As one of the exotic perennials of the flower world, catmint (Nepeta cataria) is very versatile and easy to grow. The dark purple flowers explode in early summer for a spectacular display that can last for quite some time.
There are around 250 species of the genus Nepeta in the Lamiaceae family, native to Asia, Europe, and Africa. Many people tend to confuse catmint with catnip. Although the two are closely linked, catnip is more pungent than catnip but has less ornamental value.
Since this plant appears in muted colors, typically purple/blue flowers on a cool gray-green, catmint is easy to mix and match with other annuals and perennials without clashing.
The root is perennial and gives off branched, erect, and square stems, two to three feet high, clad with a mealy down and quite leafy. The heart-shaped, serrated leaves are also covered with a closedown, particularly on the undersides, which are therefore entirely white, so that the entire plant has a grayish and hoary appearance as if dust had been blown on it.
The blooms grow on short stems in tight spirals, which are so close to the top of the stem that they nearly form a spike. The individual blooms are small, the petals 2-lipped, the upper lip straight, pale pink or whitish, covered with red spots, the anthers dark red.
If you like the classic combination of roses and lavender but find lavender too delicate to grow, catmint is an excellent substitute.