Plants for Pollinators: Giant Hyssop

This post is part of a series highlighting some of the best plants for pollinators from coast-to-coast. Drawing from our books 100 Plants to Feed the Bees, Gardening for Butterflies , and our Monarch Nectar Plant Guides.


Giant Blue Hyssop

Agastache foeniculum

Giant hyssop derives its common name from its licorice like scent and taste, which is reminiscent of the true hyssop plant, a European herb. Photo: Justin Wheeler

Members of the mint family tend to be highly attractive to bees, and giant hyssop is no exception – in fact, it happens to be one of the most attractive plants for bees and supports a diversity of pollinators. Historically, mass plantings of giant blue hyssop were established in parts of the Midwest and Canada specifically as a “honey plant” to support apiaries. While bees probe the deep tubular flowers for nectar, skippers, fritillaries, and the occasional hummingbird may also visit the plant.

Though it is in the mint family, it does not spread aggressively like culinary mint, though it may be prone to re-seeding throughout the garden. As it’s generally ignored by rabbits and deer, it may be used as a barrier to keep them away from more sensitive plants.

There are many plants of the Agastache genus, and the plant has been widely cultivated and hybridized for nursery sales in recent years. You’re likely to find the plant in a cultivated species other than A. foeniculum with spikes of bright pink, orange, or red flowers, or cultivars of A. foeniculum with names like ‘Black Adder’ and ‘Blue Fortune’. While some cultivars are still attractive to pollinators, others are less so. If you’re looking to provide the best support for pollinators, plant the straight species of giant blue hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) or the cultivar ‘Blue Fortune’ which, in a study by Mt. Cuba Center, was found to be as attractive as the straight species. Avoid planting ‘Golden Jubilee’, a cultivar with vivid green leaves, it’s been found to be unnoticed by bees.

Native Range: More than a dozen species of giant hyssop are found in North America. Widely distributed across the U.S. and Canada, locally native species can be found in almost all regions of the U.S. except the southeastern region of Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida. Many cultivars exist, though few are as attractive to pollinators as the straight species.

Best for: Attracting and supporting native bees, provisioning for honey bees.

 

Giant hyssop is a compact plant that forms small colonies. It’s minty aroma has a hint of licorice and it’s an edible herb that can be used in salads and other dishes. It’s a “must have” for pollinator gardens big and small. Photo: flikr.com, katja london, (CC BY 2.0)

by Justin Wheeler, Web and Communications Specialist

 


Portions of this profile were excerpted from our newest book, 100 Plants to Feed the Bees

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