If you wonder what do catnip plants look like, we’re here to help you out! Catnips (Nepeta cataria) are a beautiful and unique species of flowering plants that have been used for medicinal purposes as well as to make tea and even toys for cats.
In this complete guide, you’ll learn all about these wonderful plants, from how to identify and grow them, to harvesting and storing them, and even making your own catnip tea.
Keep reading to discover the wild world of catnips!
- How Do Catnip Plants Look?
- How Do You Grow Catnip Plants for Beatiful Looks?
How Do Catnip Plants Look?
Catnip plants, also known as Nepeta cataria, look like clumpy herbs that have soft, aromatic green leaves. The stems of this plant are erect and the leaves are triangular or oval in shape, measuring up to three inches in width.
These plants are perennial flowering plants that belong to the mint family. They are native to Europe and Asia and have been used for hundreds of years because of their medicinal and recreational properties.
These medicinal plants have a distinctive odor which cats adore, and have been known to drive them wild. Catnip plants are also used to make tea and as a seasoning in many cuisines, and can easily be grown in vegetable gardens or containers.
Nepeta cataria or simply catnip is a vigorous perennial herb that spreads in clumps of erect stems with soft, aromatic green leaves. These leaves are triangular or oval and are three inches long.
From spring to fall they’re topped with dense spikes of tiny white flowers with spots of purple. This plant isn’t ornamental but deserves a spot in your herb garden as it’s an excellent remedy for fevers and colic. Catnip plant grows up to 24 to 30 inches high and will self-seed in your garden. So much so that it can become a medical pestilence if not kept in check!
The main types of catnip include Nepeta Citriodora (lemon catnip), Nepeta Camphorata (Camphor catnip), and Nepeta Parnassica (Greek catnip). Catnip is a one-of-a-kind plant, but some people often mix it with others. They even call them the same name, but they’re not the same.
– Nepeta Citriodora
This often goes by the name of lemon catnip, as it has a citrusy smell to it. It grows slightly smaller than your regular catnip and is considered a close relative to the catnip plant. The lemon catnip sports small purplish and white flowers, densely growing on terminal spikes throughout the year.
– Nepeta Camphorata
Also known as Camphor catnip, this plant also grows smaller than your regular catnip, often not reaching two feet in height.
This is also sometimes called a wild catnip, as it’s an endemic species of the family usually growing in small populations and high latitudes.
– Nepeta Parnassica
This one goes by the name of Greek catnip. It’s also smaller in size than your regular catnip but looks somewhat the same. It may look the same but the color will tell it apart from your regular catnip. The greek catnip also sports more purple flowers rather than white.
Catnips are most commonly confused with catmint plants. Both plants have green foliage and square stems. Catmint, however, has a longer blooming period and purple flowers, while catnip’s blooms are almost entirely white. Catmint doesn’t attract cats and has a somewhat nicer form, making it better for flower beds and garden landscaping.
How Do You Grow Catnip Plants for Beatiful Looks?
To grow catnip plants for their beautiful looks, provide the plants with ample amounts of sunlight and water. The plants should be watered regularly, and the soil should be kept moist all throughout but not soggy. The plants should be fertilized every few weeks with a balanced fertilizer.
This is a fast grower and if not kept in check it can quickly spread over the landscape. In some areas of the US, catnip is considered to be invasive. This plant will reach its mature size in a single growing season!
If you’re looking to properly grow catnip, plant your catnip seeds in spring after the last frost. Catnip seeds should be kept and developed indoors some six weeks before your last predicted frost.
When planting and growing catnip, it is important to provide plenty of air circulation around the plants, as this will help keep them healthy. No support structure is needed for catnip to grow, as they will often stay at their usual height and erect growth.
– Selecting the Site
Catnip’s ideal location is somewhere where it can get plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil. You should plant catnip in a place where there aren’t many taller plants around which can create too much shade and suffocate your catnip. If you live in a warmer location, you should allow some shade in the afternoons.
Catnip plant grows well in containers as well. You can place them in a marked spot with a clear boundary, such as a raised garden bed or stone planting area where you can prevent them from overspreading. You can even grow them indoors on a sunny sill!
– Planting Spacing
Plant catnip plants up to 24 inches apart, and position them at the same depth as they were in their nursery container.
If you’re planting catnip seeds, lightly cover them with a soil mixture.
Growing catnip in pots is a great option for these plants, as it provides a limiting environment where they cannot overspread. You should use a container at least 12 inches wide and make sure it has a drainage hole.
Clay containers are best as they will evaporate unnecessary moisture through their walls. Always use a well-draining potting mix and plant the catnip at the same depth as it was when it was in the nursery pot.
– Caring For Your Catnip Plant
Catnip prefers full sun — you should allow at least six hours of sunlight during most of the growing season. If the light requirements haven’t been met, your catnip’s growth can result in wiggly stems and scarce foliage.
Catnip also struggles with extreme heat, so it’s essential to find that goldilocks zone for it. If you live in a hot climate, allow some shade for the high noon.
Catnips won’t be too demanding about their soil conditions as long as you can enable good enough drainage. They can easily grow in poor and dry soils, but the best is slightly acidic sandy and loamy soil with pH levels of 6.2 to 7.8.
They are very drought-tolerant and if you overwater them they may die. Catnip seedlings should be kept in lightly moist conditions, but mature plants won’t need much watering save what they get from your local rainfall. If you do notice that your catnip is leaning, water it thoroughly and see it jump back on its feet!
– Ideal Temperature and Fertilizing
Catnip will thrive in temperatures of 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit as they struggle in severe temperatures and humid conditions. If you’re dealing with high humidity, you should do your best to allow good air circulation around the herb to prevent any fungal diseases from forming.
Catnips usually don’t need any fertilizer, but if you’re dealing with poor soil you can give them some boost. You can use an all-purpose plant fertilizer or provide them with a layer of compost in the spring. After this, you can leave them be, as they won’t be too demanding of too many fertilizers.
Catnip is a self-pollinating plant, but it will attract friendly insects which can boost this pollination process even more.
– Harvesting Your Catnip
Catnips are best harvested when in bloom as you can ensure no damage befalls them. The time of the day is also an important factor — it is best to harvest catnip in the morning after the dew has passed, but try to avoid the heat of the day as the damage combined with the heat can cause wilt.
When harvesting catnip, cut entire stems or pluck out the fresh catnip plant. It’s great for teas, cat toys, and more. If you’re looking to dry up your catnip, hang it in a dark and well-ventilated place. Once dried, the leaves, stems, and catnip flowers can be crumbled into a fine dust for use.
Catnips are perennials and will grow back every single year, as long as they have roots in the ground or if seeds have fallen to the ground.
– Pruning Catnip Plants
Pruning is done to limit growth and slow it down. If you want to minimize the catnips spread over the lawn you should cut the catnip flowers off just before they go to seed.
This will prevent the seed from falling to the ground, but be careful — flower pruning can encourage further blooming, especially if you do it in the warmer part of the year. If you notice any signs of new sprouts and shoots growing, pluck them out together with roots.
You can pinch the stems for bushier growth and catnips will respond well to it. Cut grown stems to just about an inch or two from the soil after the first frost, as this will show the plant it’s time to hibernate and will push the plant to grow healthy in the spring.
You can grow catnip from both seeds and cuttings. To plant the catnip seeds, it is best to start them indoors in late winter or early spring.
The seeds should be planted about a fourth of an inch deep in moist soil. It is most essential to keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate. Once the seedlings emerge, they can be transplanted outdoors when the weather warms up.
To kick off the germination period, place your seeds in the freezer overnight and soak them in water first thing in the morning. This stratifies the seeds, and the process greatly encourages germination.
You can then plant the seeds into a moistened potting mix. It is best to use trays for this step as they’re easily movable to a warm, light, and damp spot as needed. The only thing you need to do now is to keep the soil moist and you should see sprouts emerging within two weeks.
Catnips are fast growers and you usually won’t have much trouble growing them. Plus, the plant reaches its mature size and form within a single growing season, so you’ll get an almost instant reward for planting and growing these beautiful herbs in your garden.
– Common Catnip Plant Diseases
Catnip plants are susceptible to several diseases and pests, including root rot, powdery mildew, and aphids. To prevent these diseases, it is important to provide the plants with an adequate amount of sunlight. You should also water and fertilize them regularly.
It is also important to regularly inspect the plants for signs of disease or pests. If any pests or diseases are found, it is important to take action immediately. Pests can usually be rid of with the use of general pesticides.
The plant’s leaves, stems, and flowers all contain an essential oil called nepetalactone, which is what gives the plant its distinct smell and attracts cats. Catnip plants have several benefits.
They are a natural insect repellent and can help keep pests away from your garden. They can also provide a calming effect and can help reduce stress.
Catnip tea is a popular beverage made from the catnip plant’s leaves and flowers. It has a mild, pleasant taste, and is known to have numerous health benefits. Catnip tea is said to be a natural remedy for headaches and insomnia, and it is also said to have calming effects.
To make catnip tea, simply steep one teaspoon of dried catnip leaves in one cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture and add a sweetener if desired.
– Effects on Cats
Cats love catnips and are extremely attracted to the scent of this herb. They will often rub themselves on it and even nibble on its flowers and stems. Catnip plants are not only used for making tea but they are also used to make toys for cats.
Catnip toys are made from fresh catnip or dried catnip and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The toys are filled with catnip and are then sealed, so the cats can enjoy the scent and play with the toy. Catnip toys are a great way to keep your cats entertained and happy.
Catnip plants are a unique and beautiful species of flowering plants that have been used for centuries for their medicinal and recreational properties.
They are easy to identify but let us recap with a few basics:
- Catnip can easily be recognized as a strong growing perennial herb with an aromatic smell and aroma.
- The leaves are green and triangular, and they produce copious amounts of beautiful tiny white catnip flowers, often marked with shades of purple or pink.
- Catnips are incredibly easy to grow, just provide well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight! Be careful to use the flowery crops in time, before they have the chance to spread all over the place.
If you’re looking for a simple and unique way to spruce up your garden, why not try growing some catnip plants? Plus, cats love them, so what are you waiting for?
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