Catmint – A Gardener’s Complete Guide
Often confused with it’s cousin Catnip, catmint (Nepeta faassenii) can provide much needed coverage and lovely foliage in many garden spaces, otherwise overlooked. You will find the vibrant purple flowers grow for a long period and the grey/green foliage is a sight to behold. Making catmint ideal for pathways and borders alike.
How To Grow Catmint From Seed
In the UK you can buy Catmint Nepeta Mussini Faassenii via Amazon Here. Get them in nice and early in the season to allow for flowering in the first year. Otherwise you will have a lot of very pleasing foliage and then the second year onwards will be able to reap the rewards. The spikes will grow to around 12 inches so are really great value for a low coverage plant!
Don’t get me wrong you will also be happy enough to buy Nepeta Faassenii Plug Plants for a faster time to flower!
Sowing Directly In The Ground
- Choose a well draining spot with plenty of sunshine.
- Once the fear of frost has passed (bear in mind the sneaky British weather and be prepared with a cloche to provide cover for any late frosts!) rake over the soil.
- We add some well rotted organic matter, more for drainage than anything else as these plants will really thank you for not leaving them to get soggy roots!
- We make sure to water the soil before pressing seeds into the surface, do not cover them as they will not germinate reliably. Go generous with your coverage here and you will be able to thin them once they are large enough to handle.
- Germination takes between 2-3 weeks but make sure to keep them moist at all times.
- During the growing season make sure to pinch them out a little to encourage bushiness as catmint is prone to scraggy limbs.
- Once they are large enough to handle thin them out to between 10-12 inches apart and you will find that they fill the bed quite nicely.
- Once they are established you may find that catmint is a little invasive, this is why borders and pathways are best for them. You may want to intergrow with other more invasive plants to provide a little competition.
- A second flowering is possible once they are established. Realistically in the first year you may not get any flowers so after the first bloom in the second year a prune will allow for a second flourish and you will find that these 12 inch catmint flowers prove great attractors for bees.
- Keep them well watered but a liquid fertiliser can also be useful once or twice in the growing season, applied to the base of the plant to avoid any nitrogen burn to the catmint foliage.
If you plan on sowing directly outside be prepared to wait a year for flowering spikes. This is just because you may not get the right amount of growth due to lack of sunshine ect. Catmint will grow happily in USDA zones 3-9 and the second year onwards will be a real treat for this herbaceous perennial.
If you do have your heart set on a first year flowering catmint plant then you may consider planting indoors slightly earlier.
Growing Catmint From Seed Indoors
- Use biodegradable seed pots to ensure that you have minimal disruption to roots when transplanting outside.
- 3-4 weeks before the last frost start your seeds in a tray undercover or in a heated propagator. Press 3-4 seeds into moist soil in pots.
- Germination will take between 14-21 days. Three further weeks and you can pinch out the weaker seedlings.
- Transplant to a sunny spot with well drained soil. Dig through some well rotted organic matter to allow for greater drainage. Plant out around 10-12 inches apart.
- Water well through the growing season and you are likely to have flowers in the first year.
- Pinch out scraggly leaves before the plant becomes leggy. This will allow for a thicker foliage and a greater spread of your catmint.
Does Catmint Like Sun Or Shade
The question is a good one as although it will survive partial sunlight it does prefer as many hours of sunlight as you can find in your garden. Catmint will bush out and fill any space as well as growing tall. Give it every chance to thrive in Summer, whilst being prepared for the harshness of Winter if you have planted it in an exposed spot.
Does Catmint Come Back Every Year
If you want your catmint to act as a hardy perennial you will need to offer it some protection from the Winter weather. Leaving the branches unpruned until early Spring will allow the heart of the plant to recover and regrow after a heavy prune. It will then last well all season and flower for a much longer period.
Depending on the species for catmint you buy it will grow to between 12-36 inches. This makes it a great addition to a prairie style border or meadow and you will be able to companion plant it well. Over winter it will add a ghostly effect and we interplant with echinacea and hyssop for maximum drama in our Winter garden.
So, what does catmint taste like? A gentle sweet mint flavor and aroma, the aroma is like minty nectar. Some people who confuse catnip and catmint are really disappointed as catnip tastes bitter and really will not be enjoyed in herbal teas.
You can use catmint fresh or dried and is perfect in culinary dishes or herbal teas. You will also thank me for using it in homemade spa treatments.
- Shoots and leaves will go well added to stews or casseroles, towards the end of cooking and finely chopped is lovely. It is not an exact match to the harshness of mint and offers a sweeter aroma, so catmint is perfect for a lighter palate.
- Fresh or dried catmint leaves go well in herbal tea. Choose the strength of flavor you would like by how long you steep the leaves and how much you use.
- Catmint is known for it’s calming qualities and as such it makes a lovely alternative to caffeinated teas. However be aware that possible side effects include drowsiness. So use it wisely and never before you plan to drive or operate heavy machinery.
- Catmint has also been used in the treatments of minor stomach upsets. A good strong cup of herbal tea will often help and the calming effect of catmint could be why it helps alleviate stomach issues.
- Catmint use has been linked to relieving arthritis symptoms. Used as an alternative to mint leaves in body masks and oils used in massage this can be seen to be helpful. If not merely due to the sweet gentle aroma and the subtle mint back note.
- Catmint can be frozen in ice cubes to use in cocktails and mocktails in the Summer. It offers a lighter version of fresh mint, so a little bit fancier in a Mojito!
- Chopped Catmint leaves and flowers can be rolled in room temperature butter and then rolled into a sausage. Wrap in clingfilm and then freeze. Take slices of the herb butter every time you want a sweet, minty kick on a dish. This will store safely in your freezer for around 3-4 months.
- Catmint makes a lovely syrup for Summer drinks as a shot of minty, zesty sweetness.
We hope to have inspired you get some catmint into your garden. Here at Homegrown Herb Garden we love to grow and use our own herbs. Not just to give our food extra flavor but to also have harder to buy herbs ready to hand. So if you want to get serious about your herb garden and cooking, please do subscribe.
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