Catmint: Perennial of the Year
If you’re looking for a perennial that is long blooming, heat tolerant, resistant to pests and diseases, and easy to grow, then catmint is the plant for you! It has attractive gray-green foliage that emerges in neat, tidy mounds in April. By May, the plant fairly explodes with a profuse haze of soft lavender-blue flowers. After the initial flush of blossoms, the plant continues to show lots of color well into late summer or early fall. Colorful calyces that are similar in color to the blossoms enhance the floral display even after the blossoms are gone. Left standing over the winter months, the foliage fades to a pleasing soft silvery gray color.
Catmint plays well with others. Just like lavender, catmint can be used to cover the bare “limbs” of rose bushes. It’s cool-toned foliage and flowers offer a pleasing counterpoint to the vivid tones of the roses.
Catmint blends well with most other colors but looks particularly appealing when paired with colors in the red-blue color spectrum.
How to Care for Catmint
- Give catmint plenty of space as it tends to grow wider than tall.
- Although it prefers full sun, catmint will thrive with some afternoon shade.
- Keep new plants or transplants watered until they can fend for themselves. After that, established plantings are drought and heat tolerant.
- Don’t bother to fertilize it. Catmint prefers well-drained soil that is not overly fertile. In fact, soil that is too rich may cause the plant to flop over or split in the middle. Should that happen, shear the plant back to tidy it up. Some compost in fall or spring will provide sufficient nutrients to keep the plant happy.
- Shear the plants back by a third or more after their first flush of bloom is past. This will neaten the plants, contain their size, and encourage a second flush of blooms later in the summer. Even without being sheared, the plant will repeat bloom and continue to look attractive over the hot summer months.
- Leave spent foliage in place over winter to help protect the crown. Wait until early spring to cut it back.
- To keep catmint vigorous, divide it every three to four years in either spring or early fall. Keep it well watered the first growing season until the plants become established.
- Some cultivars of catmint can grow quite large. If you want to contain the overall size of the plant, pinch it back in spring after it is a few inches tall to promote a bushier growth habit.
Pests, Pollinators and Other Considerations
- With regard to pests and diseases, catmint is generally untroubled by either. Leaf spot is the only problem that occasionally occurs. This fungal disease is not considered serious enough to warrant control practices.
- Some cats are attracted to catmint. If this is a concern for you, place chicken wire over newly planted or transplanted catmint to prevent kitty from eating or rolling around in it.
- This plant is a veritable bee and butterfly magnet. As a bonus, hummingbirds love it as well.
- If four-footed critters other than cats are a problem in your garden, you’ll love this plant. Its minty, aromatic foliage repels rabbits, voles, and deer. Now THIS is a plant that earns its keep!
Information Courtesy of PiedmontMasterGardeners.org