‘Desert Sunrise’ hyssop (Agastache × ’Desert Sunrise’)
Photo/Illustration: H. Ross Hawkins
Besides their scented foliage and beautiful flowers, there are additional reasons why I’m attracted to the plants of the genus Agastache (commonly known as either hyssops or hummingbird mints, depending on where you live). They thrive in tough, dry conditions and aren’t attractive to browsing deer. Each one has a scent all its own, and the aromatic foliage and flowers are appealing to bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and gardeners alike. Perhaps best of all, they offer color to the garden in late summer and early fall, when many gardens are winding down and getting a bit dull.
Hyssops and Hummingbird Mints
Agastache spp. and cvs.
HARDINESS: A genus of about 22 species of aromatic perennials, 21 of which are native to North America. Most are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9.
APPEARANCE: These plants form clumps that grow from deep-rooted crowns. The flowering spikes, which vary in size according to species, are formed at the branch tips and are composed of closely spaced flowers.
CONDITIONS: They prefer full sun, good air circulation, and lean, dry soil.
PESTS AND DISEASES: Winter mulching with organic matter can result in fungal and bacterial growth. These plants are highly resistant to browsing animals.
PROPAGATION: Nonhybridized species like A. rupestris and A. rugosa are readily grown from seed. Hybrid cultivars are propagated by rooting softwood cuttings in the spring or early summer before flowering. When different Agastache species and hybrids are planted in the same garden, they will cross-pollinate readily. Watch for volunteer seedlings, and weed out individual plants that don’t demonstrate desirable habit and flower color.