Where to buy catnip seeds?

Q. In a recent article about catnip, you said that it can be grown in the garden. Could you tell me where I can obtain seed for catnip? Thanks – Charles W., Russell Springs, Kentucky

A. Fresh catnip is becoming a popular item among cat owners (and cats too, I presume). The increased demand for this herb means that you can pick it up, fully grown and ready to transplant, in the garden section of your local home improvement store.

Starting catnip from seed is fairly simple, and the seeds can be purchased from either a gardening shop or ordered from just about any seed catalog. Just make sure you’re ordering the correct variety (nepenta cataria); more than four types of ornamental catnip are available now, none of which will interest your cat in the slightest.

Plants and seeds are easiest to purchase in early spring, but you can start them in a sunny window indoors during the winter. Starting them inside will also protect them from outside cats who can’t wait to try the new shoots before they’re established.

Next spring, after the last hard frost, plant the herb outdoors in the garden or in patio pots. As soon as the stems reach one foot in height, you can start harvesting them and continue to cut them all summer. Cut a few sprigs for your cat as a treat, and don’t worry if he or she eats all the leaves.

Of course, the benefits of growing catnip are that you always have a supply on hand, (you can even dry the herb yourself and store for the winter) and you know the conditions under which the plant is grown, allowing you to limit the amount of pesticides and nonorganic fertilizer used. Never mind the fact that your cat will suddenly love “gardening!”

Originally published September 12, 2003.

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