How to grow Nepeta common name Cat Mint

Nepeta is a reliable perennial, very hardy and  tolerate of all conditions it returns reliably each year. Commonly Catmint produces clouds of soft blue and mauve in a garden and is a viable alternative to Lavender where the  growing conditions will not suit Lavender.  There are some less common varieties flowering white and occasionally yellow, such as N.govaniana. To do well Lavender  requires much drier conditions than Catmint, especially over winter. Lavender will struggle on heavier wet ground as a mediterranean plant it needs to be dry, well drained and sunny; contrast Catmint which will grow almost anywhere.  Nepeta is native to a number of habitats and so is not fussy where it grows. Catmint will grow in sun or partial shade and in both moist and dry soils. If you are looking for a similar colour scheme to Lavender, but conditions are too wet, Nepeta is a very good alternative. It is also long flowering and sometimes produces a second flush of flowers. 

The larger species Nepeta faassenii 'Six Hills Giant' will sprawl and can go a bit thin in the middle; to avoid this you can stake or as Catmint responds well to the Chelsea Chop reduce it in size earlier in the year. In late May or early June, depending on the spring, cut the plant back by about a third. This will delay flowering slightly and make for a more compact shrub.

Once planted Nepeta is really easy to establish. It has the added bonus of being very attractive to bees and pollinators, walk past a clump on a warm day and it will be buzzing with the sound of bees.  It is a plant which thrives in almost any conditions and does not need feeding, in fact feeding can make it leggy. Apart from bees it does attract cats, who love it. If you are not a cat lover and don't want sections of your plant to be rolled in insert a few sticks, which will be hidden by the plant growth, whilst also serving to deter cats from taking a roll in the Nepeta. 

Nepeta is best cut back after flowering, and when doing so if you look carefully at the plant you will see newer growth which foliage has a fresh look contrasted against the tired older foliage. I cut back just the old foliage, let the new growth through and this may also produce a small late flush of flowers, if the summer is good. 

The intensity of the blue fades after flowering and its worth shearing off the dead heads as it will often throw up some new flower shoots. The foliage on Catmint can go a bit yellow later in the season  so if its starts to look tatty, chop  flower stems and foliage. It is a very tough plant.  A really easy garden plant which rewards year after year and minimal maintenance.  It is worth noting that Nepeta is drought tolerant. 

Catmint it is a much under estimated plant which has lovely aromatic foliage, spikes of soft blue flowers, and is so easy to grow hardly any advice needed.

Best Varieties of Nepta to Grow

One of the tallest varieties of Nepeta is N. Six Hills Giant which reaches 90cms, (3ft) and because of its size, and to prevent it sprawling may benefit from being staked. 

N fassenii has the AGM with pale lavender flowers and grows up to around 45cms (18")

Nepeta 'Neptune' is a compact variety growing to just 30 cms (1ft)

N. racemosa  'Walkers Low' is very similar to Six Hills Giant except smaller growing to 60 cms (2ft)

N. racemosa 'Snowflake' as the name suggests has white flowers.

There is also a variety commonly used in hanging baskets, Nepeta glechoma 'Variegata', N hederacea also known as variegated ground ivy, which has very pretty delicate mauve flowers early in the year, see centre image below.  Even though this variety is fairly universally used in summer bedding arrangements and seen trailing down from hanging baskets and tubs, it is in fact fully hardy and can be overwintered.  

Catmint blends well with so many plants because of its soft blues spikes of flower. Nepeta looks good with many garden plants like Hemerocallis (Day Lilly) centre image and contrasts well with Alchemilla (lady's Mantle,) image below right  and like lavender, looks good repeated in the border. It will look good planted on mass and below roses, mixed in with most cottage garden plants. The image above left was taken at Birmingham Botanical gardens where Nepeta was used to good effect in many parts of the garden.   

It's a great border plant in its own right, but also a good substitute for Lavender where conditions are wetter and colder. 

Planting combination Nepeta and Artemisia

 Silver Planting combination Nepeta and Artemisia

N.hederaces Variegata the Nepeta used for bedding

N.hederaces 'Variegata'  used in bedding

Soft blue Nepeta with frothy lime green Alchemilla

Soft blue Nepeta combined with frothy lime green Alchemilla