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A hummingbird sips nectar from the flowers of Agastache rupestris

Agastache rupestris: 2023 Plant Of The Year

Our Plant Of The Year for 2023 was carefully selected to honor the legacy of our late founder, David Salman, and to celebrate the milestone of High Country Gardens’ 30th Anniversary. Agastache rupestris, also known as Licorice Mint Hyssop or Sunset Hyssop, was a clear winner for many reasons. Read on to learn why this is a must-have plant - and the story of its introduction to the horticultural trade!

An Indispensable Perennial For Waterwise Gardens

This was the first of 11 Agastache varieties that David Salman introduced to the world through High Country Gardens. Agastache rupestris was first introduced in 1996, and it quickly caught the attention of gardeners and plant breeders across the country. David had a gift for seeking out and propagating unique plant species native to the wild landscapes of the Southwest. This plant marked a fortuitous beginning of David’s career in the field of plant propagation and the start of his passion for the genus Agastache. 

Agastache rupestris is a rare Western native wildflower species with showy sunset-colored blooms and a delicious aroma. The entire plant has a sweet and spicy scent reminiscent of licorice and mint, which lends to its common name, Licorice Mint Hyssop. Some gardeners say it smells like rootbeer! With smoky orange flowers held by lavender calyxes, it is a superb hummingbird plant. Its nectar-rich blooms keep hummingbirds and other pollinators like bees and butterflies coming back for several months. It’s no surprise that it became an instant garden sensation! 

As a Plant Select® winner in 1997, selecting Agastache rupestris as Plant Of The Year is also a celebration of the positive impact that this organization has had on waterwise gardening. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Plant Select as we embark on a new decade!

We also celebrate the legacy that our Heroes of Horticulture made to bring Agastache rupestris to the horticulture trade. We embrace the adventurous spirit and passion that drives plant explorers to pursue plant knowledge and discovery.

From Seed To Success: The Story Of Agastache rupestris

David Salman was not just a passionate plantsman - he was an avid storyteller too. Hear the tale of this Plant Of The Year in his own words:

My introduction of Agastache rupestris, or Licorice Mint Hyssop, through the High Country Gardens catalog in 1996 was a milestone that caught the attention of gardeners, nurseries, and plant breeders across the country. This rare species from southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona, only known to a few botanists at the time, was selected as a Plant Select® winner in 1997, and became instantly popular.

At the beginning of my work with these stunning wildflowers, there was Sally Walker, owner of Southwestern Native Seeds. Based in Tucson, AZ she was very focused at that time on collecting seeds of the various Agastache species, many of them rare and not being grown in cultivation."

The native ranges of many Agastache plants are scattered across the vast territories of New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico, which Sally and her husband explored in a VW bus. 

My seed purchases from her company provided me with all of the best plants in the genus. And it was from these seed collections in the early 1990s, that I introduced new species and garden hybrids.

Thank goodness that the wild-collected seeds of all these incredible species appeared when I was ready to explore these fascinating plants. This would not be possible now. Many species native to northern Mexico are no longer accessible.

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