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Herb Garden
Published December 16, 2022 by Nicole Burke

How to Grow Anise Hyssop in Your Garden

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anise hyssop
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anise hyssop plant

Grow Your Own Anise Hyssop Plants

This flowering herb in the mint plant family is super easy to grow and produces beautiful blue to purple flowers on spikes 3 to 6 inches long. Anise hyssop flowers are beloved by bees and butterflies, and each nectar-filled, tubular little flower is the perfect length for a hummingbird to take a drink.

While the flowers are unscented, the leaves are super fragrant and smell like something sweet mixed with licorice and mint. From both the name and the scent, you might think this herb is related to anise, but anise is in a completely different plant family (the Apiaceae family). (While we're getting technical, anise hyssop isn't even a true hyssop.)

Plants can grow 2 to 4 feet tall and 1 to 3 feet wide and spread underground via rhizomes.

Even if you don't plan to make tea from the leaves, I recommend growing anise hyssop, also known as lavender hyssop and licorice mint, in your garden for its ornamental value and appeal to pollinators.

uses for anise hyssop

Anise Hyssop Seeds

You'll often find anise hyssop seeds included amongst seed collections designed for bee-happy gardens, for tea gardens, and for edible flower gardens. Some of my favorite sources for flowering herb seeds are Botanical Interests, Baker Creek, and Johnny's Selected Seeds.

Here are some popular varieties to try:

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

This is the very popular self-seeding classic with those pretty purple flower spikes.

Anise Hyssop "Blue Fortune"

This variety has really thick spikes of light blue flowers and grows to be about 3 feet tall. While most anise hyssop plants self-seed easily, this variety is actually a sterile cultivar. You won't get free plants next year, but you'll get blooms for longer this year.

Korean "Green" Hyssop

This variety can handle hotter climates better than the classic. It's also much larger—it can grow up to 4 feet tall! This type is included amongst the 50 Fundamental Herbs in Chinese traditional medicine.

Arcado Pink Agastache

This gorgeous variety has pink flower spikes instead of the typical purple.

anise hyssop plant

Is Anise Hyssop a Perennial?

Anise hyssop is considered a tender perennial. In places without frost or snow, this herb can potentially live for three years, but it dies back with the first sign of frost. The plant has a vigorous root system that allows it to spread, and it self-sows easily (unless you're growing the "Blue Fortune" variety).

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How to Grow Anise Hyssop Plants

Season

Anise hyssop loves the warm season, when temperatures are between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a long warm season, sow anise hyssop seeds directly in the garden once all chance of frost has passed.

If you have a shorter window in this ideal temperature range, then consider starting seeds indoors about 6 weeks before your last frost date. Anise hyssop can't tolerate frost and shouldn't be moved outside unless you've got covers to protect them from cold or there's no chance of frost or snow.

Location

While you can grow anise hyssop in a raised bed or container, I've learned over the years that it's best to plant sprawling herbs like lemon balm and anise hyssop in the ground. It's tolerant of different soil types (as long as there is good drainage), and it spreads out so much that it's often not worth the precious real estate of my raised beds. I love scattering the seeds amongst the flowers and native plants in my pollinator garden.

Anise hyssop can have full sun to partial shade.

If the spot you've chosen gets buffeted by wind, you might need to stake larger plants to prevent them from flopping over and breaking.

Water

Anise hyssop can develop root rot in wet soil. Water only when the soil is dry down several inches. Established anise hyssop plants are fairly drought tolerant. This herb is native to prairies and dry plains, so keep that in mind before reaching for the watering can!

anise hyssop plant in pollinator garden

How to Start Anise Hyssop by Seed

Anise hyssop seeds need to feel a little light on their seed coats to germinate, so you want to surface sow these seeds, meaning you should press seeds into the soil to ensure good contact and then just barely cover them with some soil or compost. Place seeds about 12 to 18 inches apart. Seeds should germinate within a couple of weeks.

A process called cold stratification helps improve germination. Some people sow seeds in the early fall so that seeds can experience natural cold stratification over the winter months. (Don't worry—the seeds know not to sprout when it's cold. Seeds are smart like that!) The soil should be kept moist during the winter months and never allowed to dry out. Seeds should sprout in the spring.

If you've started seeds indoors, they should transplant outdoors well when small. If they wilt after being moved, just give them a couple days to recover.

How to Harvest Anise Hyssop

Flower spikes typically form by midsummer and will continue to bloom through the fall, until frost arrives. The best time to harvest flower spikes is when about ⅔ of the flowers have opened to just past full bloom. That's the period when the oil content in the leaves is highest.

To harvest, use a clean pair of pruners or scissors to cut the stem just above a leaf node about halfway down the plant. Think of cutting a nice, long stem like you would see in a bouquet.

Deadhead spent flowers (that just means to cut them from the plant above a leaf node) to encourage the plant to form new flowers for you. At the end of the season, it's great to leave flower heads on the plant to dry. You can bag some of the spikes or cut them from the plant and bring them indoors to save the seeds for next season. The rest of the flower heads can become food for birds.

uses for anise hyssop

Uses for Anise Hyssop

Culinary

Thanks to its licorice-like taste, this herb is often used to flavor herbal teas and jellies.

Both anise hyssop leaves and flowers are edible. You can actually grow anise hyssop as a microgreen if you really like that licorice flavor. Mature leaves can be eaten fresh in salads or used to add flavor to baked goods like cookies and breads, while blossoms are often used as a salad garnish. If you're not a huge fan of anise, try pairing anise hyssop with lemon.

Medicinal

Many Native American cultures have used anise hyssop for medicinal purposes, and both the dried leaves and flowers are a staple of traditional Chinese medicine. Teas made from this herb have long been used to treat congestion. Steeped leaves, which are said to induce sweating, are often used in sweat lodges. More recently, scientists are studying this herb for its antibacterial properties.

Ornamental

Harvested stems, leaves, and blooms are beautiful in a fresh floral arrangement.

You can also enjoy this herb dried. Dried leaves (it's really the leaves, not the blooms, that contain the scent) can be used to make potpourri. I like to dry sprigs of anise hyssop and use them to make this beautiful dried herb wreath.

anise hyssop uses

How to Make Anise Hyssop Tea

Both fresh or dried anise hyssop leaves and flowers can be used to make a refreshing and soothing tea. This tea is great to clear up congestion, aid digestion, or calm an upset stomach. This tea is naturally sweet and tastes a bit like anise.

Follow these steps to make anise hyssop tea:

  • If you're using fresh leaves, bruise them first. Bruising simply means bending them or pressing them to get that wet crease, and it's a great way to unlock more flavor from herbs without having to dry them. Chop 2 to 3 tablespoons of bruised leaves or dried leaves.
  • Pour 2 cups of boiled water over leaves and allow them to steep for 5 minutes.
  • Strain out the leaves if you didn't use a tea strainer during steeping.

You can serve this tea hot or iced. I like to add a little honey. Enjoy!

(Note: Since there's still more research to be done on the safety of herbal teas while pregnant, it's best to avoid this tea if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.)

anise hyssop tea

It's Anise Hyssop Growing Time

I hope you're inspired to grow this beautiful herb in your garden. It's long been a favorite of mine, and I'm sure once you grow it, you'll quickly see why!

Thanks for bringing back the kitchen garden with me, one anise hyssop plant at a time!

Learn More About Growing Herbs

How to Grow Anise Hyssop in Your Garden