Homegrown catnip (Nepeta cataria) can be a sweet and beneficial herb for you and your kitty. Steep the leaves in hot water, and you’ll have a soothing tea for yourself. Dry the leaves and you’ll have an invigorating treat for your cat. Growing it at home couldn’t be simpler. Here’s how to do it.
Catnip plants can be grown in your garden in hardiness zones 3a-9b. A perennial native to Eurasia and a member of the mint family, the catnip plant may die off in the wintertime in your garden, but will often grown back on its own the following year. The plant grows to be about 3-4 feet tall and has beautiful spikes of lavender or white flowers that is a favorite of pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
Catnip is fairly easy to take care of. It does equally well in the ground or in a window box, can tolerate a little shade, and doesn’t need much fertilizer. Let it completely dry out between waterings, though. Be sure to stake a few stalks of dried bamboo around the plant, too, to keep feral cats from rolling in it until it breaks.
You can also can also grow catnip in a flower pot indoors. Place your catnip plant on a sunny windowsill or under a standard fluorescent light. Special grow lights can be used if you want fuller, hardier plants. You can also turn a fan on your seedlings for 2 hours a day to create more compact stalks with fuller leaves.
If you do grow your catnip indoors, you may want to keep it somewhere kitty can’t access it, like a sunny bathroom or guest room where the door is usually kept closed. Otherwise, you may come home to an excited kitty and a plant that’s been chewed down to its roots!
Harvesting and storing catnip
The catnip plant will be at its fullest potency after it flowers. Cut full sprigs off of the plant, as it will quickly regenerate a full stalk much faster than individually picked leaves. If you planted it outside, harvesting in the afternoon, after the morning dew has dried from its leaves, can help to prevent mold.
To dry the catnip, spread the stems on a drying rack in a cool, dry place. You can also tie them in a bunch and suspend them upside-down. You’ll be able to tell when the catnip is dry enough for storage because the leaves will crumple between your fingertips. After this has happened, crumple the leaves, discarding the stems, and store it in an airtight container like a mason jar or zip lock bag. It’ll keep for several months if you keep it in a cool, dry place.
Don’t forget to show your pet sitter where you keep the catnip and other treats! We love to spoil your kitty just as much as you do. Drop us a line to be paired with a friendly pet sitter.
Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.
Photo by “T”eresa on flickr.