Clearly I have plants on the brain!
Is it because I can *feel* winter on the horizon? Who knows, but I almost included catnip in my 14 pet-safe plants you really can’t kill post last week. Then I cut it at the last minute because I thought a post on growing your own might be better since it’s SO easy and SO cheap.
It is, however, hard to kill catnip. And, if you get close to killing it, you can usually revive it.
Two ways to go: start with seeds or start with a little starter plant. Both are available nearly everywhere plants are sold. I’ve done both, and here’s my advice (though it’s cat dependent)… start with the starter plant.
Well, when I did the seeds, they took really well, but before they were but tiny shoots poking their brave little heads out of the soil, Newt dug into the pot and knocked it over. None survived.
With a starter plant, hopefully you get a decent root system to begin with so they withstand some cat action a bit better. My current catnip came from a baby plant I bought at Lowe’s. This summer, I decided to put it outside for the summer to allow it to regrow what the cats had futzed with and to–hopefully–be ready to be split into a couple different pots.
Out it went! Where I promptly and wholly forgot about it.
By the time (last week) I was like, oh, I should write a post about growing catnip! I went outside and that sucker was a mess. Swarmed with ants. Two long, spindly, dry, brittle stems in the middle, and two long, spindly, slightly-less-brittle stems on the edge. And a couple tiny baby shoots. So, I figured it was the perfect way to illustrate just how hardy catnip is!
And, of course, any blogger worth her salt snaps a before picture.
And here’s what it looks like now!
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One important aside: If you decide to grow your catnip outdoors, just know that it spreads like crazy. You’ll probably still want to keep it in a container or line a small bed with something before planting it to keep it from taking over. I don’t have that kind of discipline, to keep an eye on it, so we’ve always grown catnip in containers indoors.
So, plant your seeds in potting soil–you don’t need anything fancy–in a pot that drains well. Catnip doesn’t like wet roots, making it the perfect houseplant for chronic under-waterers like me!
Stick it in sunlight, like on a window ledge, and it’ll grow super fast. To get a fuller plant, pinch off leaves and snip off flowers once it hits six-ish inches. (That was my big problem with my outside guy… he got SUPER long because I never pinched him back.)
You can keep your plant totally organic, too. No need to spray or fertilize. If you get bugs, like I did with the ants or those minuscule little fly things, sprinkle a little diatomaceous earth <—- that stuff is a miracle and can solve just about every garden or insect problem you have!! We discovered it in Louisiana when we were dealing with mouse-sized cockroaches, but now we use it allllll the time! It’s totally pet-safe, people-safe, and clears bugs right up.
If something goes awry like mine, it’s a pretty easy plant to fix.
Either cut it all the way down to the baby sprouts, like I did, and re-pot with fresh soil…
Or, trim back only the places where it’s dried out and start pinching back the healthy spots. This is the patience method that requires repeating the steps a few times over a few weeks.
So, you know, method #1 for me!
Catnip is SUCH an easy plant to propagate, too. When you see new growth, simply remove it and plant it in another pot. Can’t go wrong there. Once my guy recovers, I plan to spawn him into a couple new pots just so Newt and Ripley don’t have this single plant to congregate around…
Now you have a catnip plant! What next?
It depends on your cat. Newt likes it to be dried and crumbled for her to roll in, so when the plant gets full enough, snip some off to dry and serve. Ripley licks the plant itself.
The leaves also work as a bug spray for you. Grab a couple fresh leaves and rub them on your arms to repel mosquitoes.
Plus, it’s one more plant to help clear the air and look pretty on your windowsill. You can grow a bunch then dry it for your kitty friends this holiday season, too! (Would you guys want to see a DIY on how to make them into Christmas gifts?)
Have you ever tried to grow catnip? Are your cats nip fiends? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below! And I’ll be sure to share a plant progress pic on Instagram soon so you can see just how easy catnip really is!!