While "catnip" is the most famous type of catmint plant, there are numerous other kinds. In many cases, gardeners grow these other varieties simply because they look great in the garden. Long-blooming perennials such as the first two types discussed below are very useful to those of us seeking continuous sequence of bloom in the garden.
By contrast, catnip has a rather weedy appearance and is rarely grown as an ornamental. Nonetheless, it is king of the catmint plants because of its effect on that diminutive "king of the jungle" on mouse patrol in your backyard.
Nepeta x faassenii '6 Hills Giant' is a showy herb, because of its size and the number of flowers it bears. Shear back this long-blooming perennial after its initial blooming and you'll be rewarded with floral color for most of the growing season. Since it's a drought-tolerant ground cover, this is about the only summer care it requires.
The landscaping mistake I made, initially, with 6 Hills Giant was failure to give it enough room. The herb ended up dwarfing some of the smaller specimens I had installed around it. I won't make that mistake again. Now I know that this catmint plant should be sent out to play with the big boys, lest it bully the little ones.
Similarly, you can let it fill in that gaping hole you have in the front row of a flower bed, but be sure to set it back three feet or so. Otherwise, it will hurdle over timber edging (or whatever type you use) and become a nuisance when you have to mow or weedwack. But properly situated at the front of a perennial bed, it can serve as foreground for taller plants such as hollyhocks and still hold its own.
Names can be deceiving sometimes, but in the case of 'Six Hills Giant' and 'Little Titch', the cultivar names clearly suggest how these two very different varieties of catmint plant might be used.
While 6 Hills Giant can play with the big boys, Little Titch is easily overwhelmed. It's just as tough (drought-tolerant) and just as long-blooming as its bigger cousin, but choose smallish friends for it if you really want to show it off. A prominent nook in a rock garden might be just the spot for this dwarf catmint plant. So might any landscape plagued by deer, as Little Titch (indeed, most types of catmint) is a deer-resistant perennial. Click the link below to learn more about this variety.
OK, this is the catmint plant you've been waiting to hear about if you're a cat-lover. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) drives many cats wild. Other members of the genus, such as the two varieties of catmint plants discussed above, may also produce an effect on some cats, but you're best off sticking with catnip if your main purpose is to grow an intoxicant for your cat.
Humans have put catnip to various medicinal uses for themselves, too. That's right, catnip isn't just for cats. Amy Jeanroy, About.com Guide to Herb Gardens, includes catnip plants in her list of Herbs For An Herb Tea Garden. Ever heard of "catnip tea"? Amy notes that "catnip makes a good choice if you want a relaxing blend" in a tea.
You can also draw wildlife to your landscaping by growing catnip (or many of the other types of catmint plants), including butterflies. I haven't personally witnessed it, but Washington State University reports that catnip draws hummingbirds. You can see from my picture (left) that it attracts bumblebees. Luckily, it does not draw unwanted deer pests.
Click the link below to learn about pinching and drying catnip, so as to maximize the harvest for your feline friends.