All About Agastache: Growing Hummingbird Favorites For The Waterwise Garden
By David Salman, High Country Gardens Chief Horticulturist
Agastache, also called Hummingbird Mint and Hyssop, are fragrant and long-blooming perennials. These are must-have plants for waterwise landscapes that are filled with flowers and plenty of pollinators. We'll help you choose the right Agastache varieties for your garden, and give you tips for how to cultivate these outstanding showy flowers. The important thing to remember about successfully growing the Hummingbirds Mints is “tough love.”
Adaptable Agastache Across The USA
The various species found in the Eastern US have smaller flowers and are pollinated primarily by bees and butterflies. The various species found in the Western US and northern Mexico have larger, showier flowers that are pollinated primarily by hummingbirds.
In general, the blue-flowered varieties are more tolerant of moisture and a bit more tolerant of enriched soils. ‘Blue Fortune’ is a European hybrid hyssop known for its vigor, cold hardiness, and adaptability to grow across much of the US. Like Korean Hyssop, such as Korean Zest Agastache, this cultivar will also perform well outside of the West in the wetter winter climates of the Midwest and East. The Midwestern species Agastache foeniculatum (Anise Hyssop) is also reliably cold hardy.
Waterwise Orange, Pink, and Red Agastache
The native species and hybrids of Southwestern origin are famous for their large flower spikes in orange, pink, and red hues. These Agastache are unsurpassed at attracting hummingbirds. If you have them planted, the hummingbirds will find them!
Native to dry, hot, and sunny climates, these varieties are ideal for low-water landscapes. They need well-drained soil in the garden, and they are sensitive to cold, wet winter soils.
That makes these much more challenging to grow in USDA zone 5& 6 and regions with rain and snow amounts over 25” per year. Of course, we gardeners love to push the boundaries when trying new plants. To grow these incredible flowers in wet zones 5 and 6, I recommend planting them in a container garden or pot where they will thrive. Then you can treat them as an "annual" or bring them into a greenhouse, cold frame, or cold sunroom for the winter. They will be fine for 2 to 3 years in a pot.
In moister, warmer winter climates such as Washington D.C. (USDA zone 7), the Southwestern species and hybrids are very happy as long as the soil drainage is excellent. That means no clay soil!
How To Grow Agastache: The Secret To Cultivation
- The important thing to remember about successfully growing the Hummingbirds Mints is “tough love.”
- As a general rule, these plants like to grow in hot, dry conditions once established.
- As for their soil, the “leaner” (less fertile) and more well-drained, the better. Stay away from rich loams and heavy clay. See our guide, How To Create Well-Drained Soil.
- Fertilize organically with a little quality compost and Yum Yum Mix in the fall. Chemical fertilizers will push these plants too much and weaken their tolerance to cold.
- Leave the stems standing over the winter months to increase cold hardiness. Cut back hard in mid-spring.
For more information and to watch a planting video, visit our guide: How To Plant & Grow Agastache
The Best Garden Tested Varieties
Growing Agastache plants has been an obsession of mine for over 25 years and counting.
Learn more about my work developing Agastache cultivars for waterwise gardens: Agastache Introductions: Superstars Of The Perennial World.
Many of the newer Agastache hybrids have had limited testing in outdoor growing conditions. Based on my extensive garden experience with these perennials in the Intermountain West, here are some of my top picks.
- Agastache ‘Desert Sostice’ – A 2012 High Country Gardens exclusive introduction that I bred, this tough hybrid is a cross between the two best Southwestern species Agastache cana and A. rupestris. A semi-dwarf grower, it has stunning flower spikes with pink and orange flowers and a strong, pleasing herbal scent.
- Astastache ‘Ava’ - My best hybrid introduced through High Country Gardens in 2004. If this cultivar is a good fit for your growing conditions, it will be one of your showiest perennials. Blooming for many months beginning in mid-summer, the bright rose-red flowers and non-fading calyxes are stunning.
- Agastache cana ‘Rosita’ – A High Country exclusive. A semi-dwarf form of the species, A. cana that I found some years ago grown from habitat collected seed from southern New Mexico. It has about 50% more bright rose-pink flowers (corollas) in the spike than is typical, so the flower spikes are particularly plump and full. ‘Rosita’ has a most delicious sweet herbal fragrance too.
How do you pronounce the Latin genus known as Agastache?
In Colorado and New Mexico, where we can grow a wide variety of these wonderful perennials, we generally say the name as A-ga-stä-key, A-gas-tā-key, or A-gas-tä-key. I’ve also heard it spoken as A-ga-stash-ē or A-gas-tach-ē. However, if you’re still not comfortable uttering the name in public, call these superb plants by one of their common names; hummingbird mint or hyssop.
Shop Agastache Plants From High Country Gardens
Our Agastache Collection is a showcase of four bestselling Agastache cultivars. Also known as Hummingbird Mint, these showy, fragrant, long-blooming perennials are essential for wate...Learn MoreAgastache Collection Hummingbird Mint Collection (Hyssop) Agastache Collection$52.99Per Collection of 4
Agastache neomexicana (New Mexico Hummingbird Mint) is a smaller growing species with narrow spikes of aromatic lavender-pink flowers. A very upright grower, Agastache neomexicana at...Learn MoreAgastache neomexicana New Mexico Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache neomexicana$12.99 Sale $11.69Sale Price I Save 10%Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Agastache rupestris (Licorice Mint Hyssop) is one of the best, most durable species in the Agastache family. With smoky orange flowers held by lavender calyxes, the entire plant is s...Learn MoreAgastache rupestris Licorice Hummingbird Mint (Sunset Hyssop) Agastache rupestrisAs low as $13.99Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Agastache aurantiaca ‚Apricot Sprite‚ (Hummingbird Mint) provides a sizzling blast of bright orange flowers during the heat mid-to-late summer. An outstanding perennial f...Learn MoreApricot Sprite Agastache Apricot Sprite Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache aurantiaca Apricot SpriteAs low as $14.99 Sale $13.49Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Agastache Ava is one of High Country Gardens very best plant introductions, renowned for its tall spikes of deep rose-pink flowers held by raspberry-red calyxes. This vigorous hybrid...Learn MoreAva Agastache Ava's Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache AvaAs low as $14.99 Sale $13.49Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Our Best In Show Agastache Collection features five Hummingbird Mint cultivars introduced by High Country Gardens Founder, David Salman. He was passionate about Agastache plants: &ld...Learn MoreBest In Show Agastache Collection Agastache Best In Show CollectionAs low as $67.99Per Collection of 5
Agastache ‚Blue Blazes‚ (Hummingbird Mint) is a large growing hybrid hummingbird mint with lavender-purple flower spikes. Very long blooming, its flowers attract hummingb...Learn MoreBlue Blazes Agastache Blue Blazes Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache Blue Blazes$11.99 Sale $10.79Sale Price I Save 10%Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Agastache ‚Blue Boa‚ PP#24,050 (Hummingbird Mint) is a stunning hybrid variety that blooms for many months from mid-to-late summer with showy spikes of deep violet-blue f...Learn MoreBlue Boa Agastache Blue Boa Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache Blue Boa PP#24,050As low as $14.99 Sale $13.49Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Agastache ‚Blue Fortune‚ is a European hybrid hyssop known for is vigor, cold hardiness, and adaptability to grow across much of the US. Blue Fortune Hybrid Hyssop‚...Learn MoreBlue Fortune Agastache Blue Fortune Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache Blue FortuneAs low as $14.99 Sale $11.99Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
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