The Pueblo Chieftan

Fragrant flowers in drought years

I have not seen many hummingbirds this year and perhaps that is because my array of flowers is not as profuse as other years.

Our strange spring with three late season hard frosts has slowed down the growth and flowering of many perennials.

But I hope to lure the little birds in when the agastaches bloom.

If there is one plant that is drought tolerant, aromatic, colorful and needs little attention, it is this one and it attracts hummers and butterflies in addition.

It is called a hyssop and is the common name used most often, although an entirely different plant called hyssop has been known since ancient times, is native to the Mediterranean area and is considered an herb.

The agastaches grown commercially today are native to North America, most specifically Mexico and New Mexico.

I remember growing anise hyssop Agastache foeniculum from seed maybe 25 years ago and it was a fragrant, bushy plant with interesting blue flowers, but nothing that would cause any excitement.

Also available then, mostly from seed, were Korean Mint which is Agastache rugosa.

I believe that those two were the only hyssops grown commercially at that time.

They are still available today but are not as showy as the hyssops of today.

Now many brilliantly flowered and aromatic hyssops are available in nurseries and catalogs.

In recent years, the plant has been propagated commercially into many different named varieties (cultivars) and new species never available before have been found.

This plant is tough as nails, deer and rabbits pass it by, it loves full sun and every species has its own fragrance.

Agastache cana is a two to three foot high plant with rose pink flowers, likes full sun and is quite drought tolerant.

It is a native to New Mexico and is sometimes called the mosquito plant because it is said to repel these insects if leaves are rubbed over the skin.

Another common name applied is Double, Bubble Mint and its fragrance is indeed somewhat like minty gum.

This plant is easily available and can also be grown from seed.

A named variety of this hyssop is ‘Rosita’ and another is ‘Acupulca’.

Some sources suggest that it is borderline hardy in USDA zone 5, but I have not found it to be too tender for our area.

Agastache rupestris, native to Arizona and New Mexico, grows to a good three feet tall.

One of its common names is Sunset Hyssop and the colors of its blossoms reflect a colorful sunset in shades of bronze, orange, yellow and magenta.

It is also known as Licorice Mint although its aroma is usually described as smelling like root beer.

Really, even the seeds smell like root beer.

This hyssop can be grown from seed and is considered one of the hardiest.

Agastache ‘Desert Sunrise’ is a cross between cana and rupestris.

‘Orange Flare’ is another named variety.

Orange Hummingbird Mint (Agastache aurantiaca) likes a little more water and is somewhat winter tender as it is USDA zone 6.

We can grow zone 6 plants but need to give them some winter protection.

As it’s name implies, this hyssop bears orange flowers.

Its cultivars, ‘Shades of Orange’, Apricot Sprite’ and ‘Coronada’ will most likely need a bit of protection during the cold months as well.

There are many more and new varieties are being introduced frequently.

This is a plant that deserves a spot in your garden.

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