Agastache Herb of the Year

The 20 or so species of agastache, nearly all natives to North America, are richly deserving of this year’s Herb of the Year honour. They are magnets to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds – and magnets to us, throwing up masses of colourful and longlasting flowers atop deliciously scented foliage. Easy to grow and low maintenance, these perennials are quite happy putting down roots in any sunny or partly sunny garden. They are not bothered much by pests or disease, and thrive in any soil that drains well.

Best known is anise-hyssop – or Agastache foeniculum, as it is known to the gardening cognoscenti. Also called “blue giant-hyssop” or “licorice mint”, it is the hardiest and most useful of the group. Its flavour is described as “anise”, “licorice” or “tarragon-like”, and is used in an ever increasing list of commercially prepared foods and drinks including teas, baked goods, candy, frozen dairy products, liqueurs, and nonalcoholic beverages. An essential oil produced in the leaves is what is gives the plant its aroma, and when that oil is extracted it can be used in perfumes, soaps, creams and lotions.

Anise-hyssop and its agastache cousins were well known to the First Nations people of North America. The Cayuga, Cheyenne, Cree and Navajo used them for indigestion and stomach pain, colds, coughs and fever, and for heart problems and other chest pains. The Cheyenne – and no doubt others – also used the leaves to sweeten foods or just for a nice cup of tea.

The one agastache that is not from North America is Korean mint (Agastache rugosa). It is used in food and medicine throughout East Asia. Koreans use it in fish-based foods and in meat sauces. Huo xiang, as this plant is known in Chinese medicine, is one of the 50 fundamental healing herbs, and is used for nausea, vomiting and poor appetite. Interestingly this agastache has the same traditional uses in Asia – for colds, coughs, fever, indigestion and stomach pain – that were once common among the aboriginal tribes of North America. This common usage among peoples separated by an ocean is strong evidence that these herbs are powerful medicine. The more powerful the herb, the thinking goes, the more likely people in different places will discover and hold on to the same uses.

The agastaches are super bee plants. The flowers are fountains of sweet nectar that bees and other pollinators eagerly forage on from midsummer until first frost. Beekeepers have known this for years and will grow agastaches, especially anise-hyssop, near their hives in order to increase honey production. If for no other reason, agastaches should be in every garden to help our beleaguered pollinator friends.

The annual Herb of the Year celebration is a program of the International Herb Association to educate the public about the value and uses of selected herbs. To help celebrate the 2019 Herb of the Year we added several exciting new agastaches to the Richters line up for you to try!

Agastache, 2019 Herb of the Year:
Anise Hyssop, Hummingbird Mints and More

A one-of-a-kind compendium on all aspects of this deservedly honoured 2019 Herb of the Year. Written by herbal experts and compiled by the International Herb Association, it features articles on everything on the botany, cultivation, science and uses, as well as recipes for the kitchen, apothecary and bath. Order it now!

Here are the currently available Agastache varieties!

Apricot Sprite Agastache

“A staggering display of apricot spikes... erupting like flames,” is how the breeder describes it. Indeed, this is one very impressive herb native to England. A fine selection for flower beds, borders and containers. This fast growing, compact variety will bloom from June well into the autumn months. They are fragrant, and may even draw a hummingbird or two to your garden. Apricot sprite won the 2000 “Fleuroselect Quality Award” for novelty, as it produces wonderful flower spikes perfect for cutting and arranging. Flowers may be brewed into a tea, and aromatic leaves can be dried for potpourri. Plant is drought tolerant and suitable for xeriscaping; Deer resistant. Be careful not to overwater. Locate in full sun to part shade. Ht 18in (45cm). Order it now!


Anise-hyssop produces an abundance of purple flower spikes, rich in nectar that attracts honey bees, ultimately yielding a lightly fragranced honey. Perfect for pollinators and will bloom from summer to early fall. As a member of the mint family, leaves contain pleasantly scented mint-anise aromatic oils. The leaves can be brewed to create an uplifting tea or crushed to use as a culinary seasoning. Leaves can even be used as a breath freshener when chewed. Both the essential oil and leaves can can be used medicinally and aromatically. Roots are known to benefit chest ailments. Will self seed. Sow in well drained, moist, loam in full sun. Ht 40in (100cm). Spread 18in (45cm). Order it now!

Snow Spike Anise-Hyssop

Attractive honey plant; Produces abundant white flower spikes, rich in nectar to produce a high yield of lightly fragranced honey. Leaves contain a strong anise aroma. Both its leaves and flowers are edible. It can also be used as a culinary seasoning. Medicinally, anise-hyssop is used to treat a variety of ailments. Brewing the leaves creates a delightful tea that can help soothe digestive issues as well as congestion. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial qualities. When added to a bath, it can help ease sunburns, as well as yeast and fungal infections. Ht 40in (101cm); Spread 18in (45cm). Order it now!

Nettleleaf Giant-Hyssop

Showy native of the western prairies from British Columbia down to Colorado and California. The nectar-rich rose-pink flowers are a magnet for bees and butterflies. The aromatic leaves can be added to salads and cooked foods. The aboriginal people used a tea made from the leaves for colds, fevers and stomach pains, and for feverish babies they placed leaves in the baby blankets so babies breathed in the aromatic oils. Ht. 1m/3ft. Order it now!

New Mexico Giant-Hyssop

Attractive native plant of New Mexico and parts of Texas. Also known as rose mint, its showy rose-pink flower spikes attract bees and butterflies. If the flowers are dead-headed frequently, they will keep coming throughout the season. The Navajo used the plant as a ceremonial medicine and for fever, coughs, and skin problems. Ht. 45-60cm/18-24". Order it now!

Purple Giant-Hyssop

Attractive anise-scented flower native to the northeastern U.S. and Ontario. A heavy nectar-producer, the flowers attract honey bees, wild bees, as well as goldfinches and hummingbirds. The Meskwaki, a First nations people of the Great Lakes area used it as a diuretic. Ht. 90-120cm/3-4ft. Order it now!

Apache Sunset Giant-Hyssop

This native of the cool mountains of Arizona and New Mexico throws up masses of salmon or burnt orange flowers in summer. It has a strong minty-licorice-root beer aroma and can be used much like other agastaches to make delicious teas. Ht. 45-60cm/18-24". Order it now!

Yellow Giant-Hyssop

This is a very attractive tall native plant of Missouri. Starting in summer and lasting well up to first frost, it throws up long green spikes dotted with pale yellow or off-white flowers. Bees and butterflies are attracted to the abundant nectar. Although the plant is not scented like other species, it has been used medicinally. The Iroquois people used it as a wash for poison ivy. Order it now!

Navajo Sunset Hummingbird Mint

This spectacular plant is sometimes called the "Jewel of the Sierra Madre." Indeed it is a jewel, throwing up masses of orange flowers 30-45cm (18-24") high in midsummer. Hummingbirds absolutely love this plant and will visit it before any other plants. The leaves have a strong minty fragrance and can be used to make tea. Order it now!

Sunset Yellow Hummingbird Mint

This is a very nice yellow-flowering form of the American native plant known as the "Jewel of the Sierra Madre," The flowers, appearing in midsummer, are magnets for hummingbirds feeding on the abundant nectar produced by the flowers. The leaves are quite minty and can be used to make tea. Ht. 30-45cm/18-24". Order it now!

Korean Mint

A close cousin of anise-hyssop but with scent and flavour more like mint rather than anise or licorice. Throws up tall purple flower spikes and mint-like leaves. Bees love the nectar-rich flowers! Leaf infusion makes an uplifting tea. Leaves provide a unique seasoning for meats and dressings. Korean mint is a warming herb known to help clear fevers and also aid in digestion, chest ailments and many other conditions. Easy to grow and blooms from July to September. Prefers well-drained, moist, loam in full sun. Height 40in (100cm). Spread 18in (45cm). Order it now!

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