Catmint: You Can Grow That!

nepeta with bee on

Catmint, or Nepeta faassenii, is a tough plant that is easy to grow in many Southwest gardens. A member of the mint family, the plant spreads easily, so it makes an excellent groundcover. Each individual plant grows to about 18 inches wide and its purple flower spikes rise nearly the same height. This fun plant attracts bees, butterflies and cats, of course; they are attracted to its aroma.

catmint plants along garden path
Catmint lines — and scents — our front walkway.

Nepeta can survive some heat and drought, but blooms more when summer rains begin. With a little shearing back, you can have catmint blooms in late spring, early summer or midsummer, depending on your region and that year’s weather. Don’t be alarmed if your catmint slows down when temperatures reach 90 degrees; it will perk up again as the summer cools and bloom until hard frost.

Because Nepeta is a mint, it can become invasive. Shearing off blooms just as they begin to fade will help prevent re-seeding and might produce another wave of blooms. Give it a deeper cut near the ground in fall or early spring to rejuvenate the plant.

catmint sheared along walkway, red twig dogwood foreground
The catmint tucks into border rocks. It’s sheared back but green in late winter to early spring, before the red twig dogwood leafs out.

I enjoy the scent of catmint, and sometimes cats can crush the plants by rolling around in them. We had another visitor to our catmint this year – a cottontail rabbit who dug through and under the plants for a nest. I’m guessing she was smart enough to figure out the scent would throw off nosy dogs or other potential predators to protect her babies.

two catmint plants along path
Catmint can make a nice perennial border as the plants grow together and spread.

Catmint is a forgiving plant; it will recover from the rabbit nest and doesn’t react badly to overpruning. Not pruning at all could lead to leggy plants or more new plants than you wanted in your garden. Otherwise, this is one of the easiest plants to grow in moderate climates of the Southwest.

butterfly on catmint bloom
Catmint attracts butterflies, bees and cats.

Although the names are used interchangeably, catnip and catmint are different Nepeta varieties. Look for Nepeta x faassenii for ornamental value. Most varieties of Nepeta survive in zones 4 through 8, and some survive zone 3 chill and zone 9 heat. But give the plant afternoon shade in those warmer regions for best health and blooming, or plant it in a container.





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  • Lois Berkowitz

    I did not realize that catmint was distinct from catnip. I saw “Nepata” and stopped at that. Thank you, I will look for N. faassenii.

  • Nancy Ely

    Every cat in the neighborhood was attracted to this plant. By the end of the season, it was ground down to the dirt, with cats having lain on it all summer! Never got to see it grow or bloom!

    • Teresa Odle

      That’s crazy, Nancy! We have lots of feral cats in our neighborhood and I have never seen any damage from them. It might help to make sure it is Nepeta faassenii for catmint, not N. cataria.

  • Lois B.

    Will catmint attract bobcat or mountain lions? My concern about that has kept me from considering planting it near my house. Critters abound. Thanks.

    • Teresa Odle

      I’m sure it’s possible, but from what I understand, only if they inherit the tendency. So unless they spend lots of time in the neighborhood, I doubt they have. Also, it would be safer to plant catmint (Nepeta faassenii) not catnip (N. cataria). We have lots of critters, but rarely a big cat.