Scientific Name: Nepeta
Height: 10 to 24 inches, some varieties will grow 3 to 4 feet
Width: 12 to 24 inches
Spacing: 12 to 36 inches
Sun: Full, but can tolerate partial
Bloom Time: Early to Late Summer
Water: Once a day unless temperatures rise
Soil Type: Loose, rich, fertile soil
Soil pH: 5.0 to 8.0
Zones: 3 to 8
Uses/Styles: Borders, Backdrop, containers (if in a warmer climate)
Flower Colors: Blue, purple, white, pink, yellow
Attracts: Pollinators, hummingbirds, butterflies, hummingbird moths
Special Features: Medicinal, bug repellant, deer resistant, and drought tolerate
Nepeta is native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and imported to North America. The name comes Nepete, an ancient Etruscan city (an old civilization from the northwestern portion of Italy). There are over 250 varieties with a wide range of blues and purples mostly, though you can find pink, white, and yellow. They can handle drought weather, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. If the weather is consistently over 85F for several days, make sure to keep an eye out on your Nepeta. They will start to wilt when they are extremely desperate for water, which is a good indicator to give a well-deserved watering.
Just like Agastache, they help deter deer and have medicinal uses such as aid in digestive problems and respiratory issues. Using catmint as a tea can help with a pesky cough or a stuffy nose. Check out HerbWisdom for more information.
When planting Nepeta, make sure they have a sunny location with soil that is loose, rich in nutrients, and relatively moist, never soaking. Adding Biotone into your soil will help the plant produce roots much faster and allow for your plant to have a higher chance of survival within its first year. Many gardeners make the mistake of planting their plants, then neglecting to fertilize or keeping basic maintenance on the plant and that could lead to slow decline or death. It’s easy to do this, especially if you are just starting out or life gets too hectic. It’s all a learning curve.
Once the plant(s) are in the ground, give a deep watering to make sure the Biotone is immediately released into the already made roots. Give Biotone, and the plant, time to adjust to its new (and hopefully permanent) location. Depending on the weather (85F+, water twice daily or until wilting starts to occur) you may only need to water once or twice daily. Though, there are some days where you must water 3 times a day, mainly when the temperatures are consistently over 95F for two or more days. At this point, water evaporates rather quickly and doesn’t allow for the roots to swallow up what they need. Do NOT under any circumstances get water on the leaves or stems of the plant, this goes for hot and cooler weather. In hotter weather, the sun will magnify within the water droplets and cause burning which will lead to disease and other problems that may not be reversible. If you get rain in the morning and it’ll be sunny the rest of the day, try to go out and shake off the water as much as possible so you can lessen the amount of damage to your plants. In cooler weather, the water doesn’t evaporate as rapidly and thus sticks to the plant longer which could cause disease and fungus as well. A common problem is powdery mildew. This is why watering at the base of the plant is highly recommended by many gardeners and greehouses. Watering at the base will help prevent countless different issues that could arise from overhead watering.
Now, you may be worried about disease and fungus problems, yes? Well, you don’t need to worry. The sooner you notice a change in your plant(s), the quicker they will recover. Firstly, let’s talk about disease and fungus issues. They are the lucky few to have little to no problems except for crown and root rot. This only happens when conditions are overly wet, like standing water or overwatering. They prefer drier conditions so overwatering will cause the plant to start to die from the roots up. One issue you may see is powdery mildew and this occurs when conditions are heavily humid, hot (can happen when temperatures are cooler), and wet weather. The summer of 2021 was extremely hot, humid, and wet in Michigan, and at the greenhouse, we saw countless customers return with saddened faces that their plant has died. Upon reviewing all the plants we received, 9 out of 10 of those plants had root rot or severe powdery mildew. It was a rough summer with returns but what can we do? Mother Nature does what she wants and we must work around it. We all win and lose some.
When it comes to insect problems, this is a little more extensive but can be taken care of easily. Nepeta will attract snails, slugs, spider mites, whiteflies, aphids, and leafhoppers. They all can be extremely destructive to not only the leaves but to the stems and roots. For treatments, you can go several ways. An organic route or harsh, dangerous route. For an organic route, you can either purchase or make your own insecticidal soap. To make your own, mix 4 tablespoons of dish soap (Dawn), 1 gallon of water, and 1 tablespoon of pure neem oil. Shake in a clean spray bottle and use immediately. Please note that the contents will separate over time in the bottle so remember to shake vigorously before using. Neem oil helps to kill off the reproductive systems of the adult insects, thus lessening the spread of eggs. Another option you can use for killing off insects is Diatomaceous Earth. I prefer this method more, but mostly for indoor houseplants, though you can use this as a quicker method than the insecticidal soap. Do be cautious when using DE, allows wear a mask and apply with your back against the wind. DE is compressed of microscopic single-cell aquatic lifeforms that have been killed off millions of years ago and ground to dust. Inhaling DE will cause lung and eye problems, but getting it on your skin or clothes has no harm. DE, to insects, are like thousands of razor blades, and they slowly get cut up until they perish. It may sound harsh but we must keep control of insect infestations and their population in order to maintain a balanced ecosystem. They reproduce like rabbits so they are not in limited supply.
Nepeta pairs well with many different plants but here are a few:
- Yarrow (Achillea)
- Lamb’s Ear
- Red Juniper’s Beard (Valerian)
- and Salvia
Also, a little unknown fact: Nepeta is popular among cats. Catmint and Catnip are both stimulators for cats and are used to get them “high.” Pinch off some of the flowers and leaves, give to your cat and see what they do. Not all cats will enjoy it. Some may rub their bodies against it or eat it. Both are ways for the oils to get distributed into their bodies.