There’s a lot to love about gardening when June is bustin’ out all over, and this is the time of year you have your choice of colors, forms and scents in the garden. So what makes catmint the perfect plant for late spring and early summer? For starters, it’s very easy to grow, and its sprays of blue-purple flowers are long lasting and blend well with just about any other color flower in your landscape.
Catmint is a hardy perennial that’s closely related to catnip; however, it doesn’t attract feline friends in the same way. Though lavender is typical, flowers are also available in blue, white and pink.
Growing Zones: 3-9
Bloom Time: Spikes of long-lasting flowers in late spring and early summer; gray-green foliage dies back to the ground in autumn
Exposure: Full sun for best bloom, though will tolerate some shade in warmer climates
Mature Size: 6 inches to 3 feet in height, and 12 to 24 inches in diameter, depending on variety
Notes: Catmint is a member of the mint family, so it’s a very hardy, drought-tolerant plant once established, and it may spread readily.
Leaves are mildly fragrant, so consider planting it near a path or patio where you can enjoy its scent. “Walker’s Low” and “Blue Wonder” are popular compact varieties.
Growing Catmint in the Landscape
Because catmint is likely to spread once established, resist the urge to plant them too close together — this is an economical plant because it will fill the space quickly. Catmint is a good choice for sunny spots that become hot in the afternoon, as this plant can thrive in dry and even poor soil without drooping. It’s also an especially good companion for roses, as it can hide the sparse bottom half of booming canes.
Once you’ve chosen your site, catmint can be transplanted at any time in the spring after danger of frost has passed. The earlier you set them out, the better chance you’ll have of enjoying a first-season bloom. Space plants 24 to 30 inches apart — they’ll fill in!
To plant potted transplants, dig a hole twice as big around as the pot and loosen the soil on the bottom, backfilling with an inch or two of compost. Position the last so the top of the root ball is even with the soil line and backfill with soil. Gently press in place and water deeply. Catmint needs an inch of rain per week in its first season, but it’s quite drought-tolerant after that.
Ongoing Care for Catmint
After its blooms and flowers fade, cut back catmint with bypass pruners to shear off about one-third of its growth. This will encourage your catmint to re-bloom later in the summer and remove seeds that can lead to aggressive self-sowing in some varieties. In about three to four years, plants may weaken in the center and should be lifted and divided in early spring before they put on much new growth — you replant half and give away the other half to friends!
In autumn, add a layer of compost as fertilizer. After frost, you can cut back dead branches to an inch above ground to neaten your planting bed and prepare the garden for winter — though if you miss this step due to an early snowfall, you can easily cut back dead branches first thing in the spring, before your catmint begins growing again.