Stachys Hummelo is chosen Perennial Plant of the Year
Every year since 1990, the Perennial Plant Association has chosen a perennial as its Perennial Plant of the Year. This perennial must grow in a wide range of hardiness zones, have more than one season of interest, be easy to care for and relatively resistant to pests and diseases.
This year, Stachys Hummelo joins past prize winners like Panicum virgatum Northwind (2014), Brunnera macrophylla Jack Frost (2012), Geranium Rozanne (2008), Leucanthemum Becky (2003) and Echinacea purpurea Magnus (1998) as it is named the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2019.
Hummelo looks nothing like some of the other members of the Stachys family that includes plants like lamb's ears, known for its fuzzy, silvery gray leaves. Instead, Hummelo grows in rosettes of glossy, crinkled, long and narrow, dark green foliage. Plants grow in spreading mounds up to a foot tall and a bit wider. In my garden, they are spreading to form a dense, weed-choking mat.
Dense spikes of bright rosy-lavender flowers rise above the foliage on sturdy, leafless, 18- to 24-inch stems from the end of June to early September. Deadheading spent flowers will keep plants looking their best and encourage the most repeat blooms. While you are at it, be sure to cut some blooms for bouquets.
Stachys Hummelo is hardy to Zone 4 and grows best in full sun or light shade. Although it prefers slightly moist, but well-drained soil, established plants in my garden have proved quite drought tolerant. They require little care besides deadheading if prolonged flowering is desired. Mounds of foliage can be sheared after blooming to keep them tidy.
Pollinators are drawn to its flowers all summer, but deer and rabbits tend to leave plants alone. It is not affected by the juglone produced by the roots of black walnut trees and is rarely bothered by pests or diseases.
Plant Stachys Hummelo at the front of a shrub or perennial border, as specimens in a rock garden, in large drifts in meadow plantings or scattered about in a cottage garden. It is lovely in combination with small ornamental grasses like Pennisetum Little Bunny or tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa), gorgeous planted with dwarf varieties of coneflowers and Russian sage, and striking joining specimens of sedum, dianthus and Allium Millennium in rock gardens.
Not only did it garner attention from the Perennial Plant Association, this trouble-free, robust-growing, dependable perennial was the highest-rated Stachys in plant evaluation trials at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Consider adding this award-winner to your garden.
• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist, garden writer and speaker. She blogs at gardenwithdiana.com.