How to Grow Licorice Shrubs

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About Growing Licorice Plants in Your Herb Garden

Licorice, you either love it, or you hate it. If you love it, wouldn’t you like to grow your own? Sure you would! So, read on to find out how to grow  Licorice shrub plants. Licorice herbs have been a favorite since ancient times. Ancient Egyptian and Chinese cultures used it for flavoring food, and many medicinal applications. Licorice was even found in King Tut’s tomb.

The Licorice shrub is native to Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean. You may be surprised to discover, that Licorice is a member of the pea family. Worldwide, Licorice is one of the most popular herbs. Its popularity doesn’t extend as far in the American herb garden, a few people grow it in the U.S.

Licorice shrubs grow up to five feet tall. It is prized for its fibrous roots, which contain the flavor. Licorice roots are 50 times sweeter than sugar. Give this shrub plenty of room, as the roots can grow six feet out from the base of the shrub. When you first plant this shrub, you need a little patience. It takes about three years for the plant to produce roots big enough for you to harvest some of the roots while leaving enough roots to allow the plant to continue to grow and produce even more roots. While you are waiting for the shrub to get big enough to harvest, take time to enjoy the plant’s flowers. Colors include violet, bluish violet, and lavender.

To some people licorice is considered a weed….. obviously they do not like the flavor!

Other Names: Sweet Wood, Sweet Root

Hardiness Zones: 6 – 11

Perennial, Glycyrrhiza Glabra

Medicinal and Culinary Uses

Medicinal Uses: 

Since ancient times, licorice has been used medicinally around the world, for a wide range of ailments. They include:

It is a natural laxative, that relieves menstrual cramps and discomfort of menopause, relieves pain and discomfort from ulcers, is good for the adrenal gland, and cancer treatments for breast and prostate. It even lowers the effect of aging of the brain.

Culinary Uses:

We all know licorice flavored candy. It is also used in teas, beer making, and flavoring of many foods, and it even is used as a flavoring in tobacco products. It is also used in cosmetics.

Did You Know?  Licorice has a taste similar to Anise. But, they are not related. 

Licorice Shrub Propagation

Licorice shrubs can be started from seeds. It is best to start seeds indoors. They have a hard shell. Soak the seeds for 12-24 hours before planting. Sow seeds just below the surface. Transplant seedlings outdoors after the last spring frost.

Garden Tip: Use sandpaper to rough up the hard seed coat.

The plant can be propagated from cuttings. Take a four to six-inch cutting of new growth and root the cutting in water.

New plants can also be propagated from the division of its roots. There must be at least one growth bud on the roots.

Space plants 2 – feet apart.

Final Plant Spacing:  Four to six feet apart.

Days to Germination: 25 – 30 days.

How to Grow Licorice Plants

The shrubs grow best in full sun to partial shade.

The plants grow best in slightly alkaline soil. The soil should be deep and moist. Mix compost into the soil, before planting. Cultivate the soil out several feet from the planting site.

Water as needed, to keep the soil moist, not wet throughout the growing season.

Fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer every 4-6 weeks.

Did You Know? Licorice shrubs are “nitrogen-fixing” by putting nitrogen into the soil, from their rot nodules.

Apply a layer of mulch to help retain soil moisture and keep weed growth to a minimum.

The shrubs will produce flowers. Remove them as the buds appear, to allow the plant to concentrate on root growth.

Ideal pH: slightly acidic

Harvesting Licorice Roots

Allow new shrubs to grow for three years before harvesting roots. It is important that the root system is large enough that you can take some roots, yet not so many that you kill the shrub. When harvesting, take horizontal roots. Do not take the main taproot.

Harvest roots in the fall. The roots can be stored for several months.

Insect and Plant Disease Problems

Slugs and spider mites can be occasional problems. Use insecticides and slug bait, as needed.

Powdery mildew can occur on the leaves. Apply a fungicide just before hot, humid weather arrives in your area.

Also, see: 

Plant Problems – causes and cures

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