1. Home
Send to a Friend via Email

Discuss in my forum

Catmints (Nepeta) are Easy Growing, Drought Hardy Garden Performers

By

Nepeta siberica (Siberian Catmint)

Nepeta siberica (Siberian Catmint) Tall growing and extremely hardy.

Marie Iannotti Nepeta in the Rock Garden

Nepeta in the Rock Garden

Marie Iannotti

Overview:

Nepeta, or catmint, is a member of the mint family. It is an extremely easy growing plant with few pests or problems. The billowing foliage is topped with spikes of flowers in early summer with repeat blooms throughout the season. Certain varieties are very attractive to cats, both as a living plant and dried. The lavender-blue varieties are often used as a substitute for lavender plants, where lavender is not particularly hardy.

Botanical Name:

Nepeta faassenii

Common Name(s): Catmint, Catnip

Zone:

USDA Zones 4 - 8

Size:

Varies with variety, 10" - 4' H, 12" - 3' W

Exposure:

Full Sun / Partial Shade

Bloom Period:

Early Summer with repeat blooms throughout the growing season.

Description:

Nepeta has slightly aromatic grey-green foliage that has a delicate, lacy appearance. The flowers can be white, pink or lavender-blue, and bloom on long spikes. Nepeta has a somewhat sprawling growth habit, making it a nice plant for edges and along paths. However there are a few tall growing varieties, like ‘Six Hills Giant’, with a more upright habit. As with many scented, grey foliage plants, Nepeta is deer resistant.

Design Tips:

Nepeta is a classic underplanting for roses. The colors complement and the foliage hides the ugly ‘knees’ of the rose bush. It is also a wonderful plant for edging, for spilling over walls and walkways and for softening spiky plants like iris and yucca. The pastel blues combine wonderfully well with pinks and yellows, such as day lilies and yarrow (achillea). Check out 1 Plant 3 Ways, for more design tips using Nepeta.

Suggested Varieties:

 

  • N. nervosa ‘Felix’ - Compact plant with vivid lavender-blue flowers. (12" H x 24" W)
  • N. x ‘Six Hills Giant’ - One of the tallest growing nepetas, with lavender-blue flowers.(36" H x 30" W)
  • N. subsessilis ‘Sweet Dreams’ - Pink flowers with burgundy bracts. Likes a bit more water than most Nepetas. (2' H x 3' W)
  • N. racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ - 8" spikes of lavender-blue flowers. 2007 Perennial Plant of the Year ( 2 H' x 2' W)

 

Cultural Notes:

Nepeta is one of those plants that thrives on neglect. Too much fertilizer will only make it grow lots of flimsy foliage. A lean soil and somewhat dry growing conditions will encourage both flowers and scent.

Many of the newer varieties of nepeta are sterile, producing no viable seeds. This is a plus if you don’t like the weedy, self-seeding habit of older nepeta varieties, but it means you will need to either buy plants or make plants from divisions or cuttings.

Maintenance: Most Nepetas will rebloom if sheared back after their initial flowering. Some won’t provide much of a second show, but their foliage will be refreshed and tidied by the shearing. Division is not a requirement, but if you’d like more plants, Nepeta responds well to division in the spring.

Problems & Pests: Problems with Nepeta are very rare.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.