Learn how to grow star anise in this article. Star anise is a spice widely used in South East Asian cuisines. Growing star anise is easy in subtropical climates. It is adorned with beautiful flowers and fruits that are star-shaped.
USDA Zones— 8 – 11
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.
It belongs to the family of Illiciaceae, dicotyledonous angiosperm species. It is a tropical evergreen tree, tall between 5-10 m. Star anise has large glossy green foliage, its white flowers are beautiful and of great decorative value. Star anise fruit has eight carpels that together form the star-shaped fruit (hence called “Star anise”).
Star anise is propagated by seeds or cuttings. How to grow star anise from seed: Seeds are propagated best when temperature range from 65 – 70 F (18 – 20 C). You can sow seeds in pots or directly outside.
Water the seeds frequently to keep the soil moist and make sure the pot has drainage holes in the bottom to drain excess water.
Star anise is native to Vietnam and China and grows in the warm subtropical climate. It is a frost tender perennial. Star anise only grows in areas where the temperature does not fall below 15 F (-10 C). If you live in a cooler area below USDA Zone 9, plant star anise in a container so that you can keep it in a greenhouse or indoors in winter.
Requirements for Growing Star Anise
Star anise requires dappled shade, partial sun but if you’re growing star anise in a much cooler climate, plant it in a warm and sunny location. Choose a position in a way that it is not exposed to cold and dry winds.
Provide soil that is humus and compost rich. Soil texture should be loamy and well drained. Slightly acidic to the neutral soil is optimal.
For growing star anise, do regular watering and keep the soil slightly moist but reduce the watering in winter.
Star Anise Care
Spread a 3-inch layer of compost or aged manure on the ground surrounding the tree in the spring. This is the only fertilizer it requires.
If the soil is poor, apply slow release fertilizer all-purpose fertilizer in the spring.
When the plant is the 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.
Star anise tree takes at least 6 years to fruit if grown from seeds. These fruits (wrongly called seeds) are picked unripe while they are 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.
Pests and Diseases
There are not any specific pest or disease that bothers it. Star anise itself has antibacterial and pest repellent properties.
Star Anise Uses
Star Anise is widely used in Asian cuisines to flavor dishes especially meat and curries. It is also used in desserts and beverages. Together with fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon and pepper it is considered as one of the “Five Chinese Spice”, used for its strong taste and spicy flavor. It is an essential part of Chinese cuisines and also used in a variety of Indian recipes. It’s an addition to other popular Indian spices makes a special spicy ingredient, which is called “Garam masala”.
While growing star anise, don’t confuse it with Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum) or “Shikimi,” which is a poisonous plant and native to Japan. Its seeds or fruits are somewhat similar to those of star anise and are only slightly smaller and looks like cardamom, having a more rounded shape and have a small hook.
*This article is dedicated to Illicium verum (Real star anise), don’t confuse it with Pimpinella anisum (Anise), Illicium anisatum (Japanese star anise), a poisonous plant or Illicium parviflorum (Swamp star anise).