Giant Hyssop for Butterflies and Hummingbirds

Planning your butterfly and hummingbird garden? Be sure to include some Giant Hyssop species, the common name for Agastache (ah-guh-STAH-kee).

Planning your butterfly and hummingbird garden? Be sure to include some Giant Hyssop species, the common name for Agastache (ah-guh-STAH-kee). These members of the mint family (not to be confused with true hyssops, Hyssopus, found in Europe and Asia) are guaranteed to be magnets for hummingbirds and butterflies of all kinds, and with plenty of species and cultivars available, you’re sure to find one that suits your needs.

Agastache is native to North America, and no matter where you live in the U.S., you’re likely to find at least one species that will work for you. Many cultivars and hybrids are on the market, too, producing specimens with more compact growth, more flowers, and easier care. Nearly all are very attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies, and require little care once you plant them in the right place. Here are just a few to try, depending on your region and location:

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) – This species has a wide native range, covering much of the north central U.S., and is capable of growing nearly anywhere in the country. (In warmer climates, grow it in the cool season.) As the common name of this plant implies, the crushed leaves smell just like licorice.

Mexican Giant Hyssop (Agastache mexicana) – As you might have guessed, this species is native to central Mexico, but a new series called ‘Acapulco’ has hit the market in recent years that does well in warmer regions, including those with humid summers, and can be grown as an annual in cooler climates. I recently bought a couple of pots of ‘Acapulco Salmon & Pink’, which is said to do well in containers, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it performs here in Central Florida.

Licorice Mint / Sunset Hyssop (Agastache rupestris) – This species is native to the hot dry regions of Arizona and New Mexico. It thrives in dry sandy soil and requires little supplemental irrigation. It will suffer in wet and humid conditions or heavy clay soil, but can be grown spring and fall in the Southeast. Don’t bother fertilizing – A. rupestris prefers nutrient-poor soil. A similar species, Orange Hummingbird Mint (A. aurantiaca), can handle slightly wetter conditions.

Texas Hummingbird Mint (Agastache cana) – This native of Texas has another feature to keep in mind; some say the foliage of this plant is repellent to mosquitoes. The crushed leaves have a minty bubblegum fragrance. Grow it in well-drained soil with regular water. Fellow blogger SeEtta notes that her hummingbirds just love this plant, as shown below.

This not an exhaustive list, but should give you a good start when planning your hummingbird and butterfly garden this spring. For a nice selection of Agastache seeds, try Swallowtail Garden Seeds, or check your local nursery to see what varieties they’re offering for your region. If you grow Agastache in your own gardens, give us your tips and favorite species in the comments below!

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.