Catnip or Catmint? Which do you choose???

Published on 25 April 2024 at 11:15

Catnip or Catmint?  Which do you choose???


I’ve had various cats over the years, and I’ve always grown a patch of Catnip for them.  Some of my cats were absolutely crazy about the herb and some just ignored it.  Recently I needed to replenish my bed and had to purchase some seeds.  Talking with a fellow gardener, they wondered what the difference was between Catnip and Catmint.  Hmm, what was the difference?  Over the years I had just assumed that it was nicknames used interchangeably.  I needed to look into this.  And I found that there were differences, in a way.


Both were of the mint family, and similar, but with a twist.  Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is primarily famous for giving cats a little bit of a high.  The flowers are white, and they grow wild and free in gardens until you get a cat that comes across it, and then you may lose your plants to a cat that rolls, chews and sleeps in the middle of the bed.  Cats can detect catnip oil in the air at saturations as low as one part per billion!  Some cats love it, some aren’t affected, and it is all according to genetics. 


With Catmint (Nepeta sp.) a few rare cats can be slightly attracted to it. It contains less of the chemical compound nepetalactone that Catnip contains so much of, but for the most part, it is used in landscaping for its compact growth habits and pretty blue flowers.  It spreads low to the ground, so it makes an excellent addition to containers or walkways.  It is a beautiful plant to add to a cottage landscape or rock garden.


Medicinally, Catnip is the stronger contender.  It treats a number of health conditions from stomach issues, stress relief and arthritis.  It is helpful because of its gentle nature, in treating colds, flu and fevers, especially for children.  It is somewhat of a pest repellant too (ants, mice, etc.).  Catmint can be used but it is much milder.  As a sedative, Catnip makes a wonderful cup of tea with the young flowering tops.  It will put you right to sleep.  Both plants have a minty scented oil that is pleasing and tasty and can be used fresh or dried.  Add a few leaves to summer salads. Make refreshing and relaxing drinks.  Experiment and add it to any dishes enhanced by mint flavor.  For tea, make sure to add boiling water to a cup and cover it, then steep for 5-10 minutes.  You don’t want to hard boil the leaves as it is said to spoil it by evaporating away the precious essential oils contained in the plant.


So yes, it is very useful to have both plants to use in various ways.  Keep beds separate so there is no intermingling.  Catnip is an herbaceous perennial that can grow in well-drained soil with at least six hours of sun.  Catmint is a hardy perennial which can take partial shade and blooms late spring to fall with blue or pink flowers that attract all kinds of pollinators, hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.  


I have had no trouble getting Catnip started by seed directly in the bed.  Catmint might be better started by seed in a tray or just buy the plants.  Looks like I will be heading to a nursery near me soon!




Add comment


There are no comments yet.