San Diego County Master Gardeners
University of California
San Diego County Master Gardeners

Crazy for Catmint: Celebrate your Cat for National Cat Day Oct. 29th!

Dedicated to Rascal Snowden.

Some of us garden for ourselves, others for our children and pets. When it comes to gardening for your fur friends, especially cats, catnip is the first thing that most people think of. Catnip (or catmint), Nepeta cataria, is in the mint family, Lamiaceae. Members of this aromatic family include many common herbs like rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, lavender and perilla. Nepetalactone is the compound in catnip that gives it a fragrance. Not all cats respond to nepetalactone but those that do are drawn to the garden to sniff, roll around and generally enjoy the plant.

Create a garden experience for your furry family members to enjoy with Catnip, Nepeta Cataria. (Photo credit: Lauren Snowden)

Traditional catnip, Nepeta cataria, should be planted with caution. It re-seeds readily and therefore requires a fair amount of maintenance to keep the plant from getting out of hand. Fortunately, there are numerous kinds of catmint that a gardener can choose from, all with the same cat alluring nepetalactone.

A Honey bee nectaring catmint (Nepeta), a flower that attracts pollinators into the garden. (Photo credit: Kathy Keatley Garvey)


Look for a catmint with valuable landscape qualities such as a long blooming period and maneagable growth habit. All Nepeta attract pollinators, are drought tolerant, rabbit and deer resistant, and according to the American Chemical Society may help repel mosquitos from the garden.

A common and favorite catmint is Walker's Low catmint (Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker's Low'). This particular catmint was the 2007 Perennial Plant of the Year and is an attractive garden showstopper with a soft gray-green foliage and bright lavender-blue flowers. It is suitable in Sunset zones 1-24 and does not reseed like other Nepeta racemosa.

Walker's Low catmint (Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker's Low') was the 2007 Perennial Plant of the Year. (Photo credit:

Many gardeners use Walker's Low catmint as a groundcover although with flower spikes 2-3 feet tall, it can easily be placed farther back in a planting bed and still get attention. This easy to grow catmint tolerates full sun and morning sun with afternoon shade.

If you are looking to give your garden some “cattitude”, take a little time to look into the many catmints available and which one is most suitable for your space.

Posted on Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 9:56 AM
Tags: catmint (1), Catnip (1), gardening (13), Nepeta cataria (1)


I'm headed to Star Gardens to see if Tanya has any...I've got a perfect spot!

Posted by Caroline Kirsch on October 31, 2017 at 10:02 AM

A misleadingly named plant. Here is the origin of the name from San Marcos Growers:  
The name 'Walker's Low' is misleading as it is not a low growing catmint; the name refers to the name of the garden where the plant was originally found, possibly in Ireland.

Posted by Peggy [GB] Beltramo on November 1, 2017 at 5:50 AM

Great drought tolerant plant. I have them by daylillies and bearded iris. Makes for a great color combination. Very easy plant; needs minimal attention.

Posted by Dorothy M Downing on November 6, 2017 at 11:56 AM

i grow this in the mountains in crestline -every year i have to be sure i have some in pots as my cats love to roll in it  
and sleep on it -so i just plant plenty and make sure i have some in pots to carry over to the next year. it does survive the winter under the snow and comes back every spring  
nov. 6 2017 cori edwards

Posted by Cori Edwards on November 7, 2017 at 11:04 AM

Thanks for the information.  
I wonder if this is the cat thyme I planted years ago. This is why common names are unless.

Posted by Shelley K Craig on November 14, 2017 at 5:11 PM

It’s beautiful at 6k ft and my cats love to roll around in the one I bring inside during winter. Makes lovely additions to flower arrangements. Does it winter over in the ground as well or does it need to be brought in in a pot?

Posted by Melissa Guthrie-2017 on November 28, 2017 at 3:47 PM

My kitties like it.

Posted by Nancy Moyer on November 29, 2017 at 5:01 PM

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