Friday, February 24, 2012

Low Maintenance Plants
Plant Name: Agastache spp.
Common Name: Hummingbird Mint, Anise Hyssop, Sunset Hyssop
Overall Low Maintenance Rating:                            4.8 Stars

Overview
In keeping with my resolution to grow more critter friendly plants this year, I am purchasing several more plants of Agastache. These plants provide nectar-filled flowers that benefit a variety of garden beasties, including the much desired hummingbird. There are many species of Agastache and I’ve found that only a few do well here in zone 5, though I will admit that our damp winters may have more to do with my success rate (or lack of) than the temperature.
Agastache rupestris is my hands down favorite. It is a delicate looking, wonderful smelling, care free plant I would not be without. I grew it from seed many years ago and, while the original plant is long gone, it provided several seedlings which I scattered throughout the garden. The long wands of flowers are a mix of salmon, rose and pink and the leaves are long and thin, smelling of root beer.
 
Agastache rupestris

This is not a bullet-proof plant. It requires excellent drainage and full sun. I have lost several plants when our winters were especially wet. During the season, though, it is totally carefree and a delight.
The other species I have had good luck with is Agastache foeniculum, especially the variety ‘Golden Jubilee’. The plain species is a beautiful herb grown for tea, with large, rough green leaves and spikes of blue flowers. ‘Golden Jubilee’ is a variety with golden leaves, very showy. Both seed quite a bit and it’s best to deadhead them. I have little gold seedlings coming up all around my patio after planting only two plants!

Agastache 'Golden Jubilee', guarding the entrance to the patio

Another gorgeous Agastache is A. cana which has many named varieties. I have had no luck overwintering any of them but they make fantastic pot plants and draw the hummingbirds like a dinner bell.
My favorite place to find Agastaches is High Country Gardens (http://www.highcountrygardens.com) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They have a great selection and excellent advice on planting.
Disease                                                                                5 Stars
Very rarely, I have seen powdery mildew on an Agastache, usually when the weather was particularly cool and damp. I figure what the hell; EVERYTHING has powdery mildew when the weather is like that, including me, so why fuss? No problems other than that.
Pests – Insects                                                                  5 Stars
Unless you count too many pollinators, I’ve never seen insects damaging these plants. The bumblebees can get a little over-enthusiastic and occasionally snap a flower stem, but that’s about it.
Pests – Animal                                                                  5 Stars
None that I’ve seen. Many plants in my garden are troubled by voles but they won’t touch this plant.
Invasiveness                                                                      4.5 Stars
While some hummingbird mints reseed vigorously (yes, I’m talking to you, ‘Golden Jubilee’!), most are actually quite polite about it and don’t overwhelm the gardener. I actually search out and protect seedlings of Agastache rupestris, since they are not overly common and it is my very favorite. Your mileage may vary, as they say, but generally, the seedlings are modest or at least easily removed. They make great gifts to other gardeners!
General Maintenance – Water                                 5 Stars
Agastache is considered a xeric plant, meaning it doesn’t require lots of extra water. In my experience, it will do quite well in the main part of the garden with regular watering and even better over in the gravel pile with very little water. It will die a miserable death, though, if it gets too much water so don’t plant it in a bog garden. It is also touchy about winter moisture so make sure it gets better than average drainage.
General Maintenance – Fertilizing                          5 Stars
No extra fertilizer required. Agastache actually prefers a lean soil, though it will do just fine in regular garden soil, provided the drainage is excellent.
General Maintenance – Pruning/Cleaning             4.5 Stars
Agastache is best left alone until spring clean up. Pruning it down in the fall can result in dead plants by spring. Once the temperatures have warmed up, you will be able to see where the plant is resprouting and prune off everything above that.

2 comments:

The Sage Butterfly said...

Great review of this incredible perennial. I love agastache because it attracts the hummingbirds and butterflies. I want to add more varieties. I like the gold/yellow variety that you have in your garden. That is a color I do not have. Great post!

Sharie said...

Thanks, Michelle! Just watch that gold one - it seeds like crazy. It's so pretty though and the seedlings are cute - they even flower the first year. I'm sure this one could become a pest if you don't stay on top of it. Worth it, though!