Licorice plant annual or perennial

Botanical Name: Glycyrrhiza glabra

The licorice root plant is an herbaceous perennial, which requires little maintenance once established. It can reach a height of 90cm to 1.5 meters and has pinnate leaves up to 15 cm long, with 9-17 leaflets. This gives a feather or fern like appearance to the foliage. Short stalks or inflorescences of blue-purple pea flowers appear in late summer, followed by smooth, oblong seed pods. The licorice plant is stoloniferous, which means it spreads by growing new plants, similar to the strawberry plant.

Licorice is easy to grow, but does prefer full sun and well drained soils. The native habitat of licorice is found in both dry, scrubby areas and damp valleys in the Mediterranean and some south-western areas of Asia. It was introduced to England 500 years ago and is now successfully cultivated all over the world.

Licorice has a long history of use for its rejuvenating and nutritious properties. Records show it was being used by Roman legions to build their stamina and by the early Egyptians as a popular drink. It is one of the earliest known remedies for coughs and respiratory conditions and has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The main active ingredient in licorice root is glycyrrhizin. However, over 600 active components have been identified in the plant, including 10 bioflavanoids which act to strengthen the immune system.

The extract is prepared by boiling the roots and allowing the water to evaporate, resulting in the creation of ‘licorice syrup’. Due to its sweetness and flavour, one use of licorice is to make bitter medicines more palatable. Licorice has many modern and traditional uses as both a medicinal and culinary herb.

Growing Conditions

Licorice grows up to 1.5 m and prefers full sun, but can tolerate part shade. This hardy plant develops a spreading habit, with an extensive branching root system so give it 1-3 meters of space. The roots are brown, straight and wrinkled, with yellow inside. Licorice seed can be sown in spring or summer, but root propagation is more successful. To increase your future licorice crop, plant 20-30cm root pieces with 60-100cm spacing. Once settled, the plants are hardy and will tolerate dry conditions. Roots can be harvested at any time of the year, but may take 2-3 years to reach a worthwhile size of 1-5 cm. The plant will grow in most Australian climates and benefits from added mulch and well drained soils. Since the plant becomes dormant during winter, it is not frost affected.

Companion Plants

The flowering plant, zinnia is popular as a companion to licorice due to its insect attracting qualities. It helps attract pollinators and deters predators. Since it is very hardy, it can grow in the same location as licorice.

Medicinal Uses

The full range of traditional uses for the licorice plant is extensive and it is well known for its action as an expectorant and as a demulcent. Its uses also include treatment for: mucous congestion, tonsillitis, nausea, infertility, menopause and menstrual problems, skin problems, poor circulation, diabetes, fatigue, ulcers and many other conditions. The licorice plant has many medicinal uses and is showing promise in the treatment of heartburn and acid reflux and hepatitis C. It continues to be used for its anti-inflammatory effects in Rheumatoid Arthritis, skin irritations and respiratory infections. There have also been benefits reported for adrenal function in Addison’s Disease.

Culinary Uses

Licorice can be used in drinks or to sweeten fruit when cooking, for example, rhubarb, plums, and other tart fruits. Other herbal tea blends can benefit from the addition of licorice as a flavour enhancer and as a sweetener. Diabetics have also found licorice useful as a sweetener. It also adds flavour and foam to beer, and colour to stout.

A cup of chilled licorice tea after meals is a great aid to digestion and a thirst quencher in the heat of summer. One simple licorice tea recipe is to take several licorice roots, cut and washed and place in a pot with at least one litre of water. You can add three slices of ginger if you like the taste. Bring to the boil and let simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes. You can drink hot or cold several times a week as a general tonic.

A handy hint is to remember that licorice is also spelt liquorice, so when looking for recipes and health benefits on the internet don’t forget to try both spellings!

Licorice Plant

Licorice Plant

The soft colors and textures of the licorice plant make it a great backdrop for colored blossoms. This plant is much tougher than it looks. Its fuzzy leaves have a few added benefits—on top of looking nice, the leaves also prevent pests from bothering the plant.

genus name
  • Helichrysum
  • Part Sun,
  • Sun
plant type
  • Annual,
  • Perennial
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • 1 to 2 feet wide
flower color
  • White
foliage color
  • Blue/Green,
  • Chartreuse/Gold,
  • Gray/Silver
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant,
  • Groundcover,
  • Drought Tolerant,
  • Slope/Erosion Control
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Good for Containers
  • 9,
  • 10,
  • 11
  • Seed,
  • Stem Cuttings

Licorice Plant Colors

Generally, licorice plant comes in silver or white but can also be found in a variety of soft hues of green, gold, or variegated foliage. It actually get its light coloring from numerous dense hairs that cover all parts of the plant. These hairs are white and make the plant nice and soft—a great plant for curious kids to touch.

Licorice Plant Care

While it is most commonly grown as an annual, licorice plant is actually a woody tropical perennial. Licorice plant is a fast grower and likes as much sun as it can get. In part shade, plants can become leggy and will need more pruning to keep from looking messy. Shade-grown plants won’t look quite as silvery, as the hairs are not as dense when grown in shade. In the heat of the summer, the leaves of this plant may occasionally exude the smell of licorice, hence its common name.

When you are looking for a home for your licorice plant, make sure to plant it in well-drained soil. Licorice plant does not appreciate sitting in too much water. If it does, your plant may begin to rot. Once your plant is established, it is quite drought-tolerant, though it does appreciate regular watering.

Because this plant is actually a perennial, it won’t bloom unless you live in a tropical environment and are able to overwinter it. If it does bloom, flowers are small and white. Many gardeners remove them as they feel the flowers take away from the overall beauty of the plant. In a few of the more tropical locations in the U.S., some reports indicate this plant can reseed aggressively and become mildly invasive. So make sure to check with local authorities before planting this as a perennial in a tropical landscape.

The semi-trailing or cascading growth habit of this plant makes it good to use in containers and hanging baskets. Some varieties have a more upright habit, so if your intended use is specifically as a trailing plant, make sure to check a plant’s habit before you purchase. Licorice plant handles pruning well; it is a good idea to give trailing varieties a pinch early on in their growth to encourage good branching.

More Varieties of Licorice Plant

‘Icicles’ licorice vine

Helichrysum ‘Icicles’ bears threadlike silvery foliage on upright 2-foot-tall plants. Zones 9-11

‘Lemon Licorice’ licorice vine

This variety bears silvery-chartreuse foliage and can grow to 2 feet wide in containers. Zones 9-11

‘Petite Licorice’ licorice vine

Helichrysum ‘Petite Licorice’ is a dwarf form with smaller leaves and grows only about 1 foot wide. Zones 9-11

‘Silver Mist’ licorice vine

This cultivar bears small leaves on wiry stems and has a more upright, mounding habit. Zones 9-11

Plant Licorice Plant With:

Angelonia is also called summer snapdragon, and once you get a good look at it, you’ll know why. It has salvia-like flower spires that reach a foot or 2 high, but they’re studded with fascinating snapdragon-like flowers with beautiful colorations in purple, white, or pink. It’s the perfect plant for adding bright color to hot, sunny spaces. This tough plant blooms all summer long with spirelike spikes of blooms. While all varieties are beautiful, keep an eye out for the sweetly scented selections. While most gardeners treat angelonia as an annual, it is a tough perennial in Zones 9-10. Or, if you have a bright, sunny spot indoors, you can even keep it flowering all winter.

Gerbera daisies are so perfect they hardly look real. They bloom in nearly every color (except true blues and purples) and produce fantastically large flowers on long, thick, sturdy stems. They last for a week or more in the vase, making them a favorite of flower arrangers.This tender perennial will last the winter in only the warmest parts of the country, Zones 9-11. In the rest of the country, it is grown as an annual. It does well in average soil; it likes soil kept evenly moist but not overly wet. Fertilize lightly.

Heat up your garden with ornamental peppers! Much like hot peppers you would grow in the veggie garden, ornamental peppers produce colorful little fruits that are round or pointed. But these are so attractive in their own right that they can be grown just for show — not eating. The peppers are indeed edible, but usually their flavor is lacking compared to peppers grown for the table.Depending on the variety, the peppers appear in shades of white, purple, red, orange, and yellow — often with multiple colors on the same plant. They like rich, well-drained soil that is evenly moist.Shown above: Calico pepper

Growing Licorice in Your Herb Garden

Learn about growing licorice in your herb garden, including licorice history and a gardening guide.

Growing Licorice in Your Herb Garden

Lately, more and more people have begun to understand just how limited — in both variety and nutritional value our “modern” diets have become. This realization has sparked a new and wide spread interest in the culinary and therapeutic uses of herbs . . . those plants which — although not well-known today — were, just one short generation ago, honored “guests” on the dinner tables and in the medicine chests of our grandparents’ homes. In this regular feature, MOTHER EARTH NEWS will examine the availability, cultivation, and benefits of our “forgotten” vegetable foods and remedies . . . and — we hope — help prevent the loss of still another bit of ancestral lore.

You might be surprised to learn that good old-fashioned licorice has an impressive — and in some cases royal — family history. Great stores of the flavorful root were found, alongside priceless art treasures and jewels, in the 3,000-year-old tomb of King Tut. In fact, licorice was considered to be such a valuable herb that no Egyptian king would be without it on his journey into eternity. And even today, a beverage called mai sus, brewed from the sweet yellow root of the licorice shrub, is popular in the Middle East.

The Royal History of Medicinal Licorice Root

The botanical name for licorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra, incorporates the Greek glykys (sweet) and rhiza (root). If you pronounce the tongue-twisting “glycyrrhiza” quickly and casually, you’ll know how it came to be “licorice” in English.


This perennial shrub (it’s also known as sweetwood or sweet root) grows wild in Asia Minor, Greece, Spain, southern Italy, Iraq, Syria, Russia, and northern China. Large quantities are now shipped into northern Europe for various commercial purposes, but sweet root may have been taken there first by the Romans who ate it because they believed it increased personal stamina.

Different uses of this medicinal herb have developed over a number of centuries. An old Arabian remedy for skin lesions and blisters, for instance, involved dusting powdered licorice onto the affected skin. The ancient Hindus made a tonic of milk, sugar, and licorice to increase virility, the Chinese have long consumed great quantities of this wonder herb to ward off old age and medieval Europeans believed the root to be so nutritional and thirst-quenching that a small piece held under the tongue could keep a person alive for 11 or 12 days!

Most of our modern supply of licorice is commercially grown for its medicinal value as a natural laxative and for use as an ingredient in cough mixtures. The thick, black syrup extracted by boiling chopped sweet root is 50 times sweeter than sugar cane, and helps disguise less palatable ingredients.

Grow Your Own Licorice

Of course, most of us know licorice best in the form of the chewy twisted sweets we were fond of as children. Now you can’t grow candy sticks in your garden, but you certainly can grow licorice plants from live roots. The wrinkled, brownish yellow rootstock will produce — as it comes up each year — a five-foot shrub.

A dry, stony soil in full sun is best for the herb. The plant’s stems will bear alternate pinnate leaves — with three to seven pairs of dark green oval leaflets — and pealike, pale lavender or yellow flowers will blossom throughout the summer.

Licorice stems make a tasty tea.

Homegrown licorice stems peeled of their bark — can be used to prepare a tasty tea . . . or even as teething sticks for small children!

For more helpful tips about growing and using herbs see the MOTHER EARTH NEWS articles The Many Medicinal Goldenseal Benefits and Grow Tarragon In Your Kitchen Herb Garden.

Growing Licorice Plants: Learn How To Grow A Licorice Plant In Containers

Growing licorice plants (Helichrysum petiolare) offers an interesting cascade in the container garden, a trailing mass of gray foliage. Care of Helichrysum licorice is simple in the garden and is only slightly more complicated in the container environment. When you’ve learned how to grow a licorice plant, you’re sure to find many uses for them as companion plants.

Licorice Plant in Containers

Actually a vine, growing licorice plant in containers is used for its unusual foliage. Flowers may appear on the licorice vine but are not significant or showy. When adding licorice vine to a combination pot, plant it on the edges so that it can cascade over the sides. Licorice plant in containers grows well in full sun to part shade.

Choose a tall container that allows plenty of space for the licorice vine to spill over the sides. Window boxes or containers elevated on deck railings make it easier for care of Helichrysum licorice, such as watering. While licorice vine likes its soil to dry out slightly, it may be necessary to water every day in summer when growing licorice plant in containers. Hot temperatures and small containers may even require water more than once daily.

When learning how to grow a licorice plant in a pot with other plants, use a good quality potting soil that offers good drainage, yet retains moisture. You may also use the moisture retention packets, but in limited number.

Limit fertilization to the licorice plant. Pinch the ends of the licorice plant if it gets too long; otherwise, this is not necessary.

Growing Licorice Plants with Others

When planting in a large pot, add rows of flowers of ascending heights inside the licorice planting, with the tallest plant in the center. Combination planters that are only viewed from one side may use the tallest plants in the back. Include companion plants that have similar water and sun needs.

Fuzzy, pubescent leaves of the licorice vine have a silvery gray color, and cultivars of licorice, Helichrysum petiolare, such as ‘White Licorice’ contrasts nicely with other foliage in the container. Companion plants for the licorice plant in containers encompass a range of upright and colorful specimens.

If you wish to locate the container in a partial shade area, choose a colorful, upright coleus to center in the pot. A full sun area companion may be Celosia cockscomb, or any long-lasting summer flower. Licorice plant in containers may have companions in the cool color family, such as pinks and yellows or the hot color family, like reds and oranges. You may use other silvery specimens, such as silver mound Artemisia, with different textures.

Dictionary of Flowers: Helichrysum Petiolare (Licorice Plant)

Licorice Plant (Helichrysum Petiolare). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Serres Fortier and Flickr

  • Helichrysum Petiolare
  • Common name: licorice plant
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Category: frost sensitive annual, perennial in USDA zones 9 to 11
  • Height: 18″ to 24″
  • Width: 24″
  • Sun/part shade
  • Blooms: grown for foliage interest
  • Growth habit: trailing. Used as spiller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: average, poor, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers.
  • Garden uses: containers, hanging baskets, mixed border, rockery, groundcover
  • Diseases: leaf spot and rot
  • Pests: pest free

A native of South Africa, licorice plant is perennial in frost free zones.

It is normally sold as an annual in nurseries.

The silver, fuzzy, rounded leaves grow on stiff stems that seem to grow in all directions.

The leaves are fragrant when crushed.

There are variegated and chartreuse colored cultivars available.

It is an easy plant to grow in the garden. Licorice plant is not particular about soil, growing in poor soil, provided the drainage is good.

It grows best in full sun, but it can tolerate part shade.

Water during dry summers when planted on the ground. It is more drought tolerant once it is established. Helicrhysum does require regular watering when grown in containers.

Fertilize licorice plant once in spring with a balanced slow release granular formula.

It requires little maintenance.

Pinch back to keep the stems a manageable size.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Propagate by cuttings taken in summer to overwinter indoors. Stem cuttings can be taken during summer and planted in loose potting soil mixed with perlite, after being dusted with rooting hormone.

Do not allow potting mix to become dry. They should root in about two weeks. They can be grown from seed, indoors.

Seeds need to be planted in moist starting mix around six to eight weeks before last frost date. Do not cover, as they need light to germinate. Kept at 70F, it takes about two weeks for seed to germinate.

Keep seedlings in bright light and wait to harden off and plant outside until after the last frost date.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Diseases that affect helichrysum are due to overwatering or lack of drainage. Avoiding these conditions will keep plants healthy. Licorice plant is not bothered by pests.

Popular varieties:

  • Helichrysum petiolare ‘Variegata’ – light green and white variegated leaves. Grows to about a foot and a half
  • Helichrysum petiolare’Limelight’ – yellow-green leaves. Prefers part shade
  • Helichrysum petiolare ‘Petite Licorice’ – a compact variety, up to a foot tall. Small silver leaves

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

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More great ideas for Container Gardening!

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Variegated Licorice Plant

Variegated Licorice Plant

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 18 inches

Spacing: 30 inches


Hardiness Zone: (annual)

Ornamental Features

Variegated Licorice Plant’s attractive small tomentose round leaves remain grayish green in color with showy buttery yellow variegation throughout the year. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Variegated Licorice Plant is a multi-stemmed annual with a ground-hugging habit of growth. It brings an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition and should be used to full effect.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and can be pruned at anytime. Deer don’t particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Variegated Licorice Plant is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • General Garden Use
  • Groundcover
  • Container Planting
  • Hanging Baskets

Planting & Growing

Variegated Licorice Plant will grow to be about 18 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 3 feet. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 30 inches apart. Its foliage tends to remain dense right to the ground, not requiring facer plants in front. Although it’s not a true annual, this fast-growing plant can be expected to behave as an annual in our climate if left outdoors over the winter, usually needing replacement the following year. As such, gardeners should take into consideration that it will perform differently than it would in its native habitat.

This plant does best in full sun to partial shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America. It can be propagated by cuttings; however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation.

Variegated Licorice Plant is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor containers and hanging baskets. Because of its spreading habit of growth, it is ideally suited for use as a ‘spiller’ in the ‘spiller-thriller-filler’ container combination; plant it near the edges where it can spill gracefully over the pot. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.

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