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How to grow catnip

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Photo: Matt Lavin
Nepeta cataria

Here are a few tips if you’d like to grow catnip for yourself or your cat.

  • Grow true catnip (Nepeta cataria) in your vegetable garden. For ornamental borders, look for other more attractive Nepeta species or cultivars.
  • Use something like wire cages or thorny plant stalks to protect your plants from unwanted attention from your own or neighbours’ cats.
  • Pick the stems and leaves as soon as flowers appear (leaving a few leaves at the base of the plant); that’s when they contain the highest concentration of essential oil, for the best flavour and aroma.
  • Do your picking early in the morning, as soon as the dew has evaporated. Later in the day, the sun causes a change in the chemical composition of the leaves and the essential oil concentration is lower.
  • Use traditional herb-drying methods and store your catnip in sealed containers in a dark spot to preserve the colour and taste. It’s best to store the leaves whole and crush them as you need them.


Based on an article by Édith Morin in Quatre-Temps magazine, Vol. 20, No.2.

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