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Plant of the Month: July 2003
Hummingbird Mints

    Seattle has certainly not the best climate to grow hummingbird mints. But I love them anyway, so planted 13 different kinds. Here is what I learned.
    First, the different species of Agastache are said to number between 22 and 30; most are in the Southwestern U.S. or Mexico; a few are in eastern Asia. The name Agastache was made from the Greek agan, much, and stachys, an ear of wheat, and is translated "many-spiked" because these plants tend to bear numerous floral spikes. Though in the mint family (LABIATÆ or LAMMIACEÆ), and bearing square stems with opposite leaves, the various Agastache do not romp around in moist soil the way peppermint and spearmint (Mentha taxa) do. Most Agastache prefer well-drained soil, and full sun, with dryish conditions okay. The species tend to be clump-forming short-lived perennials.
    Years ago, very few were cultivated. The most popular was A. Fœniculum, called Anise Hyssop, Lavender Hyssop, or Licorice Mint. It smells of fennel or anise, and bears broad leaves and bluish-purple flowers (white rarely). Its lovely bee- and butterfly-attracting flowers, warm fragrance, and ease of growth, made it beloved.
    In recent years many other species and hybrids have been popular, especially southwestern species called hummingbird mints because their long-tubed flowers are full of nectar, and the red, orange and pink colors attract these restless little birds.
    I am unaware that any Agastache are considered weedy. A few have been used modestly in medicine. Mostly people plant them for their beauty, fragrance, and to attract pollinators: bees (for honey), butterflies or hummingbirds. Some folks make tea from the leaves.
    In general, the Agastache are easy to buy and plant, but I have found none live more than 4 years in my garden, and some live only one year. Two or three years seems the rule. However, I have been planting them in rich soil and not dividing them. If I plant them on leaner soil, sharply drained, and divide the clumps yearly, I may get them to be truly perennial --or at least some of them. Now that I have seen firsthand 13 kinds, I know what ones I am apt to prefer.
    The chart below lists those kinds I have grown and supplies a few notes. If I could grow only one I think it would be 'Blue Fortune'. Factors that influence my decision are: robustness, scent, flavor of leaves and flowers (I am interested in them as salad flavorers), and beauty.
    The nursery I know that sells most, is High Country Gardens of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Agastache rupestris
A. rupestris scan by ALJ

Species Plant appearance Flowers Flavor Other
Agastache 'Apricot Sunrise' Lazily upright to 2 feet Rich orange; blooms early in year Good; biting Similiar to A. aurantiaca
Agastache Barberi Narrowly upright to 2 feet Small; foxglove-colored not gratifying See Agastache 'Firebird'
Agastache 'Blue Fortune' Robustly upright to 5 feet Deep blue excellent licorice Admirably strong
Agastache cana Slender, upright to 2 or 3 feet reddish hot; I love it Texas Hummingbird-Mint
Agastache coccinea Slender, upright to 2 or 3 feet Orange Not gratifying Like an inferior 'Apricot Sunrise'
Agastache 'Firebird' Slender, upright to 2 or 3 feet red harsh, weakly pennyroyal-ish May be a clone of A. Barberi
Agastache Fœniculum Upright; leafy; to 3 feet Bluish-purple or white Pleasing anise Also called A. anisata
Agastache mexicana Upright to 2 feet dark pink tasty licorice flavor Stronger and longer-lived than most
Agastache Pringlei Weak; upright to 1 or 2 feet pink Good Relatively rare in commerce
Agastache rugosa Upright; leafy; to 3 feet Bluish-purple Pleasing anise From East Asia; called Korean Mint
Agastache rupestris broad, bushy, low reddish good linear gray leaves smell like rootbeer
Agastache 'Summer Breeze' Upright, tall, gaunt, to 5 feet orange-pink orange-ish mint; okay New to me in 2003
Agastache 'Tutti Fruitti' Upright to 4 feet Fireweed pink like bubblegum Smells better than it tastes



Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert

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