catnip herb
Illinois Extension photo: Herb Gardening | Catnip

Nepeta cataria

Catnip is a hardy perennial with an open mound shaped habit growing to about 2-3 feet tall. The heart-shaped leaves have scalloped edges with a gray-green appearance. Blue flowers are produced though the season. As a member of the mint family caution needs to be taken when planting as it can quickly spread to other areas of the garden. Plant is also useful as a decorative perennial.

Growing: Perennial

Catnip prefers a full sun location in soil that is moist but well-drained. It will also tolerate light shade. It can be grown from seed, stem tip cuttings or divisions. As plants age, they can become unsightly so regular division is suggested. Cutting back the plants during the season also helps to maintain a more compact and neater looking plant. Cut back plants in the spring just as growth resumes.

Popular Varieties

  • ‘Faassen’ – A smaller more compact form of catnip that has a strong, pleasant scent. It is also useful as an ornamental.
  • Lemon Catnip – Leaves have a distinct lemon aroma.


The flavor and aroma of catnip is at its peak when the plant is in full bloom. Cut stems and hang to dry in a cool, well-ventilated location. Strip leaves from the coarse stems and store in sealed containers.


Leaves used in teas as well as for use in stuffing cat toys.