Anise hyssop is a small perennial herb native to the middle of North America. Anise hyssop has a flavor similar to anise and belongs to the same botanical family as hyssop, but it is not a cross between the two. Its licorice-flavored leaves and seeds can be used in teas, salads, and cooking.
Get to Know Anise Hyssop
- Botanical name and family: Agastache foeniculum is a member of the Lamiaceae–mint family.
- Origin: Great Plains and Midwest of North America
- Type of plant: Anise hyssop is a perennial herb.
- Growing season: Spring and summer
- Growing zones: Anise hyssop grows best in zones 4 to 10.
- Hardiness: Anise hyssop is resistant to cold and heat; it dies back in freezing winters.
- Plant form and size: Anise hyssop grows 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 foot wide. It is branched at the top.
- Flowers: Anise hyssop has showy spikes of purplish-blue and lavender florets; flowers have a strong scent of anise and peppermint.
- Bloom time: Anise hyssop blooms from summer to fall.
- Leaves: Anise hyssop has rich green leaves (nearly white underneath). Leaves are broadly oval and pointed to 3 inches long; they are sharply toothed with a quilted surface. Leaves grow from mint-like square stems.
How to Plant Anise Hyssop
- Best location: Plant anise hyssop in full sun; plants will tolerate light shade.
- Soil preparation: Plant anise hyssop in compost-rich, sandy, well-drained soil. Anise hyssop prefers a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
- Seed starting indoors: Seeds can be started indoors about 8 weeks before the average date of the last spring frost. Seeds germinate in 7 to 14 days.
- Transplanting to the garden: Set out anise hyssop seedlings when all risk of frost is passed.
- Outdoor planting time: Sow seed directly in the garden a week before the average last spring frost date.
- Planting depth: Sow seed ¼ to ½ inch deep.
- Spacing: Space plants 1 to 1½ feet apart.
- How much to plant: Grow 2 to 3 anise hyssop plants for cooking; grow to 12 plants for tea or preserving.
- Companion planting: Anise hyssop attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, honeybees, and other pollinators. It’s a good source of nectar in late summer and early fall. It repels cabbage moths. Plant anise hyssop with chamomile and horehound.
How to Grow Anise Hyssop
- Watering: Keep the soil evenly moist. Anise hyssop is native to lakeshores and streams. Leaves can drop during droughts.
- Feeding: Side dress anise hyssop with aged compost any time during the growing season. Anise hyssop requires little fertilizer.
- Care: Keep planting beds well weeded; anise hyssop is a slow grower and is easily challenged by weeds and other plants. Anise hyssop roots spread quickly—much like mint—so trim them back before it becomes invasive. Anise hyssop may require staking as it matures.
- Container growing: Anise hyssop will grow in pots; choose a pot at least 6 inches wide and deep. Grow anise hyssop indoors in a bright window.
- Winter growing: Anise hyssop dies back in winter. Mark its location and expect it to re-emerge in spring. Overwinter anise hyssop by covering plants with a layer of much during cold winters.
Troubleshooting Anise Hyssop
- Pests and diseases: Anise hyssop is usually pest and disease-free.
How to Harvest Anise Hyssop
- When to harvest: Harvest anise hyssop leaves using a snip or scissors as needed but before flower buds open. Leaves have their best flavor just before the plant flowers.
- How to harvest: Snip leaves as needed, starting from the bottom of the plant. Use a snip or garden scissors. Gather leaves in the morning. To dry leaves for tea, cut whole stems about 4 to 5 inches from the base of the plant and strip the leaves away. Harvest flowers when they are three-quarters open.
Anise Hyssop in the Kitchen
- Flavor and aroma: All parts of anise hyssop have a licorice fragrance reminiscent of root beer.
- Leaves: Add fresh leaves and flowers to salads for a mild, minty licorice flavor. Use leaves and flowers with fresh or baked fruit, cakes, cookies, teas, squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Chop leaves and add them to fruit bowls, vanilla ice cream, and cream cheese. The licorice flavor of fresh, minced leaves complements rice and some fish, chicken, and pork dishes.
- Tea: Fresh and dried leaves can be brewed alone or in combination with other herbs to make a refreshing tea.
- Seeds: Use seeds as a flavoring substitute for regular anise in bread and cookies.
Preserving and Storing Anise Hyssop
- Drying: Dry anise hyssop leaves by hanging bunches upside down by their stems until they are dry. Hang stems in a well-ventilated, shaded, warm place. You can also dry the leaves in a microwave set on high for 1 to 3 minutes; check often to see if leaves are dry.
- Storing: Store dry leaves in an airtight container.
Propagating Anise Hyssop
- Propagate anise hyssop by seeds, cuttings, or division in spring.
- Seed: Anise hyssop readily self-sows. Start seed indoors in late winter.
- Division: Divide plant clumps every few years in spring or fall to start new plants.
- Cuttings: Start plants from cuttings in spring or summer. Dip cutting tips in rooting hormone to aide rooting.
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