Photo credit: Laurie Collins
Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is useful in borders, wildflower gardens, herb gardens, butterfly gardens, and meadows. It can also be an excellent addition to containers.
Other common names for this plant include blue giant hyssop, fragrant giant hyssop, licorice plant and lavender giant hyssop. Despite these names, anise hyssop is neither anise (Pimpinella anisum) nor hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis). Although, like hyssop, it is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae).
Anise hyssop is a perennial plant in the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4-8. It prefers well-drained soil in part sun to full sun. The plant grows from two to four feet tall. It should be noted that these plants will spread by rhizomes (underground, horizontal roots) and will easily self-seed in optimum growing conditions.
The plant has the square stems characteristic of mint family plants. Although the leaf scent has been described as anise, the chemical anethole, associated with anise or licorice, is not found in high amounts in the plant. Leaves have a scent more akin to basil or French tarragon. It blooms from June to September with bright lavender unscented flowers. Deadheading spent flowers can bring additional blooms.
There are a number of different hybrid varieties available that feature different flower colors, such as pink, creamy white, powder blue and red-violet. Some varieties have dark green or lime green foliage.
Anise hyssop is an important addition to pollinator and butterfly gardens as it provides nectar for bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies well into the fall season. Birds may eat seeds left on the stalks. The aromatic leaves can be used to make jellies and can be crumbled in salads. The seeds can be added to cookies or muffins. The aromatic dried leaves are a good addition to potpourris. Flower spikes can be an attractive addition to fresh cut or dried arrangements.