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There are more than 30 species of aromatic perennials in the Agastache group (also known as Anise Hyssop).In cold areas, they’re grown as annuals. Some are native to the United States, while others come from around the world. Many are native to the prairies and plains of the USA.
This mint family perennial blooms late in summer until fall, making it a good choice for gardeners looking for some late color in their garden. They all produce colorful flower spikes, are tolerant of dry conditions and are generally tough plants with few problems.
Agastache is one of those plants you've probably seen many times in gardens and public places and always wondered what it was. Not only are they beautiful and trustworthy flowers in the landscape, the aromatic leaves and flowers are good in teas and for cooking. Native Americans used Agastache leaves medicinally as well.
The most popular Agastache is anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). The true species has purple flowers. It stands 3 feet tall with an upright growth habit and spiky flowers. The purple, fuzzy flowers and leaves have a mint and licorice scent and flavor making them favorites for teas.
There are many selections of the species now available with a variety of flower and leaf colors.
Whatever species of Agastache or anise hyssop you grow, you'll be pleased with its toughness.
Agastache are deer resistant making them a great solution for many gardeners. The original species are usually the hardiest and toughest. As you get into different colored flowers and leaves, sometimes the hardiness and plant vigor suffers.
Choose varieties not only for their flower and leaf colors and plant size, but hardiness. Most are hardy to zone 5 or warmer. The species is hardy to zone 4.
You can still grow anise hyssop if you're in colder areas. Just treat them as annuals. They will flower for a shorter period of time and later in the season, but they still will be a worthwhile addition to your garden.
All Agastache will self-sow readily after they flower. Some gardeners consider this a blessing, others a curse. Luckily, extra seedlings are easily weeded out in spring. Agastache also demands well-drained soil. If you have clay soil you still can grow Agastache, by making a few changes.
Build raised beds and fill them with part sand, compost and loamy topsoil. Break up any hardpan under the bed so water doesn't accumulate during rains. Once established, Agastache are deep-rooted plants. This gives them their drought tolerance and makes them less susceptible to rotting.
If you live in the Eastern United Sates with humid, wet conditions, stick with varieties closer to the original species, such as 'Blue Fortune'. They seem to be able to handle the wet conditions better and not rot.
Another use of anise hyssop is as a habitat plant. Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies all flock to this plant in the garden. In fact, anise hyssop honey is so popular because the bees love foraging from these plants.
There are many companion plants that grow well with Agastache. Staying with the dry conditions theme, Russian Sage, Lavender, and Rosemary all grow in similar conditions that Agastache loves.
Summer grasses, such as switch grass, feathered reed grass, and fountain grass, all provide flower heads when Agastache is blooming, making a nice visual match in the garden. Cactus and succulents grow in the same native environment so look perfectly natural in the garden next to Agastache.
Agastache is unique, too, for its scent and flavor. Plant Agastache in herb gardens with Mediterranean herbs such as sage and thyme. It will add color and the leaves can be harvested as needed for summer drinks and meals.
Plant it in masses in an annual flower garden planting Agastache just as you would Salvia. Since they only need a deep watering every week or two, they are great plants for public plantings or in gardens where you can't attend the plants daily.
The leaves can be dried and used in winter cooking. The flower stalks also dry well for flower arranging. Cut branches once the flowers have opened and hang them in a well-ventilated room to dry.
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About the Author: Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden speaker, author, consultant, radio and TV show host. He delights in making gardening information simple, easy, fun and accessible to everyone. Visit his website, GardeningwithCharlie.com for how-to gardening information, and for more about Charlie.
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