The facts on the care-free anise hyssop

October 9, 2015

Anise hyssop is a trouble-free addition to an informal garden. Here is the vital information on this stalwart, pretty, purple-flowered plant.

The facts on the care-free anise hyssop

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 30 to 60 centimetres (12 to 25 inches) 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 one metre (three feet) tall and 0.6 metres (two feet) wide.

The benefits of anise hyssop

  • While waiting for the flowers to develop, you can enjoy the edible, dark green, heart-shaped leaves that smell and taste like minty licorice.
  • The fuzzy flower spikes appear in midsummer, with colourful blue, pink or soft yellow blossoms that last for weeks.
  • The individual spikes are only five to eight centimetres (two to three inches) long, but when plants are massed, the effect is showy.
  • Anise hyssop blooms are particularly good companions for lavender-blue flowers of Russian sage and yellow ones of yarrow but can mingle well with most neighbours.
  • At season's end,  they'll shed plenty of seeds for expanding next year's display, unless you have intervened and clipped the blossoms for long-lasting bouquets.
  • 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 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.
  • The flowers, picked in full bloom, have a soft anise-mint flavour that enhances fruit salads.

Popular varieties

Anise hyssop is a favourite of nurseries because of its appearance and ease of cultivation. Here are some of the popular varieties and its colour:

  • Blue Fortune -- Dark blue.
  • Firebird -- Coral.
  • Apricot Sunset -- Burnt lemon.
  • Tuttifrutti -- Raspberry.
  • Snow Spike -- White.

Growing Anise Hyssop

Although it thrives 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 six to eight 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 an eight-centimetre-deep (three-inch-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.

Potential problems and how to fix them

Anise hyssop occasionally contracts powdery mildew in late summer, when warm, humid days are followed by cool nights. This fungal disease disfigures leaves with powdery gray or white blotches.

  • Control a light case by removing and disposing of affected leaves.
  • Simply tolerate the presence of leaves that are only slightly blemished, but do not eat them.
  • Cut back any severely affected plants to within 15 centimetres (six inches) of the soil and allow healthy new growth to appear in a few weeks.

The anise hyssop is a wonderful plant to work with and its sturdy characteristics make it a breeze to work with.

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