The soft colors and textures of licorice plant make it a pleasing backdrop for more brightly colored blossoms. This plant has small leaves and thin stems, but it is much tougher than it looks. It will thrive in hot, humid weather and tolerates drought well. Plus, its fuzzy, scented foliage prevent pests from bothering the plant.
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Generally, licorice plant comes in silver or white but can also be found in a variety of soft hues of green, gold, or variegated foliage. It actually get its pale coloring from numerous dense hairs that cover all parts of the plant. These hairs are white and give the plant a soft texture, perfect for curious kids (and adults) to touch.
Licorice Plant Care Must-Knows
While it is most commonly grown as an annual, licorice plant is actually a woody tropical perennial. Licorice plant is a fast grower and likes as much sun as it can get. In part shade, plants can become leggy and will need more pruning to keep from looking messy. Shade-grown plants won't look quite as silvery, as the hairs are not as dense when grown in shade. In the heat of the summer, the leaves of this plant may occasionally exude the smell of licorice, hence its common name.
When you are looking for a home for your licorice plant, make sure to plant it in well-drained soil. Licorice plant does not appreciate sitting in too much water. If it does, your plant may begin to rot. Once your plant is established, it is quite drought-tolerant, though it does prefer regular watering.
Because this plant is actually a perennial, it won't bloom unless you live in a tropical environment and are able to overwinter it. If it does bloom, flowers are small and white. In a few of the more tropical locations in the U.S., this plant can reseed itself and become mildly invasive. If that is a problem in your region, make sure to remove the flowers, which aren't very ornamental anyway.
The semi-trailing or cascading growth habit of this plant works well in containers and hanging baskets. Some varieties have a more upright habit, so if your intended use is specifically as a spiller, make sure to check a plant's habit before you purchase. Licorice plant handles pruning well; it is a good idea to give trailing varieties a pinch early on in their growth to encourage good branching.
More Varieties of Licorice Plant
'Icicles' licorice vine
Helichrysum 'Icicles' bears threadlike silvery foliage on upright 2-foot-tall plants. Zones 9-11
'Lemon Licorice' licorice vine
This variety bears silvery-chartreuse foliage and can grow to 2 feet wide in containers. Zones 9-11
'Petite Licorice' licorice vine
Helichrysum 'Petite Licorice' is a dwarf form with smaller leaves and grows only about 1 foot wide. Zones 9-11
Licorice Plant Companion Plants
Angelonia is also called summer snapdragon, and once you get a good look at it, you'll know why. It has salvia-like flower spires that reach a foot or 2 high, but they're studded with fascinating snapdragon-like flowers with beautiful colorations in purple, white, or pink. It's the perfect plant for adding bright color to hot, sunny spaces. This tough plant blooms all summer long with spirelike spikes of blooms. While all varieties are beautiful, keep an eye out for the sweetly scented selections. While most gardeners treat angelonia as an annual, it is a tough perennial in Zones 9-10. Or, if you have a bright, sunny spot indoors, you can even keep it flowering all winter.
Gerbera daisies are so perfect they hardly look real. They bloom in nearly every color (except true blues and purples) and produce fantastically large flowers on long, thick, sturdy stems. They last for a week or more in the vase, making them a favorite of flower arrangers. This tender perennial will last the winter in only the warmest parts of the country, Zones 9-11. In the rest of the country, it is grown as an annual. It does well in average soil; it likes soil kept evenly moist but not overly wet. Fertilize lightly.
Heat up your garden with ornamental peppers! Much like hot peppers, you would grow in the veggie garden, ornamental peppers produce colorful little fruits that are round or pointed. But these are so attractive in their own right that they can be grown just for show—not eating. The peppers are indeed edible, but usually, their flavor is lacking compared to peppers grown for the table. Depending on the variety, the peppers appear in shades of white, purple, red, orange, and yellow -- often with multiple colors on the same plant. They like rich, well-drained soil that is evenly moist.