By Paul A. Thomas
University of Georgia
How many plants have fragrant, pest-free foliage, bloom nonstop from May until fall frost, attract butterflies and hummingbirds like magnets, resist deer browsing, tolerate drought and come back each year with vigor?
Too good to be true? Plant one of the Anise Hyssop hybrids of Agastache. See for yourself the award-winning qualities of this remarkable plant.
Anise Hyssop hybrids are long-lived herbaceous perennials that require full sun and are well suited to hardiness zones 7 and 8.
Choices, ChoicesSo many of these new hybrids are outstanding that the Georgia Plant Selections Committee couldn't agree on just one for its coveted Gold Medal Award. So the award went to four of the best: "Apricot Sunrise," "Firebird," "Tutti Frutti" and "Blue Fortune."
The native American species of Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, has long been a prized perennial herb. Its licorice-scented leaves are ground and used as seasoning on meats, vegetables and salads. They're also used in teas, perfume and aromatherapy. Native American Indians used Anise Hyssop as a breath freshener and in poultices for various ailments.
The Gold Medal selections are relatives of the native species. But they were bred for their flowering qualities. They may lack some of the herbal qualities of the natives.
Best fitEach of the Anise Hyssop hybrids grows to different heights and has different flower colors. You'll need to decide which best fits your landscape plan.
Apricot Sunrise is an erect, bushy plant growing 18 inches tall. It bears tubular, orange-apricot flowers, 1 to 1.5 inches long in its leaf axils.
Firebird grows 24 to 36 inches tall and produces tubular, copper-orange flowers.
Tutti Frutti grows 36 to 48 inches tall and has tubular, raspberry-rose-pink flowers.
Blue Fortune grows 36 to 40 inches tall. Unlike the others, it produces an abundance of compressed blue-purple, tubular flowers in a flower spike at its terminals.
All of these hybrids bloom continuously from May to October. They're all highly attractive to insects, hummingbirds and butterflies. But their pungent foliage makes them undesirable to deer.
How they growTo get the most out of your choice, grow Agastache in full sun. Well-drained soils are required.
Fall planting is best to allow winter rooting. Container-grown plants, though, can be established successfully year-round.
Once established, the plants are exceptionally drought-tolerant. Light pruning all season will promote branching and additional blooms.
A slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote, applied at planting time and as a topdressing on established plants each year in early spring, will provide ample nutrition for the season.
Wait until early spring to prune back established plants. Fall and winter pruning may decrease its cold hardiness.
Anise Hyssop hybrids can be propagated from seed, cuttings or root divisions. Seed is in short supply, so cuttings and root divisions will be the easiest way to add to your collection.
(Paul Thomas is an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)