warddaFebruary 5, 2010

Agastache, Salvia - its all in the family. If you look back you'll discover many discussions of other plants. We may be collecting salvia, but we're also growing gardens full of companions for our collections.

Your Agastache mention sent me out into the back garden just ahead of the snow storm this evening and got me looking at the shadow of Agastache x Firebird. Do you grow it? A friend gave me one last year and it was planted at the foot of Salvia microphylla hybrids. It was a impressive plant, growing into a low wide bush heavy with small leaves, full of flowers from mid summer, and even naturally layering itself without help from the gardener. Some catalogues list it as Agastache cana, but it looks nothing like that to me. Maybe there is some cana in its past; and it seems like there could be some rupestris too, because its leave are small and grow fairly tightly spaced on the stem. I could be off base about that, but it gives a picture of the plant. I'm kicking myself that cuttings weren't taken last year, I'd like to use it at the feet of a row of Salvia greggii Wild Thing. Firebird has one of those pink lavender flowers that should echo the lighter Wild Thing and is small enough not to overwhelm it.

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rich_dufresne(z7 NC)

Agastache x Firebird is a cross of A. coccinea with A. rupestris. It is one of five hybrids I released back in the 80s, from leftover seed of Roger Sanders, who did his PhD thesis on that section of Agastache (section Brittonastrum).

Agastaches really took off when Panayoti Kelaidis of the Denver Botanical Garden started propagating them. After a few years, they were growing up and down the Front Range in Colorado and New Mexico. I also sent some to Betsy Clebsch, who let them hybridize in her garden into some really showy monsters. I suggested that Ginny Hunt might want to collect some seed, and she has offered it in her catalog.

Tim & Sally Walker (Southwest Native Seeds) have also been a source of seed, and these sources have given rise to most of the hybrids on the market.

Because not much provenance was kept on introductions and because some growers assumed that seeds of hybrids would come true, no one really knows what the parentage is anymore on any but the original vegetatively propagated plants. Agastaches cross with impunity, and their children vary all over the place. They are difficult to propagate vegetatively, requiring basal growth in the spring and autumn.

They grew nicely for me in New England, but punk out quickly in North Carolina because they need dry, cool summer nights to thrive.

This said, they bloom profusely in arid climates when little else is in bloom, and are hummingbird magnets.

Here are the other four I introduced:

Agastache barberi x mexicana `Toronjil Morado'
`Tutti Frutti' Mexican Anise Hyssop

Agastache coccinea x aurantiaca `Apricot Sunrise'
`Apricot Sunrise' Anise Hyssop

Agastache coccinea x mexicana `Toronjil Morado'
`Pink Panther' Giant Anise Hyssop

Agastache mexicana x barberi `Pink Lemonade'
`Pink Lemonade' Lemon Hyssop

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 8:56PM
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I rely upon agastache (and salvia) in my deer resistant garden. The long bloom season adds so much color to my garden. SL Mag was here in July 2009 to photo my garden. Bender is going to let me know when the article comes out, but the agastache in my garden will probably be the focus.

I am conducting zone (and critter) trials for 2 varieties of agastache (as well as 3 coreopsis, 1 leucanthemum and 1 pulmonaria) for TN Nurseries.

In addition to those two (I will reveal after the trials), I am growing these:

Purple Haze
Black Adder
Salmon & Pink (labeled as such and it is the best performer)
Navajo Sunset
Summer Sky
Summer Glow
Heather Queen
Purple Pygmy
Blue Fortune
Golden Jubilee

I have several orange and orange/pink varieties with no labels. I've not found any seedlings since I started growing agastache in 2005.

Can you clarify for me... I've heard the narrow leaved, tubular flowered agastache referred to as "western agastache"... and, the wider-leaved, bottlebrush just referred to as herbaceous since they die back in winter. What is the proper way to distinguish between these? My "western" still have beautiful basal foliage. I don't cut any of these back until spring. It's very difficult to find any good documentation on agastache. I just keep finding more and more colors that I'd love to grow!


    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 9:49PM
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wcgypsy(10 / Sunset 23)

Lovely photos, lovely garden...after seeing those, I vow to go out tomorrow and immediately do better by my own garden. Well, maybe day after tomorrow.....

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 10:17PM
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I didn't know Firebird was yours Richard - thanks.
Those are very inspiring photos, especially on a snowy night.

Here is a question. In the public space were I have my xeric gardens I would like to add a few more mass plantings of Agastache. Right now the garden has lots of cana, and lesser amounts of Apricot Sunrise, rupestris, aurantica hybrids, and a few other rupestris type hybrids. I need some plantings of butterfly attracting types for their childrens programs. I would be interested in any comments on the following that can be ordered as plant plugs.: X Black Adder, f. Golden Jubilee, x Purple Haze. I can fit two into the budget. I will be adding a hundred or so aurantica hybrids that are just getting true leaves in the basement, collected from orange flowered plants.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 11:25PM
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rich_dufresne(z7 NC)

The difference between Agastache sect. Agastache and Ag. sect. Brittonastrum is based on whether the upper and lower pairs of stamens are crossed or not as they emerge from the flower tube.

Sect. Ag. species generally have dense, bottlebrush spikes of small blue to violet (occasionally light yellow or white). The two primary species in this group are Ag. rugosa (Korean Mint) and Ag. foeniculum (Anise Hyssop), and most of the current hybrids are some sort of hybrid between the two.

Sect. Brittonastrum spikes are open, and the flower color is usually pink (mexicana, cana, rupestris, barberi) to orange (coccinea) to yellow (aurantiaca). There are others that have a more bottlebrush form, like neomexicana and urticifolia. These have white flowers usually. The first six are parents of most of the current hybrids. There are others in this group, like Ag. palmeri and Ag. pringlei that have much smaller flowers, and are usually pink.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 12:15AM
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wcgypsy - I could not have a colorful, deer resistant garden if not for salvia and agastache!

Most of my designs include either a salvia or an agastache as the anchor plant. I have a free pdf download with a labeled photograph of the first agastache grouping (there are 5 varieties) shown above. If you're interested, I'll send you the link.

Warda - I have a Monarch Waystation here and the Blue Fortune is THE favorite agastache. Of the others you mention, Black Adder is the best IMHO.

The Golden Jubilee blooms don't last as long and the Monarchs arrive in August-October here in my 35.913N latitude.

Purple Haze grew very tall, very quickly and bloomed May/June. Then, it didn't take well to deadheading. I am disappointed with that one and prefer Black Adder. I have only 1 Black Adder and 5 Purple Haze and wish it was the other way around!

The hummingbirds love the orange and pink agastache varieties. The Goldfinches love the seeds of Blue Fortune.

Rich - thank you for the clarification. I have looked for books on agastache and can find only a few paragraphs here and there. BTW, If you introduce more varieties, please let me know! We live in Chapel Hill and go to Carthage once in awhile for the BBQ at the airstrip! :-)


    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 9:05AM
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This is good information. We raise quite alot of Monarchs at the nature center too. Tropical Milkweed is so easy to grow, a snap to make hundreds, and it is very forgiving of conditions. Generally I have never seen any Agastache that competes well with salvias for hummingbird attention. They do use it so I like to have it available. But Agastache shines in mid July - August when some years our hot weather causes plants like greggii and microphylla to slow down. So are you saying you don't see butterfly use on Black Adder? I grew and lost one a few years ago and wondered whether the conditions it was given were too xeric for its needs. It is quite lovely and I'd like to give it another go.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 10:18AM
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wcgypsy(10 / Sunset 23)

And *I* use the salvias because of gopher and rabbit predation! I plant salvias extensively, but have not included enough agas. I do have seed for agas and must make myself sow some flats this week...I salute your design sense. I've been mostly concerned with planting for mother plants to propagate from and design has come second to that. Your color combinations will make me aim higher...thanks.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 12:05PM
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wcgypsy - color combinations with agastache and salvia is addictive! You'll have so much fun with the possibilities! :-)

Warda --

The butterflies go to Black Adder. I just have one plant of that, while I have mass plantings of Blue Fortune. So, I am more aware of the fluttering on the mass plantings.

I plant annuals (direct sow seeds) for butterflies, too - marigolds among the agastache and tall zinnias (Benary's Giant) among the salvia. The annuals would be easy and inexpensive for the public space and provide nectar.

The Monarchs laid more eggs on the swamp milkweed (incarnata) than on my tuberosa. I raised 7 caterpillars from three swamp milkweed plants last fall. I collected so many seeds from my pink asclepias incarnata, but gave those away to my blog readers.

Please forgive my posting of Monarch photos, but they are one of my reasons to garden. It would be easy for you to get a certification as a Monarch Waystation for the public space (or a private garden) if you provide enough nectar and host plants -- which it sounds like you do.

Monarch on an orange marigold interplanted with orange agastache:

A cat beginning the metamorphosis:

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 6:31PM
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I guess the center could if they want to. One of the garden voluntees did a quick count on caterpillers in the Tropical Milkweed one day last August and found more than one hundred. We have avoided planting Marigolds but based on your report that needs to be reviewed. Visiters should have examples of easy to grow nectar plants that are also easy to find. By far the best nectar plant we grow is Verbena bonariensis. It likes the dry conditions and the deer won't touch it. For a few years Lantana did a decent job until the deer finally learned to eat it. Now it is a waste of time to grow.

I agree completely about mass plantings. This is what one sees in nature, anyone doing butterfly surveys in wild meadows will tell you so - check whatever is blooming abundantly. In my experience it holds for hummingbirds too. Our job is to make their feeding easy and then sit back and enjoy the show.

WCgypsy, I am glad to say we do not have gophers in the east. It is very likely that Agastache would grow better for you than it does for us in the humid east, particularly those that Richard refers to as Brittonastrum. Agastache tend to bloom the first year from seed so you could start yours and sit back and wait for the mid summer show.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 7:33AM
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wcgypsy(10 / Sunset 23)

I'm happy for you that you don't have to deal with the gophers...happy for me that I don't have to deal with the deer, we did have those while in the Pacific Northwest. Gophers are much easier to deal with, most everything I plant gets planted in wire. It's a bother, but it works. The rabbits on the other hand are a different story. I also plant for the Monarchs, have used a lot of asclepias curassavica and asclepias tuberosa in the past, but am now aiming toward establishing stands of our native western asclepias. The monarch chrysalis is one of the most exquisite jewels of nature, isn't it?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 9:57AM
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Is this another issue of which came first the chicken or the egg? Just kidden.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 3:32PM
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I, too, am a Monarch Waystation and grow host plants not only for the Monarch, but many other butterflies as well.

I have yet to find any butterflies nectaring on my Agastache foeniculum, but the honeybees and bumblebees love it. My favorite nectar plants include the V. bonariensis, zinnias, Cosmos sulphureous 'Cosmic Orange', Lantana 'Miss Huff', and Mexican Sunflower (Tithonias). The Monarchs particularly love the lantana and the Tithonias. The large Cloudless Sulphurs favor the pink/white Salvias in the garden. All butterflies love the Asclepias curassavica. Most Monarchs do not use the A. tuberosa as a host plant, but rather as a nectar plant. I don't know if it is because the A. tuberosa is lower in cardiac glycosides that protect the caterpillars from predation or not. But that would be my guess. A. curassavica is one of the milkweeds that produces extremely high levels of this chemical. As is Gomphocarpus (same family, different genus).

Anyway, that said, I am wondering if the butterflies would be more attracted to the pink and orange flowering Agastaches than they are the blues. I also grew A. 'Golden Jubilee' for a few years, but they were not attracted to it either.

One thing I have come to realize about butterflies, though, is that they are often attracted to different nectar sources in different regions and often different nectar sources from year to year. There are some consistencies in their preferences, but some years they seem to nectar more heavily on some plants than others. They are not only ephemeral but mercurial in nature.

The hummingbirds in my garden seem less so than the butterflies as I can always depend on certain plants from year to year to be their favorites.

Just my humble opinions and observations.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 11:37AM
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I quickly looked through my photos and have quite a few showing Monarchs on the 'Blue Fortune'.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 10:45AM
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I get some activity at Blue Fortune but not a ton - bigger patch might help.

Does anyone else struggle with slow root development on Agastaches? I always start them in early January and even then they don't make a solid root system in the cell come early May plant out. The root ball often falls apart which is bad for a plant that will receive no water other than the rain ever. They have a good survival rate anyway but it would be nice to have better transplants that are easier to handle.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 11:45AM
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Wardda, my Agastache foeniculum does better the second year from self-sown seedlings in the garden. There are a few plants that I have grown that follow this pattern for some unknown reason. Could have to do with temp fluctuations during the winter that some seeds prefer or vernalization. It also does better for me in lean soil, too. I don't know what your conditions are, but just sharing with you observations in my garden.

I also encourage people who grow milkweed to become a Monarch Waystation (at This year's population is the lowest since they began record keeping at the University of Kansas due to the destruction of fir trees that they hibernate on during winters in Mexico, and the snow and ice they recently received. In the states, it is due primarily to habitat destruction of native milkweeds and integrated pest management.


    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 7:41AM
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I am told there was been a weather caused die off recently down in Mexico, possibly the worst since records have been kept. So this year looks to be a bad one too.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 12:07PM
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Yes, Wardda, it has been quite a bad year for the Monarchs. Illegal logging has taken its toll on the fir trees in some of the primary roosting spots and then, the weather. We can add all the milkweed and nectar plants we want to our gardens to aid the plight of the Monarchs in the U.S., but there is little we can do when it comes to the weather and destruction of their overwintering sites in Mexico. Sigh.....


    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 1:33PM
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seafire1(z7 NJ)


Just wanted to share the root development on this Agastache Rosita, time to repot.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 3:05PM
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That is nice basal growth - you do have a way with Agastache. I wish I could repot, but with 3 flats of seedlings from the orange aurantiaca hybrids you gave me last year I have no space. Come mid summer we'll need to have a Agastache party, it should be quite a show.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 12:19PM
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seafire1(z7 NJ)

The Aphids like them too! I sprayed all plants being brought indoors last fall(after all blooms were snipped or gone) so I would not have this problem. I'm using fresh sterile soil. So where the heck are the aphids coming from??? They have attacked my Ag's. I'm sure they will be fine because they are rooted and big, but it ticks me off non the less....

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 1:22PM
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I ended up mixing a pesticide, dishwashing detergent and peanut oil and spraying twice a week for a month. It worked. Whiteflies, aphids and such spend much of their time in an alternate universe biding their time until our cuttings are fresh and juicy. Now that I think of it Agastache are one of the plants that doesn't seem to get infested in my house - you have given me something to look forward to. Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 3:06PM
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amandaesq(z7-8 NC)

I worked at Garden in the Woods in Framingham, MA, several years ago and collected some seed from the black adder grown there. I started some from seed last year which have grown into 10'+ giants! I had never planted Agastache, but now have huge masses against the house that need staking. Since the Black Adder is an Agastache x, I don't know exactly what is growing in my garden.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 10:47PM
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I guess you have something new - 10 feet? I don't recall ever seeing who the parents of Black Adder were, perhaps it is unknown. We've been in a prolonged drought here in southern Jersey, and in these kinds of years I am glad to have lots of Agastache.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 9:07AM
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