Hummingbird mint, Agastache in botanical circles, is loved by hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators, and gardeners who garden in sun. It wasn’t until recently – the last decade or so – that the Agastache family started getting the attention it deserves.
Also commonly called hyssop, they delight gardeners with their aromatic foliage, showy spikes of tubular flowers, and long period of bloom – from mid-summer to frost when color is winding down in many gardens. Flowers may be blue, lavender, purple, pink, rose, yellow, orange or white and stand tall on sturdy triangular or square stems.
While loved by winged friends of gardeners, hummingbird mints are not a favorite of our four-legged foe – rabbits and deer.
The leaves of Agastache make a tasty tea. The flowers are lovely in bouquets.
Plant hummingbird mints in very well-drained soil in full sun. They can tolerate a bit of shade, but will rot in poorly-drained soggy soil. They rarely, if ever, need fertilizer. Over-fertilizing will cause the plant’s stems to flop.
Keep plants well watered during their first year in the garden. Once established, Agastache are extremely drought tolerant. Instead of mulching with the usual composted leaves or bark mulch, use crushed gravel. To help plants survive our cold winters leave them standing for the winter. Wait to cut them back until spring.
Agastache are beautiful in the perennial border where they partner beautifully with medium-sized ornamental grasses like Karl Foerster feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) or Thundercloud switch grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Thundercloud’).
They are also fabulous combined with catmint or Russian sage. Show off burgundy-foliaged hummingbird mint with gray-leaved companions like Artemesia schmitiana ‘Silver Mound’ or lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina).
Agastache is a genus of 30 different species, and they are not all hardy in Zone 5 gardens. Here is a look at just a few of my favorites.
Anise hyssop, or Agastache foeniculum, grows 2 to 4 feet tall and a foot wide, and boasts lavender blue flowers. Its foliage smells and tastes like licorice. Anise hyssop is a mainstay in herb gardens and spectacular teamed with coneflowers in the perennial border.
Korean hyssop, or Agastache rugosa, grows up to 2 feet tall and a bit wider than a foot. It sports glossy green leaves and deep violet-blue flowers. It was originally collected in Korea by plant hunter, Dan Hinkley.
Blue Fortune is the result of a cross between A. foeniculum and A. rugosa. It grows about 3 feet tall and 18 inches wide. Butterflies adore its large flower spikes of nectar-rich powder blue flowers.
Black Adder presents smoky blue flowers on stiff, two to three foot stems beginning in July and continuing through September.
Bolero shows off bright deep rosy-pink flowers loosely-held on two-foot stems. Its fragrant leaves are lightly brushed with bronze.
Purple Haze flaunts rose calyxes holding lavender flowers that give blooms a bi-color appearance. Plants spread up to 2 feet wide; stems reach up to 3 feet tall.
Tutti Frutti displays raspberry-red blooms on large, loose flower spikes. Its gray-green foliage smells fruity. Plant this less hardy hummingbird mint in a protected area or just grow it as an annual.
If you have yet to try Agastache in your garden, this is the summer to give them a try. Garden with me!