Growing Catnip Indoors is possible, and with the help of these catnip plant care tips, you can grow it year-round in your home.
Catnip is a mint family herb. It’s known for attracting cats like a magician. This gray-green foliage plant releases a chemical called nepetalactone, when rubbed, which works as a cat attractant. Catnip is also used to flavor salads, teas, and meat dishes. Overall, it’s a useful herb, and you can also grow it as a houseplant.
Botanical name: Nepeta Cataria
Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
What’s with the Cats?
Cats don’t bother the catnip plant much, as long as you are not crushing its leaves. Crushing the leaves releases the aroma of essential oil, which attracts cats to the plant, making them rub against it, they may chew it as well. If you’re growing catnip for culinary purpose, keep this plant out of reach from your feline.
A Fact: According to several studies, 70 to 80% of cats feel the euphoric effect from catnip.
Propagating catnip is a quick way to multiply this amazing herb. There are 4 ways to do this. Each explained below:
Catnip seeds grow best when they are Stratified. Soaking them for 12 to 24 hours improves germination. Many gardeners recommend freezing the seeds overnight before soaking in water, you can try that as well. After the stratifying process, sow seeds 1/4 inch deep in a seed mix. They will germinate in 5 to 20 days.
A Tip: Instead of growing catnip from seeds, it’s better to buy a couple of transplants from a nearby nursery.
Growing catnip from cuttings is a quick way to multiply it during the growing season. Cut 4 to 6 inches long stems below the leaf node and plant them in rich and moist potting soil. If you like, dip cut ends in a rooting hormone to improve the success rate.
By layering flexible and young catnip stems, you can start new plants in no time. The roots easily grow from the buried stem nodes. Make sure that you are using a porous potting soil and keeping the plant at a bright and warm location. Spring and fall are the best seasons to follow this technique. To understand better, check out this University of Florida article.
If you’ve got a lush and established catnip plant, multiply it through division. For this, remove your plant from the soil and shake off excess dirt. Divide the rootball into one or two clean sections, using a sharp tool. Settle the multiplied plants in separate pots.
Types of Catnip
The most common and widely grown catnip variety is Nepeta Cataria, which is also known as the True or Common Catnip. Nepeta genus has other species as well, but the three main popular types of catnip are:
1. Greek Catnip (Nepeta parnassica)
Height & Spread: 18-24 inches & 12-24 inches
Greek catnip grows slightly tall. It can be up to 4 feet high. However, in pots, you can easily manage the size.
2. Camphor Catnip (Nepeta camphorata)
Height & Spread: 12-18 inches tall and wide
This species has fragrant leaves that smell like a combination of camphor and mint. You can grow it in a small pot.
3. Lemon Catnip (Nepeta citriodora)
Height & Spread: 12-18 inches & 12-24 inches
With its lemon-scented leaves, this variety of catnip will attract you more than your cats. It’s great for making aromatic teas.
Choosing a Container
Select a container that is a minimum of 8 inches deep and wide. This will provide enough room for the plant to grow and thrive. Once the plant outgrows the current pot, repot it to one or two sizes bigger pot (10 to 12 inches). During repotting, divide its rootball into two sections and plant them into separate pots to have more catnips.
- If you’re growing this herb for your furry friend, select a wider pot, and grow several plants together.
- Avoid using planters made from breakable materials, i.e., clay pots.
Growing Catnip with Other Plants
You can also grow catnip with other herbs that have similar growing requirements like hyssop, mint, sorrel, and nasturtium. However, do bear in mind that the catnip roots spread rapidly, crowding out neighboring plants.
Keep Growing New Catnip Plants
Since you’re growing catnip indoors, it can’t live like a perennial plant unless you provide proper care and ample sunlight. You can expect it to lose vigorousness sooner or later. You can also expect it to be in manageable height under one foot. So, be ready to replace the plant with a new one. As soon as you see it slowing down, multiply it by means of cuttings.
Requirements for Growing Catnip Indoors
Unlike your other houseplants, catnip loves the sun. If you’ve got a windowsill that receives at least 4-5 hours of direct sunlight, then it’ll thrive well! Make sure that the plant is not overexposed to the harsh, direct sunlight, especially in hot summer afternoons.
Using Grow Lights
Supplement the sunlight with artificial grow lights. Either use T5 fluorescent plant grow light, or 40W T12 plant grow fluorescent tube with a reflector. Suspend the grow light fixture over the plant, ensuring it’s at least 12 inches above it. Make sure that you are exposing the plants for at least 10-12 hours each day.
Use any well-draining and loamy potting medium, you use for other herbs. To enrich the soil, add 20 percent aged manure or compost to the soil.
Water a new catnip plant every 4 to 7 days in its first two or three weeks while it’s establishing in the pot. After that, do prudent watering, only and only when the topsoil seems slightly, usually in every 7 to 12 days interval, depending on growing conditions. This practice will save you from overwatering this herb.
- Reduce watering during cold or wet weather.
- Make sure your pot has sufficient drainage holes.
Catnip Plant Care Indoors
It’s better to fertilize less, rather than so often, to save the plant from overfertilization. Balanced liquid fertilizer like 20-20-20 should do the work. Feed the plant once every 3 to 4 weeks.
- Avoid feeding the plant in late fall and winter.
- In hot climates, keep fertilizing the plant in winter months.
Pruning and Deadheading
When growing catnip indoors, you don’t need to prune it much. When the plant is young, remove the top tips using fingernails to promote bushier growth. Also, regularly trim the out-of-shape, damaged, and diseased stems.
Clip flower buds when they appear to save your plant from being exhausted. If you love its white to lavender blossoms and want to have them on the plant, then deadhead them once they’re spent, to prevent them from seeding.
Pests and Diseases
In diseases, root and stem rot can affect catnip, and the best way to avoid it is by not overwatering the plant. Keep a close eye on spider mites, whiteflies, and aphids and use organic insecticidal soap to get rid of them. To let catnip pest and disease-free, provide ample air circulation around the plant.
Catnip Care in Winters
When you are growing catnip indoors, you don’t have to worry much about catnip plant care in cold weather. Keep it in a warm spot in the night. During the day, move it back on a window that receives some direct sunlight. Always make sure that the plant is not touching the windowpane to avoid cold injury. Also, reduce watering and don’t fertilize in winter.
Additionally, you can mulch the topsoil with straws or shredded cardboard. If you’re exposing it to outdoor conditions, cover the pot by bubble wrap or plastic sheet for extra protection. Making a mini indoor greenhouse for catnip and other herbs is also a great way to keep these plants growing. We’ve some DIYs here!
Start harvesting catnip anytime, once it’s established and above 6 inches tall. Earlier, when the plant is young, harvest the tips, picking only a couple of top sets of leaves above the leaf node to encourage bushier growth.
Snip off individual leaves as you need. As the top leaves are always young and tender, be extra careful while snipping them. Use a scissor for a clean and easy cut. Harvest the entire plant when it’s fading, completely with its flower stalk. Leave about 3 inches of growth, if you want it to grow back again.
For your cat, the best time to harvest it is when the plant is flowering, as this is the time when the nepetalactone (an organic compound that cats love) is at peak level.
Also Read: Best Ways to Harvest Herbs
What is Catnip Used for?
Fun Fact: According to a report published in Science Daily, catnip is 10 times more effective in repelling mosquitoes than DEET.
Catnip leaves add a distinct flavor to salads. You can also use Lemon Catnip in place of Basil in Pesto. Rubbing Meat with Catnip leaves right before grilling, and roasting it will double its taste! Catnip is also said to relieve Cold, Anxiety, Indigestion, and Fever.
You can add both fresh and dried Catnip leaves to the tea. It has a spiciness mellower than Peppermint and sweetness less than Spearmint, giving a certain, unmistakable taste to your herbal tea that you are going to sip.