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What is Catnip and Can I Grow it?

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True Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
True Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Photographer: Forest & Kim Starr

The effects of Catnip
The effects of Catnip
Photographer: Montrealais

What is Catnip?

Catnip, or catmint as it is sometimes known, is a herbaceous plant from the Nepeta genus. Within this genus there are around 250 species and members of this group are known to give cats a temporary euphoric effect.

The genus can be found naturally in Europe, Asia and Africa and it has been introduced to North America. The plants have sturdy stems, green-greyish leaves, white, blue, pink or lilac flowers, and true catnip (Nepeta cataria) grows between 50 and 100 cms (19.5 - 39 inches) tall.

Effect on Felines

Catnips are known for their effect they have on cats. When a cat senses it they will chew it, roll over it, lick it, paw at it, purr, jump around or salivate...... generally it gives your cat a euphoric sensation and he will enjoy his treat very much!

Can I Grow Catnip?

Catnip can easily be grown in your garden or in a container. You can either grow it from seed or buy it as a young plant.

Growing from seed - In March, plant the seeds in small seed pots using a potting mix - add the potting mix to the pots, lightly press the seeds into it, cover with a thin layer of mix and moisten them. Cover the pots with some plastic, keep them warm and ensure they don't dry out. As they begin to sprout, put the pots out into the sun and gradually get the young plants used to outside conditions. At the end of May, when the danger of frost has passed, plant the young plants outside, either directly in your garden or in patio containers.

Buying young plants - Most garden centres and mail order nurseries will stock young plants. All you need to do is plant them directly into your garden or into a patio container.

You should position your catnip in an area that gets full sun and has reasonable soil. It needs ample moisture to begin with but once it is established it can survive periods of drought. The biggest danger to young plants is being discovered by a cat!

Cutting and Storing Capnip

When the plants reach 30 cms (12 inches) tall you can begin cutting them and you can continue cutting the regrowth all summer. Cut when the plants are dry and hang them upside down in a warm, dry place, such as an airing cupboard. Once the catnip has completely dried out, crunch the leaves into a bag and discard the stems. Store it in plastic bags, safely locked away from your cat!

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