URBANA, Ill. – The Perennial Plant Association has selected Stachys ‘Hummelo’ as the 2019 Perennial Plant of the Year. Sometimes called betony, this well-behaved perennial offers a neat basal clump of glossy, dark green leaves and rose-lavender dense spikes atop mostly leafless flowering stems. The flowers are arranged in verticillasters (false whorls). Bloom time is July to September, so ‘Hummelo’ offers lovely color in the heat of the summer.
Stachys ‘Hummelo’ is an easy-to-grow perennial for moist, well-drained soils in full sun to light shade. Deadhead spent flower spikes to regenerate foliage and boost plant vigor. It is relatively pest-free and deer leave it alone. Also, this perennial can be grown near walnut trees since it is not affected by walnut wilt. According to University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Martha A. Smith, ‘Hummelo’ is hardy throughout Illinois and deserves a space in your sunny border.
One may be hard pressed to associate this plant’s glossy, dark green scallop-edged foliage with its silver/gray, fuzzy-leafed relative, Stachys byzantine, commonly called lamb’s ear. ‘Hummelo’ grows 18-24 inches tall and wide. It is a relative of mint and eventually the clumps will spread by stolons or runners, but not as aggressively as some mints we grow.
There is some debate as to its exact Latin name. Often listed as Stachys officinallis, it also appears in print as Stachys monieri. Therefore, the PPA decided on the name Stachys ‘Hummelo’. The genus name comes from the Greek stacys, meaning ear of corn, in probable reference to the verticillaster arrangement of flowers.
Stachy’s ‘Hummelo’ received the highest rating out of 22 Stachys varieties evaluated at the Chicago Botanic Garden between 1998 and 2004. It received this rating based on strong flower production, plant health, overall good growth habit, and winter hardiness. To read more about the trial, view the report on the Chicago Botanic Garden website.
Good companion plants include coneflower (Echinacea), Leucanthemum ‘Becky’, sea holly (Eryngium), Russian sage (Peroviskia), catmint (Nepeta), hardy geranium (Geranium), and stonecrop (Sedum). Plant it against golden arborvitae for a striking color contrast!