Growing a Better Catmint

Growing a Better Catmint

One of my favorite, late-spring-blooming flowers is Nepeta, or catmint. This herbaceous perennial is hardy in USDA Zones 4–8. It’s a tough plant that can withstand adverse weather conditions and still reliably bloom each year. The gray-green leaves share the spotlight with blue, white, or violet flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds to the garden. The plants will readily rebloom, especially if you stay on top of deadheading. The plant grows 1 to 2 feet tall and can sprawl to 2 to 3 feet wide when happy. It also tolerates deer browsing, which is always a plus. The telltale signs of catmint in my garden are its minty fragrance and the fact that my cat loves it. She will lie in the catmint patch for hours, as if she has just fallen in love.

While catmint is an easy-to-grow perennial, it does have some problems. Plants can get rangy and wild looking, flopping over in heavy rains and as they age. Also, after a few years the center of the plant can die out and it will need to be divided and replanted. While older varieties, such as ‘Walker’s Low’ and ‘Six Hills Giant’, are good varieties to grow, they can have the problems just described. The solution is to grow some of the newer catmints on the market. ‘Cat’s Meow’ forms a nice mounded shape that stays contained all season long. ‘Purrsian Blue’ is even more compact than ‘Cat’s Meow’, growing only 14 inches tall and 18 inches wide, and has periwinkle-colored flowers.

Whichever catmint you choose, apply a layer of compost in spring and keep the plant well watered throughout the growing season. Mulching helps maintain the soil moisture and keeps weeds away. Trim back the dead flowers after the initial bloom and the plant will rebloom again. Divide plants in spring if they get too large or if you just want to create more plants to share. Cut back the foliage to the ground in fall and compost it.

Planting and Nurturing Trees

Trees provide many benefits to yards, including shade, color, texture, and vertical interest. Of course, planting trees and nurturing is also good for the environment. They filter the air, replacing carbon dioxide with fresh oxygen.

Return the favor by planting and nurturing this elegant greenery, providing yourself and others with enjoyment for decades to come.

Trees and shrubs are sold three different ways.

If you’re looking for plants in late winter or early spring and want to save some money, consider bare-root plants. These dormant plants are no-frills; they don’t come with containers or soil. Alternately, balled-and-burlapped plants (B&B) include soil but no container. The largest trees and shrubs are typically B&B, and available from spring until fall. Most trees and shrubs are sold in containers, however. Container-grown plants are the most convenient, being available year-round in a variety of sizes. Avoid purchasing trees with noticeable flaws, such as gouges, scrapes, or wounds on the trunk.

To Plant Your Tree:

Dig a hole that’s deep enough for the root ball and wider around. Pile dirt on a piece of tarp. Any burlap can remain while you’re positioning the tree, but make sure to cut away as much of it as you can once you’re ready to fill in the hole. Water the tree when half of the hole has been refilled, then again when you’ve finished. Next, add a 2 to 3-inch ring of mulch around the plant, protecting it from lawn mowers and retaining moisture. Finally, tree wrap can be applied to protect saplings from rodents and sun damage.

Stake Your Tree

You may need to stake some young plants—especially B&B trees—in order to ensure that they grow upright and straight. Once two years have passed, the stakes should be removed so that trees have the chance to strengthen by developing trunks and root systems on their own. Saplings can be supported with stakes about as tall as the trees themselves. Find one then drive it 18 inches into the ground about 6 inches away from the planting hole. Attach the sapling and the stake using heavy wire and softer material, such as a section of old garden hose. The hose protects the tree from potential damage caused by rubbing up against the wire. Using a figure-8 pattern, wrap the elements together making sure they’re not too tight; you should still be able to push the trunk slightly in any direction.


Don’t worry about using fertilizer on trees and shrubs unless the quality of the soil is poor. Just to be safe, you can give saplings a head start by treating them with kelp or mycorrhiza growth product. Young trees and shrubs need an inch or two of water per week. Once trees and bushes have grown, they only need to be watered during periods of drought, but plan on pruning them throughout their lives to keep them healthy. Use pruning shears dipped in bleach or rubbing alcohol to remove dead and diseased branches, as well as limbs that are rubbing together.


Caring for Potted Annuals

caring for potted annuals

For convenient, sophisticated bursts of color indoors or outdoors, for an event or for every day, potted annuals make excellent choices. To keep these prized items healthy and vibrant, establish effective watering, fertilizing, and deadheading routines. This way, your precious plants will look better and last longer, brightening as many of your days as possible. Some steps will vary, depending on the type of annual involved. When in doubt, contact your garden center, where experts are happy to help.


Appropriate watering routines differ from plant to plant because certain varieties have certain needs. Follow some basic guidelines to give yourself a head start. Busy gardeners tend to rush out of necessity, but try to be patient when watering. Pouring slowly gives soil enough time to soak up liquid. Be thorough by soaking the entire root mass from top to bottom. Rid container plants of any run-off; they don’t like having wet feet! 


A general purpose fertilizer can improve the health of most annuals and perennials. Certain plants, including tomatoes, roses, and acid-loving plants, require variety-specific fertilizer, however. When plants are fed food formulated for their individual needs, they receive the most advantageous proportion of vital nutrients and trace minerals. If you water more than three times per week, you should fertilize at least once per week. This rule doesn’t apply to every plant type, though, so double-check. For example, some of the newer vegetative annuals like petunias and calibrachoas can be fed every time they’re watered. You can supplement plants’ nutritional intake with a water-soluble fertilizer, which can be used after the application of general purpose and slow release fertilizers at the time of planting. It may seem counter-intuitive, but some flowers suffer when fertilized too often, so exercise caution. For instance, impatiens actually decrease flower production when involved in a heavy feeding program. 


All flowers—even the so-called self-deadheading types—benefit from the removal of spent flowers. Regular deadheading promotes growth and bud development. Again, double-checking the type of plant in question is key; you’ll want to do some research before going forward with your deadheading routine, as different types require different techniques. Consider the varying routines recommended for the following varieties: geraniums and gerbera daisies need both spent flowers and stems removed, perennial daisies only have to have their blooms sheared back, roses require the five-leaf junction method when deadheading.