Growing Your Own Catnip Indoors

catnip plant next to a watering can

​The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak

Your biggest hurdle to growing catnip (Nepeta cataria) indoors might not be low light levels, cold air, or lack of consistent watering. Your biggest hurdle might be your cat. Catnip, a perennial favorite of all things feline, is a relative of the mint and lemon balm, which means it's not difficult to grow indoors.

Outdoors, catnip known to spread easily, growing into jumbled patches that attract cats from miles around. Indoors, you can successfully grow it on a sunny windowsill, providing you give it enough water and remember to pinch out the flowers to encourage leaf growth. You can start pinching off leaves as soon as the plant reaches about 6 to 8 inches in height. Your cat will appreciate it. Aside from cats, the biggest challenge you'll likely face is a lack of sufficient sunlight, which causes spindly and leggy plants.

While many people report that they like the fragrant, herbal smell of catnip, some people find that it has a vaguely skunky odor that is off-putting. Although catnip is a perennial plant, it's probably easier to grow them indoors for only a single growing season, and replace them with smaller and more manageable specimens.

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Watch Now: How to Grow and Take Care of Catnip

Catnip Care

Catnip is not an especially difficult plant to grow indoors. It thrives on a sunny location in well-drained potting soil. If it goes into flower, snip off the flower buds to encourage stronger leaf growth. Catnip grown indoors will not have the same potency as catnip grown outdoors, but your cats will still immensely enjoy it .

closeup of catnip leaves
​The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak
overhead view of catnip plant
The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak

Light

Catnip is not particularly picky about outdoor sunlight, but indoors it must receive as much direct sunlight as possible, up to five hours a day of strong sunlight on a bright windowsill. Too little sunlight produces leggy and spindly growth.

Water

Catnip prefers average-to-medium moisture. Potting soil must drain well and the container must have adequate drainage holes. The plant recovers quickly from wilting, so it's best to err on the side of dry rather than too wet, which might encourage root rot.

Soil

Any good quality, rich, fast-draining potting soil will likely do.

Fertilizer

Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season.

Propagation

Catnip propagates easily from both leaf-tip cuttings and seeds. To take a cutting, remove a small piece of new growth early in the growing season and plant, use a rooting hormone to increase chances of success, and plant the cutting in a fresh container of sterile potting soil. Keep the cutting moist and place it in filtered light until new growth emerges.

Catnip is also a common herb sold in garden centers, so you can always buy new seedlings and transplant them into larger pots until it's time to discard the plant.

Repotting

Catnip is a perennial plant that generally grows two to three feet tall when grown outdoors. Indoors, providing you give it enough direct sunlight and the right amount of water, it might grow up to two feet tall but not as tall when grown outdoors.

In reality, indoor catnip doesn't have the potency of catnip grown outdoors and it seems more reasonable to grow plants indoors only for a single growing season. You can propagate new plants by sowing new seeds or taking cuttings and rooting them

If you want to repot a small catnip plant, increase pot size one size larger, use fresh [potting soil and be careful not to damage the root system.

Botanical Information

Catnip belongs to the same family as mint (Lamiaceae) and is part of the Nepeta genus. The true catnip plant is Nepeta cataria. There are other Nepata species, but none seem to have the same near-magical appeal to cats.

cat rolling around with catnip
Teresa Lett / Getty Images

Diseases and Pests

Be careful not to overly-mist your plants; over-misting encourages mold. Catnip is vulnerable to pests including aphids, mealybugs, scale, and whitefly. If possible, identify and address any infestations as early as possible.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Catnip. University of Kentucky Website

  2. Olson, Wanda et al. "Dealing With and Preventing Mold in Your Home." University Of Minnesota Extension, 2018.