Anise Hyssop is an herbaceous perennial hardy to USDA Zones 3 to 9.
Anise Hyssop is a popular ornamental plant, a favorite nectar source for pollinators, and a delicious medicinal herb. It’s a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, and has fragrant leaves and spiky purple flowers. The aerial parts of the plant have a sweet licorice or anise flavor and are delicious, as well as pleasing to the eye. Thriving in well-drained soil and full sun, anise hyssop originated from the fields and prairies of North America and can be found throughout America and Canada. Anise Hyssop grows in erect, upright bushes that can be three to four feet in height and one to two feet wide. When the plant comes into bloom in late summer it attracts pollinators, including bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
Home to the prairies, fields, and woodland edges, anise hyssop grows best in full sun with medium to moderate moisture in soils with a pH of 6 to 6.5. This plant is easy to grow and does not require much specialized care. However, it is sensitive to overwatering and does not do well in poor or overly rich soil.
Anise Hyssop can be direct-seeded in the fall or spring or grown from vegetative cuttings or root divisions. On our farm, we seed into plug trays in the greenhouse and transplant after seedlings become well established and well rooted. Once transplanted, if left alone to its own devices anise hyssop can readily self-seed and produce numerous volunteers. Seeds germinate in one to weeks.
As a perennial, once established Anise Hyssop can be harvested year after year for at least three seasons. Therefore, it should be planted in an area where it can take up residence for a while, and because of its striking beauty it is nice to showcase it in your more visible fields. After approximately three years of growth and continual harvests the plants vigor wanes and they should be replanted in a different location. After the first season anise hyssop plants grow together and form a solid hedgerow of leaves and flowers, making it a useful border plant. Also the color combination is striking, and the pollinators have a bounty of blossoms. Recommended bed spacing for anise hyssop is twelve inches in the row and twenty eight inches between rows.
Cooling and refreshing, anise hyssop makes a delicious tea, which has been traditionally used for many things: as a breath freshener, to buoy the spirits, to gently relax the nervous system, and to settle gastric upset. Known to have antimicrobial properties, anise hyssop has been used topically in washes to treat abrasions and infections. It has also been used by some herbalists, in formulas, to help aid in the treatment of respiratory infections. Another wonderful way to use anise hyssop is to include it in incense or smudge mixtures; it adds a sweet and pleasing aroma.
Anise Hyssop should be harvested when the plant is in bloom. The medicinal properties, as well as the flavor, are at their peak when the plant starts to flower. Using a field knife or sickly bar mower, cut the entire aerial art of the plant, leaving five to six inches at the base for regenerative growth. It is possible to get two harvests a season from well-established plants. Harvest the leaves and flowers on a bright sunny day, when the plants volatile oils are at their highest levels. It is also recommended to harvest the aerial parts when the plant is dry and free from dirt or debris, preferably not after rain events that could splash soil onto the lower leaves. Contamination can be mitigated by mulching rows and taking care to harvest leaves above the “dirt line.”
Post Harvest Drying Conditions
Anise Hyssop does not have a high water content, so it can be dried more quickly can other mints, such as peppermint or lemon balm. That said, it is recommended to start drying at cooler temperatures of 80 to 90 Degrees F, then finish drying at temperatures not exceeding 100 degrees F. When racking anise hyssop, place herbs in a single layer to allow for good airflow and uniform drying. Under optimum conditions, anise hyssop should dry within 48 hours. After drying, process the materials by garbling them over a garbling rack made out of quarter- to half inch stainless steel mesh and remove stems. Blossoms will crumble off with the leaves and should be mixed together.
Pests and Diseases
Some commercial growers report beetle-pest pressures as well as difficulty with rust and powdery mildews. Crop rotations and good cultural practices are recommended to avoid disease and best issues. Deer do not eat anise hyssop and growers have even reported a repellant activity when planted near species that are more desirable to deer.