How to Grow and Care for Hummingbird Mint

When you hear Hummingbird Mint, you probably think of one particular plant—likely one with a tall stock of brightly colored blooms in purple, orange, or magenta. That’s because Hummingbird Mint (also known as hyssop or anise-hyssop) is a common name used to describe multiple species of flowering plants within the genus known as Agastache. Adored by all kinds of pollinators (but especially hummingbirds), Agastache is also an excellent choice for water-conscious gardens, as this un-fussy plant can thrive in even some of the driest climes. In this guide, I’ll run through my essential tips for growing and caring for Hummingbird mint.

Amazing Agastache_ Ultimate Guide to Hummingbird Mint

How to Grow & Care for Hummingbird Mint

A cluster of colorful flowering Hummingbird Mint

Like many types of mint, Hummingbird Mint is relatively easy to take care of. Although plant care will vary based on where you live and the kind of Agastache you choose to grow, there are some general guidelines for the overall well-being of your plant. We’ll dive into those here. 

Seeds vs. Plants

Although you can grow mint from seed, it’s a lot easier to find a young, healthy plant and start from there. For many of us, the growing season is too short to warrant growing plants from seed, and plants are also much more vulnerable when they’re just tiny green shoots. Unless you’re looking for a real challenge this spring, aim to buy your mint plants early in the season from a reputable nursery and get them in the ground once temperatures are stable and warm. 

Sun

Pink flowering hummingbird plants with forest green leaves and foliage

Mint likes full sun, so if you have an extra hot corner of your garden where more sun-sensitive plants seem to fail, put your Agastache here. Although they will tolerate part-shade, Hummingbird Mint (like other mints) is happiest with a good dose of daily heat. Many growers describe mint as benefiting from “tough love” and the amount of sun they get is no exception. Plant your mint in a hot, sunny spot, and they’ll be much happier. 

Soil

Mint also requires well-draining soil. That doesn’t mean you want them to dry out fully (they still need some water!), but it does mean they don’t like their feet wet. If your soil tends to be very dense, try breaking it up with some sand or gravel. Mint prefers soil that isn’t too nutrient-heavy, so skip adding fertilizer or amending the soil with compost when planting.

Water

Take care not to overwater your mint plants, as they likely won’t require the same amount of water as other members of your garden. Soil should be kept moist, but not waterlogged. You’ll know right away if your mint needs more water as the leaves will start to droop. 

If your garden tends toward denser soil, you might also check that water is actually draining from around the base of your mint plant, as this can also make them unhappy. Do this by pressing a finger a few inches into the soil surrounding your plant between waterings. 

Ultimately how much water your mint needs will depend on the conditions of your garden: How much rain and sun it receives, but also how well the soil retains moisture. Get to know your garden, and you’ll be better able to support all of your plants— including your mint. 

Other Growing Tips

The purple blooms of a flowering hummingbird mint plant in the garden

Besides ensuring your Hummingbird Mint has what it needs to thrive during the growing season, there are a few additional things you can do to help it survive the winter. The first thing is to leave the stems over the winter and only cut them back during the spring. While most plants require a good pruning in either the fall or spring, Hummingbird Mint enjoys keeping its stems to help with winter hardiness. This is generally a good rule of thumb for most herbaceous perennials. You can give your mint a good haircut (all the way down to the woody growth) come spring time. 

Although mint tends to prefer unfertilized soil, preparing it for winter is yet another exception to this rule. For a bit of extra support, sprinkle a small handful of Yum Yum mix or other organic fertilizer (mixed with compost) around the base of your mint plant in the fall. Avoid harsh chemical fertilizers as they can weaken the plant’s resistance to cold. 

Choosing Plants

With so many species of agastache to choose from, it can be hard to decide which one is best for your garden. The thing to remember is that different varieties will do better in different climates. For example, the blue varieties of agastache prefer richer soils and more moisture. ‘Blue Fortune’ is one such variety that’s especially cold resistant and can thrive in zones 4-10. 

On the other hand, many of the orange, pink, and red Agastache varieties prefer hot dry climates and are happiest in Southwestern gardens. These varieties are also more sensitive to cold, and prefer a garden that doesn’t receive more than 25” of rain or snow per year. For this reason, these Agastache are often called “waterwise.”

Harvesting Your Mint

To harvest your mint plant, cut off the tips before (or right as) flowers come into bloom. Try always to cut sparingly or at the fork of a plant (where another shoot can grow) to keep your garden looking healthy and to keep your plants growing strong. Cuts should be made at an angle whenever possible to allow water to run off the tip of the stem. If well-cared for, most Hummingbird Mints will continue to bloom throughout the summer season, giving you plenty of fresh herbal material and attracting birds, butterflies, and bees by the dozens. 

The Final Word

If you’re looking to build a true pollinator garden, Hummingbird Mint is a great addition. Not only will these bright blooms add a cheerful splash of color to your landscape, but they can also be used for a variety of culinary and medicinal practices. 

Nothing is quite as satisfying as getting rid of your hummingbird feeder because the birds prefer the sweet taste of your abundant Agastache. Find out which variety works best in your area, then see for yourself just how magical this species of mint really is.

Contributing Editor | larissa@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Larissa is a writer, gardener, and herbalist living in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. Her writing has been widely published in lifestyle and personal finance publications all over the country, and she's also the creator of the weekly newsletter @rootedintribe.

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