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Hyssop is a strongly flavored aromatic herb—similar to rosemary or lavender—that bears shiny green leaves and clusters of purple-blue, pink, or white flowers starting in midsummer. This herbaceous perennial grows in a bushy clump that reaches 18 to 24 inches tall, making it perfect for use in herb gardens, rock gardens, borders, and containers. It can also be shaped for use as a low hedge in milder climates, where it stays evergreen. Over the years it has escaped gardens and demanded a place alongside roadsides where it can naturalize to its heart’s content.
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Part Sun, Sun
1 to 3 feet
12-18 inches wide
Hyssop's soft green leaves add a subtle texture amidst other garden plants. Once it starts to bloom in mid- to late summer, tall spikes of whorled blue, purple, pink, and white blossoms create an eye-catching display. Hyssop flowers are loved by bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. In fact, many beekeepers rub their hives with hyssop to encourage the bees to stick around.
This easy-to-grow plant loves full sun and well-drained soil. (In warmer climates, it may perform better with some afternoon shade.) Before planting, work plenty of organic matter into the soil. You may want to add a light application of organic fertilizer to the hole before tucking in the plant. Place these plants 12 to 18 inches apart to accommodate their eventual height and width. Water young plants regularly until established. When grown in ideal conditions, hyssop is happy to self-seed, although not enough to be considered invasive. Light pruning will help maintain a compact shape.
In cooking, use this herb sparingly because it has a strong flavor. Chop young leaves and scatter them on salads. Use them to flavor soups, stews, and meat and oily fish dishes. Hyssop is also known for its medicinal properties. The plant is used to aid digestion of rich foods and reduce the swelling of bruises. Hyssop's essential oil can be used as an antiseptic.
Hyssop Harvesting Tips
For optimal flavor, harvest a plant's youngest stems and leaves in the morning after the dew has dried. Although best used when fresh, this herb can be stored frozen in plastic bags. Or you can dry it by tying cuttings in small bundles, hanging them upside down in a well-ventilated room for about six days, and then removing the leaves from the stems. When stored in airtight containers, the dried leaves will keep up to 18 months. Grind or crush these leaves just before use.