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Nepeta along walkway

Growing Nepeta (Catmint):  Pick The Best & Enjoy The Show

By David Salman, High Country Gardens Founder

The Catmints (Nepeta) are some of our best garden perennials, as they are long lived, very easy-to-grow, resistant to browsing animals (deer and rabbits), and they feature a profusion of color in various shades of blue. And yes, as the name suggests, cats often find them irresistible.*

Mostly perennial, this genus is widespread across the Old World parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. Many species are excellent in the xeric (low water) garden, and they grow well in a wide range of soil types, including dry clay. They grow well with at least a half day of sun, but flower best in full sun. And for pollinators, especially honeybees, catmints are an excellent source of nectar. I often joke in my presentations that "if you can't grow catmint, you should take up another hobby." They are a great beginner's perennial.

Choose the Best Nepeta Varieties

There are several hundred species of Nepeta and many additional selections (cultivars) that had been selected for improved garden performance. But I recommend caution when purchasing catmint plants for your yard. I strongly recommend planting only sterile hybrids and avoiding any Nepeta that are propagated from seed. The seed-grown catmints can be aggressively weedy, spreading themselves throughout the garden and crowding out neighboring perennials.

I've experimented with numerous species and selections of Nepeta in my gardens over many years. And based on my experiences I can enthusiastically recommend two outstanding, sterile (no seeds), long-blooming varieties.

  • Select Blue Nepeta - a selection I made back in the early 1990's from a patch of plants I found in an office park landscape, this low growing, non-spreading plant has beautiful lavender-blue flowers. In early summer after the first flush of flowers have faded, Shear off the flower spikes just above the foliage to get the plants to re-bloom again later in the summer.
  • Walker's Low Nepeta - named after an English castle and not for its size, this cultivar has showy deep blue flowers on tall flower spikes. 'Walker's Low' grows as a neat, non-suckering, well-behaved plant and blooms for many months from late spring into mid-summer. Deadheading (shearing off the faded flower spikes just above the foliage) will encourage stronger re-blooming.
  • Little Trudy Nepeta is a compact, long blooming catmint with warm purple flowers that bloom from late spring through summer. Finely textured aromatic foliage will help to deter deer and rabbits.
  • Walker's Deep Blue Nepeta is just like Walker's Low -- long blooming and easily grown, but has noticeably darker blue flowers.

Nepeta Companion Plants

Catmint's blue flowers mix beautifully with all the other flower colors. And they thrive in the same growing conditions of these perennials:

*Nepeta cataria and a few other Nepeta species are the "drug" of choice for house cats. They contain nepetalactone which binds to the olfactory receptors of cats, typically resulting in temporary euphoria.

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The Legacy of David Salman | High Country Gardens founder David Salman was a pioneer of waterwise gardening, a passionate plant explorer, and a charismatic storyteller. His commitment to cultivating a palette of beautiful waterwise plants transformed gardening in the American West.