How to Grow Star Anise (Illicium verum)

By Jennifer Poindexter

star anise plant

Are you trying to utilize your grow space by filling it with both beautiful and functional plants? If so, star anise might be a great option for you.

This beautiful shrub produces flowers shaped like the spice we know and love. These blooms are typically off-white with a yellow center. Sometimes, there are tinges of pink or red in them. Both the seeds and the foliage of the plant are frequently used.

Many people utilize the seeds for making homemade candy and baked goods. If you’re interested in producing this plant, you’re in the right place.

Here are the things you should know when considering how to grow star anise:

What You’ll Learn

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • The cultural and historical significance of star anise, a spice plant known for its beautiful blooms and aromatic seeds.
  • Detailed advice on the ideal growing conditions for star anise, including temperature, soil, sunlight requirements, and the importance of spaciousness.
  • Different planting methods for star anise, tailored to suit different climates and circumstances.
  • Comprehensive care instructions for star anise, from watering and mulching practices to managing plant size and support.
  • A guide to potential pests and diseases that could impact your star anise plants, and effective ways to prevent and treat them.
  • How to properly harvest and store the foliage and seeds of star anise to make the most of its culinary and aesthetic benefits.

Growing Conditions for Star Anise

Star anise is one of the oldest spices in the world. It was originally grown in areas such as Greece, the Middle East, Egypt, and Rome.

Since it’s native to the Middle East and Africa, it shouldn’t surprise you that this plant enjoys temperatures at or above 70-degrees Fahrenheit.

When finding the perfect growing location for star anise, select an area with loose soil that’s both loamy and high in nutrients.

This plant only remains hardy in planting zones eight through eleven but can be grown in a container in other planting zones for overwintering indoors. 

It also prefers areas of full to partial sunlight. Keep in mind that star anise is a shrub that’s known for growing as large as twenty feet tall and ten feet wide, so ensure you have the space for it prior to planting.

By supplying these few simple growing conditions, star anise should have what it needs to begin its life around your home.

How to Plant Star Anise

Once you have the perfect growing location picked out around your home, it’s time to discuss how to plant star anise.

There are two methods for starting seeds. The first method is to sow the seeds directly into the soil. If you live in a warmer climate, you may have a great permanent growing location.

If so, till your soil to where it’s ready to receive seed. Plant the seeds 1/8 inch deep in the soil and leave approximately one foot of space between each seed.

Ensure the soil remains evenly damp throughout the sprouting process. It should take around two weeks to see seeds push through the soil.

Star anise doesn’t like to be transplanted, so if you live in one of the planting zones where this shrub remains hardy, direct sowing should be your choice method for growing this plant.

However, if you live in an area with a shorter growing season, don’t count yourself out. You may still grow this plant by starting the seeds indoors.

Should this be your growing method, you’ll probably need to grow your plants in a container, so it’s easy to move them around between seasons.

Begin by choosing a container that can support the shrub in its early stages. You can always transplant it to a larger container in the future should the shrub become root bound or need fresh soil.

Place two seeds per container as a germination insurance policy. I like to place a dish beneath my containers to hold water.

I place small amounts of water in the tray beneath my containers each day. This allows the moisture to be absorbed from the bottom. 

Then once the soil is thoroughly damp, I pour the excess water from the tray and add more the next day to ensure the soil remains saturated. 

The seeds should sprout in approximately fourteen days. Once this occurs, you may begin watering overhead. Ensure the plants are kept in an area of warmth. The space should also contain bright, indirect lighting and the soil should remain evenly damp as well.

Star anise prefers growing temperatures which range between 65- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit. Once your seedlings are four-inches tall, you may harden them off and move the plants outdoors.

If you live in an area of greater warmth, pick a location with full morning sunlight and some afternoon shade to keep the plants from becoming oversaturated with sunlight.

Yet, if you live in a cooler climate, be sure to pick a growing location with at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day.

Once your plants are in their permanent growing location, you’re ready to learn more on how to care for them as each plant matures.

Caring for Star Anise

Star anise is a unique shrub which produces beautiful blooms that lead to star-shaped seeds. It’s also relatively low-maintenance. This plant needs water, mulch, and support to thrive.

You may thin the foliage of the plant for better airflow, if you find it’s needed, but pruning isn’t a requirement to growing star anise.

When watering star anise, it’s recommended to do so deeply. This means you’ll water the plant for longer periods of time, fewer days of the week.

In doing so, you allow water to reach the roots at the time of application. You’re also saturating the ground around the plant.

As the days progress and the plant needs more water, it’ll dig deeper into the soil to retrieve it. In turn, you’re encouraging a deeper root system. Many times, this leads to a healthier plant.

Star anise prefers evenly damp soil, so ensure you test it to know when to water the plant deeply again. You do this by inserting your finger into the soil.

When it’s dry to your first knuckle, it’s time for another watering session. If it’s still damp, wait a day or two before testing the soil again.

This should help you keep the moisture at a desired level. The next thing you should do is apply a layer of mulch around the plant.

Be mindful that you mulch the ground around the plant and don’t pile it up around its base. This can cause rotting issues.

Yet, if applied properly, mulch can keep the roots of the plant cool, encourage moisture to last longer in the soil, and discourage weeds from growing around the shrub.

Finally, star anise might need support. When the plant first begins producing, the blooms may become too heavy for it. This leads to the plant being weighed down.

If you’d like to keep your star anise plant standing upright, utilize a cage or a stake to provide the necessary support.

These are the few things star anise may need from you when growing in your garden to encourage a productive and healthy plant.

Garden Pests and Diseases Which Might Impact Star Anise

Though star anise is easy enough to care for, this plant does face quite a few threats in nature. The biggest pests which impact this plant are mice, slugs, snails, cutworms, and aphids.

Mice enjoy snacking on the seeds of the plant, so be sure to store your harvest where mice can’t access it. Be sure to pick-up any seeds left on the ground to discourage these pests from locating your plant as a food source.

Slugs and snails can be handled by either hand picking them from your plant or sprinkling diatomaceous earth on the plant while sprinkling coffee grounds around the base.

DE on the plant makes it hard for snails and slugs to maneuver around the foliage and the coffee grounds around the base serve as a deterrent for two different reasons.

The first reason is snails and slugs don’t like caffeine found in the coffee grounds. The second is to serve as an added layer of protection. The grounds create a dangerous terrain for the pests to crawl over to access your plant.

Aphids and cutworms are common problems in the garden. Aphids may be handled by spraying the foliage of the plant with soapy water as this should dislodge them. You may also use an insecticide to treat both of these problems.

The most common diseases to impact star anise are fungal based issues such as downy mildew and powdery mildew.

You may treat these issues with a fungicide. However, they may also be avoided by utilizing adequate growing conditions.

By planting star anise in an area with ample sunlight, good airflow, and well-draining soil you’re providing opposite conditions where fungal diseases thrive.

Fungal issues prefer cold, damp areas. By ensuring your plant isn’t left in a cool growing location or in oversaturated conditions, the diseases shouldn’t be able to prosper.

These are the main things to threaten star anise. Stay alert to potential issues, so they may be handled promptly to avoid greater damage to your plants.

star anise seeds

How to Harvest Star Anise

The final thing we should discuss about growing star anise is how to harvest it. You may harvest the foliage of this plant at any time during the growing season.

However, be sure you leave at least 50% of the plant at all times to encourage regrowth and proper seeding.

Use the foliage of the plant immediately as it doesn’t store well.

Harvests don’t come quickly with star anise. If starting the shrub from seed, it can take up to six years before the plant begins producing fruit.

Once fruit appears on the tree, pick it while it’s green. Allow the fruit to dry in the sun. Once fully dry, store in an airtight container and keep the seeds in a cool, dark, and dry location for later use.

These are the things you should know about growing star anise. Understanding what this plant needs from start to finish not only encourages a greater harvest, but it should also help you enjoy the harvest over time.

Utilize these tips to help you along this new growing journey and enjoy adding a new and useful plant to your home garden.

Key Takeaways

Here’s what you need to remember from this guide:

  • Star anise thrives in warm climates (at or above 70 degrees Fahrenheit), nutrient-rich, loose soil, and full to partial sunlight. Make sure to provide ample space, as the shrub can grow as large as twenty feet tall and ten feet wide.
  • Depending on your climate, you can either sow star anise seeds directly into the soil or start them indoors in a container before moving them outside.
  • Regular, deep watering and mulching are crucial to the plant’s survival, promoting a healthy, deep root system.
  • Protection from pests such as mice, slugs, snails, cutworms, and aphids, as well as prevention of fungal diseases like downy and powdery mildew, is key to keeping your star anise plant healthy.
  • Patience is required when growing star anise; it can take up to six years from seed to fruit. Once the fruit appears, it should be picked while green and left to dry in the sun.
  • The foliage of the star anise can be harvested anytime during the growing season, but should be used immediately as it doesn’t store well.

Star Anise Quick Reference Chart

Illicium (Star Anise) Characteristics
Origin and General Characteristics Native to Asia, Southeastern US, Central America, Caribbean; evergreen to semi-evergreen shrubs/small trees; anise fragrance
Growing Conditions Part shade to shade, some tolerate more sun if well-watered; tolerates loam or sandy soils; moist to wet soil with neutral or acid pH
Flowers and Usage Fragrant flowers, attractive seed pods; seed pods of Illicium verum used in teas and as a spice
Toxicity and Landscape Usage Most species toxic in leaves, stems, and/or seed pods; used as a specimen, hedge, or along ponds/streams
Propagation and Resistance Propagated by layering, stem cuttings, or seed; resistant to deer browsing

More About Star Anise

https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/illicium/

https://extension.umd.edu/resource/anise

https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/trees-and-shrubs/shrubs/star-anise-shrubs.html

The post How to Grow Star Anise (Illicium verum) appeared first on Gardening Channel.

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