Agastache aurantiaca, also known as hummingbird mint or giant hyssop, can bring humming birds to cottage gardens, particularly in the western parts of North America, including Colorado and Arizona! They zip into view and disappear just as fast as they arrived. Maybe you only catch a glimpse in the corner of your eye.
However, if you want to get hummingbirds to hang around your yard for longer than a few seconds, then consider planting Agastache aurantiaca, also known as hummingbird mint! Yes, you could employ the fake plastic red flowers filled with sugar water, but why not plant a real flower that will benefit other pollinators like butterflies, bees, and birds as well?
Giant hyssop comes in many different varieties, but the most popular flower colors are usually orange or purple. There are tall and dwarf varieties as well, which means there is hummingbird mint for every corner of your landscape. The smaller varieties make a lovely border and the tall varieties provide a backdrop for butterfly gardens and bring in bumble bees, specifically.
Since A. aurantiaca is edible (it is in the mint family after all), they are often included in herb gardens and cottage gardens as well. In its native habitat it is very easy to care for and drought tolerant once mature. The flowers bloom from summer to late summer or early fall and because of their tubular shape, they’re particularly good at attracting hummingbirds.
The Agastache aurantiaca plant has pollen-rich flowers that are also attractive to bees and beneficial insects, and it has plenty of nectar for butterflies and moths too! When the flowers go to seed in zones that have fall in November, they provide a rich food source for birds. Agastache Aurantiaca is considered to be deer resistant and has properties that reputedly repel mosquitos. What more could you ask for?
Quick Care Guide
Apricot Sprite hyssop.
|Common Name||Hummingbird mint, giant hyssop, licorice mint, mosquito plant, sometimes anise hyssop|
|Scientific Name||Agastache aurantiaca|
|Height & Spread||2-4 ft tall and 1-3 feet wide|
|Light||Full sun to partial shade|
|Soil||Fertile loamy well-drained soil with a neutral ph|
|Water||1 inch of water per week, drought tolerant|
|Pests & Diseases||Flea beetles, slugs, powdery mildew, root rot|
All About the Agastache Aurantiaca Plant
Agastache aurantiaca ‘Mango Tango’.
Agastache aurantiaca is also known by many other names such as hummingbird mint, giant hyssop, licorice mint, mosquito plant, and sometimes anise hyssop. Some of these names are actually misnomers since Agastache aurantiaca is a different genus than true hyssop, Hyssop officinalis.
Though they are both in the Lamiaceae family and have similar traits and appearances, Agastache aurantiaca usually has a more anise or licorice scent than true hyssop. For this reason, we’ll be referring to Agastache aurantiaca. It is important to note that anise hyssop can also refer to the specific species Agastache foeniculum and Agastache cana as well.
The anise hyssop flower is native to western North America, all the way west to Arizona, and most varieties are winter hardy perennials. They produce tall spikes of tubular flowers which are perfectly suited for long, thin hummingbird bills and certain species of bees. They are often referred to as hummingbird mints since they belong to the same family as mints and are known for their ability to attract hummingbirds to the garden.
Perennial transplants can be planted out in spring after the last frost or in early fall to establish before the cold of winter sets in. The second option will give you a jump on the following year’s spring growth. They typically flower from summer to fall, but in mild climates, they can continue blooming into November. Agastaches are hardy in USDA zones 4-10.
All parts of this hyssop are edible, including flower and leaf. In addition to attracting pollinators and hummingbirds, it can also be used as an herb. The flowers make a beautiful and perfect garnish and the leaves are especially delicious when brewed in tea.
Types of Agastache Aurantiaca Plant
Agastacha aurantiaca ‘Apricot Sprite’.
There are several species of Agastache, numbering to 22 species total with varying flower colors. While we are focusing on Agastache aurantiaca here, there are other species that are worth mentioning.
Agastache Aurantiaca ‘Apricot Sprite’
Agastache aurantiaca apricot sprite boasts tall dense spikes of peachy apricot to orange flowers that bloom from early to late summer. Agastache aurantiaca apricot sprite also has a bushy compact habit and grows well in containers.
Agastache Apricot Sprite is particularly disease resistant, and great for gardeners who want vibrant summer flowers and a low-maintenance perennial garden. Agastache Apricot Sprite is also resistant to deer and rabbits. It’s perfect for areas where you want to keep out deer and rabbits.
Agastache Aurantiaca ‘Tango’, ‘Mango Tango’
Agastache tango is another dwarf and bushy variety that grows well in containers and small spaces. Agastache tango produces fiery orange tubular flowers in the garden. The bright orange color of the Agastache tango flower creates a contrast that looks stunning planted alongside purple salvia.
Agastache Aurantiaca ‘Coronado Hyssop’
Coronado red is a registered trademark. This doesn’t prohibit the propagation of this trademarked variety, but does protect the name itself. Others could propagate this variety, but would have to give it a name other than Coronado red hyssop if they plan to sell it in the plant trade.
Agastache aurantiaca Coronado has silver-green leaves and tall spikes of orange-red flowers, akin to the palette of Agastache aurantiaca Apricot Sprite and Agastache Tango.
Agastache Cana ‘Texas Hummingbird Mint’
The plants in this species are also known as mosquito plants because their licorice minty-scented leaves have been said to repel mosquitos. Texas hummingbird mint produces raspberry-pink to mauve-colored blooms in the garden.
Agastache Foeniculum ‘Anise Hyssop’
The Agastache foeniculum species is also referred to as anise hyssop, which can be confusing because that is also used as a general term for all of the varieties that we’re discussing here today. This anise-scented variety is usually grown for its edible leaves.
While all hyssops can be eaten, certain varieties and species are propagated specifically for their flavor. The leaves and purple flower of Agastache foeniculum are wonderful in both hot and iced teas. This species is extremely winter hardy down to colder USDA zones, including USDA zone 1!
Agastache Rupestris ‘Apache Sunset’
The Agastache rupestris species is a hardy first-year blooming variety. Its edible foliage and blooms have a unique root beer scent! As its name would suggest it produces sunset-colored yellow-orange blooms, much like the orange produced by Agastache aurantiaca Apricot Sprite and Agastache Tango.
Caring for an Agastache Aurantiaca Plant
Close-up view of A. aurantiaca flowers.
Whether you’ve chosen orange color schemes of Agastache aurantiaca Apricot Sprite or the purple of a true anise hyssop, these perennials require very little in the way of care. Meeting their basic needs will ensure that your agastache species thrive and readily self-seed even more for next year’s butterfly gardens!
Sun and Temperature
All species of hummingbird mint (including orange Agastache aurantiaca Apricot Sprite, Tango, and Coronado) do best in full sun to partial shade. A range of 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day is preferred. Once established anise hyssops can be very drought tolerant. Their ideal temperature ranges occur naturally in USDA zones 6-10.
However, there are varieties that have exceptional winter hardiness in colder USDA zones and can be grown in more northern climates. Although these plants are perennials that are designed to survive in cold, it’s worth noting that in colder climates (above USDA zones 5), they are tender perennials that may benefit from additional protection like coverage with burlap bags starting in November.
Water and Humidity
Like most drought-tolerant plant types, giant hyssop does not like to be kept in consistently moist soils. They will need regular watering when they are young and/or for a few weeks after first transplanting. However, beyond this, they can go with as little as 1 inch of water per week. If you are in zones that receive regular rainfall then you may not need to water them at all.
Be sure to water at the base of the plant as most of the disease issues that anise hyssop perennials suffer from are the result of overly moist conditions. These can move to the leaves when they get wet. In areas with high humidity be sure to give them extra space to provide sufficient airflow to help resist these diseases.
Once temperatures begin to dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the fall, you may cease watering for the season. Your hyssop will go dormant, and zones that receive snowfall over the colder seasons often provides enough moisture.
However, in a particularly dry freeze, you may want to water them at least once per month to provide moist soil that protects roots, but only if it’s after the last average frost, and only if soil temperatures are above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
As mentioned above, anise hyssop does not like overly moist conditions. For this reason, the most important soil requirement is to provide them with well-drained soil. Avoid low-lying areas of your garden or areas near a downspout. Any areas that don’t have access to well-drained soil should be avoided.
The soil can be amended with compost at the time of transplant, or when you direct sow seeds. They can generally survive poor soil conditions, but prefer a neutral ph range between 6.5-8.
Fertilizing an Agastache Aurantiaca Plant
Amend the planting site with compost before planting. Additional fertilizer is generally not necessary. In fact, it can cause more harm than good. Fertilizers can cause anise hyssop to focus on producing foliage rather than flowers. Which can also cause it to flower later in the season.
Too much fertility can cause a reduction in the essential oils in the foliage and flowers which can negate the purpose of caring for it if you’ve chosen to grow it as an herb for its delicious foliage. Fertilizers can also cause it to grow too quickly which will result in leggy floppy stems.
Pruning an Agastache Aurantiaca Plant
In early spring the tips can be pinched back to promote bushier growth. Once they begin blooming the flower stalks can be deadheaded to encourage more flowers. When grown as a perennial it is not advisable to prune anise hyssops after midsummer. The standing stalks will provide protection. They can be cut back the following spring, just before new growth emerges.
While hummingbird mint or anise hyssop is not considered invasive its flowers can self-seed and expand. If you wish to control this, then you may choose to cut back the flower heads at the end of the season before they go to see, however, as mentioned above, leave the stalks standing until the following spring.
Agastache Aurantiaca Plant Propagation
While agastaches can be divided, the most reliable method of propagation for anise hyssop is by seed. Although anise hyssop is a perennial it can be short-lived with a lifespan of 2-3 years. It will, however, readily self-seed if you avoid deadheading the spent blooms.
To get the most out of this plant’s short lifespan it’s recommended to let it go to seed at the end of the year to encourage new plants to take over as older plants fade away. You can also collect the seeds at the end of the season to spread them to other areas of your landscape.
Seeds can be sown 4 weeks before your last frost date. Keep them well watered while they are young tender seedlings and then back off on watering once they reach maturity and become established.
Repotting an Agastache Aurantiaca Plant
If your plant is directly in the ground or in a raised bed then you can skip this section! However, there are some dwarf varieties that can be grown in containers. This makes them perfect for those who have limited in-ground space, but still want to create a butterfly garden or hummingbird haven.
If you’ve chosen to grow in containers, then you may encounter a time when you need to re-pot your hyssop. If the plant growth has slowed significantly, or if you’ve noticed roots poking out of the drainage holes then this means it’s time to re-pot your anise hyssop.
Since agastaches are such short-lived perennials, you will likely get away with not needing to re-pot, provided that it is planted in an adequate-sized container to begin with. Consult the planting tag that comes along with the variety that you’ve chosen or the seed packets for specific container recommendations.
Tip flowers of A. aurantiaca ‘Apricot Sprite’.
Anise hyssop is relatively trouble-free especially when grown in its native habitat. That being said there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a planting site.
Agastache Aurantiaca Plant Growing Problems
Most problems occur over cold seasons when the plant is dormant and most susceptible to damage. For this reason, it is recommended to delay pruning or cutting back until early spring just before new growth appears. It can also be beneficial to offer winter protection in areas with extreme cold like coverage with burlap.
Planting your agastaches in areas that aren’t well-drained can also put them at risk for contracting disease. An agastache planted in compacted areas also grows much more slowly, and may not self-propagate like healthier plants would.
If you notice ragged, uneven holes chewed into the leaves of your black pepper, then you may have a flea beetle issue. These small, black jumping beetles can decimate leaves if the infestation is left unchecked, Tachinid flies and certain parasitic wasps are the natural predators of this beetle.
In a balanced ecosystem, they show up shortly after the beetles to feast on them. If human intervention is required, they can be controlled with the application of neem oil. They can also be deterred by intercropping with thyme and mint as these beetles are repelled by the strong scents of these plants.
Slugs and snails can also become an issue in humid and wet environments. Slug and snail damage will appear as large ragged holes in the leaves of your plant. You may even see a mucous trail near your hyssop plants. Slugs and snails are especially active in early spring before other insects have become active.
Choose a slug and snail bait that is made from iron phosphate and is safe to use around wildlife and pets. Snail traps can also be made by burying a cup or tin of beer at ground level. Snails and slugs are attracted to it, fall in, and can’t climb back out.
Powdery mildew and root rot are fungal issues that are caused by or exacerbated by excess moisture and humidity. Provide your plants with good air circulation and keep the area around your flowers free of plant material and debris to help prevent these issues.
Most of the fungal issues can be treated with a copper fungicide though success varies, and it’s best to remove infected plant material before it can spread.
Root rot, in particular, can be exacerbated by overwatering, and since anise hyssop can be quite drought tolerant it’s best to underwater it rather than risk overwatering it. The symptoms of root rot will appear as a soft mushy stem, wilting, and of course rotten roots.
This type of rot is harder to recover from but can be remedied if there are still fresh, white roots that have not yet turned to mush. Cut back the rotted roots and replant the pot into dry media. If your Agastache aurantiaca is directly in the ground rather than in containers, cut back on watering and allow the area to dry out completely before watering again.
Frequently Asked Questions
Agastache aurantiaca ‘Navajo Sunset’.
Q: Where is Agastache aurantiaca native to?
A: The plant is native to zones in western North America in the upper Midwest and Great Plains as well as West to British Colombia and South to Colorado and Arizona.
Q: Is Agastache invasive?
A: An Agastache plant is not invasive, although it will self-seed and spread year after year in its hardiness zones.
Q: Is Agastache annual or perennial?
A: The Agastache aurantiaca plant is a perennial that prefers to be planted in USDA zones 5-9.
Q: Does Agastache come back every year?
A: Yes! Once your Agastache plant establishes it will come back each year in its hardiness zones.
Q: How many years do Agastache live?
A: They are short-lived perennials that usually live for 2-3 years on average even in zones where they are hardy. However, because they easily self-seed, there will be new plants ready to take their place not far behind!
Q: Should Agastache be cut back in the fall?
A: This is not necessary, however, they should be cut back in the spring just before new growth emerges. This goes for all species, including Tango, and in zones where they are hardy as well.
Q: How quickly does Agastache grow?
A: They can grow slowly at first, with seeds taking an average of 12-14 days to germinate, but once they get going they can spread vigorously throughout the garden.
Q: Does Agastache smell like mint?
A: It does! It is in the same family as other plants like mint and sage. It is also for this reason that it is sometimes referred to as hummingbird mint. Other varieties, like Agastache aurantiaca Apricot Sprite and Agastache tango, have varying scents.