Catmint – Nepeta x faasscnii – A long-flowering favourite

Catmint is one of the loveliest herbaceous perennials. Smothered in lavender-blue flowers from May to September, it is a traditional part of informal beds and borders and provides a perfect foil for roses.

ANNUAL CALENDAR

SPRING

March-April:

Ideal planting time. Lift and divide established plants which have formed large clumps and replant them separately.

SUMMER

Early July:

Remove all old flower stems to encourage fresh flower production.

Protect against cats with cat-repellent gel or thorny cuttings. Check for signs of powdery mildew.

AUTUMN

October:

By the end of the month, plants stop flowering and start to become dormant. Cut them down to ground level to allow fresh growth from the base in spring.

WINTER

November-February:

Catmint is fully hardy, and needs no special care or protection through the winter.

POPULAR VARIETIES

Nepeta xfaassenii is the most, common variety, with a, height and spread of 50cm, and lavender-blue flowers ‘Souvenir d’ Andre Chaudron’ (sometimes called ‘Blue Beauty’) is a similar size and can be invasive, but is worth growing for the refreshing grey-blue of the flowers.

N. ‘Six Hills Giant’ can reach 90cm high, with a similar spread. The large, long-last- ing lavender flowers look good in a herbaceous border

IN NATURAL GARDENS

Catmint makes a valuable addition to the wildlife garden. It provides large supplies of nectar and pollen for butterflies and bees all summer long. It tolerates poor and sandy soils, and creates a substantial drift of colour which goes well with the gentle colour-tones of wild flowers.

Once used as a medicinal herb, catmint is now prized for other reasons. It flowers for a long time, needs little care, chokes weeds, and is nearly pest and disease free.

Catmint grows into a soft dome shape formed of loose spikes of lavender-blue flowers. Its small, grey-green leaves give off a minty scent. Catmint is the ideal companion for foxgloves, roses and hollyhocks. Like so many of the simple cottage flowers, butterflies and bees love it.

Ideal for edging

A mature catmint can take up a metre or more of ground. Plant it close to paths and let it spread to soften the hard edges. It also makes an effective ‘hedge’, and looks good as an edging to rose-beds. Catmint enhances the gentle shades of the old shrub roses.

Useful in hot spots

Catmint tolerates very dry soil, so plant it where little else thrives, such as down a sun-baked bank. It also grows in the crevices or on the top of a dry stone wall. Water plants until they are established, then you can leave them alone.

As ground cover

Catmint’s ground-hugging leaves and flowers smother most weeds. Use it in wild or neglected areas.

Planting time

March is the best time for planting, as plants can get established by summer. Catmint prefers sun, but tolerates semi-shade.

After the first flowering in early July, remove old flower spikes to encourage a second set of blooms. In late autumn, cut stems down to ground level.

Propagation

You can grow plants from cuttings taken in April, but division is a simpler method. After two or three years the plant will have formed a large clump. Lift this in March or April, divide it into several new plants and replant.

Catmint

SITUATION

A sunny or partially shaded spot in borders and rockeries, as a ‘hedge’ or on walls and banks. Catmint suits a cottage garden setting, especially if planted with roses.

SOIL

Catmint hates constant wetness at the roots, and never thrives in waterlogged soil. It will grow in most types of soil, as long as it is free-draining.

CARE

Very little care is needed. Cut out spent flower spikes in early July, to encourage fresh flower growth. Cut the plant to ground level in late autumn.

PLANT HEALTH

Catmint seldom succumbs to disease, apart from very occasional attacks of powdery mildew. At the first sign of an attack (a grey-white coating on the leaves), cut off and burn the affected shoots to prevent spores from spreading. Catmint’s main pest is the domestic cat, which damages plants by rolling on them. Deter cats by scattering a cat-repellent gel around the plant, or by tucking thorny cuttings such as rose or berberis under the leaves.

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