Photo: Mark Dwyer, Rotary Botanical Gardens. Other Sources: Perennial Plant Association, Missouri Botanical Garden

With a nod from the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) as its 2019 Perennial Plant of the Year, make sure you add Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’ to your production schedule. This stalwart perennial looks stunning en masse and is as trouble-free and dependable as it is eye-catching, according to the PPA.

Tiny, two-lipped, rose-lavender flowers appear in dense spikes atop mostly leafless flowering stems, rising well above the foliage to 1½ to 2 feet tall in summer.

It’s hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8, and foliage may remain evergreen in warmer climates. In the landscape, it grows best in full sun to part shade. Use in the perennial border or in combination with ornamental grasses, Echinacea purpurea and Asclepias tuberosa (the 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year). Its wiry stems make for a great cut flower, as well. It’s considered deer resistant.

Selected and introduced by German grower Ernst Pagels in the late 1990s, this perennial gained popularity as it was used by renowned designer and plantsman Piet Oudolf in some of his signature works. “Hummel” means bumblebee in German, which is appropriate as Pagels observed many pollinators visiting the flowers. The cultivar name also honored Pagels’ close connection to Piet and his nursery and home at Hummelo, The Netherlands.

'Hummelo' was the highest rated Stachys in the Chicago Botanic Garden Evaluation Trials for its strong flower production, vigor, habit, quality and winter hardiness.

“We first planted [Stachys officinalis] in our Scottish garden where it has thrived in part shade,” says Mark Dwyer, director of horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisc.

He calls it “an entirely underused perennial” that is “really is a tough and durable plant with plenty of visual appeal.”

In the trade, ‘Hummelo’ is sometimes sold as Stachys monieri.