Home & Garden

Agastache is an underexposed winner for many gardeners

The perennial agastache comes with a lot of common names like anise hyssop, giant hyssop and hummingbird mint, but, I assure you, “outstanding,” will be one of your adjectives if you grow it.

Agastaches have become addicting for many horticulturists, and I admit to the affliction. Blue Boa won the “Too Good to Be True Award” at Colorado State University perennial trials. It was also a winner in North Carolina State University. Blue Boa is an unknown cross but absolutely stunning with deep violet blue flowers and dark green foliage. The larger flowers also attract hummingbirds and have a tantalizing fragrance.

The Agastache Violet Vision won best of Penn State Trials and features lush violet flowers on a more compact plant, all the while serving as a magnet for bees and butterflies.

To grow yours, select a site in full sun for best blooming and to keep the plants compact and better branched. The soil should be fertile and well drained. Wet feet will spell doom for the anise hyssop during the winter, so incorporate organic matter to loosen the soil or plant on raised beds. You will want to space plants 18 to 24 inches apart.

Though the plant is drought tolerant, watering during prolonged dry periods will pay dividends with added flower production. If you have an established clump, feed with spring growth using a light application of a slow-release fertilizer. Another application in mid-summer will keep the plants at peak for the fall.

All of the agastaches respond well to any cutting back, so feel free to do so if the plants begin to look a little leggy or you simply wish they were bushier. It’s funny, the branches I cut or prune always go unnoticed by others. In other words the plant still looks great.

These anise hyssops or hummingbird mints are a great choice for cottage gardens, herb gardens and the butterfly garden or backyard wildlife habitat. Despite being such persevering beautiful perennials, they are still not the staple they need to be at garden centers. This year, however, has been much better and well worth the search.

Norman Winter is director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him at: @CGBGgardenguru.