Agastache In The Landscape

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Agastache 'Blue Boa' from Terra Nova Nurseries

Agastache is a much-enjoyed North American genus of ornamental merit. This genus comprises a group of deer-resistant, drought-tolerant plants that are showing extreme heat resistance. A number of species (of 16 total) are from Mexico and the Southwest desert, tolerating and blooming at temperatures of 100°F.

Agastache Attracts Wildlife And Humans Alike

In England, agastache are treasured as nectar sources for bees, butterflies and other insects. In the United States, the plants are aptly nicknamed hummingbird mint, as they are a huge attractor of hummingbirds.

The color range goes from purple-blue through yellow, coral and orange. This adds much attraction for humans as well, especially because agastache is in full bloom around the time we are active in the garden. Some cooks use the young leaf tips in salads, and there are a number of teas that feature the anise-hyssop, which is another species of agastache,
A. foeniculum.

These plants are in the mint family and have a wonderful foliage fragrance that can range from somewhat minty to an anise scent.

Plant Care Needs And Guidelines

• Excellent drainage (poor drainage kills these plants)

• Full sun

• Moderately amended soil

• Little fertilizer (higher phosphorus and potassium)

• Non-organic mulches (like gravel)

The hardiness range depends on the species. One can survive in Canada (USDA Zone 1), while some Mexican varieties are Zones 8 to 11.

Agastache Varieties From Terra Nova Nurseries

Agastache ‘Blue Boa’: Luxurious deep-violet blue flower spikes are held over ultra-green foliage. Unlike any other agastache, the flower spikes are long, wide and extremely showy and grow to 32 inches tall. It is a great perennial color spot for summer blooms and is drought tolerant once established. It attracts hummingbirds as well as butterflies.

Agastache ‘Summer Fiesta’: Dense, orange-red spikes are borne over fragrant foliage. This variety is extremely heat tolerant and reblooms from summer until frost. The heavily blooming spikes are 28 inches tall.

Agastache ‘Cotton Candy’: This easy, vigorous grower blooms non-stop from midsummer through fall. The dense flower spikes have numerous light pink flowers. It also boasts a compact, low-branching habit to 25 inches tall.

Agastache ‘Raspberry Summer’: Large dark raspberry-pink blooms cover this plant all summer into fall. The foliage is attractive, bright green and aromatic with an ultimate height of 32 inches. It is easy to grow as long as it has full sun and good drainage. It has even been known to overwinter in Wisconsin.

It is important to read a plant’s documentation carefully to be sure that it is right for a specific area with respect to hardiness and heat, humidity and warm night tolerance. Watering should be moderate during its first year of establishment in the garden. Then it can taper off. The plants should be dry between waterings. There are a number of varieties that are simply sold as annuals.

This group of heavy summer-flowering plants can often bloom right into the first frost and can be cut down to 6 inches in late October to regenerate for the next year.

Bred For Colors, Disease Resistance

The warm colors of a number of new cultivars fit a wide-ranging color palette, and the more dwarf varieties make excellent container plants. Over-exuberant plants like Agastache ‘Tutti-Frutti’ need to be cut in half occasionally to keep them in check.

While many varieties are hardy, the aim at Terra Nova Nurseries is to make plants even hardier with a modern color palette. The breeding staff’s current objectives include clear colors, sterility (this really keeps the flowers coming) and resistance to Downy Mildew. Plants need to be strong-stemmed and able to withstand the wind and rain.

This great and under-used genus of plants makes an excellent foil for the new generation of echinacea and coreopsis that are coming out in new, warm colors. This fragrant, herbal and easy-care plant yields scads of long-lasting blooms. An extra bonus is the plant is notso tasty to deer.

Dan Heims (dan@terranovanurseries.com) is president of Terra Nova Nurseries in Canby, Ore. Learn more about Terra Nova at TerraNovaNurseries.com.

Conor Carey is a grower for Terra Nova Nurseries.
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