I’m looking at my seedling trays in late March; I see the Golden Agastache has popped up. I note this is much to my surprise, as I’ve never grown this plant before, and I wasn’t sure how it would grow. Today we are briefly looking at Agastache blue fortune (Agastache foeniculum) with five varieties and how to propagate any of them easily.
To be sure, I’ve grown the lovely old-fashioned Agastache (pronounced Aga – sta – cheee) before all over my garden as it self-sows with abandon, but I’ve never grown some of the more modern hybrids.
Let me give you a heads-up and a warning about these lovely plants because you’re going to be seeing them more and more in garden center shops in the next few years. Some you can grow and overwinter, and many you’ll kill as they are too tender.
The problem will be some confusion in the nursery trade about which are which, and some retailers may indeed try to sell the tender ones as hardy because of the common name Hyssop and its reputation for hardiness. I’ve already seen this happening, so be aware of what you’re getting.
How To Grow Agastache Blue Fortune and the others?
The Agastache that you’re likely familiar with is commonly called Hyssop. It is a lovely plant with blue flowers that thrives in full sun and well-drained soils. So while I apologize to all who have clay soils for describing this plant, you can grow it quite nicely in raised beds because it isn’t a water hog and will grow quite nicely in dry gardens once it is established.
Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop)
Agastache foeniculum or Anise-Hyssop has graced almost every garden I’ve ever grown. This licorice-tasting plant is easy to grow from seed and is quite hardy in our local gardens. It is indeed a wonderful plant with its blue flower spikes, and if happy, it will self-sow. In this way, you’ll never lack for this plant even if the short-lived mother plant dies off after a few years.
The leaves make a soothing tea and are welcome additions to my kitchen herb garden. Drying the plant is quite simple; all I do is take a few branches and hang them upside-down in the kitchen for a week. The leaves curl and brown, and once thoroughly dried, they go into a glass jar (I use old sealer-jars) for storage and use in teas during the winter.
Agastache rugosa (Giant Hyssop)
A rugosa is a much taller form and is sometimes called ‘Giant Hyssop.’ This plant, too, is hardy and fun to grow. It will easily top 4-feet tall in the garden, and the blooms in early summer are rose to white-colored depending on the plant. While it is a little tender, it will take -10C with apparent minor damage.
If you can find the seed, it is easily sown and started with no heat mat or other fancy equipment as long as you keep the soil temperatures about 60F. Sow them indoors in May and transplant them outdoors in July for blooms the following year. I doubt you’ll find this plant in garden shops, but you will find it in seed catalogs or the Internet.
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Agastache Urticifolia (Species Hyssop)
Agastache urticifolia is the other hardy form (again to -10C) that you might find in seed catalogs. This one tops out around 6-feet tall and will grow in precisely the same conditions as the previous two. The flowers on this delightful plant are rose to violet shades.
Agastache Mexicana (Annual Hyssop)
Where we get into difficulty with tender plants is when we add A. Mexicana to the breeding mix.
This plant is quite tender as it is a tropical species, but the flower colors are wonderfully blended and varied, ranging from bright reds through to pale pink whites. This gives the plant breeders a red gene and a blue gene to play with, and as you can guess, the resulting rainbow of plants is fantastic.
These heavy blooming southerly plants are excellent, and the trials I saw last year were magnificently in bloom in a hot spot in small containers. I confess the plant collector in me lusted after them.
Agastache nepetoides (Yellow Giant Hyssop)
Yellow Giant Hyssop, Agastache nepetoides, is a vigorous grower with a sharply four-sided stem that may reach heights of three to eight feet. A tall cylindrical spike of clustered yellow to yellow-green blooms crowns its branching top in late summer.
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This bee, butterfly, and other pollinator favorite likes to thrive in rich, open woods.
While the leaves aren’t as fragrant as those of other mint species, the bitterness of the leaves makes them deer resistant.
The Brighter the Bloom, the More Tender
But the brighter the color of the bloom, the more tender the plant. When you see Agastache on the plant benches this spring, make sure you know what you’re buying.
Do not think you’re buying a perennial when in fact, you’re really getting an expensive annual.
And yes, the annual forms will be priced pretty close to perennials if the wholesale numbers I saw are any indication of the retail pricing that we’re all going to see. Having passed along this warning, let me also say that if I can find them on the benches this spring, I’m going to pick up a few, grow them in the garden all summer and try to overwinter them in the fall.
How to Propagate Agastache
In the meantime, I’ve got some seeds started of a golden-leaved annual variety (start at 70F soil temperatures, and they germinated in 5-7 days), and while it is tender, it will at least let me ease the pangs of plant-lust for this family of lovely Hyssops. Other species and varieties start equally quickly from seed. Cuttings can also be taken as an early spring division.