the new plants become established. Once established, they can be treated like mature catnip plants.

Using Catnip in Homemade Cat Toys and Treats

Catnip can be used in a variety of ways to entertain and treat your feline friends. One popular option is to make homemade cat toys infused with catnip.

To make a simple cat toy, take a small piece of fabric or sock and fill it with dried catnip. Sew or tie the opening closed and give it to your cat to play with. The scent of the catnip will attract your cat and provide hours of entertainment.

Catnip can also be used to make homemade cat treats. There are many recipes available online that use catnip as an ingredient. One simple recipe is to mix canned tuna, flour, and dried catnip together to form a dough. Roll the dough into small balls and bake them in the oven until they are cooked through. Allow the treats to cool before giving them to your cat.

When using catnip with cats, it is important to use it in moderation. While catnip is generally safe for cats, excessive exposure can lead to overstimulation and potential digestive upset. It is best to limit the amount of catnip given to cats to prevent any negative effects.

Catnip is a fascinating herb that has captivated cats for centuries. Its unique effects on felines make it a popular choice for cat owners looking to provide enrichment and entertainment for their pets. By understanding how to grow and use catnip, you can create a stimulating environment for your cats and enhance their overall well-being. Whether you choose to grow catnip in your garden or make homemade toys and treats, the joy and excitement it brings to your furry friends are sure to be worth it.

If you’re looking to learn how to grow catnip plants, you’ll find a wealth of information on Lawn World’s website. They have a comprehensive guide that covers everything from selecting the right catnip variety to planting and caring for your plants. To further explore this topic, check out their article on growing catnip plants at This resource will provide you with valuable insights and tips to ensure a successful catnip garden.


What is catnip plant?

Catnip plant, also known as Nepeta cataria, is a perennial herb that belongs to the mint family. It is known for its attractive foliage and its ability to attract cats.

What are the benefits of growing catnip plant?

Growing catnip plant has several benefits. It can be used as a natural insect repellent, a medicinal herb, and as a treat for cats. It is also easy to grow and maintain.

When is the best time to plant catnip?

The best time to plant catnip is in the spring, after the last frost. This will give the plant enough time to establish itself before the hot summer months.

Where should I plant catnip?

Catnip should be planted in a sunny location with well-draining soil. It can be grown in containers or in the ground.

How often should I water catnip?

Catnip should be watered regularly, but not over-watered. It prefers well-draining soil, so make sure the soil is dry before watering again.

How do I harvest catnip?

Catnip can be harvested by cutting the stems just before the flowers bloom. Hang the stems upside down in a dry, dark place to dry. Once dry, the leaves can be removed from the stems and stored in an airtight container.

Can I grow catnip indoors?

Yes, catnip can be grown indoors in a sunny location. It is best to use a well-draining potting mix and to water regularly.