Learn How to Grow Star Anise and enjoy an unlimited supply of this flavourful Spice from your home garden!
Star anise is a spice widely used in South East Asian cuisines. Easily grown in tropical regions, the plant is adorned with beautiful flowers and star-shaped fruits. If you love its earthy flavor, Learn How to Grow Star Anise in this informative article!
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Star Anise Plant Profile
With its roots in South Eastern China, 80-90% of the world’s production is indigenous to the place. It is mainly cultivated for commercial purposes and exported to various parts of the world. Star Anise grows best in sub-tropical regions and needs to be nourished in greenhouses in cold regions.
The tropical evergreen tree grows up to 15-20 feet tall. It features large glossy green foliage, and the white flowers are beautiful and of great decorative value. The fruit has eight carpels forming the star shape, hence the name.
Botanical Name: Illicium verum
Other Names: Anis de Chine, Anís Estrellado, Anis Étoilé, Anis Étoilé Chinois, Aniseed Stars, Anisi Stellati Fructus, Ba Jiao Hui, Badiana, Badiane, Badiane de Chine, Bajiao, Chinese Anise, Chinese Star Anise, Eight-Horned Anise, Eight Horns, and Illicium verum.
USDA Zones: 8 – 11
Star Anise Propagation
Star anise is propagated by seeds or cuttings. Seeds are propagated best when the temperature ranges from 65-70 F (18-20 C). As the seeds do not appreciate transplantation, you can directly sow the seeds in the pot or the garden.
Water the seeds frequently to keep the soil moist and ensure the pot has enough drainage holes in the bottom to drain excess water.
If growing from cuttings, snip a 5-6 inches healthy hardwood stem near the leaf node, scrap the ends, and plant it in a blend of peat moss, perlite, and sand. Water well, a,d provide ample sunlight.
Note: Seed propagation is the recommended method for growing Star Anise. However, it is a time-consuming process, so you can consider getting a well-grown plant from a nursery and nourishing it at your home.
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Choosing the Right Pot
You need not worry if you don’t have an extensive garden. Star Anise does pretty well in pots. Start the seeds in a 12-14 inches pot. Transplant it to one size bigger pot once you find the roots spreading out of the drainage hole.
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Requirements for Growing Star Anise
Star anise requires dappled shade and partial sun, but plant it in a warm and sunny location if you’re growing star anise in a cooler climate. Choose a position, so it is not exposed to cold and dry winds.
Also, keep the plant away from the harsh afternoon sun that might burn its leaves.
Temperature & Humidity
Star anise is native to Vietnam and China and prefers a warm subtropical climate with high humidity. It is vulnerable to frost and does not survive in areas with temperatures below 15 F or -10 C.
If you live in a cooler area below USDA Zone 9, plant star anise in a container to keep it in a greenhouse or indoors in winter. Also, use a humidifier or an external heat source to help the plant survive.
Star Anise needs a well-draining medium that is slightly acidic. If you are growing it in pots, the ideal potting mix would be a blend of peat moss, river sand, well-rotted manure, and a handful of perlite.
The plant grows really well between a pH of 6.0 to 7.5.
The plant grows the best fruits in a moist environment. Keep the soil slightly on the moist side all the time. However, make sure not to overwater.
Cut down on watering during wet and colder months but do not let the medium dry out completely.
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Star Anise Care
If you have amended the growing medium with plenty of organic matter, then don’t worry much about feeding the plant. Use aged manure or compost once a month to boost growth. You can also use a balanced liquid fertilizer, diluted to 1/4 of its strength, once in 4-6 weeks.
Pests and Diseases
There are not any specific pest or disease that bothers it. Star anise itself has antibacterial and pest-repellent properties. However, it might occasionally get contracted by fungal infestations like Alternaria Blight or Downy Mildew.
Snip away the affected stems and use an insecticidal soap solution to fight the diseases. Avoid overwatering to bar further infestation.
Star Anise is a beautiful hedge plant, so when the plant is young, pinch and prune it if you want to make it bushier. There are no special pruning requirements. However, you can always prune off dead, diseased, and weak branches.
Harvesting Star Anise
Star anise tree takes at least 6 years to fruit if grown from seeds. These fruits are picked unripe while still green. Later on, these fruits are sun-dried until their color change to reddish-brown; seeds can be removed once the fruits are ready to be stored.
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Star Anise Uses
The flavorful spice adds a rich aroma to meat dishes, stews, soups, broths, and other savory dishes. It is also used in desserts and beverages. It is an essential part of Chinese cuisine and is used in various South-Asian cuisines.
Together with fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon, and pepper, it is considered one of the “Five Chinese Spice”, used for its strong taste and spicy flavor. Apart from its culinary uses, the spice also exhibits several pharmacological benefits.
While growing star anise, don’t confuse it with Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum) or Shikimi, a poisonous plant native to Japan. Its seeds or fruits are somewhat similar to those of star anise and are only slightly smaller and look like cardamom, having a more rounded shape and a small hook.