Anise Shrubs Brighten the Shade

Anise shrub

Need to brighten up a shady spot and looking for a deer resistant plant that will fit the bill? I love the yellow-leafed anise shrubs that have come out on the market in the last several years, and one such is BananAppeal anise (Illicium parviflorum).

Anise Shrubs

So many of us in the Triangle area find ourselves gardening under the shade of our native loblolly pines and deciduous hardwood trees. The shade they provide is wonderful in our sweaty summers, as is the habitat it affords to songbirds and other native species. But shade is so, well, shady. It can be a challenge at times to brighten up those areas. Plant a bunch of shrubs and perennials in the shade and you sometimes produce a conglomerate of green that almost enhances its darker qualities.

That’s when plants with colors other than green come in to save the day. Plants like the aptly named BananAppeal anise and also the ‘Florida Sunshine’ anise. Flashing with bright yellow and chartreuse foliage, these shrubs pop with color in those dark nooks of the landscape providing contrast and brightening the scene. These are what I call a “handsome” shrub. You don’t get spectacular blooms but it still sings for its supper with smooth, luminescent foliage that remains evergreen in winter and other key benefits like being deer resistant, easy to grow, and rarely being bothered by pests or disease. Wet soils won’t bother it, making it an excellent plant for the many of us in the area who have poorly drained, heavy clay soil.

I should note that this is not true anise so, if you’re thinking about incorporating it into cuisine or cocktails, don’t. This one’s for lookin’ at, not eatin’. By all means, pick and crush one of the leaves to enjoy that lovely licorice-like fragrance that prompted the naming of this plant, but leave it at that. That said, it is not likely to be acutely toxic if someone were to bite into a leaf and does not even get listed on various lists of poisonous plants one can find online. The only reason to mention it is because it shares a name with other plants, the parts of which are routinely eaten or used for flavoring.

How to Grow Anise

Back to interesting stuff like gardening, be sure to pair the BananAppeal anise with well-chosen companion plants and you will have a shade garden that sings instead of sighs. I like the wine-colored fringebushes (Loropetalum) for contrast as well as blue hostas, dwarf sweet box, dark pink azaleas or camellias, hellebores, and probably just about any hydrangea.

BananAppeal anise is said to grow to 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. My nursery person’s well-earned cynicism sends out a little “Warning” sign on this. Breeders are notorious for underestimating eventual size of new plants. It wouldn’t shock me if this baby tops out closer to 5 feet tall. That still makes it a contender, however, for many planting situations including foundations, mixed borders, accents, and hedges. With this beautiful plant, I say all of the above.

If you’re looking for something extremely similar that features just about everything that BananAppeal does but need a bit more height for, say, a privacy screening try the ‘Florida Sunshine’ cultivar which grows up to 8 feet tall.

Featured image – BananAppeal anise / Homewood Nursery and Garden Center

Tina Mast is Communications Director for Homewood Nursery & Garden Center in Raleigh, NC, and lives and gardens in Wake Forest. You can reach her at (919) 847-0117 or

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