What is Catmint (Nepeta Mussinii)?

Detail of catmint. Photo by Dianna Ott

Not For Cats Or Herb Gardens Only

This wonderful plant is not only for cats! Catmint, officially known as ‘Nepeta Mussinii’, is a versatile plant for many uses in the garden. It can be a tidy groundcover, an edging for paths or as a companion to roses. Plant Nepeta mussinii in herb gardens, too, which benefit from the scent, the gray-green leaves, and the pretty blue-violet flowers

Once used as a favored beverage, it is medicinally useful as a cough and cold remedy, for stress relief, and stomach distress. The leaves may be eaten, or with their flowers may be steeped in water as a tea.

Catmint Harmonizes The Garden

Nepeta mussinii is a wonderful plant for both edging and as a groundcover in small areas. It is easily propagated by cuttings, division, and seed. The soft gray-green leaves and misty lavender flowers help meld other colors and transition the ground to rose bushes and other taller perennial plants. It proves a great harmonizer.

There are several types of Nepeta to chose from, but I like this species because it is very hardy and an early bloomer.

The Persian Catmint

walkers low catmint mass planting
Walkers Low

The ‘Walkers Low’ Nepeta variety is easy to grow and is ruggedly robust.

Nepeta Varieties

Since there is some confusion about when it is “mussinii”, “faassenii”, or “racemosa”, a gardener would do well to simply buy the named variety that has the qualities desired.

N. racemosa is also called catmint. ‘Blue Wonder’ is a good variety.

Nepeta x faassenii is synonymous to N. mussinii in plants sold in the horticulture trade.
A sterile garden clone is called N. faassenii, with lilac-blue blooms, and grows to about 18 inches tall.

How to Grow Catmint

  • pH: somewhat neutral ( 6.-6.5 )
  • well drained soil
  • hardiness: zones 4 to 8
  • full sun
  • moisture: moderate, but will take dryness when well established
  • low to medium grower- height: 12 in.to 36in. space: 18 in. to 24 inches apart
  • deer, drought, air pollution tolerant
  • blooms: May to September (mainly in early summer, later when sheared back)

Key Cultivation Information for Nepeta Mussinii

Propagate Catmint

Very easy to propagate through division or seed.

Take small divisions of stem, some of the crown and roots, plant them in ordinary garden soil. As always keep most until they take.

If yours seed themselves, they are a cinch to transplant- lift from where they are growing and put them in the desired spot.

In my loamy clay soil of Ohio, the catmints were very happy and seeded themselves around the stone walk. I am now growing the ‘Walker’s Low’ variety in my new garden in Georgia. It seems to stay smaller leaved and shorter in this leaner, sandy soil.

How To Grow Nepeta In The Perennial Garden

Premier as a “mixer” or harmonizing plant, the low growing to medium height means the this perennial is useful for edging to drifting in the middle portions of a perennial border. Consider growing violas within its area, so they can weave their way into the plants and accentuate the violet and blue of the flowers. The foliage stays attractive all season.

roses and catmint

Complementary plantings of roses and catmint. Photo by normanack on Flickr


In The Garden: Use Around Shrubs and Roses

Native to the area of Turkey and Iran, it is called “the Persian Catmint”.

The soft lavender blooms and attractive foliage are a classic partner for the foot of rosebushes. The plants help to clothe the ground without becoming a nuisance, since the clump stays in its place.

Grow within herb gardens, and underplant shrubs with this versatile plant.

Good Varieties for the Garden

  • ‘Blue Wonder’
  • ‘Walker’s Low’
  • ‘Kit Cat’
  • ‘Cat’s Meow’
  • Six Hills Giant‘, sterile
  • ‘Snowflake’™ for white flowers

General Appearance and Growth

Small spreading mounds with a cloud of lavender blue spikes covering the plant when in full bloom. The small oval leaves are a soft gray that look a bit wrinkled. Nepeta can be sprawling at times, but a quick haircut soon reshapes into a tighter outline and increases the vigor with new growth

I wouldn’t use it where there is foot traffic, but fantastic for filling in spaces, or planted on a slope. The gray foliage is lovely -especially when occasionally sheared.

I like to match Catmints with shrubs, especially under rosebushes

It is supposed to be rabbit and deer resistant, although ravenous animals will eat anything.
Attractive to bees and butterflies.

Another fine groundcover for shade is Sweet Woodruff, or Galium odoratum

Learn about growing more than 2,000 varieties of perennials proven to thrive in cold climates.