Give your garden a color splash with agastache

By Heather Kirk-Ballard

LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

This year at the Southern Plant Trials, I fell in love with the herbaceous perennial agastache. This perennial stood out to me with its profuse blooms and delightful fragrance.

At each location I visited, the agastache was buzzing with pollinators. In the third week of June each year, Americans celebrate National Pollinator Week. So now is a perfect time to add a color splash of agastache to your garden.

Commonly known as giant hyssop or hummingbird mint, there are 22 species of agastache native to North America and some to China and Japan. This group of perennials is related to bee balm, salvias and coleus, and all belong to the mint family of plants. They all sport the typical square or angular stems of members of the Lamiaceae or mint family. Many are fragrant and have unique flower forms.

Agastache displays an array of stunning flowers with distinctive inflorescences resembling vibrant spikes, which stand out tall against the lush foliage. The blooms vary in color, ranging from hues of purple, pink and blue to fiery oranges and sunny yellows. The beauty of agastache lies not only in its visual appeal but also in its remarkable scent, attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, making it a true pollinator magnet.

Agastache showcases a diverse collection of cultivars, each possessing its unique charm. The popular Agastache foeniculum, commonly called anise hyssop, enchants with its feathery, aromatic foliage and striking lavender-blue flowers. For those seeking a burst of sunny hues, Agastache aurantiaca, referred to as sunset hyssop, produces brilliant orange and yellow blossoms that infuse warmth into any landscape. Other notable varieties include Agastache rugosa, celebrated for its soothing lavender flowers, and Agastache mexicana, known for its vibrant pink blooms.

Some of the new cultivars I saw this summer were Betterbuzz Rosa, Betterbuzz Amarillo, Meant to Bee Royal Raspberry, Guava Lava, Pink Pearl, Sunrise Rose, Sunrise Violet and Blue Bayou.

One of agastache’s most enticing features is its ability to adapt to various growing conditions. Native to North America and Asia, these hardy perennials are well-suited to a range of climates from temperate to semi-arid regions. With their resilience and low-maintenance requirements, these are rugged, drought-tolerant plants. They provide an abundance of flowers that are great for cutting and drying.

Whether you are a seasoned gardener or an aspiring horticulturalist, growing agastache can be a rewarding experience. These hardy perennials prefer well-drained soil and thrive in full sun, though they can tolerate partial shade. Plant in a site that gets full sun for the best flower production. This also will keep plants more compact and prevent them from reaching for more light. Regular watering is recommended, particularly during dry spells, to ensure optimal growth and bloom production. Pruning the plants in late fall or early spring helps maintain their vigor and shape.

Agastache stands as a botanical treasure, gracing gardens with their captivating flowers, delightful fragrance and versatile nature. This enchanting plant has secured its place as a beloved favorite among garden enthusiasts for adding diversity to the landscape and providing ecosystem services for wildlife and pollinators. Agastache plants bring beauty and charm to gardens, borders and containers with minimal effort. Look for these beauties in nurseries near you. Some of the new cultivars may not be on the market yet but give what’s available a try and keep an eye out for this gem.

Plant with pink blooms.

Betterbuzz Rosa agastache is absolutely covered in gorgeous blooms and a magnet for pollinators. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Plant with yellow blooms.

Betterbuzz Amarillo agastache provides a splash of vibrant yellow to the landscape. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Plant with pink blooms.

Delicate, fragrant blooms of agastache attract pollinators and gardeners alike. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Plant with purplish-blue blooms.

Blue Bayou agastache could be a great addition to our bayou backyards. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

6/22/2023 7:41:57 PM
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