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Plant Profile: Hyssop (Hysoppus officinalis)

Hyssop is a small semi-evergreen subshrub up to 24″ tall native to southern Europe, the Middle East, and the area around the Caspian sea but has naturalized in parts of the US.  It is a member of the deadnettle family, Laminaceae, that also includes mint, basil, and beebalm.  Plants have a woody base and a number of  many branched upright square stems carrying shinny, dark green, lanceolate leaves  that are toothed, stalkless, aromatic and up to 1″ long.  The 2-lipped, tubular, fragrant flowers are blue to violet and have protruding stamens.  They appear in whorls on terminal spikes from mid- to late summer and are attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. For centuries hyssop has been used as a medicinal, culinary and ornamental herb, and its volatile oil is used in some liqueurs including Benedictine and Chartreuse.  Hyssop is an attractive plant for a border, a knotgarden, herb, butterfly, bird, or rock garden.  The genus name, Hyssoppus, is the classical name for this herb adapted from the Semitic  plant name, ezob.  The specific epithet, officinalis, is derived from the Latin word officina meaning workshop and is the usual epithet for medicinal plants.

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Bloom:Two-lipped, tubular, fragrant, blue to violet flowers with protruding stamens appear in whorls on terminal spikes from mid- to late summer

Size: 1.5-2′ H x 1-1.5′ W

Light: Full sun with afternoon shade in the South

Soil: Average to poor, moderately moist to dry, well-drained; thrives with moderate moisture but is drought tolerant.

Hardiness: Zones 4-9

Care: Cut back in early to mid spring.

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Division, cuttings, seed (plants selfseed)

Companion Plants: Rosemary, sage, lavender

Photo Credit: Wikimedia