Nepeta cataria (Catnip)

Plant Info
Also known as: Cat mint
Family:Lamiaceae (Mint)
Life cycle:perennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:shade, sun; fields, deciduous woods, woodland edges, roadsides, railroads
Bloom season:July - October
Plant height:1 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Thick, tightly packed, branched cylindrical clusters 2 to 4 inches long at the tips of branching stems and arising from leaf axils in the upper plant. Flowers are 1/3 to ½ inch long, tubular, the upper lip with 2 tiny lobes, the lower lip constricted in about the middle, the wide, oval middle lobe fanning out and usually scalloped around the edge, and 2 small side lobes. Color is white to pale lavender or pinkish, with darker purple or pink dots on the inside the lower lip. Dark purple-tipped stamens and a white style arch along the inside of the upper lip. The hairy calyx has 5 triangular lobes.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are generally heart-shaped or oval with a pointed or rounded tip, 1 to 4 inches long and up to 2 inches wide on short stalks. The edges have rounded teeth, surfaces are softly hairy. Stems are square, densely covered in short hairs, and often branched in the upper plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod Fruit type: seed without plume

The persistent calyx holds 4 1-seeded nutlets.


Catnip can be quite weedy. Many years ago before I knew better, I planted some at home in a flower box as a treat for my cats. It spread to all parts of my yard within a few years, persists to this day, and I may never be rid of it. It doesn't seem particular about where it grows. I've seen it growing in full sun to mostly shade, dry or moist conditions, primarily in disturbed soils.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Linda - Dakota County
on: 2011-07-15 10:31:17

A couple of decades ago, I put in one plant as a treat for my cat... and forgot to deadhead it. I am STILL pulling it out of my gardens every time I turn around, trying to get it as small seedlings whenever I can, and I go on a search-and-destroy mission at least a couple times each summer. Sadly, many nursery growers are still promoting it. I got a small shipment of it from a supplier to the nursery I work for, and while I couldn't refuse the shipment, I did request that they send no more. I recently saw a landscape plan done by Gerten's for a client, and it was chock-full of nepeta. I recommended to the customer (who stated that she was not enthused about maintenance like deadheading) that she consider just about anything BUT nepeta, as it was a choice she, and her entire neighborhood, would live to regret.

Posted by: grik - St. Paul
on: 2011-08-03 19:40:20

This plant is not a total bad guy. Hummingbirds make good use of it.

Posted by: Laurie - Pine City
on: 2011-10-11 22:18:21

Actually, I like to make tea with the leaves.

Posted by: Hank - stillwater washington county
on: 2012-02-22 14:05:12

I enjoy this plant quite a lot making tea or smoking the leaves create a nice mild feeling of euphoria

Posted by: Matt - Shoreview
on: 2014-07-05 11:22:43

Found this stuff in our yard and our cats went crazy. Double checked it on your site and now they are very happy.

Posted by: Jo S - Extreme SW corner near Rowena
on: 2017-03-16 01:12:09

Not sure how these got to my garden but I spend considerable time pulling them. Smell good but too much plant for the flowers and they spread like a grass fire. Yuk is my vote, yank them out. They have vigorous roots so bring a shovel!

Posted by: Zeb - Clay County
on: 2018-06-24 08:14:59

I enjoy the pleasant smell from this plant, and the bees love it too, including the native ones.

Posted by: Jane Johnson - Tofte
on: 2018-09-20 15:21:16

This somehow got into my garden but I have left it because the bees and hummingbirds love it

Posted by: Carol - Zimmerman
on: 2020-04-26 08:40:59

I was wondering if catnip grows here. I would love to forge for it if it does. Thank You

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-04-26 09:08:49

Carol, check the distribution map - catnip is all over the state. There is probably some near you, you'll just need to go out and look for it.

Posted by: J G - anoka county
on: 2023-06-13 17:35:13

Ok I just love this plant. It is quite hardy and tolerates the dry hot part of summer. It is easy to pull up in my sandy soil, and transplants well. And the bees just love it. I like walking around the edge of my lawn early in the morning and watching the bees go from blossom to blossom.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-06-14 06:14:13

J G, I understand your appreciation for this plant. The problem is it readily escapes cultivation and infiltrates anywhere the soil has been disturbed then spreads from there. There are a number of native species that will do just as well in cultivation. Blue giant hyssop, a.k.a. anise hyssop, is one of my favorites.

Posted by: Andy - Minneapolis
on: 2024-07-08 19:12:15

Two catnip plants somehow volunteered in my yard this year where I'd planted native stuff.

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