Top Ten Performer # 3: Agastaches

Agastache “Blue Fortune”

This one may surprise a few people! Some may not even recognize the scientific name “agastache” and only know a member of this family by its common name, “Anise Hyssop.” I started growing this plant way back in the late 70’s when I began growing plants for teas on our old farm in Owen County. A hardy perennial through Zone 3, its leaves have a sweet, slightly anise scent and flavor. It’s a tidy plant with pretty scalloped edged leaves, and although technically a member of the mint family it doesn’t spread by underground runners. It’s probably one of the easiest plants you will ever grow! It will drop seed from its lovely purplish flower spikes if allowed, but extra seedlings pull easily. A hardy perennial that returns year after year, it will grow happily in full sun (with adequate moisture) or in shade, although the scent and flavor will be better with some sunlight during the day. I’ve had Anise Hyssop in my gardens since those early days, and won’t be without it, God willing.

Bouquet with Anise hyssop, lisianthus, zinnias, purple statice, a bit of white annual phlox

Anise Hyssop was one of my favorite “fillers” for bouquets this past year. In making bouquets one needs the focal flowers, the supporting flowers, filler material, and verticals. There were plenty of choices for the first three categories from spring to fall, but the verticals were often a problem…without anise hyssop! And that’s exactly why I ranked it so high on the list. Not only did its foliage provide lots of pretty green “filler” but it was a great, much needed vertical. A double duty plant! Beginning in late June, there were purple spikes to add that much needed vertical element right up until hard freeze. That’s a long bloom time! Most of my plants are in the potager border since both the leaves and flowers are edible, which also means they get shade all morning from the fence. Plants out in the open might bloom a bit earlier, so I’m actually putting some back in the berry rows in full sun this spring.

The 17 arrangements I made for the Ladies Afternoon Tea at the fairgrounds all contained some anise hyssop, appropriate since it is a tea herb!

The “purple” spikes of Anise Hyssop may vary a bit in color. Some will be a darker purple, some more lavender, some pale nearly mauve. For a really nice selection of colors, visit Select Seeds. The purple spikes combine so well with most other flower colors: pinks and rose and dark burgundy to be sure, but also with oranges and yellows.

Another very useful agastache “Golden Jubilee ” Anise Hyssop named for Queen Elizabeth’s golden jubliee years ago.

No doubt my favorite anise hyssop is “Golden Jubilee” because I adore plants with golden foliage. This reliable perennial also has purple spikes and the same anise scent and flavor. I use it to brighten up darker areas of the Deck Garden, but I also harvest it for bouquets. It’s not quite as tall as standard green-leaved anise hyssop but in the size bouquets I make it works fine. Surprisingly, it comes true from seed, retaining those golden leaves. I used it a lot with purple sweet peas, green “Asuka” celosia, Bells of Ireland, sometimes with a bit of white annual phlox or feverfew.

Even if you don’t make bouquets or tea, grow it for the bees & butterflies!

It doesn’t require any careful post-harvest care. Cutting in the early morning will help it rehydrate faster, putting it in a bucket of tepid water immediately, and then moving it to a cool, dark spot to rest for a few hours will help vase life, which is excellent. In fact, anise hyssop flowers also dry well and the darker tones hold their colors. I always used them in kitchen wreaths.

Look for the vertical green spikes!

The Agastache family is very large and includes many, many members that are not hardy in our Zone 5 climate. However, another of my favorites is indeed hardy, and even more versatile than Anise Hyssop! Meet Giant Yellow Hyssop! Since green goes with everything, I can use it in every single bouquet that needs filler or a vertical element. I wish I’d taken an up-close photo of it growing in the garden, but apparently I didn’t. I hope you can see the green vertical spikes with their tiny yellow flowers so pale they often appear white. The bees love these as well. I’ve been looking for Giant Yellow Hyssop since I began thinking of making numerous bouquets for the “Growing Kindness Project” because I remember admiring it at a flower farm in Virginia decades ago. I finally found it last winter at Fruition Seeds. (Where I also get their wonderful “Poulet du Poitou” shallot seeds and purple millet at a decent price!) I seeded the tiny seeds early, on January 19 because as a perennial it would take longer to form blooms. Germination was terrific and on Feb. 5th there were seedlings ready to transplant. They were sturdy plants the end of April when I set half of them out at the end of one of the berry rows with hoops and row cover (to replace the “Hardening-off” procedure that I’ve abandoned.) However, I hadn’t counted on a family of rabbits that tore open the row cover and ate not only my giant yellow hyssop seedlings, but all the newly planted yarrow and rudbeckias! Wascally Wabbits! Eventually most of the hyssops and yarrows recovered, but sadly the rudbeckias did not. Such is the life of a gardener: win some lose many…

So, I only had half as much Giant Yellow Hyssop as I wanted, but I harvested those few plants as much as possible right up through the first hard freeze. That may have been a bit harsh, all that cutting off of branches of first year plants. I’m not sure all of them made it through our recent arctic blast, possibly because I’d stressed them out all summer! So, I’ve already seeded all the old seed left from last year, and have a new packet on the way as well! Can’t have too much of this winner!

New this year to my gardens, “White Licorice” anise hyssop!

I’ve added this white flowered agastache from Select Seeds to my list this year because assuredly it will be usable in nearly every bouquet as well, and I’m also sure the bees and butterflies will thank me for planting it. (and possibly those rabbits, too!) The seeds haven’t arrived yet, but as soon as they do I’ll be planting them. Can’t wait to add these neutral spikes to bouquets, and hope to have some extra plants for the garden club plant sale in mid-May.

That’s my pick for #3 Top Performer! Were you surprised? Do you grow any of these winning plants? Can you guess what #4 will be? If you are the first person to make a correct guess in the comment section (before I publish the post) and you live in the U.S. (sorry all my “foreign” readers!) I’ll send you a prize!


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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3 Responses to Top Ten Performer # 3: Agastaches

  1. bcparkison says:

    Added to my ever growing list of must haves.


  2. Su says:

    This looks like this would be a great addition to the purple end of my “rainbow” garden, and perhaps also in the yellow section. The asters in the purple section are lovely, but don’t bloom early in the season, and I’m struggling for yellow perennials. I would guess you have snapdragons up next. Su


  3. jorjagrael says:

    I need these! I’m guessing rudbeckias


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