Yes…It is Catnip and Yes my cats go absolutely crazy. “Nepeta Cataria” is also known as catmint, cat’s wort, cat’s heal all, cat’s-play or even cat-grass. What ever you want to call it, this harmless “drug” sends all my furry 4-legged fiends into ecstasy, without any long term effects. Beware,not only cats but also big felines such as lions, tigers, leopards and lynx react to the scent of this herb as well.
However, over 33% of all cats are not effected by the herb. Reaction to the herb is based on genetics. They either inherit the love of catnip or not. I have read that in olden times, Farmers would plant catnip all-around the wheat fields in an effort to attract cats which would in turn chase and devour the rodents, that where eating the wheat. Pretty clever, if I may say so.
Catnip is easy to grow, however I have found it seems to do better in partial shade. Each plant seems to last for a couple years and then since I don’t harvest the blooms, it reseeds and pops up in a different location. I don't personally collect the seeds but they do stay viable for over 5 years.
The blooming period is about 1-2 months, during the summer or early fall. The blooms are quite attractive with spiked hues of white to a pale pink or purple. Although they are not fragrant they do attract bees and butterflies. The foliage has a very pungent aroma, that is a cross between thyme and oregano. The leaves are an arrow shape, with serrated edges and are a gray-green color, which lends itself beautifully to a silver garden.
I have had good success transplanting this plant in the spring and the fall. It is also very easy to dry, both the blossoms as well as the leaves. And yes,my cats enjoy the dried as well as the fresh. It is fun to stuff into small little cat pillows as well as fabric mice or a fabric ball.
Please do not confuse this variety with the more decorative Cat Mints such as ‘6 Hills Giant’ (Nepeta x faasserill). This plant has very showy blue blooms and is often used as a beautiful border. There are other new varieties but although I love this plant, I have not seen my feline friends hanging around it.
Catnip has many beneficial qualities for humans as well, but not are near as entertaining as a cats response to the herb. I will save the human reactions and benefits of catnip for another article.
There you go, cat lovers, farmers and big game hunters…..go plant some Catnip You are liable to get a big lick of thanks.