Nepeta cataria. Full Sun ~ Part. Shade pH: 6.0 to 7.5
Catnip also known as catmint is in the Mint family and has many of the same attributes as other types of Mint.
Euphoric and Medicinal Properties of Catnip
Catnip contains an active ingredient "nepetalactone" a plant terpenoid that has an affect on the central nervous system in both cats and people.
Cats are drawn to the plant, it is believed because the nepetalactone is chemically similar to cat pheromones and triggers a euphoria in felines.
In the gardening realm it is frequently grown in "tea-gardens" or paired up with up other plants for its qualities as a companion plant. Catnip repels some harmful insects , flea beetles in particular.
Humans are also affected by catnip , but not as drastically as cats. Tea made from catnip induces a sense of tranquility, it promotes a meditative state of well being.Some people claim it has a slightly hypnotic effect. Catnip is also sometimes smoked, unlike some other herbs it is not a controlled substance. It produces a mild sense of relaxed euphoria. People claim that catnip sedates them somewhat. [Web MD - Catnip overview information]. It also has uses in herbal medicine , for insomnia, anxiety, headaches, minor respiratory infections, colic and gas.
Catnip is a hardy perennial herb, it averages 3- 4 feet tall, sometimes as tall as 5 ft.It produces small lavender flowers with light green foliage. It is a hardy plant that will grow almost anywhere in any soil but does best in a light and loamy well drained soil. A mildly alkaline soil is also best with an optimal pH range of 6.0 to 7.5.
It grows in partial shade but does best in full sun.
Plants can be started indoors or out via seed, cuttings or root stock. If starting by direct seeding they seeds can be sown in late fall for a spring crop, or started in spring. If you start them in the fall and allow them to over-winter expect to loose a few due to lower germination rates - but the ones that do sprout are generally lusher and more aromatic.
For best results it is advisable that you stratify catnip seeds before planting them. This is done by first placing the seeds in the refrigerator for a few days or the freezer overnight and then placing the seeds in a bowl of water for a day. It will somewhat cold stratify them but also soften the hard outer seed shell.
Spacing - You might find it necessary to thin the plants in order to achieve an optimal spacing of a foot to a foot and a half once they reach 4-6 inches tall.
Water regularly, don't drown them just regular watering. Allow the soil to go dry between watering, then soak thoroughly.
Catnip has few pest problems - occasionally aphids, mites or white-flies and no notable disease issues.
Like most flowering herbs catnip will attract the birds and the bees as well as other pollinating insects such as butterflies and wasps ..... oh yes and don't forget about the cats, it certainly does attract cats.
You might find it necessary to protect your plants from the neighborhood felines. Chicken wire or bird netting will work, the simplest methods however are inserting sticks or spikes in the ground tightly around the plant to prevent the cats from rolling around on them and crushing them - which they love to do.
Catnip is also very invasive, once established it can spread rampantly and requires thinning. To curtail its spread from season to season you should dead-head the flowers - basically perform a simple vasectomy for your plants by removing the flowers before they go to seed.