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Agastache is as Varied in Appearance as in Pronunciation

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Agastache (Hummingbird Mint)

Agastache (Hummingbird Mint)

Marie Iannotti

Most gardeners know Agastache as anise hyssop, the spiky, blue-flowered plant that smells like anise or licorice. Anise hyssop is a versatile plant that will attract plenty of butterflies in its own right, but there is more variety out there in the world of Agastache. 'Ava' belongs to a group of Agastache commonly called the Hummingbird Mints. The pinkish red flowers start blooming in late summer and stay blooming for weeks. They even seem to get more intense in color as the season progresses. The Agastache pictured here was labeled something like 'Root Beer', but I'm told by David Salman, the plantsman who bred Agastache x 'Ava', that it is actually Agastache rupestris (Licorice Mint Hyssop), a wildflower species from AZ and northern Mexico. It's odd to think a nursery in NY is selling Southwestern wildflowers, but I'm happy to report it is thriving here and is always a showstopper on garden tours.

Agastache are hardy, drought tolerant, low maintenance plants, but they need to get acclimated before they really take off. They like a rich soil and seem to over winter better if you don't cut them back until spring. Once established, you'll become an addict and want every new Agastache that comes on the market. Once the butterflies are done with them, you can cut them for dried flowers, as well.

Agastache x 'Ava' (USDA Zones 5 - 10, 4' x 2', Rose & Red Blooms: Repeat Bloomer)

Alternatives:

  • Centranthus ruber (Jupiter's Beard) 'Coccineus' (USDA Zones 4 - 9, 30" x 30", Rose-Red Blooms: Repeat Bloomer)

  • Knautia macedonica (USDA Zones 5 - 10, 2' x 2', Dark Purplish-Red Blooms: Repeat Bloomer) Note: 6.6 to 8.0 (neutral - alkaline soil) Knautia is a tall, floppy plants, but will weave between other flowers easily. Gets large fast.

Note: David Salman's catalog High Country Gardens is still the best place to shop for Agastache. (If you can't make it to his Sante Fe Greenhouses, in New Mexico.)

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