The lavender hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is a perennial wildflower that grows to 3 feet in height. It is sometimes called anise hyssop or fragrant giant hyssop. In summer, it gets tall flower spikes with many small, fragrant lavender colored flowers that honeybees love to pollinate. Lavender hyssop is hardy from USDA climate zones 3 to 9 (Minnesota to Texas).
Native Location and Growing Conditions
The lavender hyssop hails from the northern part of the central United States. It grows in open, sunny woodlands where the soil ranges from dry to semi-moist. It also favors the sides of creeks and streams as well as the shores beside lakes. Cheyenne Indians made tea from this plant, which they believed would help a "dispirited heart."
Landscaping and Culinary Uses
Lavender hyssop adds color, interest and scent to any flower garden. This plant does well in a container and can spice up an old wooden deck if you place several decorative pots containing lavender hyssop in the area. It provides a source for a good tasting tea that you can combine with other herbs such as lemon basil or lemon grass. The leaves of this wildflower have been used as a seasoning for breads and they are also said to repel mosquitoes if you crush them and rub them on your skin.
How to Grow Lavender Hyssop
Order seeds from a seed catalog or online. Start seeds in small nursery pots or flats six weeks before your final spring frost. Press them into the soil but do not cover with soil because they require light to germinate. Transplant to containers or a garden area with fertile, well-drained soil when seedlings are about 4 inches tall. Another way to start lavender hyssop is to scatter seeds in your planting area in fall and let nature take its course: because it's a wildflower, some of the seeds will survive to adulthood. At the end of its blooming season, cut this plant back by one-third to encourage bushiness.
Making Tea and Potpourri
Use fresh blooming flower spikes for a refreshing tea. Snip off several tall spikes and then chop them into 1-inch lengths. Place them in a quart teapot and fill with boiling water. Allow the mixture to steep for 10 to 15 minutes, strain and serve. It tastes a bit like licorice with lemony, piney, sagey, even peppery notes. It can have a light sedative effect on some people, so it makes a good bedtime beverage. To make potpourri, dry flower spikes by tying them in small bundles and hanging them upside down in a warm, dry, dark, well-ventilated area such as a garage. In one to two weeks they should be dry and crunchy: strip the leaves and flowers off the spike and sew them into potpourri packets or simply keep them in an open bowl in an area where you want to add scent.
Traditional Magical Uses
The Chippewa Indians of the American plains made charms from lavender hyssop that they believed protected them from diseases and enemies. If you plant this wildflower just outside your back door, it is believed to protect you from harm. When a flower essence is made from it, a person who has felt guilty will be returned to a state of "sweetness." The flower essence also encourages honest communication and helps to quell fear and anxiety, especially if you use it before taking a test or going on stage to perform.