A lovely native perennial that produces large spikes of blue/violet flowers throughout the summer months. It likes heat and full sun but a pretty tough plant since its native to the prairies and its pretty drought tolerant. Its not particularly fussy about the soil and although many sources claim it likes alkaline soils it seems to do just as well on neutral to slightly acid ones. It does need good drainage though and will not tolerate waterlogged soils Hardy to zone 4 it's a tough little plant that dies back to the ground every winter and comes back year after year to provide a lovely anise/licorice scent from both the leaves and the flowers. Due to its highly aromatic nature the deer don't eat it, there are reports of it being a favorite of rabbits however. Butterflies and bees love the flowers and will flock to it. Its also great in the kitchen and the flowers can be dried to use in flower arrangements, where they also keep the delightful scent. Its great to have around the patio or even in pots on the deck.
First year Anise Hyssop plants in our field
Description: Growing from 2-4 feet in height (although the latter height will only be achieved with good mulching and reasonable amounts of water) it is a bushy plant with square stems and opposite leaves reaching 4" long and 2" across and mostly lanceate in shape but can be slightly heart shaped with scalloped margins. The leaves are mid green with conspicuous darker veins. The upper stems terminate in flower spikes up to 6" long. These are composed of small flowers arranged n dense whorls, each flower is tubular and about 1/3" long and blue-violet in color. Flowers bloom in scattered locations along the spike for about two months giving lasting color. These are followed by nutlets containing the seeds. Although the flowers themselves have no actual scent the whole plant has a strong aroma that lasts and lasts.
Plant confusion. Despite its name its not really a hyssop its in the mint family - as can be seen from the square stems. Its also not an anise which is a different plant entirely (Pimpinella anisum). It does however had the scent of anise and flowers that sort of look like hyssop if you squint at it.
Growing. Seeds need light to germinate so don't cover them. Starting inside before frost is past is the best option. The plants produce a taproot making them difficult to move after they have established themselves so ensure you have chosen your location well before planting. Small plants are easy to transplant but after a year or two it will be difficult.
In the kitchen. The leaves and flowers are edible both raw and cooked. The raw leaves can be added to salads but don't add too many as they tend to have a drying effect on the mouth. The leaves make an excellent flavoring for desserts, sweets cookies etc and can be added to fruits and other dishes especially acidic ones. It makes an excellent tea both hot and cold. Soaking the cleaned leaves in water or milk will leach out the flavor so it can be added to desserts, ice cream and anything else you like.
The leaves have been used by the native Americans for centuries to treat colds, fevers, coughs and pains in the chest. A poultice of the leaves was used to treat burns. It was also burnt in medicine bundles to purify the spirit.