“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)
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. Blooms are very attractive to bees and butterflies. 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.
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Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Harvesting Hyssop
- Medium-sized plant whose leaves are used for salads, liqueurs and soups
- Flowers are pink, red, white and purple
- Start seedlings indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost; be patient with germination
- Set seedlings outdoors after last frost
- Choose a site with full sun and dry soil that drains well
- Best used fresh
- Very few pests and diseases — considered an excellent companion plant
Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 75-85 days from seed
Height: 12 to 24 inches
Spacing: 12 to 24 inches apart
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 will grow equally well in containers, rock gardens and window boxes. Read our article Herbs in Pots here.
How to Plant
Sow seeds indoors just beneath the surface of the soil 8-10 weeks before the last frost. Hyssop 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 — video).
Harvesting and Storage
Harvest 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 — video).
Insect & Disease Problems
Hyssop does not have many pest 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 with cauliflower, 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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