Hyssop is a beautiful herbaceous plant with tall blooms, dark green leaves, and a woody stem. It is a perennial plant that grows to be approximately two or three feet tall. The plant originates from areas of southern Europe and the Middle East. The blooms are usually purple in color, although they can be pink, blue, or in rare cases, white. The plants will attract lovely and beneficial garden friends, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Hyssop has a quite strong, almost medicinal aroma. It is well known for its antiseptic and cough-suppressant properties as well as its ability to clear out mucus. Throughout history, many cultures have used hyssop in traditional medicine or religious ceremonies. The Bible mentions its ability to purify lepers, and priests burned it with animal sacrifices and used it during Passover. Ancient Egyptian priests would eat the herb in order to purify themselves. Even today, hyssop is still used as a natural remedy for a variety of health conditions.
The hyssop herb also has a strong flavor and is used as a main ingredient in Middle Eastern spice mixes, along with sumac. Some use hyssop to flavor liqueurs, and beekeepers will use hyssop to produce thicker, more flavorful honeys. Some also use hyssop leaves in cooking, though their strong flavor means they must be used in moderation.
Growing Conditions for Hyssop
Hyssop grows best in zones three through 10. It is an easy plant to grow in that it is resistant to drought, tolerating extremely dry conditions. Hyssop plants should be grown in an area that gets full sun or partial shade.
The soil should be well-drained and slightly dry. For the best results, the pH of the soil can range from five to eight, with an ideal range being somewhere between six and seven. Make sure to mix compost into the soil [https://www.gardeningchannel.com/composting-101/] to help support the plant’s large root system.
Hyssop can be grown in herb gardens, window boxes, and containers or used as edging for flower gardens. Make certain that the container you choose is large enough to support the plant’s extensive root system.
How to Plant Hyssop
Hyssop can be transplanted or started from seeds [https://www.gardeningchannel.com/seedstarting-made-easy/] indoors or outdoors. Plant the seeds about eight to 10 weeks before the final frost of the season. Sow the seeds directly beneath the soil, approximately a quarter of an inch deep. The hyssop will usually take 14 to 21 days to sprout. If started indoors, move the hyssop plants outdoors after the threat of frost has passed. Space the plants 12 to 24 inches apart.
Care of Hyssop
Allow the soil to completely dry out between waterings, and then soak the soil completely through. Hyssop plants do not need to be pruned, but they can be trimmed during the growing season to maintain a neat shape. Cut the plants back completely during early spring. This will prevent the plants from becoming too twiggy and spindly.
The plants can also be divided during the spring or fall months. This will encourage the plants to grow lushly.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Hyssop
Hyssop is an extremely hardy plant, and it is not bothered by many pests or diseases. In fact, some believe that hyssop actually repels pests, such as flea beetles and cabbage moths, making it an ideal companion plant for vegetables affected by those pests.
The one pest that may affect hyssop is the nematode. Nematodes are also known as roundworms, and they can affect your dogs and cats as well as your plants. If the nematodes are feeding above ground, the flowers, leaves, and stems of your plants may appear disfigured or twisted. If the pests are feeding below ground, the plant may be wilted, yellow, or unusually small.
Making sure that the soil is well drained will help protect the plants from nematodes. The only way to treat plants affected by nematodes is to dig up the affected plants, allow the area to be fallow, and till the soil frequently to expose the nematodes to the sun in order to kill them.
If you are cultivating hyssop to use in cooking or for consumption, it is best to use the herb if it is fresh. However, you can also dry it or freeze it if you want to save it and use it for later. Try to cut the hyssop early in the morning after the dew has dried.
If drying hyssop, hang the plants upside-down in small bunches in an area that is dry and well ventilated to prevent the the growth of mold. If freezing, remove the leaves from the stems and store them in a plastic bag before putting them in the freezer.
Hyssop Varieties to Grow in Your Home Garden
There are several different varieties of hyssop that you can grow in your home garden. The main difference in these varieties is the color of flowers they produce, though there are some varieties that produce their own unique flavors.
- Alba: This variety of hyssop has white flowers.
- Anise: Anise hyssop closely resembles lavender and smells and tastes of anise.
- Common: Common hyssop is the most popular variety of the herb and comes in the most common color: purple.
- Korean: This variety of hyssop is the most similar in appearance and flavor to anise hyssop, though it is slightly hardier. It is also known as Korean mint.
- Rock: This type of hyssop is most similar to common hyssop, though it grows lower to the ground and is mainly used as an edge plant.
- Rosea: The rosea variety of hyssop grows pink flowers.
Want to Learn More about Growing Hyssop?
To learn more about how to save seeds from hyssop, check out this video, which focuses specifically on anise hyssop.
If you want to hear more about which types of hyssop are the most beneficial to bees and other pollinators, watch this interview with Annie White, a PhD student at the University of Vermont who researches the benefits of natural varieties versus cultivars.
Author Saffyre Falkenberg began gardening with her grandmother as a child in Southern California. She continues to keep plants in her apartment in Texas and has a special love for succulents.
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