By Jennifer Poindexter
Horehound. Would you believe I hadn’t heard of this herb until I was married? My mother-in-law went into an old General Store and came out with horehound candy. Not only did I not know what type of candy she had, but I didn’t know it was an herb. Imagine my surprise when she gave me a history lesson on herbs right in a store parking lot.
Horehound is an herb that’s commonly used in candy and cough drops. It has an odd, old timey flavor that reminds me of a cross between root beer and black Twizzlers. It’s also high in vitamins A, B, C, and E. This can make you feel good about the next time you splurge on horehound candy.
If you’re interested in growing an herb that can be used to make homemade candy, here’s all you must know to make this dream a reality:
Growing Conditions for Horehound
To start, let’s just address the name of horehound. It sounds derogatory or as if you’re speaking of a dog. Neither is the case. Most think it comes from the Old English meaning downy plant. This is a nod towards the plant’s hairy appearance.
Now that we’ve removed the elephant from the room, let’s discuss what horehound needs to grow properly and plentifully.
Horehound is a perennial herb and is part of the mint family. Hence the resemblance between mint and horehound. It grows in planting zones three through ten, needs full sun, and well-draining soil.
The soil can be of low-quality because horehound isn’t particular about its nutrients. It even does well in dry climates. It will need some room to mature, because the plant grows to become two feet in height and two feet in width.
By providing these few basic needs, you’re setting the right stage for horehound to grow beautifully around your home.
How to Plant Horehound
The most common method of raising horehound is sowing seeds directly into the garden area. Seeds can be direct sowed in spring or fall.
If direct sowing in the spring, wait until three weeks before the final predicted frost date. Place the seeds a ½ inch deep in the cultivated ground.
Ensure that you’ve removed all hindrances when cultivating the ground. Things such as rocks and debris should be removed from the grow area to ensure the seeds have every opportunity to sprout properly.
Once sprouted, thin the plants to where there’s approximately two feet between them. You’ll follow the same planting process in the fall.
However, the seeds won’t germinate until the following spring. This is only one method for growing horehound from seed. You can also start the seeds indoors.
The hardest part about starting horehound seeds indoors is the germination rate. A way to improve germination rate is to practice stratification.
Cold stratification is where you wrap the seeds in a damp paper towel and seal them in a plastic bag. Place the plastic bag in the refrigerator for two months.
At the end of the two months, start the seeds in grow trays as you would for any other plant. Horehound seeds have a separate phase in their sprouting process that many seeds don’t have to go through.
The process of cold stratification helps wake the seed up from this level of dormancy. After the seeds have sprouted, move them to their grow area.
Transplant them with two feet of space between plants. It’s important to note, you don’t have to grow horehound inground.
Horehound is an invasive plant. This shouldn’t be shocking because it’s related to mint. This is a great plant to grow because it’s a wonderful feed for bees.
However, if not handled properly, it will take over. For this reason, either plant horehound where it has room to spread freely or grow it in a container.
Once the horehound plants are in the ground, it’s time to learn how to care for them.
Caring for Horehound
Horehound isn’t a complicated herb to care for. It’s great in dry climates, but you should obviously water if possible.
Do the knuckle test to determine if the plant requires more water. Insert your finger into the soil next to the plant. If the soil is wet to the first knuckle you don’t need to add water. If the soil is dry to the first knuckle, you should add water via a deep watering session.
A deep watering session is when you water the herb fewer times per week for longer periods. This ensures water reaches the roots and keeps the plant hydrated longer. You can also mulch around the plant to help it retain proper moisture.
The important thing is that your soil is well-draining. Where the herb can handle consistent moisture, it should never be left in a soggy state.
As discussed earlier, horehound is an invasive plant. You should remove the flowers of the plant to reduce reseeding.
Last, make sure you only fertilize horehound one time per year, and this should be during the spring. It doesn’t need this for survival but the boost in fertilizer will help the foliage of the plant.
By covering these few needs of the horehound plant, it should grow beautifully for you in its designated space.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Horehound
Horehound is an easy to handle plant once it has sprouted. You’ll be happy to know that once you get horehound started, it’s hard to kill.
There are no pests or diseases that commonly present a threat to your horehound plants. Take a big sigh of relief and focus on learning how to harvest horehound for use around your home.
How to Harvest Horehound
Harvesting horehound is a simple process. It should be harvested after the plant has begun producing flowers.
Once this occurs, use shears to cut the foliage away from the base of the plant. Leave enough room for regrowth to occur.
The leaves and flowers both can be harvested, but it’s important to harvest while they’re young. Dry the harvest and store in an airtight container until you’re ready to use at a later date.
This style of storage should preserve the harvest for approximately one year.
Now that you’ve harvested horehound, you may be wondering what you should do with it. You’re in luck because horehound is a versatile plant.
It can be used in the kitchen for a variety of recipes. You can use horehound to make herbal teas. The obvious use is to make homemade horehound candy.
Horehound is frequently used to make a type of beer commonly consumed in England. The herb can also be used to infuse oils.
If you have an abundance of horehound at harvest, it’s nice to know there are a variety of ways you can put it to good use.
Growing horehound can be a big decision. Since it’s an invasive species of plant, if you aren’t intentional about where or how you grow it, you could have a problem on your hands.
Once you figure out how to control this herb, it’s exciting to know that it doesn’t need much care and isn’t threatened by pests or diseases.
However, it has a multitude of uses. Horehound isn’t right for every gardener, but if you’re someone who would like to give it a try, this herb could have a lot to offer.