Anise Hyssop 101 – Complete Guide to Agastache foeniculum


One of the most reliable plants at attracting bees and butterflies to my yard is Anise Hyssop. This compact perennial is one of the longest blooming plants I have, lasting several months. I’ve being germinating and growing Anise Hyssop for about 4 years, and can share with you everything you need to know to successfully grow this wonderful plant.

In this article:

What is Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop is a native edible perennial flower that has a long bloom duration, showy flowers, and high value to wildlife. Scientifically known as Agastache foeniculum, it will grow 2-3′ tall in full sun and well drained soil. Numerous species of bees and butterflies are attracted to it’s purple-blue flowers.

Native Range

Anise Hyssop is primarlily native to the Upper Midwest and Canada. A member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family, it’s native range is Colorado through Montana, then East to Michigan and Illinois. Although it has been established in several other states such as Pennsylvania and New York by escaping cultivation. [1]

Reference Table

Scientific NameAgastache foeniculum
Common Name(s)Anise Hyssop
Native Range, USDA ZoneNorth America, Upper Midwest, USDA Growing Zones 4-8
Bloom TimeLate Spring to Late Summer
Bloom Duration, Color3+ Months, Purple/Lavender/Blue
Height2′-4′ (60 cm-120 cm)
Spacing / Spread18″-36″ (45 cm – 120 cm)
Light RequirementsFull Sun to Partial Shade
Soil TypesSandy Loam to Clay Loam – Must drain well
MoistureDry to Medium Moisture
Fauna Associations / Larval HostsBees, Butterflies

What are the Benefits of Anise Hyssop

It is beautiful!

Numerous purple/lavender spikes of flowers rising above attractive foliage make Anise Hyssop a gorgeous addition to any garden or flower bed. The early season foliage is interesting, as it’s color changes from white to green. The flowers begin blooming in early Summer, and last right up until Fall.

Anise Hyssop is easy to grow

Just give it plenty of sun and some medium to dry soil and Anise Hyssop will thrive! This is a drought tolerant sun-loving perennial flower. Over my years of growing it I’ve learned that as long as you don’t plant in a wet area, space flowers 2′ apart, and that the soil drains well Anise Hyssop will thrive.

It is easy to grow from seed

Anise Hyssop seeds germinate very easily! Just give them a bit of cold stratification and plant them on the surface of the soil in early Spring and you will get very high germination rates!

A fast growing plant

Anise Hyssop is one of the few perennials that I can get to flower the same year it germinates from seed! After germinating seed in March I’ve had the plant blooming in late July! So, no need to purchase expensive nursery plants – just go get a pack of seed and grow as many as you like!

Anise Hyssop will attract tons of bees and butterflies!

Over 30 species of bees have been documented visiting Anise Hyssop, as well as over a dozen butterfly and moth species. In my own gardens this is one of the ‘busier’ flower species with all manner of pollinators and insects. This is a valuable plant to wildlife! [2]

Identification and Characteristics of Anise Hyssop

A herbaceous perennial, Anise Hyssop is 24-36″ tall (60-90 cm) and forms clumps of flowering stalks.  For a similar plant that is larger, look to it’s cousin, Purple Giant Hyssop!

Stalk / Stem

The stalks are 4-sided, but not quite square in shape and may branch near the top of the plant.  Stalks are a medium green color, and generally smooth (but may have small fine hairs).

Square stems and opposite leaves of Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop Leaves

The leaf of Anise Hyssop is 2″ wide by 4″ long (5 cm by 10 cm). Pairs of Anise Hyssop Leaves are opposite along the stem. There will be prominent and frequent veins on the leaf, and the edges are serrated/toothed.  When crushed the leaves emit a distinct Anise smell, similar to black licorice, which is one of the reasons it has been used for teas for many years.

New growth leaves will have a purple tint, but overall the foliage will look nice until Autumn.

Flower

At the top of the stems there will be clusters/spikes of blue/purple flowers about 2-6″ long (5 cm-15 cm).  The clusters will consist of small tubular flowers that are only 1/4″-3/8″ long (6-9 mm) that are arrayed around the stalk (whorled).

Anise Hyssop’s blooming period lasts up to three months, with individual flowers blooming at different times throughout that duration.

In Late Summer/Early Fall the spike of flowers will all dry up, and this is when you can collect seeds.  Each spent tubular flower will change to a small nutlet or capsule that will produce seeds.

Anise Hyssop Seed Head seeds
Crushing/shaking the seed head will release the seeds. Store in a cool dry place.

Root System

Anise Hyssop root system is a taproot and will have rhizomes.  So it will spread somewhat to make a clump. In 3 years, I’ve never seen a new plant that came from a rhizome. But I do see the plant expand from expanding root mass or by seed. [2]

Is Anise Hyssop the Same as Hyssop?

Anise Hyssop (Agastache) is not the same as Hyssop (Hyssopus). Anise Hyssop is Native to North America and a member of of the mint family, while Hyssop spp is a member of the carrot family and native to Europe. They are completely different genus and species!

Spring Emergence

Anise Hyssop is one of the earlier perennials to emerge in the Spring. You will begin to notice the leaves popping up about the same time as Echinacea, and well before any milkweed.

Anise Hyssop emerging in Spring from it’s Winter Dormancy.

Is Anise Hyssop invasive or does it spread?

Anise Hyssop is not invasive, but will spread by self-seeding locally. I’ve been growing Anise Hyssop for several years. I’ve had my plants expand in size and self-seed, but I’ve not had them spread via rhizomes.

So, in my experience, they are not going to send runners all over your yard like Goldenrod or Bee Balm. They will just be a clump that enlarges itself via rhizomes.

Grow and Care for Anise Hyssop

Sunlight Requirements

Anise Hyssop will grow best in full sun, which is 6+ hours of direct sunlight per day. However, it can tolerate partial shade, which is 4-6 hours direct sun per day. But in partial shade the plant will not grow as large or produce as many blooms.

So, while Anise Hyssop does not need full sun, it will require at least 4 hours of sun per day to do alright.

Water Requirements

Anise Hyssop prefers dry to medium soil. It is not suitable to wet areas or flooding. Excess moisture can cause foliar disease, fungus, and root rot. Root rot is fatal to Anise Hyssop.

anise hyssop

Soil Requirements

Anise Hyssop can tolerate a range of soils, from sandy-loam to clay-loam. It can also tolerate rocky conditions.

But above all else, the soil must drain reasonably well for Anise Hyssop to grow well.

Maintenance

Anise Hyssop will self-seed in mulched flowerbeds. In Spring you may wish to pull unwanted seedlings. Additionally you can prevent self-seeding by deadheading the plant in late Summer or early Fall when seed heads are forming.

Fall / Winter Care

Once the plant is dormant in Fall or Winter, you can cut Anise Hyssop to ground. Pruning Anise Hyssop at this time will help reduce the amount of self-seeding done by the plant, as well as keep it looking tidy.

I don’t cut mine back, but my plants are in a more wild area. I do remove them in Spring, once temperatures have warmed up. This allows any insects overwintering in the stems to have a chance to emerge.

How to Grow Anise Hyssop from Seed

Anise Hyssop is easy to grow from seed. Germination rates improve after a 30 day period of cold stratification and exposure to morning sun and afternoon shade. It is easiest to winter-sow the seed. Seed from Anise Hyssop requires light to germinate and should be planted directly on the surface of the soil.

Process to germinate Anise Hyssop seed

As stated above, you will get much better germination rates if you cold moist stratify or winter-sow Anise Hyssop seed. I strongly suggest you check out our guides for winter-sowing and cold stratifying seeds. The seed planting instruction below are for how you winter-sow, or after you’ve completed a 30-day cold stratification period. [8]

  1. Fill a container with moist potting soil, leaving a 1/4″ (6 mm) gap at the top
  2. Sprinkle around 5 Anise Hyssop seeds onto the soil
  3. Press the seeds into the potting mix so there is good contact with the soil. But do not cover the seed.
  4. Place in a location that receives morning sun and afternoon shade. Mist the seeds in the mornings using a spray bottle or pump-sprayer.

Germination should occur once temperatures begin to warm up in Spring, or within a couple weeks if starting in the summer. Anise Hyssop grown from seed will have about 90 days to maturity. So, if you start your seeds in April, you can expect to get flowers by July/August. Just make sure you transplant them out early!

These are first year plants, germinated earlier in the Spring.

Purchase Seed

We have ordered a variety of native flower seeds from Everwilde Farms, which you can order right from Amazon through our link on our RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS PAGE. (We may earn a small commission when you purchase through our links, at no cost to you. This helps support our website.)

Planting Guide for Anise Hyssop

Choosing the right location for Anise Hyssop is the key to successfully growing beautiful plants. Follow these guidelines below!

  • Once seedlings have two sets of true leaves, the seedlings can be planted out to their final location. Choose an area that receives at least 4 hours of direct sun per day (6 hours or more is better).
  • Make sure the area has well drained soil, and is not a low spot prone to occasional flooding. Anise Hyssop likes drier soils!
  • Anise Hyssop plant spacing should be at least 2′ apart (60 cm) to ensure adequate airflow between plants. This allows for the plants mature spread. Additionally, this will help prevent fungus and foliage diseases.

To plant Anise Hyssop seedlings:

  • Dig a hole slightly deeper and twice as wide as your seedling pot size.
    • (Optional) add a handful of compost to the bottom of the hole.
  • Fill the hole with water, and then wait for it to drain
  • Plant your seedling
  • Monitor the seedling for the next couple of weeks, taking care to ensure it is successfully established. Monitor the soil moisture, but don’t over-water the plant!
Mature Anise Hyssop Seedlings…and too densely sown!

Wildlife, Pests, and Diseases associated with Anise Hyssop

Bees

There are over 30 species of short and long-tongued bees that will visit Anise Hyssop. A large mass of Anise Hyssop plants is sure to be heavily visited and excellent for bees. If you want to attract Bees to your garden, Anise Hyssop is an excellent choice. [2]

Anise Hyssop is so valuable for bees that it has been used by apiarists since the early 1900’s.[3] Beekeepers across the country have cultivated Anise Hyssop to supply their hives with a steady source of nectar due to it’s long bloom duration.

Butterflies

Like bees, there are many species of butterflies and skippers that visit Anise Hyssop. I particularly see Clouded Sulpher butterflies and Silver Spotted Skippers quite regularly. But it also attracts larger species of Swallowtail and Monarchs.

Hummingbirds

Anise Hyssop will attract hummingbirds to your garden. The more blooms you have, the more likely you are to have a hummingbird visit. Like bees, hummingbirds are attracted to the nectar produced by Anise Hyssop.

Other Insects

I find that there are also various beetles that will feed on the foliage, as well as visit the flowers of Anise Hyssop. But growing lots of native plants will increase the biodiversity in your backyard. I’ve noticed and learned of numerous new insects I had no idea existed.

One (somewhat scary visitor) I’ve been encountering is the Robber Fly. This is a fascinating and amazing insect to observe. A predator, he will eat anything it can catch by ambush.

Robber Fly with a Bumblebee

Deer and Rabbits

The leaves and flowers of Anise Hyssop have a strong aroma and flavor, making Anise Hyssop very deer and rabbit resistant. This potent taste keeps deer and rabbits from eating Anise Hyssop.

Dogs

Anise Hyssop is not toxic to dogs. Per the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants to dogs, Anise Hyssop is harmless. It may also be that the strong taste of the foliage dissuades dogs from eating it, similar to deer and rabbits. [4]

Diseases that effect Anise Hyssop

Like many plants, Anise Hyssop is susceptible to fungus and other forms of foliar disease. They generally will not kill the plant, but will make the foliage unattractive.

To avoid these, space plants apart to allow for good airflow. Also, do not plant in overly wet areas. And if you need to water Anise Hyssop, do so at the base of the plant and avoid getting the leaves wet.

If you do observe powdery mildew, leaf spot fungus, or rust on the leaves of Anise Hyssop you can apply a general fungicide. Follow the label instructions.

Anise Hyssop Leaves turning yellow

If you notice the leaves of Anise Hyssop turning yellow, there are a few possible causes. Some foliar diseases can cause leaves to yellow. But the most likely cause is root rot. Check the location for proper drainage. And always plant Anise Hyssop in soil that drains well.

Where you can buy Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop is available at various garden centers. And the seed can be purchased at our recommended products page. I highly recommend you grow from seed, as the flower will bloom the first year and a pack of seed only costs a few dollars.

Many cultivars of Anise Hyssop can be purchased garden centers. There are dozens of varieties available. Although different color flowers can interfere with pollinators vision. So if your goal is to attract pollinators, it is best to go with the straight species.

Here are 10 different Anise Hyssop varieties:

  • Alba Anise-Hyssop. Leaves are pale green, and flowers are white.
  • ‘Black Adder’ – Buds of the flowers are black, and the interior of the flower is red
  • Blue Blazes Hyssop – despite the ‘blue’ in the name, the flowers are pink-purple color
  • Blue Fortune Hyssop – Blue flowers, and taller at 3-4′
  • Blue Boa Anise Hyssop – Dark purple-blue flowers with dark green leaves
  • Bolero Hummingbird Mint – Green-Bronze leaves with purple-pink flowers
  • Golden Jubilee Anise-hyssop. Yellow leaves and light purple / lavender flowers.
  • Heatwave hyssop – Pink to magenta flowers with light green foliage.
  • Licorice Blue Anise-hyssop. Blueish flowers with green leaves.
  • Licorice White Anise-hyssop – White flowers with green foliage.

Uses of Anise Hyssop

Garden Uses

Anise Hyssop is a very versatile plant in the yard or garden. It tolerates different lighting conditions, and it’s height and clump-forming nature make it a great choice for a formal flower bed, meadow, border, or wildflower garden / micro-prairie.

But don’t just think about traditional garden settings, you can also grow Anise Hyssop in a container. I’ve successfully overwintered plants in pots exposed to the elements in zone 6, right out in the open.

But anywhere you like plant Anise Hyssop will probably be a good choice. Don’t forget, this plant is great for fragrance, in that if anyone touches or walks against the leaves they will be treated to the aroma of licorice.

Companion Plants for Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop pairs well with many other species. Anything that loves full sun and medium-dry conditions will do nicely. I particularly think it looks great contrasting with plants that produce yellow blooms. But here are a few plants that do great next to Anise Hyssop:

Edible Uses

The leaves and flower of Anise Hyssop are edible. The primary culinary use of Anise Hyssop is as a spice, or for adding flavor as it has a lemon-mint-licorice taste. In addition to being a garnish on salads or other dishes, the leaves can be used to make a nice tasting tea and flavor liquors [5]

Leaves can be eaten raw, used as a garnish, or dried for making tea. I’ve eaten the leaves, and they have a light flavor of black licorice with hints of lemon-mint. It really tastes quite nice. I’m not a fan of black licorice, but the flavor of Anise Hyssop is much lighter and I enjoy it.

Flowers can be raked off the stalk and used as a lemon-licorice flavor garnish on top of a dish or salad. [6] [7]

Anise Hyssop for honey production

The high value Anise Hyssop provides to bees had led many bee keepers to grow and cultivate Anise Hyssop for honey production. [root] The abundant flowers and nectar they provide make them very attractive to apiarists, and their honey bees.

Native American Uses of Anise Hyssop

There are over 61 documented uses of Anise Hyssop by 27 different Native American Tribes. Anise Hyssop was used by Native Americans as medicine, food, and sweeteners [9]. Some of the uses include the following:

  • Diuretic
  • Febrifuge
  • Heart Medicine
  • Dermatological Aid
  • Cough Medicine

Anise Hyssop Essiential Oils

Anise Hyssop produces essential oils that are rich in antioxidants and have anti fungal and antimicrobial properties [8] [10]. They have been cultivated for some time, particularly in Russia and Ukraine for use as essential oils.

Find more native plants

References:

[1] – Fuentes-Granados & Widrlechner. Diversity Among and Within Populations of Agastache foeniculum. Agronomy Department, Iowa State University. Proceedings of the 14th Annual North American Prairie Conference. http://images.library.wisc.edu/EcoNatRes/EFacs/NAPC/NAPC14/reference/econatres.napc14.rfuentesgranados.pdf

[2] – Lim T.K. (2014) Agastache foeniculum. In: Edible Medicinal and Non Medicinal Plants. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-8748-2_7

[3] – George S. Ayers, Mark P. Widlechner. The Genus Agastache as Bee Forage: A Historcial Perspective. The Other Side Of Bee Keeping, American Bee Journal, pp341-348, 1994. https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1049&context=ncrpis_pubs

[4] – https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/dogs-plant-list

[5] – Beigi, Sourestani. Effect of water stress on morphological traits, essential oil content and yield of anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum [Pursh] Kuntze). Iranian Journal of Horticultural Science 2010 Vol.41 No.2 pp.153-161 ref.37. http://journals.ut.ac.ir/page/article-popup.html?articleId=287716

[6] – Jiri Mlcek, Otakar Rop, Fresh edible flowers of ornamental plants – A new source of nutraceutical foods, Trends in Food Science & Technology, Volume 22, Issue 10, 2011, Pages 561-569, ISSN 0924-2244, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2011.04.006.

[7] – Newman and O’Connor. Edible flowers. Colorado State University Extension. Fact Sheet 7.237. October 2020. https://mountainscholar.org/bitstream/handle/10217/217223/AEXT_07237_202010.pdf?sequence=1

[8] – Matei, Duda, Olar, Ardelean, Madas. Results Regarding Seed Germiantion of Agastache Foeniculum. Bulletin UASVM Agriculture, 68(1)/2011. http://journals.usamvcluj.ro/index.php/agriculture/article/download/6442/5733

[9] – North American Ethnobotany Database. http://naeb.brit.org/uses/search/?string=agastache&page=1

[10] – HASHEMI, M., & EHSANI, A., & HASSANI, A., & AFSHARI, A., & AMINZARE, M., & SAHRANAVARD, T., & Azimzadeh, Z. (2017). PHYTOCHEMICAL, ANTIBACTERIAL, ANTIFUNGAL AND ANTIOXIDANT PROPERTIES OF AGASTACHE FOENICULUM ESSENTIAL OIL. JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL HEALTH RISKS (JCHR), 7(2), 95-104. https://www.sid.ir/en/journal/ViewPaper.aspx?id=521642

Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over six years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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