GGW Plant Pick of The Month for September: Agastache

– Posted in: Garden Plants

Agastache was an easy pick for this month of September because as I strolled through my garden, I noticed three varieties in bloom and going strong. And with the glut of new cultivars in the marketplace over the past several years, I feel somewhat like a child in a candy shop trying to limit myself to only one type of candy when all of them look so scrumptious.

This genus consists of about 30 aromatic perennials and is a real sun lover. It also needs well drained soil in order to thrive. Several of these plants are found in the hilly areas of the U.S., Mexico, China and Japan.

 I have not always had success in growing agastache. My first attempt was with Agastache ‘Black Adder’. It has very deep charcoal blue purple flowers with dark stems. It was a stand out in the middle of one of my perennial borders and looked terrific partnered with Alchillea ‘Anthea’. But come the next spring, not one of the seven plants was to be found anywhere. Perhaps they didn’t survive a cold Zone 6 winter, although they are supposed to be hardy down through Zone 6.

Since then, I’ve had greater success with other varieties. One of my favorites is Agastache rupestris, commonly known as Licorice Mint or Sunset Hyssop. It has shrimp pink flowers and blooms for me from late June straight through October. I love its silvery green, thin leaves with it shimmery, tubular, spicy flowers that attract hummingbirds. With a height of 36″ up, I’ve successfully paired it in my garden this year with Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ and Panicum virgatum ‘Dallas Blue’. So far, so good.

Another variety that I’m using in the front of the border nestled up to an antique hued, purplish blue hydrangea is ‘Golden Jubilee. It is similar to ‘Blue Fortune’ but has golden yellow foliage which I find striking. The golden yellow foliage is mint scented and can even be used in teas.

David Salman, the owner and chief horticulturist of High Country Gardens has one of the best selection of agastache in the country. This year he is advertising 18 varieties, 13 of which are xeric. The one that I find most irresistible is ‘Ava’. It has been released by High Country Gardens and David considers it to be one of the finest. It is a hybrid between Agastache ‘cana’ and ‘barberi’ with huge spikes of deep rose pink flowers, raspberry red calyxes and scented foliage whose color maintains it deep color straight through the frost. For more information on the great selections of agastache at High Country Gardens, click here.

Now it’s your turn to let us know which agastaches you grow in your garden. Any suggestions, ideas, successes and failure? As always, we’ll offer links to your post for those who send us photos.

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

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Fran Sorin
8 Comments… add one

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Frances September 10, 2008, 8:41 pm

Hi Fran, this is another one of those plants that I would love to be able to grow well, but cannot. I have ordered and bought locally every cultivar and type I see. I even raised some from seeds from Thompson and Morgan, Apricot something that did fairly well the first couple of years then disappeared. I ordered a black adder from HCG last year and it did survive the winter but it so very tiny. I buy them big, then they are the incredible shrinking plants into nothingness. Something about our soil/climate is not right. Too much clay? We are zone 7. They are supposed to like it here since we are in a drought, right?

Rhonda September 11, 2008, 8:21 pm

I agree with your pick. In fact, I just posted on my blog about Agastache Blue Fortune..which I have nominated for the Defiant and Thriving award..since I managed to do everything wrong in planting this wonderful plant and it defiantly thrives regardless. I’m all for more plants of this type.

Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden) September 11, 2008, 9:08 pm

I’m also a gardener and blogger. Agastache is a favorite of mine. Blooms all summer into fall. Hummingbirds love it. Bees love it. I’ve seen the Goldfinch eating the seeds already. What’s not to love? CameronCameron-Ain’t that the truth? I was up in my top bed today doing some weeding and I just happened to glance over at Agastache ‘rupestris’ with some blood orange cannas near it. And I thought to myself, the daintiness of the tubular flowerheads and its soft pinkish/apricot blooms in contrast to the huge, sharply colored cannas, was just a terrific vision. And you’re right…those hummingbirds….what can one say??? Fran

Jacqueline September 13, 2008, 11:22 am

In May I tried some Anise Hyssop by my front fence, in a spot with a shaft of sunlight, and it has done well, albeit leggy. The bees found it promptly! When TS Hanna blew through DC I went out after the rain and the smell of anise in the breeze was wonderful! Will definitely add try some more varieties next year.

Your description of the smell of the anise after the rain is divine. Thanks for sharing. Fran

Kim September 14, 2008, 10:27 am

I have no real data for you, but I’m glad to find it is your plant of the month. I’m redoing my perennial border in a few weeks, and I’ve purchased Golden Jubilee and Black Adder – we’ll see how they do. I’m in Zone 7 (Maryland). I noticed as soon as I brought them home that the bees just flocked to them – that makes me happy.

I’ll be curious to hear how you fare with Black Adder. Have never tried Golden Jubilee so keep us posted. And yes, isn’t it wonderful that the bees love them so…as well do the hummingbirds with certain cultivars. Fran

David Salman September 14, 2008, 8:44 pm

For gardeners on the Atlantic seaboard that have difficulty growing Agastache such as Black Adder, I would suggest Agastache Blue Fortune. It is a hybrid cold hardy to zone 4 but equally at home in zone 7. It’s smokey blue flower spikes go well with Coreopsis, Rudbeckia and Echinacea. Try growing the other native species like A. rupestris, A. cana and native hybrids like ‘Ava’ in very sandy soil. Water regularly to establish and use only slow acting organic fertilizers one time in the fall. If that doesn’t work, grow them as container plants. They bloom the 1st growing season and have wonderfully aromatic foliage that’s nice upclose around outdoor patios.

Thanks for your suggestions, especially about the type of soil needed to grow the natives, in particular. I have had great success with ‘Blue Fortune’. And you’re right…it grows beautifully and seems to be a hardy agastache. Fran

John S. September 22, 2008, 7:58 pm

Enjoyed your site. I can tell you put many hoursd of work for your site and it shows…Great job!!!

Welcome to GGW (I don’t think I’ve noticed your post before). GGW is a collaborative effort and yes, all of us work hard and come to posting with different points of view and expertise. Thank you for your kind note. And please continue to read and offer your ideas!! Fran

ryan July 5, 2009, 9:40 pm

I really like agastaches. We have an “Apricot Sunrise” that is 9 years old, including 5 years in a container and various bouts of neglect while we went off traveling and left it with non-gardening friends to maintain. Other agastaches have been a bit more uneven, usually performing well the first year or two, but sometimes petering out after an initial big year or two. Rupestris has my favorite fragrance, but Apricot Sunrise is my overall favorite because of that one specimen. The flowers have a nice, sweet minty flavor.

It seems that agastaches are finally getting the recognition that they deserve. Am impressed that you have a 9 year old ‘Apricot Sunrise’. The shelf life of agastaches seems to be a bit rockier on the east coast…and as you said, some perform well for a couple of years and then go flat or in my case, seem to have died out. But they are such a worthwhile specimen, especially during the summer months, that experimenting with them is certainly worthwhile. Fran

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