Catmint Plants

Catnip vs Other Varieties of Nepeta

Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' plants growing in a mass.
Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' is a popular catmint. Neil Holmes/Oxford Scientific/Getty Images

While "catnip" is the most famous type of catmint plant, there are numerous other kinds. In many cases, gardeners grow these other varieties simply because they look great in the garden. Long-blooming perennials such as the first two types discussed below are very useful to those of us seeking continuous sequence of bloom in the garden. Another popular plant used in this way is Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low.'

By contrast, catnip has a rather weedy appearance and is rarely grown as an ornamental. Nonetheless, it is king of the catmint plants because of its effect on that diminutive "king of the jungle" on mouse patrol in your backyard.

  • 01 of 03

    '6 Hills Giant' Catmint Plants

    6 Hills Giant catmint (image) is a kind of flowering ground cover. It is related to catnip.
    6 Hills Giant catmint is one of the flowering ground covers. David Beaulieu

    Nepeta x faassenii '6 Hills Giant' is a showy herb, because of its size and the number of flowers it bears. Shear back this long-blooming perennial after its initial blooming and you will be rewarded with floral color for most of the growing season. Since it is a drought-tolerant ground cover, this is about the only summer care it requires.

    The landscaping mistake I made, at first, with 6 Hills Giant was the failure to give it enough room. The herb ended up dwarfing some of the smaller specimens I had installed around it. I will not make that mistake again. Now I know that this catmint plant should be sent out to play with the big boys, lest it bully the little ones.

    Likewise, if you are going to use it as an edging plant for a walkway, do not plant it too near the edge of your path, else it will spill over and impede traffic.

    Similarly, you can let it fill in that gaping hole you have in the front row of a flower bed, but be sure to set it back three feet or so. Otherwise, it will hurdle over landscape timber edging (or whatever type you use) and become a nuisance when you have to mow or weedwack. But properly situated at the front of a perennial bed, it can serve as foreground for taller plants such as hollyhocks and still hold its own.

  • 02 of 03

    'Little Titch' Catmint Plants

    Picture of 'Little Titch' catmint. As the picture shows, Little Titch is blue.
    Picture of 'Little Titch' catmint. David Beaulieu

    Names can be deceiving sometimes, but in the case of 'Six Hills Giant' and 'Little Titch', the cultivar names clearly suggest how these two very different varieties of catmint plant might be used.

    While 6 Hills Giant can play with the big boys, Little Titch is easily overwhelmed. It is just as tough (drought-tolerant) and just as long-blooming as its bigger cousin, but choose smallish friends for it if you really want to show it off. A prominent nook in a rock garden might be just the spot for this dwarf catmint plant. So might any landscape plagued by deer, as Little Titch (indeed, most types of catmint) is a deer-resistant perennial. Click the link above to learn more about this variety.

  • 03 of 03

    Catnip vs Catmint Plants

    My picture shows catnip plant's leaves. This mint family member is aggressive.
    Picture of catnip plant's leaves. David Beaulieu

    OK, this is the catmint plant you have been waiting to hear about if you are a cat-lover. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) drives many cats wild. Other members of the genus, such as the two varieties of catmint plants discussed above, may also produce an effect on some cats, but you are best off sticking with catnip if your main purpose is to grow an intoxicant for your cat.

    Humans have put catnip to various medicinal uses for themselves, too. That's right, catnip is not just for cats. Ever heard of "catnip tea"? Amy notes that "catnip makes a good choice if you want a relaxing blend" in a tea.

    You can also draw wildlife to your landscaping by growing catnip (or many of the other types of catmint plants), including butterflies. I have not personally witnessed it, but Washington State University reports that catnip draws hummingbirds. It also attracts bumblebees. Luckily, it does not draw unwanted deer pests.

    Click the link above to learn about pinching and drying catnip, so as to maximize the harvest for your feline friends. And for a full list of flowers that befuddle Bambi, please consult my article on deer-resistant plants.