A few years ago I added a plant of hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) to the herb garden. While I didn’t use it as an herb, I loved the blue flowers and the number of bees that it attracted.
When I was looking through the Territorial Seeds catalog, I saw that they sold seeds of an herb called anise hyssop. I had no idea what it was but if it attracted as many bees as the standard hyssop, I thought it would be worth adding to the garden.
The plant that I grew from seed isn’t a hyssop at all though it is related; anise hyssop is agastache, specifically Agastache foeniculum. This plant is a member of the mint family, a fact that’s evident because of agastache’s square stems. The common name of this plant is anise hyssop because the leaves have a licorice/anise scent.
Agastache is a plant native to the northern part of the US. Native Americans used this plant for medicinal purposes, particularly cough, fevers, wounds and diarrhea. The leaves can be used for making tea and this plant is said to be a good pollen/nectar source for honey producers.
Like most plants in the mint family, anise hyssop is easy to grow. It needs full sun and prefers fertile ground, though it will grow in less than optimal soil. Once it’s established, it’s drought resistant. Agastache is usually ignored by deer and rabbits and it isn’t troubled by insect pests. The variety of agastache that I’m growing – anise hyssop blue – grows about 4′ tall.
I have to admit that anise hyssop blue is a plant I want to like but I just can’t. It’s tall, gangly and to me, the inflorescences are ugly! They’re cylindrical in shape and made up of many small flowers that are arranged in a whirl. Since I wasn’t impressed with this plant’s beauty, I almost dug it out of the ground. But what convinced me to keep it was the fact that it literally swarms with bees and small butterflies.
Looking online, I saw that there are a number of varieties and species of agastache that have different heights and different kinds of inflorescences. It makes me think that I should try some of these other kinds. The fact that rabbits don’t eat it and bees/butterflies love it makes this a plant that I really want to like. Maybe my seed-grown variety isn’t the best for the flower garden.
A trip to the garden center might be in order to see what varieties they might have. They’d be in bloom now, they’d be discounted and I could see if there’s an agastache that’s not only functional in attracting bees and butterflies but also pretty!