Growing and Using Catnip

Growing and Using Catnip
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 When we bought our first house the backyard was a basically gravel and weeds, except for a couple of lone plants. One was catnip. I thought of it as annoying because it was popping up all over, but I found it pulled up easy and I could keep it where I wanted it as long as I paid attention. Since I first met this tough little herb I have found out many interesting tidbits about it.
First the basics: Nepeta cataria is a perennial herb in Zones 3-9. You can easily grow it from seed by rubbing it lightly with fine sandpaper, then either direct seeding it into your garden or starting it inside and transplanting. It's drought tolerant and carefree once established. Keep it moist when small, and harvest anytime after it reaches 8-10 inches. It needs regular garden soil, no fertilizing and will self-sow, so cut off the blooms before they turn to seed. I've grown it in full sun and shade. There are seeds and pictures here listed under nepeta.

Yes, most cats love it, and appear to be a little crazed around it, but some like our new kitty, could care less. Not all cats have the gene that makes them sensitive to catnip. The toys you buy in the store most likely have been sitting on a shelf for a long time and have weakened. You are better off making your own little pouches for kitty to play with. Dry catnip in a very low oven, by hanging small bunches in a airy location, or on screens. When it's dry, crumble it and store in jars until ready to use in tea, pouches or for other uses.

Catnip is also a pest repellent, which is what really led me to feature it today. Amazing studies by scientists, not herbalist who already knew this, found that the oils in catnip repels cockroaches and mosquitoes, as well as some other insects! You do have to use caution though, as with any herbal repellent, when it's used as a strong infusion it can irritate skin, especially in children or sensitive adults. The essential oil of catnip, which can be purchased is especially strong and should be diluted and used very carefully. That said, the easiest thing to try first, is to grow catnip around your garden and try it in various locations to act as a general pest deterrent. Second, dry it and put it in small muslin bags to place in cupboards and other areas that may be a problem. Catnip can also be made into a strong tea that you allow to brew or infuse for half hour or more, strain and add to a spray bottle. Spray around baseboards and cupboards. As far as a mosquito repellant you could try the spray, or make one with essential oils, but again, be cautious and spray on clothing rather than skin.

Catnip isn't just for cats though. It makes a nice comforting tea also. Try this simple blend, and make your own adjustments depending on the herbs you have on hand. You could use any of the lemon herbs or mints with the catnip.

Comforting Tea Blend


1/2 cup dried catnip

3/4 cup dried chamomile

1 cup dried lemon balm

1/4 cup dried mint-pineapple or apple mint is nice

Mix the herbs together, and store in an air tight container. 2 tsp. in a cup of boiling water for tea. Steep for 5 minutes and strain. Sweeten with honey or sugar if desired.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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