Floppy catmint: train it or let it?

linnea56(z5 IL)April 16, 2007

Last year I planted a catmint, Nepeta "Walkers Low". It bloomed beautifully and was very lush, but became rather sprawly. I had to put short stakes in all around to keep it from flopping over and smothering its neighbors.

I don't know if this is the normal habit for these. Would pinching early on help?

Alternatively, if I moved it a foot forward then it could flop forward onto a stone wall and not cover anyone else. It is hemmed in all around by blooming bulbs, so moving it would not be that easy. Right now it is about 2 inches tall.

Come to think of it, my house cat likes to flop down and sprawl too, but I have been able to train her to flop in the right places. And not by pinching her.

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laceyvail(6A, WV)

"Floppin" is the natural growth habit of this lovely plant. Just give it plenty of room.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 6:41AM
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bean_counter_z4(Zone 4, Rkfd,IL)

Mine sort of cascades over a low stone wall. It's a nice look. I think it is recommended to cut them back after bloom to keep them compact and to pormote later season bloom.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 8:07AM
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hostared(Z5, IL)

I have a few because of reseeding.
In my formal garden I cut it back like you would mums.
It stays at a nice 1foot compact height and blooms all summer.
The others are at a holding area which I keep plants to plant later. These sprawl over the brick wall. My cat loves to go there an lay.

I do like the look in the formal garden to be neat. I have left it at times to sprawl between plants with some training.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 8:40AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Thanks! This plant has been in my garden almost a year. It was half gallon size when planted. Anyone know how wide it will eventually get? I looked it up on various sites but information was inconsistent. Missouri Botanic Garden said 18 inches; I'd say this was already 18 inches last year, counting sprawl. If it will get really wide then it may cover that present 1 foot gap and sprawl over the wall soon anyway, and I don't have to move it. May move the hyacinths in front instead.

Something on Dave's Garden caught my attention: someone wrote in saying, "Walker's Low is the name of a garden, not a descriptive name for the plant's height." Uh-oh! The word "low" definitely induced me both to buy it and to choose its location. If that is the case, how tall does it get in your gardens?

hostared, if you pinch or cut back like mums, when do you stop (July 4th like mums?), so you don't prevent flowering?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 11:30AM
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leslie197(z5 MI)

Generally my catmints don't flop open very much for me, at least until later in the season. I use two methods with them. In the front yard (first picture) I keep these Walker Lows formal looking by hard pruning. I don't have the 1st picture dated but as you can see by the size of the sedums in the front, it is still fairly early in the season, probably somewhere from May to June.

Once the sedums are full height the Walker's Low get a haircut if they are not standing upright or are flopping over the Autumn Joys. I use hand held hedge sheers and clip them into balls about the size of the sedums in the picture. They regrow and rebloom nicely. Later on in the season I cut them again. Last year when winter forgot to come for awhile they even got another pruning. I have 5 of them in this bed and it only takes a few minutes to prune them each time, but picking up the leavings from the mulch around them is a pain, so it helps to put newspaper down first.

Also notice the size of the two catmints. I started with two and then added more later. The soil in this are is thin (builder's grade) and fairly dry as the bed is raised. They have never gotten overly large, but are somewhat bigger now than in the picture which was taken 2 seasons ago.

Method two is simpler. Simply squash the catmints in a bed with so many other plants that they can't fall over. LOL.

This picture is possibly of Six Hills Giant in my Siloam Daylily bed, but I'm not sure anymore. Have had the catmint since these daylilies were new single fans. It is slightly larger than than my Walker's, but hard to tell if they are really different a different variety. The daylilies are mostly 20 inchers or so and the soil is much richer here.

Walker's Low, not quite tall enough here. This dl (Smoky Mountain Autumn) is also a bit taller than the others.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 12:42PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Thanks for the pictures! Mine was a lot floppier than the ones in the top picture, so I guess pruning is in order. Are you pruning while they are blooming? We're in the same zone, so what works for you should work for me. The soil is rich and amended in the bed where I have the catmint; it's raised too. Maybe that's why it flowered so profusely.

Love the blue of the catmint against the peach daylilies! As it happens I planted last fall a Siloam Double Classic about 2 feet behind the catmint. I have not seen it bloom yet but hope it will be as good. I tend to forget about combinations when planting daylilies: mostly just look for a place to shoehorn one in. That Smoky Mountain Autumn is great! I've been tempted by that one before but so far have not gotten one.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 12:58PM
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anna_beth(zone 5-6)

I have three different kinds of catmint and only the tallest one (I do not know the name, purchased last summer), with considerably larger leaves, is tall, stays upright and does not flop. The Six Hills Giant is smaller and flops, and after that the cats finish it off by rolling in it until there is VERY LITTLE left. Hardly more than a rootball, really. The smallest one also flops and the cats love rolling in it, too. In my experience, the way to go about catmint, first of all, is not to have cats. The next step is to prune the catmint hard after its first flowering is over. If I do not prune, the stems flop, lose leaves and go dry, while new stems begin to grow from the base of the plant, and also from the lower half of the old stems. There is no new growth at the ends of the old stems, so there is no use leaving them on the plant.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 3:37PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Oddly enough, my cat, who often gardens with me and is sent out on vole patrol, does not like this plant. She like commercial dry catnip well enough. When I bought it I was going to put it in the vegetable garden, for her. The day I was planting it I called her over and picked a leaf for her to sniff. She pulled back sharply, then glared and stepped away, as if I was trying to poison her. I changed my mind then about where I was going to plant it and put it in the front of my raised garden bed. I knew they had nice flowers but had not planned to give it a starring role. She still avoids it. I do have neighborhood cats here too; we do not have a fence. The other cats have shown no interest and have not touched it.

I wonder if the "cattractive-ness" has been bred out of some of these cultivars?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 4:00PM
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hostared(Z5, IL)

Wow your cat doesn't like it...mine rolls in it all the time and even nibbles at it.

The explanation that leslie gave would be the same as I would do. If you shear them and place a nice strong plant infront it will help it stay in place.

You are just trying to shear to make a nice shape then let it flower. If you have stems you don't like then give it a haircut.

I like the idea of placing sprawlers in with the daylilies.
I may try some seedlings there.

Also it's funny you said that Walkers Low was a description. I also fell for that name thinking it would be more compact than others I have tried. lol

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 4:50PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Yes, I'd like to know where this "Walker's Low" garden is! Maybe the "low country": South Carolina?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 9:15PM
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leslie197(z5 MI)

Yes, in the front yard beds with the 5 Walker's Low catmints I will prune them down in bloom if they get too messy looking. They have nice attractive colored foliage that looks good against the thick blue green foliage of the sedums and contrast nicely with the strappy green foliage of the small daylilies in this bed. The bed is edged on one side in boxwoods, so although it is a curved 3 quarter circle bed it is fairly formal.

In the more cottage-like daylily beds in the backyard, I prune when I can squeeze into the beds and/or without getting stains all over my clothes from the dls & hardy lilies in the beds. I wasn't kidding about the squashed catmints! These beds are really full, starting with bulbs in the spring, yarrows, knautia, crocosmias, gauras etc, in summer and mums & asters in the fall. Pruning is actually a ballet dance, bouncing around on one foot with sheers in hand.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 2:45PM
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Was just reading that the way to prune catmints after they flower is to lift up their skirts and prune from the bottom up. Think that would be neater than my usual procedure of just shearing them back. In either case they will rebloom which they won't do if just left to their own devices.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 8:46PM
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This is an opportunity to recommend the book "The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust" who has tried every pruning, pinching shearing and dead-heading technique on many, many plants. She spells out how a plant responds to all sorts of 'interventions', whether and when do it, and how the plant responds...in growth habit, bloom time, and increased/decreased flower production.
Go ahead and buy it new....there are older versions on the web which are not very much less expensive than the newer addition.

Great book.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 11:10PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Walkers Low and Six Hills Giant are generally sheared back after their first bloom to make way for the second bloom. You can see the new growth coming from the center of the plant.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 6:06AM
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Mine also flop more is they're too wet. I think they like it on the dry side.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 2:36PM
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My catmint are already huge and out of control. The rain makes them almost bowl shaped...very flat in the middle. Do you suggest cutting them down to the ground? Light pruning doesn't help with their shape. I've never had to do it this early. We've had a dry spring and they've been happy. Would dividing them help reduce their size in the future?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 11:26AM
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I started a garden last year, and this year, all of my catmint is growing foliage without any blooms. My neighbor's catmint has been in full bloom for a month (it is now the beginning of June in NY), but each of my catmint plants have been bloom-free. Any ideas why? They all get at least 5 hours of sun, and the other sun-loving, drought-tolerant plants around them are doing fine. Help!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 9:07AM
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