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Not Kitten Around: Pruning Catmint

Image of catmint.
Photo of a sun-loving, blooming, and healthy Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii) plant.

By Taylor Lewis, nursery manager

I try to get in the garden at least once a week to find the next project to do. This time of year I’m pruning, light weeding, and looking for emerging garden issues. Today, February 8, 2020, while passing the catmint I can see it’s time for a haircut. They’re looking rather winter haggard wearing a grayish-brown coat from last years fall line.

Nepeta x faassenii, better known as a catmint, is one of my favorites groundcovers. This sun-loving perennial is a super summer bloomer, an incredible pollinator plant, and tough as nails; it's definitely on the list of stress-free and easy garden plants. You can cut this cat back anytime of the year, as hard as you want and as often as you want.

If you’re studying for the test, Nepeta x faassenii, and it’s cultivars, are a sterile hybrids of: Persian catmint, Nepeta racemosa and Nepeta nepetella, lesser catmint. You can expect masses of violet to dusky-sky blue flowers from mid-spring through fall with very little irrigation. If the plant starts looking bloomed out or tired during the summer, prune it back to 6 inches and wait a week.

Pruning Time
Photo of catmint
What's left from 2019.

Above is the plant topic of discussion today. You can see the old grey growth asking to be removed and taken to the big compost pile in the sky. You can see a little green pushing through and some, much younger, growth way down below.

Note: If I’d pruned this back, at least once over the summer there would be much less grey growth and the plant would look happier right now.

Pruning: Take one

When you pull the plant to one side, you can clearly see the new-growth emerging. I’m going to cut all the way down to this good stuff. Notice the difference in the color of the green below and above the plant. The yellow green (above) is coming off and we’re leaving the grey-green (below) to be exposed.

Photo of catmint plant.
Before pruning.

That was too easy. It took 12 snips with my straight nose clippers. I could have done it in 4 with my felcos. I took the whole plant down to about 2 inches tall.

That’s it! If you’re comfortable with a few dead stems sticking out, walk away. You’re done.

Photo of catmint.
Plant result after 12 snips.


Pruning: Take two

If you’re still reading, let’s get a little closer. If those stems are gonna make you go nuts, snip-prune each one back to just above something green or remove the whole thing.

Photo of pruned catmint.
Final result.

It should look like this when you’re done.