HARDINESS: Zones 5 to 9
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Neutral
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Well-drained, moderately fertile
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun to filtered shade
ATTRIBUTES: Blue, coral, yellow, purple, white flower spikes; for beds, cutting
SEASON OF INTEREST: Summer
FAVORITES: 'Blue Fortune', 'Firebird' Tuttifrutti', 'Apricot Sunset', 'Snow Spike'
QUIRKS: Plants can reach their mature size and flower in a single season
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Blanket flower, Russian sage, salvia, yarrow, lilhonia, herbs
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Sun to part shade in average soil
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Root rot in wet soil; powdery mildew
RENEWING PLANTS: Lives several years; divide every 2 years
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Good
SOURCE: Starter plants, seeds, division
DIMENSIONS: 2-4 ft (0.6-1.2 m) tall, 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) wide
Anise Hyssop in the Landscape
Anise hyssop is a trouble-free addition to an informal garden, taking its place equally among herbs or perennials. This stalwart, pretty, purple-flowered plant is a must for mid- to late-summer color. Placement is important: Anise hyssop wants bright sun, good drainage, and room to reseed. Once those conditions have been met, there is nothing more for you to do but enjoy the show of flowers.
Start cautiously, with just a few plants, set 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) apart in the middle or back of a flower bed. The plants may emerge as handsome rosettes of leaves in spring, but they quickly add height and girth, eventually growing 3 ft (1 m) tall and 2 ft (0.6 m) wide. While waiting for the flowers to develop, you can enjoy the edible dark green heart-shaped leaves that smell and taste like licorice.
The fuzzy flower spikes appear in midsummer, with colorful blue, pink, or soft yellow blossoms that last for weeks. The individual spikes are only 2-3 in (5.1-7.6 cm) long, but when plants are massed, the effect is showy. While anise hyssop blooms mingle well with most neighbors, they are particularly good companions for the lavender-blue flowers of Russian sage and the yellow ones of yarrow.
Because of its handsome appearance and ease of cultivation, anise hyssop has attracted the attention of enterprising nurseries. Among the new varieties that offer a range of colors are the dark blue 'Blue Fortune', coral 'Firebird', burnt lemon 'Apricot Sunset', raspberry 'Tutti frutti', and white 'Snow Spike'. At seasons end, unless you have intervened and clipped the blossoms for long-lasting bouquets, they'll shed plenty of seeds for expanding next year's display.
Honeybees, hummingbirds, and butterflies flock to the flowers of anise hyssop, adding allure and movement to the garden, and honey made from the flowers is prized by beekeepers. The tangy leaves, with a mint-licorice taste, make a nice garnish for cold summer soups, iced tea, or frozen drinks. When dried, they can be brewed to make a tasty tea sweetened with honey. And the flowers, picked in full bloom, have a soft anise-mint flavor that enhances fruit salads.
Growing Anise Hyssop
Although thriving in average soil in full sun or part-day shade, anise hyssop does demand a well-drained site. Soggy soil conditions can induce disastrous root rot. You can begin with nursery grown plants in spring, or start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your last spring frost. Plants always flower the first year they are planted, and are winter hardy to Zone 6. In colder climates, protect the roots from winter damage by covering them with a 3 in (8 cm) deep layer of loose organic mulch, such as straw or dried, chopped leaves, in early winter.
Should too many volunteer seedlings appear in spring, you can simply pull and discard them, or gently dig them up and transplant them where you want them to grow. In late summer, when warm, humid days are followed by cool nights, anise hyssop occasionally contracts powdery mildew, a fungal disease that disfigures leaves with powdery gray or white blotches. Control a light case by removing and disposing of affected leaves, or imply tolerate the presence of leaves that are only slightly blemished, but do not eat them. Cut back any severely affected plants to within 6 in (1S. 2 cm) of the soil and allow healthy new growth to appear in a few weeks.