Hyssop

HyssopGrown in containers or as a border plant, Hyssop is extremely attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 75-85 days from seed
Height: 12 to 24 inches
Spacing: 12 to 24 inches apart, 2 to 4 feet between rows

Home herb gardeners are growing hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) for its dark green leaves which are used to flavor salads, soups, liqueurs and stews. Attractive plants have woody stems, small pointed leaves and spikes of pink, red, white and blue-purple flowers. Hardy perennial grows 2-3 feet tall.

Native to southern Europe, Hyssop was used as early as the seventh century as a purifying tea and for medicine. The ancient herb is said to cure all manner of ailments from head lice to shortness of breath.

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)

Site Preparation:

Hyssop prefers full sun to partial shade and dry, well-drained soil. Prior to planting work in plenty of organic matter, such as compost or aged animal manure. It is also helpful to add a light application of organic fertilizer to the planting hole. Hyssop grows equally well in containers, rock gardens and window boxes. Learn how to grow potted herbs here.

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How to Plant:

Sow indoors just beneath the surface of the soil 8-10 weeks before the last frost. Seeds will germinate in 14-21 days. Transplant out in the spring after the last frost. Set plants 12-24 inches apart. In autumn, new plants can be created by root division. Pruning to the first set of leaves after flowering will create a more compact plant and better flowering in the following year (watch How to Grow an Herb Garden — video).

Harvesting:

Use the youngest leaves and stems as needed. Cut in the morning after the dew has dried for optimal flavor. Do not wash the leaves or aromatic oils will be lost. Hyssop is best used fresh but can also be stored frozen in plastic bags or dried. To dry, tie the cuttings in small bundles and hang upside down in a well-ventilated dark room. When dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store whole. Crush or grind just before use (watch How to Dry Herbs — video).

Insects and Disease:

Hyssop does not have many insects or disease problems. In fact, several articles suggest that the perennial herb repels flea beetles and cabbage moths when planted in vegetable gardens. Hyssop is often grown as a companion plant and is particularly beneficial to cabbage and grapes.

Seed Saving Instructions:

Seeds are ready to harvest when the seed capsules are completely dry and brown. The capsules can then be picked and the seeds easily separated by hand.

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