Butterflies can’t read.
So, there’s no reason beyond the purely decorative and cute to hang a sign that proclaims “Butterflies Welcome.” What you really need is a butterfly magnet – like agastache.
One of my favorite come-hither plants is anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), a herbaceous, upright perennial herb also called blue giant hyssop. This is a Great Plains native that grows in a clump and produces long stems with lavender-blue flowers adored by butterflies and the occasional hummingbird. Foliage has a licorice or anise fragrance.
In mid to late summer, I have seen these plants simply loaded — wing tip to wing tip — with Admiral and other butterflies on every 2 to 4 foot stem on every clump.
Although its distant relatives are in the Lamiaceae or mint family, anise hyssop and agastache or true hyssop aren’t the same plant. Hyssop is native to the Mediterranean and central Asia, and it, too, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. It is hardy to USDA Zone 5 and is a long-blooming plant.
Not surprisingly, there are several lavender- and purple-flowering hyssops, including the award-winning “Golden Jubilee” with chartreuse yellow foliage and the classic “Blue Fortune.” “Rose Mint” has a gray-green foliage, while “Violet Vision” offers dark violet flower stems. “Blue Boa” is another award-winning agastache with deep violet flowers on 5-inch long spikes.
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Liven things up in your garden with some of the vibrant red, bright pink and coral agastache — bright colors sure to attract pollinators. “Firebird” is coppery-orange and coral with salvia-like flower spikes that is a Zone 6, but still worth the chance. “Heatwave” can handle just that, sporting sizzling hot pink flowers. “Kudos Coral” is a deep coral pink, while “Kudos Mandarin” is tangerine, and “Tango” produces trumpet-shaped flowers in a vivid orange-red.
“Kudos Ambrosia” is described as a kaleidoscope of pale orange, rose pink and creamy white, and “Raspberry Daiquiri” produces raspberry blooms on shorter plants. “Arizona Sunset” is coral-pink and other colors of the sunset with an intense minty fragrance. “Cana” is a hummingbird’s mint with tall, airy rose-pink flowers.
There are other varieties of agastache that are suitable for USDA Zone 6, so I didn’t mention those here. Of course, if you’re willing to take the risk, it opens up more color selections.
Agastache prefer sunny locations in average to lean, well-drained soil. They do well in drought-like conditions and leave stems on plants through winter to provide protection to the crown. Snip them off when new growth begins in the spring.