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Past Articles Library | Learn About Herb Gardening

Growing Anise Hyssop or Licorice Mint


This herbaceous perennial herb is a delight that can be found at home in the flower garden and the herb garden.  Agastache foeniculum has been used since biblical times as a healing herb.  While it is not a true hyssop, as one of the common names may indicate, it does fall into a group of European mints that have been used for centuries as a form of herbal medicine and in doing has fallen into a group of herbs referred to as Hyssopus officinalis.

Agastache foeniculum can be found in seed catalogues and nurseries under several common names.  This includes anise hyssop, blue giant hyssop, fennel giant hyssop, fragrant giant hyssop, and licorice mint.

To propagate this herb, one can start the plant from seed.  When growing from seed, one can plant them in the garden space in the fall.  The seeds will remain dominant until the spring.  Another approach is to start them indoors much like you would tomato seeds.

Another approach is to divide existing plants.  Anise hyssop does quite well when divided.  Keep in mind though, that this herb is very flexible in its soil and sun requirement.  It loves a loamy soil but can tolerate a rocky, clay soil.  It also thrives in full sun to partial shade.

This plant is a native of north-central North America, which falls into the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4a through 9b.  It grows 24 to 36-inches in height and works well as a backdrop to a perennial border.  If using this approach, combine this herb with Japanese anemones, black-eyed Susan, and companulas.

Anise hyssop also does well in the herb garden.  When using this approach, utilize the practice of companion plantings.  Combine assorted thymes, oregano, garlic, and chives with this herb.

In any garden space, keep in mind that this plant is known to be as invasive as mint.  While one could contain it, a better approach is to combine it with other determined type of plant material.  This includes bee balms and assorted mints.

This herb not only acts an herbal remedy for certain aliments, it is also used in the culinary world.  The leaves are used to make tea while the flowers are sprinkled on top of fruit salads and used for decorating cakes.  In the wild, this plant blooms in the early summer but when planted in the garden or landscaping the blooming period is extended.  The beautiful purple blooms will appear on flower spikes that shoot up to the sky in mid summer to early fall.  Bees love this plant.  It is said that once a bee visits this plant, it will never stray to another type of plant.   Butterflies, and even hummingbirds also love the flowers of this plant while many chewing insects avoid it.  It is believed that the licorice smell produced by this plant deters these types of insects.

Floral designers also use the flower spikes in dried flower arrangements.  When dried, these flower spikes retain their color and aroma.

The seeds from this herb are easily collected.  To do this, simply cover the flower spikes with a paper bag and cut from the plant.  Tie off the bag and hang in a warm and dry location.  As the flower spike continues to dry, the seeds will fall off into the bag.

If Agastache foeniculum is something you would like to try in your garden space do not limit yourself to the native variety.  This plant has been hybridized to create different scents and colors.  The colors range from pink, white, blue, yellow, and red.  Each color has its own scent, which can range from peppermint to spearmint and a more intense licorice aroma.


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