Summer Flower Feature: Catmint (Nepeta)

This genus of attractive and aromatic perennials is made up of several especially lush and delicately-blossomed members. Part of the mint family, the Catmint crew makes even the hardest of hearts swell with joy and hope. Whether you’re feeling tranquil or turbulent, just pluck a sprig of this inviting plant and crush it between your teeth, letting its minty and fragrant essence elevate your state of being.

We’re sure you’ve seen it around town. It usually has a happy cluster of pollinators hovering nice and close to its sweet blossoms. Butterflies, moths, honeybees and hummingbirds go wild for catmint. You know the drill…if they love it, we do too! If you’d like to support your local pollinators, go ahead and install some catmint in your garden. It’s not invasive; it is actually sterile, meaning that if you want more catmint, you have to divide it. Enjoy this sweetness in your own garden without worrying that it will take over. It also protects your garden from many pests including ants, flea beetles, rats and mice!

Its flowers and leaves are edible, and contain lots of health benefits. You can steep them and make a minty, refreshing tea that is anti-inflammatory, calming, and good for digestion and respiratory problems. Catmint also has a diuretic effect. If you aren’t a tea person, you can also just chew on the leaves or use them in cooking.

Catmint sometimes resembles lavender, which is also a total crowd pleaser, but if you see square stems instead of round, you’ll know that you’re looking at an esteemed member of the mint family. Lavender is a little harder to grow in our area because the soil typically doesn’t have enough drainage – so if you’re a lavender lover in the wrong zone, go with catmint. It’s a great substitute, and it blooms longer! Flowering usually begins in the middle of June and sticks around until the first frost. For a perennial, that’s quite a long bloom time.

The rumors are true: cats love catmint. What is the difference between catmint and catnip? Catnip flowers are typically white, and their leaves contain a compound called nepetalactone. It gives them a euphoric high. It can be invasive in your garden, and not as showy. On the other hand, catmint blossoms are purplish-blue, and their leaves do not contain this compound. It is heat and draught-tolerant once established, and is super attractive! Invite your kitty to join you next time you’re gardening. He or she may still roll around in it and get a little silly, but not as silly as they would if it was catnip!

What is a cat-related post without a pun? Life with catmint is purr-fect. Enjoy every meow-ment.

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