Anise Plants (Pimpinella anisum) Quick Facts:
Host plant to Anise and Black Swallowtail
Native to the Mediterranean
Doesn’t tolerate extreme heat and high humidity
Lacy white flowers in summer
Grows 1- 3 ft tall
Space 12 inches apart
Readily reseeds, can collect seeds in late summer
Seeds have licorice-like flavoring
Plant Anise for the Anise and Black Swallowtail Caterpillars!
Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is an annual herb that is native to the Mediterranean. Since it can be used for culinary purposes, it has also been cultivated in Southern Europe. Anise is easy to grow in most of the US, except in areas that see extreme heat and humidity. Part of the parsley family, it is a host plant of the Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) and the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).
NOTE: Don’t confuse this Anise with Star Anise (Illicium verum) which is actually a tree, native to Southern China. Although its seeds flavor are similar, it is not the same plant and is not in the same family, nor is Star Anise a host plant for these swallowtails.
Also confusing is that fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is often called ‘anise’ or ‘sweet anise’. Although fennel and anise are in the same family, have similar tastes, and are both host plants for these swallowtails, they are different plants. The anise plant is grown in the US as an annual, where the sweet fennel can be grown as a perennial.
Anise is mainly a host plant, but like many herbs the nectar of the flowers can attract several types of pollinators to your garden.
Characteristics of Anise Plants
Anise plants grow about 18″ tall, although may grow up to 3 feet. Delicate umbels of lacy white flowers bloom in mid-late summer. The lower leaves of this plant are round, while the upper Ieaves grow more feathery. It is frost-tender and is an annual. If harvesting seeds, it needs a long season of 120 days or so but if growing for the butterflies, that is not an issue.
Aniseed likes full sun and moderately fertile, med-dry soil that is well drained. Its long taproot makes it somewhat drought tolerant. It will do well in sandy/loamy light soils, but not heavy clay soils. The Anise plant can be gown in raised beds and deep containers. It is difficult to transplant once the Anise plant is established since it has such a long taproot. When you purchase a plant from Joyful Butterfly, carefully remove the disposable pot and transplant the Anise plant without disturbing the root ball.
For Information on Anise Seeds
Harvest the Anise seeds to use as whole seeds or crushed as a licorice flavored herb. The flower heads can be cut off in the fall, once they have ripened and are full of brown seeds. Let the seeds dry before storing. The leaves can be used at any time in soups, stews, etc. More information on how to grow from Anise seed can be found on our seed page.
Plant Anise to bring Anise and Black Swallowtail butterflies to these delicate white flowers. Anise also adds licorice flavor to your garden. It’s hard to go wrong with this one!