Florida anise (Illicium floridanum) is a native, evergreen shrub commonly found along shady stream beds and moist wooded ravines in Louisiana and Florida. In recent years, this notable species has garnered attention as a staple in both naturalized and residential plantings due to its resistance to insects and diseases, foliage and flowers, and attractive appearance. Maroon to purple flowers emerge each spring and develop into star-shaped seed pods later in the summer. Though typically found growing wild in the southeast, Florida anise is well suited to survive in USDA planting zones 6 to 9.
Mature Height/Spread: Florida anise will grow 6 to 10 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide.
Growth Rate: This plant grows at a medium rate, which can be accelerated by providing uniform moisture and fertilizer. The type and amount of fertilizer used should always be based on soil analysis results.
Ornamental Features: Florida anise has several noteworthy features worth mentioning. The alternate, evergreen leaves are elliptic to elliptic-lanceolate in shape and are arranged in pseudo-whirls at the end of each stem. The foliage color is lustrous to dull, dark green on top of the leaf and pale green underneath. When bruised or crushed, leaves will emit an aromatic scent that smells similar to licorice. According to Dr. Michael Dirr (University of Georgia), Florida anise is deer resistant.
Problems: No serious pests affect this species in landscape settings. Plants in the Illicium genus are well-known for being easy to grow with little to no chemical requirements.
Florida anise is best grown in shady areas with rich, well-drained soil and ample moisture. This plant works well in shrub borders sited in wet, shady corners of a landscape. Plants sited in full sun may experience leaf scorch. Florida anise is not drought resistant and requires supplemental irrigation in times of prolonged drought.
- ‘Halley’s Comet’ – This selection flowers heavily in the spring and sporadically into the fall. Flowers are deep red and noticeably larger than the standard species. Mature size is 8 to 10 feet high and wide.
- ‘Pink Frost’ – This cultivar has an upright growth habit with good cold hardiness. The dark green foliage of this cultivar shift to an attractive pink-rose color in cold weather. In the spring, dark-red flowers persist for 4 to 6 weeks. The mature size of this selection is 6 to 10 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide.
- ‘Semmes’ – This white-flowered, heavy bloomer out of Semmes, Alabama reaches a mature height and width of 4 to 6 feet. The white flowers of this cultivar are often considered less aromatic and more pungent than the flowers of native Florida anise.
- Shady Lady® – This cultivar sports a wavy leaf with gray-green to gray-white marginal variegation. The red flowers, which appear in spring, are often described as being “frilly” and “nodding.” Upon maturity, this selection will reach 9 feet in height and 6 feet in width on average.
- ‘Southern Star’ – Variegated leaves have a cream-colored margin that develop a rose-pink hue upon cold exposure. The red flowers of this cultivar bloom heavily in spring and again, though in less abundance, in late summer. Upon maturity, ‘Southern Star’ will reach a height of 5 to 10 feet and a width of 4 to 5 feet.
Originally published 01/22