There are so many flowers that are noteworthy performers, but personally, I think that the flowers that provide excellent nectar and pollen for hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies are my favorites. I’m delighted to share my garden with these creatures, and I try to grow flowers that are especially pleasing to them. Growing Agastache is a sure winner for both the gardener and the wildlife!
Agastache is a relative to the mint family. The flowers are high in oils and make great insect attractant in the garden. The foliage is attractive and endures for months, and it is aromatic. Stiff, upright stalks have whorls of brightly colored flower spires. The colors are commonly purple to lavender, but there are also blooms in pink, rose, blue, white and orange. Agastache is very well suited for a cottage garden, but it can fit in nicely in any border, and even is a standout in the summer vegetable garden.
There are several well-known Agastache varieties:
- Agastache foeniclum – known as Anise Hyssop or Giant Blue Hyssop, this variety has a definite licorice aroma and blue to purple flowers. The leaves are used for flavoring or teas and were widely used as a medicinal herb by the Native Americans.
- Agastache mexicana – referred to as Mexican Giant Hyssop, it is native to southern North America and Mexico. The leaves are also used for teas and in salads.
- Agastache cana – called Hummingbird Mint, Mosquito Plant, and Bubblegum Mint. It has a distinctive bubblegum scent with rosy-pink colored flowers.
Agastache is propagated through cuttings and seed. Agastache seeds can be sown indoors in late winter for a transplanting outdoors in May once frost danger has passed. Using a sterile seed starting mix, the flower seeds should be pressed into the soil but not covered. Keep the seeds and seedlings moist. Agastache plants grown from seed will take two years to bloom.
Agastache is an easy, undemanding perennial to grow. They prefer sun but tolerate some light shade. It dislikes waterlogged soil, so drainage it very important for a good performance. Provide a complete organic fertilizer each spring. Mature plants require a moderate amount of moisture and can dry out in-between waterings. If growing as an herb, harvest fresh leaves just before blooming for best flavor. If needed, the plants can be divided in the fall. Division will help keep the plant robust and healthy. In areas with very cold winters, a heavy mulch gives extra protection. When different varieties are grown together, cross pollination may occur. Deadheading the spent blooms and removing any volunteers will help prevent cross pollination.
These striking and versatile flowers are also great for cutting. They have lengthy stalks and last well in the vase. Agastache will win your heart, and because it’s a known nectar plant, you’ll also win the adoration of many buzzing and delightful insects who will call your garden home!
Question of the week: What’s your favorite thing about Agastache?
By Kimberly Bell