You’ve probably never heard of this perennial but I am here to tell you that you need to become acquainted with it. The Perennial Plant Association has awarded the title Perennial Plant of the Year® 2019 to Stachys ‘Hummelo’. Stunning in massed plantings, and popular with designers, this late June-July bloomer is as trouble-free and dependable as it is eye-catching.
Selected and introduced by famed German grower Ernst Pagels in the late 1990’s, this perennial has further gained popularity since it was introduced by renowned designer and plantsman Piet Oudolf in some of his signature works. Piet chooses perennials for much more than the flower. He is also very concerned with the foliage and the deadheads. Those of this Stachys (fuzzy and on strong stems) last in my garden all through the winter.
The common name of Stachys ‘Hummelo’ and related species is betony or woundwort. Stachys is in the mint family (Lamiaceae) with its characteristic opposite leaves and square stems but not its aggressiveness. ‘Hummelo’ features basal rosettes of ovate, toothed, glossy, bright green leaves. Tiny, two-lipped, rose-lavender flowers appear in dense spikes atop mostly leafless flowering stems, rising well above the foliage to 1 ½ to 2 feet tall in summer.
Clumps will spread over time to form a dense ground cover. This Stachys is valued for its crinkled foliage, providing a different texture in the garden, and its prolific flowering spikes.
‘Hummelo’ received the highest rating out of 22 Stachys taxa in a comparative study by Richard Hawke, Plant Evaluation Manager of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Exceptional qualities included reblooming without deadheading, no observed reseeding, and outstanding uniformity.
Stachys ‘Hummelo’, a native of Europe and Asia, is hardy to zone 4 and will grow well in full sun to part shade in well-drained soil. Once established, I find that it is drought tolerant. One of my clumps grows beside Sedum ‘Hab Grey’ in very gritty soil. It is an excellent addition to the full sun perennial border although I find that it also grows well in morning sun.
This perennial is an excellent partner for ornamental grasses, Echinacea purpurea, and Asclepias tuberosa (2018 Perennial Plant of the Year®) as well as sedums and Verbascum. Its wiry stems make it a great cut flower as well.
For those interested in creating pollinator gardens, Stachys ‘Hummelo’ is a natural. Pollinators can’t resist the striking midsummer spikes of magenta flowers rising above bright green, trouble-free foliage. Happily, I have never seen deer browse on mine although I certainly see it on other perennials.
Stachys ‘Hummelo’ is a standout that should no longer be ignored.