Catnip: Indoor Plant Care & Growing Guide

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 mint and lemon balm, which means it's not difficult to grow. 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.

While catnip is unlikely to seriously harm your cat, in large quantities it has been known to cause vomiting and diarrhea and can overstimulate your cat's central nervous system to the point that it could harm itself. So be careful to grow in a cat-proof area.

Common Name  Catnip, Cataire, Catmint, Catnep, Catswort, Chataire, Field Balm
Botanical Name Nepeta cataria
Plant Type Herbaceous
Toxicity Toxic to cats in large quantities
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Watch Now: How to Grow and Take Care of Catnip

Can You Grow Catnip Inside?

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 cat will still enjoy it immensely.

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.

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

How to Grow Catnip Indoors

Sunlight

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.

Temperature and Humidity

Catnip grows best at temperatures between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and tends to perform poorly in hot, humid environments. This means it should do just fine growing inside your home and doesn't need any special handling in terms of temperature or humidity.

Watering

Catnip prefers average to medium moisture. 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.

Fertilizer

Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season; organic is best. Check the label of your chosen fertilizer and be sure to use as directed.

Pruning and Maintenance

It's best to keep your catnip plant from blooming, so be sure to cut off any budding stems before they have a chance to bloom. This will encourage the plant to grow fuller. Regular harvesting of the leaves will keep the plant growing strong—and make for happy kitties, who can eat the leaves fresh or dried. If the plant gets too tall, it is advised that you trim it back to a height of 6 inches to encourage more leaf-rich bushy growth.

Container and Size

Plant your catnip in a pot that is at least 8 inches wide and 8 inches deep. It's best to avoid breakable materials like clay, just in case your cat gets into the plant and knocks it to the floor.

Potting Soil and Drainage

Any good quality, rich potting soil will be sufficient. Potting soil must drain well and the container must have adequate drainage holes.

Potting and Repotting

Catnip is a perennial plant that generally grows 2 to 3 feet tall when grown outdoors. Indoors, providing you give it enough direct sunlight and the right amount of water, it might grow up to 2 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.

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

Moving Catnip Outdoors for the Summer

Catnip is a very hearty plant, so you can move it outdoors once the threat of frost is over, if you choose.

Considerations

Catnip prefers full sun, but if you experience extremely hot summers, it's best to give it a shade break in the afternoon.

When to Bring Catnip Back Inside

Catnip can overwinter just fine outdoors, so there's no need to bring it back in if you don't want to. Just be sure to cut back any tender new growth to help keep the plant from damage. Of course, if you want to harvest your catnip year-round, bring it indoors before the first frost and care for it as described above.

cat rolling around with catnip
Teresa Lett / Getty Images
FAQ
  • Is it easy to propagate catnip?

    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.

  • What plant pests are common to catnip?

    Catnip is vulnerable to pests including aphids, mealybugs, scale, and whitefly. If possible, identify and address any infestations as early as possible. Also, be careful not to overly-mist your plants as it can encourage mold.

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.