Anise: how to grow & harvest the herb


I studied horticultural sciences at university and in my free time you can find me in my own patch of land, growing anything with roots. I am particularly passionate about self-sufficiency and seasonal food.

Favourite fruit: quince, cornelian cherry and blueberries
Favourite vegetables: peas, tomatoes and garlic

Star anise and anise may sound alike, but the two plants are quite different. Here, we introduce you to the real anise plant! Read on to discover all there is to know about anise and how to grow it at home.

Anise herb plant with white flowers
Anise is an annual herb plant with delicate white umbel flowers [Photo: Cwilix/]

Star anise (Illicium verum), which comes from the tropics, sounds very similar to anise (Pimpinella anisum). However, the two plants have very little to do with one another. Also known as aniseed, anise has been used as a spice and medicine for thousands of years. Read on to discover the history of anise, and how to grow and use it at home!

Origin and characteristics of anise

Anise belongs to the umbelliferae family (Apiaceae), so it is closely related to fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), coriander (Coriandrum sativum) and caraway (Carum carvi). There are records of aniseed being prescribed as medicine in 1500 BC in ancient Egypt. However, the plant originated in the eastern Mediterranean countries and spread north over the Alps to Germany in the luggage of Benedictine monks during the reign of Charlemagne.

Occasionally, aniseed is found growing wild in meadows and at the edges of forests. However, anise tends to be cultivated, especially in North Africa, Central and South America, as well as in India and Central and Southern Europe. Spain cultivates anise most in Europe.

Anise is an annual and grows to a height of about 60 centimetres. The plant has three-tiered, dark green leaves that grow from densely branched, hairy stems. The lowest leaves are heart-shaped with long stalks, the middle leaves are three-lobed, and the upper leaves are feathered and strongly toothed at the edge.

The umbel flowers of anise are white-yellow and produce round-oval split fruits. When ripe, aniseed fruits are a kind of grey-green-brown colour and about 5 millimetres long. The essential oils inside the fruits are responsible for aniseed‘s distinctive taste, which is why its seeds are harvested.

Tips for growing anise

Anise is a low maintenace spice plant that is easy to grow in the garden. In the following, you will learn where and how to grow anise.

The right location for anise

Anise is an annual, non-hardy plant that prefers loamy and sandy soils that are rich in nutrients and chalk. If you are planting anise, make sure the soil is well drained; it should retain water without getting waterlogged. Ideally, pick a spot that is sunny and warm.

How to sow anise seeds

From mid-April, sow anise directly into your garden bed, about 2 cm deep, with a row spacing of about 30 cm.

Note: There is only one variety of anise. The plants only vary in their country of origin.

If you keep the soil moist, anise seeds should germinate about two to three weeks after sowing. The seedlings are not very competitive, so regularly remove any weeds around them. Rabbits and other wild animals also like to eat aniseed, so it is worth fencing off the plants if your garden is open or near a woodland.

Anise plant care

Anise is very easy to care for and does not ask for much attention. Initially, however, it is a good idea to apply a fertiliser with a long-lasting effect to the soil. Our Plantura Tomato Food is ideal. Its plant-based granules can be worked into the surface of the soil, between the rows. Organisms in the soil will then nibble on the granules and release nutrients for the plant roots to absorb slowly. In hot summers, water your anise every so often and continue to remove weeds.

Aniseed umbel with seeds
After flowering, the seeds develop and ripen from July to September [Photo: Bogdan Sonjachnyj/]

Harvesting aniseed from the garden

From the end of May, anise produces delicate white flowers, and with them, thanks to helpful pollinators, anise seeds. These seeds ripen on the umbel flowers between July and September. When exactly you should harvest them, however, depends on the weather and location. In any case, it is easy to tell when anise seeds are ripe, because they will turn brown.

To harvest anise seeds, cut off an entire umbel in the morning, when it is dewy, and dry it indoors. It is important to do this in the morning, so that the seeds do not fall off the umbel. If aniseeds are well dried, and stored in a cool place, they will continue to germinate well for about two years, and about half as well after three or four years.

This also applies to the flavour of the essential oils, which reduces over time. It is best to store your aniseed whole, and grind the seeds when you need them.

Tomato Food, 1.5kg
Tomato Food, 1.5kg
star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder
star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating
  • Perfect for tomatoes, chillies, courgettes, cucumber & more
  • For healthy plants & an abundant tomato harvest
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

Anise nutrients and uses

Aniseed releases oils that contain very healthy substances like anethole and estragole. The seeds are also packed with sugar, giving them a deliciously sweet flavour. However, not everyone loves the unique sweet and spicy taste of aniseed, which is why liquorice is so polarising.

Anise is used as a spice in savoury dishes such as stews and broths, as well as traditional breads and aniseed cakes or biscuits. In Mediterranean cuisine, aniseed is found in pastries, jams and desserts. And after a meal, liqueurs such as anisette, raki, pastis or ouzo help with digestion. Together with wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) and fennel, aniseed is one of the main ingredients of absinthe.

The oval split seeds of anise are some of the oldest known and still used medicinal remedies. They contain anethole, which has an expectorant and antispasmodic effect, and inhibits the growth of bacteria. In fact, the positive effects of aniseed on indigestion and mucus build-up in the nose or throat have been scientifically proven.

Nowadays, aniseed is found mainly in sweet-tasting cough and gastrointestinal teas, which contain a daily dose of about 3 grams. Essential aniseed oil is also available, but should not be used undiluted.

You can even use a drop of aniseed oil on pets, like dogs and cats, to repel mites and lice. However, anise should never be used in high doses, as this can cause allergic reactions. Children should only take aniseed from the age of 6, because allergies can also occur in early childhood.

Spoon of anise seeds
Aniseed tastes very sweet and is considered an ancient remedy [Photo: HandmadePictures/]

A close relative of anise is the hot and spicy caraway, which has more than just a delicious taste! Find out all about this spicy and medicinal plant by reading our article.