- How to Grow Catnip from Seeds
- Catnip Seed Sowing – How To Plant Catnip Seeds For The Garden
- Growing Catnip from Seed
- Tips For Growing Catnip – Caring For The Nepeta Plant
- Why Cats Love Catnip?
- Watering Catnip
- Fertilizing The Catnip Plant
- Mulch Application
- Pruning Of The Herb
- Propagating The Catnip
- Pests and Plant Diseases
- Uses For The Catnip Herb
- Catnip Cautions
- Planting Catnip In A Pot – How To Grow Catnip In Containers
- Considerations on Catnip in Containers
- Growing Potted Catnip Plants
- Catnip Container Care
- How to Grow and Care for Catnip in Containers
- Planting Catnip – How To Grow Catnip
- Planting Catnip
- Growing Catnip
- CatnipBotanical Name: Nepeta cataria
How to Grow Catnip from Seeds
Growing catnip seeds is an easy way to add this delightful plant to your garden. A relative of mint, catnip is best known for it’s effect on cats. However, it is also an excellent insect repellant, tasty in cooking, and makes a tea that is good for insomnia and fevers. Catnip is a hardy perennial that grows well in partial shade or sun. Below are the steps to grow catnip for your garden from seed.
Starting Your Seeds Indoors
Step 1 – Start Before It’s Warm
If you intend to plant your seedlings outside, then begin the germination a few weeks before you expect the weather to warm. If the seedlings are for inside, you can begin at any time as long as you have enough sunlight. Prepare trays or small pots of moist potting soil. Anything with a slightly acidic or slightly alkali pH will be acceptable.
Step 2 – Plant
Sow the seeds in the containers. You can sprinkle them over the surface of the soil, trying to aim for 1/2 to 1 inch of spacing between seeds. Alternately, press a pencil into the soil creating holes about 1/8 inch deep and at least 1 inch apart. Sprinkle seeds into each hole. In either case, cover the seeds with a light layer of soil.
Step 3 – Germinate
Cover the containers, trays, or pots, with a layer of plastic and place them in a dark place. Monitor the soil moisture regularly and add more water as needed, though the plastic should help keep moisture levels constant. The soil must stay moist until the seeds germinate. It will be 10 to 14 days before small green seedlings will begin to appear above the soil.
Step 4 – Transplant
Move your new seedlings to a sunny window and continue to keep the soil moist. They will need to continue to grow for another 2 to 5 weeks before being transplanted outside. If you want them in pots inside, divide and transplant into bigger pots once they have more than 6 mature leaves.
Starting Your Seeds Outdoors
Step 1 – Wait for Spring
Wait until the weather has turned warm and winter is truly over. Clear the space in which you want to plant your catnip. Be prepared to contain it, since catnip like other mints, will spread rapidly.
Step 2 – Plant
Moisten the soil and then sprinkle the seeds over the surface. Cover them with a thin layer of soil.
Step 3 – Water
Spray the area lightly with a nozzle set to disperse a fine mist of water on a daily basis. This will keep the soil moist and prevent the water from washing the seeds away. The plants should appear in 10 to 14 days.
Step 4 – Care
Keep the soil damp until the plants have four to six mature leaves. At this point, thin the plants to a spacing of 20 inches and resist watering more than once a week. Less water will help keep your catnip from spreading too far.
Catnip Seed Sowing – How To Plant Catnip Seeds For The Garden
Catnip, or Nepeta cataria, is a common perennial herb plant. Native to the United States, and thriving in USDA zones 3-9, the plants contain a compound called nepetalactone. Response to this oil is most commonly known to influence the behavior of household felines. However, some additional uses can be found in cooking, as well as its use as a calming tea. For many home gardeners, homegrown catnip is an invaluable asset to the home herb garden, and sowing catnip seeds in a common way to get started. If you’re new to growing this plant, keep reading for information on how to plant catnip seeds.
Growing Catnip from Seed
Like many other members of the mint family, catnip is fairly easy to grow. Doing so well, even in locations with poor soil, catnip is considered invasive in some places, so always make certain to do thorough research before deciding to plant this herb in the garden. Here are some common methods of catnip seed propagation.
Catnip Seed Sowing Indoors
Catnip plants are commonly found at garden centers and plant nurseries in early summer. However, one of the easiest methods of obtaining new plants is to start them from catnip seed. Propagation through seeds is a cost-effective option for those on a budget, as well as an excellent choice for growers wishing to make multiple plantings. Though easy to obtain, catnip seeds may sometimes be difficult to germinate. Like many perennial plants, higher germination rates may occur after a period of stratification.
Stratification is a process by which the seeds are treated to varying conditions as a means to promote germination. For catnip, seed sowing should occur after the seeds about been placed in a freezer overnight. After this period, allow the seeds to soak in water for a period of 24 hours. This will allow for easier and more uniform germination rates.
After the stratification process has been completed, use a seed starting tray to plant the seeds. Place the tray in a warm location near a windowsill or under grow lights. When kept consistently moist, germination should occur within 5-10 days. Move the seedlings to a bright location. When the chance of frost has passed, harden the seedlings off and plant into the desired location.
Sowing Catnip Seeds in Winter
Gardeners in growing zones which experience periods of cool winter temperatures may also use the winter sowing method as a means to easily germinate catnip seeds. The winter sowing method uses various types of transparent recycled bottles as “tiny greenhouses.”
The catnip seeds are sown inside the greenhouse during the winter and left outside. Periods of rain and cold simulate the stratification process. When the time is right, catnip seeds will begin to germinate.
Seedlings can be transplanted into the garden as soon as the chance of frost has passed in the spring.
So you are interested in growing catnip an easy to grow hardy perennial herb?
It is commonly known as the “Catnip plant” Nepeta cataria and it is one of the top mosquito repellant plants and member of the mint family.
Cats find its scent addictive so if you grow catnip in your herb garden, expect many cats in your neighborhood to stay play around this plant. Its pungent fragrance highly excites and attracts cats. Another Nepata commonly known as catmint, Nepata mussinnii, does not generally appeal to cats.
The catnip leaves that work as marijuana for cats appear coarse-toothed and elliptical to triangular in shape. Apart from attracting cats to your garden, anyone can use the leaves and other parts of the catnip for a variety of purposes.
Naturalized in parts of North America, catnip grows to 3-4 feet with downy and light green foliage. It produces small lavender flowers on spikes up to 5” long.
Tips For Growing Catnip – Caring For The Nepeta Plant
With proper growing and catnip plant care, you will easily grow catnip and help it produce more flowers.
While planting catnip, till the soil to a depth of 3″ to 4″ inches, and add 1″ inch of compost. Work the compost into the top soil. Catnip does well in many soils but prefer a moderately rich loam and good drainage soil.
Plant catnip seedlings 15″ to 18″ inches apart with the seeds slightly covered. Water the seeds lightly after planting, try to keep the soil moist during the growing season.
Is catnip a perennial?
The perennial plant catnip grows in a soil pH range of 6 (mildly acidic) to 7.5 (mildly alkaline). Seeds germinate in 7 to 10 days but can sprout in as few as 5 or 6 in propagation media such as oasis root cubes.
When grown outdoors in USDA zones 3a through 9b, catnip prefers full sun to partial shade. They can grow grow indoors under standard fluorescent lights and will do exceptionally well under high output T5 fluorescent plant grow lights.
Why Cats Love Catnip?
Ever wonder why cats roll around the leaves of catnip plant?
This is because of the active ingredient called nepetalactone. When cats smell this substance from the leaves or stems, it stimulates their receptors that detect pheromones. Due to this, cats experience an overwhelming amount of happiness. Some will just roll around while licking the catnip leaves, while others would just sniff it.
Catnip nepeta works as a mild feline hallucinogen. However, it does not pose any danger to cats. Catnip contains the same properties as the male cat urine. This may cause the feline friends to appear as though in heat.
Some pet owners use catnip to keep their cats indoors. They first dry the catnip leaves by hanging or over drying. Then, they sprinkle dry catnip leaves to a pillow, cushion or an old sock making it a homemade catnip toy. You may also use fresh catnip leaf as it provides more excitement.
Water young plants twice a week for the first two weeks, reduce watering to every other week after plants become well established. The plant is drought tolerant and can resist heat as it grows older. During the dry catnip season and high temperatures, increase watering to once a week or even more if needed.
Fertilizing The Catnip Plant
Feed catnip with a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks. Begin fertilizing the soil two weeks after planting and continue until the first week of the summer season. Suspend fertilizing during fall and winter as the plants will not use the nutrients. Follow instructions on the label for proper application.
Apply a 1 to 2 inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant during late fall before the first frost. Mulching helps plants survive the cold temperatures. Remove the layer of mulch in early spring as soon as the new growth emerges. Hay, bark or leaf mold works well for mulching catnips.
Pruning Of The Herb
Remove spent catnip flowers by pinching them off to prevent self-seeding. After flowering, catnips become scraggly and need cutting back.
Prune after the first bloom to encourage a second flowering before the winter season. Cut Nepeta plants down to 3″ or 4″ inches after the first frost. This helps encourage new healthy growth during the spring.
Propagating The Catnip
Apart from seeds, you can propagate the catnip herb via stems tip cuttings during spring and summer.
- Use 3-4 inch long cuttings of stems.
- Remove all the leaves except the top two or four.
- To encourage branching, pinch the cutting at the tip.
- Dip the end in rooting powder hormone and place in a rooting medium.
- Keep the soil and cuttings moist. Monitor them for a week or two.
- Cuttings take around 5 days begin to show roots in the soil.
Pests and Plant Diseases
Cat nip plants are susceptible to spider mites and whitefly. Since the herb comes from the mint family the herb is prone to diseases such as mint rust, anthracnose and verticillium wilt.
Uses For The Catnip Herb
The herb is often taken as tea to calm stomach upsets and also help with sleep. Also used for medicinal purposes for treating:
- Scarlet fever
Studies have also shown it used as a natural healing quality when applied on cuts. Other medicinal uses are as an:
- For toothache
… and much more.
All in all, the primary uses for the catnip herb are for culinary or medicinal purposes. The catnip tea serves as a mild sedative especially if combined with mint, chamomile and lemon balm.
Catnips are also used for landscaping as a ground cover and considered a mosquito and insect repellent plant. Extracts from the plant can be used to create essential oils. The catnip oil also repel cockroaches, dust mites, deer mites and ticks.
Apart from cats and lots cats, the effect of catnip can also attract bees, butterflies and birds.
In some areas, catnip is considered an invasive plant or noxious weed.
The plant self-sows, remove the flowers to reduce volunteer seedlings the next season.
Pregnant women should avoid catnips as it induces uterine contractions which are dangerous.
Planting Catnip In A Pot – How To Grow Catnip In Containers
If you have kitties, you know they are passionate about catnip plants. Organic catnip is best for your pet but it can be hard to source and quite expensive when you do find it. You can grow your own organic catnip in containers, saving a bundle and having a ready supply always at hand, or paw. Container grown catnip may also be moved indoors so house bound pets can enjoy the fresh intoxicating aroma. Catnip container care is easy and suitable for even a novice gardener.
Considerations on Catnip in Containers
Watching a feline roll in delight as it enjoys the potent oils of a catnip plant is always amusing. Cats seem to be disposed towards this member of the mint family and, fortunately for us, it grows like a weed and can be harvested and dried several times without complaint.
In smaller gardens, potted catnip plants may be the only way your cat can have a consistent fresh supply. Planting catnip in a pot is also attractive, with the notched heart-shaped leaves and pretty spikes of purple-blue blooms.
Catnip is a perennial herb and will come back year after year. In garden settings, it can be quite aggressive and take over areas where it is not wanted. Planting catnip in a pot not only prevents the plant from spreading but allows you to bring it indoors for kitties that cannot go outside.
Place young plants away from kitty until they are large enough to withstand some serious loving. Cats will smell the plant from quite a distance, and your pets will show their affection to the herb in a variety of ways. Young plants simply can’t withstand such direct and intense interest.
Growing Potted Catnip Plants
Catnip needs well-draining soil, full sun and average water. Indoor plants seem to require more sunlight than outdoor plants, which are relatively unfussy. The herb can get very tall and tends to be leggy in areas with low light. Provide plenty of light and pinch back young growth to prevent lanky stems that go every which way.
Use a porous potting soil when planting catnip in a pot. You can also make your own with perlite, peat and soil in equal amounts. Start catnip in flats initially and transplant them when they have two sets of true leaves. Plant seeds just under moistened soil and cover flats with plastic lids until germination.
Keep flats in a bright, warm location. Mature plants will get a couple feet (.61 m.) tall without pinching and they have a wide root system. Use deep containers that allow for future growth once transplanting is necessary.
Catnip Container Care
Container grown catnip doesn’t have as many pest and disease issues as the herb outdoors. However, catnip is very sensitive to waterlogging and should only be watered when the surface of the soil seems dry, and then water deeply.
Pinch young growth back to encourage a more shrub-like appearance. If flowers appear, snip these off to push more leafy growth.
Feed once yearly in spring with a diluted indoor plant food. In summer, move the plant outdoors so it can enjoy more light. However, this can invite common pests of catnip such as whitefly, scale, aphids, and mealybugs – so keep this in mind.
You can harvest catnip for your cat’s continued enjoyment. Dry the leaves and seal them in plastic bags in the freezer for fresh stuffing in your cat’s toys.
How to Grow and Care for Catnip in Containers
Intro: Cats love catnip, and growing catnip on the balcony is easy and a great treat for your cats. Catnip grows so well that it can become an invasive weed in the garden if you don’t grow it in its own plant container. Catnip can grow to 3 or 4 feet tall and looks like mint (it also belongs to the mint family). This herb has tiny white flowers with purple spots. Its flowers will attract bees, butterflies and some birds. Before you learn how to grow catnip, check out these 10 Cute Cats in the Garden (Photos)!
Scientific name: Nepeta cataria
Plant Type: Herbacious perennial
Light: Partial to full sun
Water: Give your catnip well-draining potting soil and water it regularly. Keep the soil moist but never soggy.
Zone: Catnip can be grown from Zones 3 to 9.
Fertilizer: Fertilize once a month with a water-soluble fertilizer.
Pests and Diseases: Some insect pests can include whitefly and spider mites. You should not encounter any diseases with your catnip plants, although you may have problems with mildew.
Propagation: Plant seeds in the spring, and seeds germinate in 5 to 10 days. You can collect seeds from flowers, but the plant will self-sow and grow in the same spot year after year. You can also propagate by taking cuttings or dividing the roots.
Misc. Info: Catnip grows well in hydroponic systems.
Keep your catnip plant trimmed so it grows compactly and looks nice. The trimmed bits can be a treat for your cat. Harvest your catnip and dry it. Then keep it in a cook, dark spot until you have enough to sew into your own homemade cat toy!
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Planting Catnip – How To Grow Catnip
Catnip plants (Nepeta cataria) can help make your garden a cat-friendly garden. The catnip herb is a perennial member of the mint family that is best known for being attractive to cats, but can also be used in soothing teas. Growing catnip is easy, but there are some things you need to know about how to grow catnip.
Catnip can be planted in your garden either from seed or from plants.
If you’re growing catnip from seed, you’ll need to properly prepare the seeds. Catnip seeds are tough and need to be stratified or slightly damaged before they will sprout. This can be done by first placing the seeds in the freezer overnight and then placing the seeds in a bowl of water for 24 hours. This process will damage the seed coat and will make it much easier for the catnip seeds to sprout. After you have stratified the seeds, you can plant them indoors or outdoors. Thin them to one plant per 20 inches after the sprout.
You can also plant catnip from plant divisions or started plants. The best time for planting catnip starts or divisions is in either the spring or fall. Catnip plants should be planted 18 to 20 inches apart.
Catnip herb grows best in well draining soil in the full sun, but will tolerate part sun and a wide variety of soil types.
Once catnip plants are established, they need very little in the way of care. They don’t need to be fertilized, as fertilizer can decrease the potency of their smell and flavor. They only need to be provided with water beyond rainfall if you are growing catnip in pots or if you are having drought conditions.
Catnip can become invasive in some areas so you need to take steps to control it. Catnip plants spread readily by seed so in order to control its spread, you’ll need to remove the flowers before they go to seed.
Growing catnip can be rewarding. Now that you know a few facts about how to grow catnip, you (and your cat) can enjoy this wonderful herb.
Botanical Name: Nepeta cataria
Catnip is an herbaceous perennial from the mint family, growing from 90cm to 1.4 meters tall. The square shaped stems are straight with green, triangular to ovate leaves. The gently fragrant leaves have scalloped edges and could be described as ‘coarse’, with grey-white hairs on the underside. In spring or summer, the long blooming flowers grow on spikes and are white with purple spots. The flowers are small, but put on a delicate, lightly fragrant show.
There is approximately 250 species of plant in the Lamiaceace family, collectively known as the ‘catnips’. The genus, Nepeta, takes its reference from an ancient Etruscan city called Nepete. Most are perennials, with a range from 30cm to over a meter high in their ideal environment. The family of catnip herbs are native to Europe, Africa and South West Central Asia, and have been naturalised to North America. Some are cultivated as ornamentals and are good bird, bee and butterfly attractants.
Most people tend to associate catnip with the potential for influencing the behaviour of cats. However, if the plants are intact in your garden the cats will probably not be interested. Two thirds of cats are said to be affected, with the result being cats that roll around, paw at the plant, meow and even eat the plant. They may later settle into a relaxed, sleepy state. Cat response, including big cats such as lions, is based on inheritance of a specific gene that results in sensitivity to the chemical nepetalactone. Cats that are younger than six months and those carrying a genome from an area where catnip is not native are unaffected.
Catnip is a plant that thrives in partial shade. However, it needs at least 6 hours of direct sun per day and can also do well in full sun. You may need to ‘test’ out your garden position to make sure the sun is not too direct or hot. This herb will thrive and grow the bushiest when planted in moist, well drained, moderately enriched soils. However, it is somewhat drought tolerant and will grow well in dry sandy soil, as long as water is supplied in hot periods. The combination of humid, wet conditions does not work well for catnip, so tropical regions may not be suitable. If you pinch out the flower buds then it will grow bushier. Pruning may also help if the plant gets too big or straggly for your personal liking.
Catnip has tiny seeds and self-sows very easily. It will reappear each year, if you are happy to let the seeds disperse naturally. You may also start seeds in seed trays, ready for planting out each year as soon as the weather begins to warm in early spring. Mature clumps can be successfully divided. Cuttings may also be used for propagation, with young fresh shoots sending out roots very quickly in about 10 days. Catnip may be grown in pots where frost or lack of space is an issue.
The fresh leaves can be harvested at any time, although the young leaves picked before flowering are milder to taste. To dry, collect complete stems, including the flowers by cutting close to the ground. Hang them upside down in the shade. Once they are dry, strip off the leaves and place them in an airtight jar and keep in a dark place.
The use of catnip for medicinal purposes has been selectively reduced over time, surpassed by stronger or more effective modern medicine. However, catnip has had many traditional uses for treating a variety of health issues and may be useful for its mild and relaxant effects. The active constituents include nepetalactone which has a structure similar to the valepostriates, which are responsible for the sedative properties of valerian root.
Traditionally catnip was used for respiratory conditions and used at the first sign of cold and flu. The relaxant effect is useful for easing tension headaches, digestive problems and menstrual cramps. There is suggestion it was used as a tincture to rub on arthritic joints. Catnip may also have a slight diuretic effect and is best avoided if pregnant. Generally, the herb has a mild effect and has potential for calming, sleep inducing and anxiety reducing effects.
Catnip also has an antiseptic use for skin problems and the tannins speed skin healing for small wounds, cuts, insect bites and inflammation. An eye wash for relieving inflammation may be prepared and used several times a day. The Native Americans from the Ozark and Appalachian Mountain regions used to mash fresh leaves and apply it directly to the mouth and gums, or sore teeth, to bring effective pain relief. Fresh leaves apparently worked almost immediately, while dried leaves took longer. Modern usage would entail using cotton wool to hold the leaves pressed against the offending part of the mouth.
The active ingredients are released by steam distillation. To make an eye wash, use 5 cups of hot water to 5 teaspoons of leaves, steep 50 minutes and then cool and refrigerate in a sealed glass jar. For a tea infusion use 250mls of hot water, add 1-3 teaspoons of leaves and steep for 20 minutes until lukewarm. Catnip is often mixed with honey and elderflower.
As early as the 13th century, catnip was commonly found in kitchen gardens. It was used for rubbing on meat before cooking and chopped and sprinkled into salads. The fresh or dried herbs were added to stews, soups, sauces and used in teas, either therapeutically or simply for a relaxing herbal tea. In addition to making your own tea, you can add the leaves to normal black tea, with mint or lemon balm for additional interest. Different quantities of leaves, dried or fresh, the amount of water and the time steeped all alter the taste of catnip herbal tea. Up to 3 teaspoons of leaves in 250 mls of hot water is recommended, but there is great variation. Honey may be added to suit your taste.
Fresh whole leaves can be placed into small bags and sewn up for cats to play with. Alternatively the plants can be placed in the garden, but cats will only be affected by the plant if they brush up against the leaves, breaking or bruising them to release the chemicals.
Traditional uses for catnip included placing shredded catnip in areas frequented by rats (and mice) which was said to deter them. Hanging bunches of catnip in chicken and poultry yards was also said to work to deter pests.
One of the volatile oils in catnip is citronellol, which is useful as an insect repellent when distilled. It is said to be useful against mosquitos and aphids.
The feline approaches its prey. Slowly at first, then crescendoing to a pounce that lands near, but not on the unmoving target. The cat bats an investigatory paw, then claws its target and yanks it faceward. But the cat does not bare its fangs; it does not bite. It closes its eyes and rubs the prey—a sock flecked with bits of dried herb—across its whiskers, then falls to the ground, its body humming with purrs that oscillate into soft meows.
Most cats love nip, and many cat owners love watching their companions nip out. But not all cats freak out when they sniff the fragrant herb—some just don’t react at all. Which is a shame, because catnip can be a boon for under-stimulated indoor kitties, who can get so stressed with lack of activity that they can develop diseases. However, a new study shows that there might be some alternatives for the nip-immune. At least three other plants emit chemical odors capable of turning your furball into a puddle of purr, and one of them is potentially more potent than nip itself. The finding doesn’t just give cat owners more options to sprinkle on their pet’s cardboard scratchbox: It might help solve the chemical mystery of why cats love nip so much.
Mr. Chibbs and his dime bag.
The fun starts when cats catch the scent of nepetalactone, catnip’s active ingredient. It’s a terpene, which is an aromatic compound in the same family as the skunky chemicals that give marijuana its characteristic funk. Scientists figured out the nepetalactone-cat link back in the 1940s, but still don’t know which genes make some cats start pawing themselves like teenage ravers whenever they catch a whiff of eau de nip. Which would be interesting, given that catnip doesn’t seem to serve any real genetic purpose: It’s not a food or a sexual stimulant, it’s basically just a recreational narcotic. And figuring out that genetic link wasn’t just a matter of sequencing kitty spit from a nippin’ Nebelung and comparing it with DNA from some straight edge Siamese. “There are also environmental causes for the catnip response, because in our observations some cats won’t respond when they are feeling threatened, or others when they are pregnant,” says Tony Buffington, cat veterinarian emeritus at UC Davis.
In some ways, this study adds even more confusion, because it’s not just nip that turns cats on. Sebastian Bol, molecular biologist and owner of the Cowboy Cat Ranch in Texas pardner’d up with several southern California cat clinics to test three additional plants—silver vine, Tatarian honeysuckle, and valerian root. With 100 different cats, he rubbed the plant matter on a sock or a square of carpet, and set the material in the cats’ line of sight. Then he waited. If the cat approached and backed away, he considered that a denial. “Animals tend to move towards things they like, and back away from things they consider threats,” says Buffington. After each success or denial, he’d wait about five minutes for the cat to relax, then try again with another plant type. The response rate was striking: Almost 80 percent of the cats responded to the silver vine (a higher response rate than even nip, which got less than 70 percent of the cats high), and roughly 40 percent each for valerian root and honeysuckle.
Interestingly, some cats who didn’t react to nip would react to one of the other stimulants, and only 23 of the cats in the study responded to all four plants. And six cats responded to nothing at all. The rest of the cats responded to one, two, or three of the plants, with varying degrees of overlap. Catnip is the only plant with nepetalactone; the other plants have similar molecules. So there’s some variation in the sensitivity of cats’ neuronal receptors responsible for triggering that contorted catnip twerk. That’s good news for cat owners whose pets don’t respond to nip, and are looking for some chemical alleviation for the homebound cat blues.
But the study still leaves a lot of mysteries as to why cats respond at all. It found no correlation with age, sex, or even personality types among the different plant types. “One thing I was surprised by was the fact that the cats with shy or scared personality types responded just as readily as the more affectionate or friendly cats did,” says Buffington.
After getting such a positive response from silver vine, Bol contacted some friends at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fl, to partially repeat his experiment on some tigers and bobcats. As expected, the tigers turned their noses at both the silver vine and the nip—they are the teetotalers of the cat family. The bobcats mostly ignored the catnip, but rolled around with the silver vine like joyful kittens.
The study can’t conclusively say what causes the response, but it might help some cat owners tame their cabin-fevered felines. “This provides cat owners alternatives to enrich the lives of their confined cats,” says Buffington. “Cats that are left alone with little stimulation are at a greater risk for obesity, which can lead to many other health problems.” Cats love novelty, and spending part of their day blissed out on plant matter might help them cope with the sensation of living with a hairless, erratic ape.
I like to grow my catnip along my deer fence lines that protect my crops. When in bloom, catnip attracts many beneficial pollinators. I will often find myself buried in both catnip & bees while I trim away the leaves for my leaf only catnip (no stems). This takes a considerable amount of time to harvest & is a very peaceful process. I am never stung, the bees simply buzz around, gathering nectar while I harvest the leaves. My cats love to roll around & nap in the growing catnip. Thankfully, I grow a lot of catnip so I don’t have to worry if they mangle & squash some of the plants. Unless uprooted, most plants will recover. Gold Finches love catnip seeds. If you don’t want to harvest yours, you can leave it to feed the birds.
Catnip for humans: It is very calming for both the body & the mind. It is very useful for children with digestive &/or emotional disturbances. The essential oil can be used as a fragrance in perfumes, as a culinary flavoring, & as an insect repellent. Note: Pregnant women should avoid catnip, as it can induce uterine contractions.
Catnip for cats: It gets cats high, it makes them happy, spunky, & silly. They enjoy the plant live or dried. The buds are the most potent part of the plant. Put it into cat toys or give it to them as is. They will love you for it! Note: Kittens younger than eight weeks old aren’t able to enjoy catnip, wait until they are older.
Catnip seeds need plenty of time to germinate. Plants in the Lamiaceae (aka Mint) family tend to be more difficult to germinate, many novice gardeners fail at growing catnip due to a lack of understanding how plants in the Lamianceae family work. This is why many folks buy started plants from the Mint family rather than try to grow from seed. Note: the seed I sell (like all of my seeds) are the very same seed I use here on my eco farm. I grow it every year, slowly expanding the size of my catnip border garden. I have found most folks don’t give the seeds enough time to germinate & unfairly assume they are bad seeds. I can assure you this is not the case. Also, be sure to use sterile seed starting soil, full sun & warmth. Catnip is a summer herb. The cooler the weather, the longer you will have to wait for it to germinate.
Catnip likes light sandy soils & grows best in full sun. You do not need to soak the seeds in water prior to planting. I like to water the seeds daily until they come up. This helps keep the soil moist & the damp soil deters the cats from using the catnip bed as a litter box or place to sleep. Have patience, & be sure to water well until the plants become established. Established plants do not need to be watered as often. Allow soil to go almost dry between watering, then soak thoroughly. During growth, pinch the tips to promote a bushier plant. If you prefer a tall plant, leave the tips alone.
Light: Full sun
Days to emerge: 8 -16 (1+ week – 2 weeks)
Seed depth: 1/8 – 1/4″
Seed Spacing: 18″ – 24″
Botanical Name: Nepeta cataria
Harvesting the seeds:
- Air Dry: Clip off the seed heads or buds when dry or nearly dry. They will start to turn from green to brown. Put the seed heads in a paper bag. If needed, hang to finish drying in a well ventilated location that is not damp. Once the buds are fully dry, shake the bag to loosen the seeds from the buds. You can also open the bag, grab one bud stalk at a time & smack the heads against the inside of the paper bag. When you feel you have removed as many seeds as possible, you can either save the buds for further use (teas, cat treats, etc.) or compost them (you will likely get “free” catnip plants in your compost the following year). The seeds will now be loose inside the paper bag. Some will be 100% loose, while others may still be in the seed husk.
- Dehydrator: Line your trays with parchment paper to catch the seeds that fall. You can also use the plastic sheets (no holes) that come with most dehydrators for making fruit leather. Use the lowest herb safe setting (I set mine at 95 degrees Fahrenheit). Allow to dry anywhere from one to three days. Carefully remove the catnip over a large bowl or paper bag. Shake &/or beat the buds over/against the bowl/bag to loosen more seeds.
You can plant the seeds immediately, or store them in a cool dry location in a sealed light proof container until ready to plant.
Drying the plants:
- Air Dry: Use the same method as in harvesting the seeds except you will be tying a handful of the stalks together with some twine rather than cutting off the seed heads. Hang each tied handful in a well ventilated area out of the sun. The area must not be damp. If you want to save the seeds please read the above instructions on harvesting the seeds. Allow the plants to hang until they are fully dry. This can take several days.
- Dehydrator: Use the same method as in harvesting the seeds. You do not need to put parchment on the sheets if you do not want to save the seeds. Do not over crowd the herbs, so that they can dry evenly.
Plants are dry when the stalks break, rather than bend & the leaves crumble.Store in an airtight container out of the light.