Nepeta 'Cool Cat' purrs in the garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Nepeta ‘Cool Cat’ purrs in the garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Nepeta is a plant with cattitude.  That is to say, you can love it to pieces and it can take-you-or-leave-you, thriving wonderfully just the same.  Nepeta is a genus of approximately 250 species of perennials, and is native to a variety of habitats throughout Europe and Asia.  Generally speaking, nepeta species are reliable, long lived perennials requiring little to no maintenance; not bad attributes for a plant with such an indifferent demeanor.

Tommy loved to lay near the Catmint in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Tommy loved to lay near the Catmint (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Most of us are familiar with catnip, Nepeta cataria, the plant that causes our cats to display temporary bouts of euphoria as they nibble and roll around upon it, eventually passing out from ecstasy exhaustion.  Catnip should be grown in dry, sunny locations in zones 3-7, and has the potential to reach 36 inches while producing masses of delicate white flowers . . . if not consumed beforehand by the local felines. To prevent immediate extinction in your garden, try planting it with lemon balm (this has worked successfully for me) or another herb that might temporarily throw your kitties (and the neighbors) off the scent.

Nepeta Walker's Low in the spring garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Nepeta Walker’s Low in the spring garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Nepeta x faassenii, commonly known as catmint, is a more compact form of the nepeta species, which, because of its relationship to catnip still possesses hints of the pussy cat aphrodisiac nepetalactone, but doesn’t seem to have quite the same magnetism as catnip.  My favorite cultivar is ‘Walker’s Low’, yet don’t let the name fool you (as it did me) since this plant is anything but low, instead capable of growing to 30 inches tall by late spring (zone 3-8).

Walker's not so Low in the summer garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Walker’s not-so-Low in the summer garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Chosen as the 2007 Perennial Plant of the Year, the sun loving Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’ was named for the garden where it was discovered in the 1970’s, not for its height. Walker’s Low is the perfect plant for front of the border, as its shrubby character can easily be used as an exclamation point.  It blooms from spring to fall (give it a hard shear after the first bloom), featuring abundant spikes of electric blue flowers atop dense greyish-green foliage. This drought tolerant catmint is easily propagated by division in late spring.

Nepeta 'Candy Cat'- Candy anyone? in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Nepeta ‘Candy Cat’- Candy anyone? (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

If you’re looking for something with a little more cat class and cat style, try the feline family of Nepeta subsessilis.  Unlike the arid loving cousins from the faassenii clan, the Japan native  Nepeta subsessilis prefers a moister (but well drained) soil in full sun to part shade (zones 4-8).  With groovy names like ‘Candy Cat’ and ‘Cool Cat’, these larger than life catmints deserve a space in your perennial border.  Candy Cat grows to around 32 inches tall, but has a more erect anatomy with thicker stems, bolder leaves and profuse violet-pink flowers from May to August, which are ambrosia to local bees.  Cool Cat produces abundant violet-blue, butterfly magnet  blossoms on upright, 34 inch stems, lasting from June through September.  Both of these cats emit a minty scent from their textural green leaves as well.

Nepeta is a critter resistant, pollution and drought tolerant, easy care plant that offers bountiful blooms throughout the growing season. No matter which kitty you decide to bring home this spring, none will prove to be a stray cat.


  1. I never knew catnip & catmint grew flowers! Can you plant them now?

    • Yes, they are a very hardy perennial. You can plant any catmint now, as long as you put it in a well drained, sunny spot. Meow!!

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