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Nepeta x faassenii
Nepeta x faassenii

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Zone
Zones 1-24, 30, 32-43
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate

Nepeta cataria

Catnip
Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Deciduous, Herbs, Perennials

NEPETA

Vigorous, spreading members of the mint family with aromatic foliage. With the exception of catnip (N. cataria), these plants are valuable for their spikes of two-lipped blue or blue-violet (or sometimes pink, white, or yellow) flowers. As soon as blossoms fade, shear the plants back by half or cut faded flower stems to the ground to encourage rebloom. (Most species seed freely and can become invasive if spent flowers are not removed.)

Plants make attractive, informal low hedges or edgings. In winter or early spring, cut out last year’s growth to make way for new stems. At that time, you can also divide clumps for increase, though it’s easy to start new plants from cuttings (take them before flower buds form). When buying named varieties, be sure to obtain cutting-grown plants; seedlings vary in flower color and habit. In cold-winter climates, nepetas are occasionally used as a substitute for lavender (Lavandula) in borders and edgings. Most species resent heat combined with high humidity. In desert Zones 12 and 13, most are best treated as winter annuals. They tolerate regular moisture if the soil is well drained.

Nepeta cataria
Nepeta cataria

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Nepeta cataria

From the Mediterranean and western Asia. Grows to 2–3 ft. high and wide, with downy, heart-shaped, tooth-edged, gray-green leaves. Spikes of small (1/4–1/2-in.) whitish or pinkish flowers in late spring, early summer. Not very ornamental but worthy of a place in the herb garden. Grows easily in light soil and self-sows readily.

The common name refers to the stimulant effect on cats, but their susceptibility to the herb varies: some felines fall into a rapturous frenzy, rolling wildly on the plant, but others ignore it. If necessary, protect the crown of the plant with an inverted wire basket; stems will grow through. The same tactic also helps preserve potted plants grown outdoors and brought indoors occasionally for cats to enjoy. You can sprinkle dried leaves over your cat’s food or use them to stuff cloth toys. Some people use catnip to flavor tea.

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