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Anise 'Florida Sunshine' for the Woodland Garden

Earlier this week I planted Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine' in the woodland garden. It is a relatively rare form of anise with chartreuse gold foliage, and the leave color intensifies in the fall to provide the ultimate glow in the garden.

Anise is a dependable broadleaf evergreen shrub. Upright to pyramidal in shape, 'Florida Sunshine' should grow 6 to 8 feet tall by 4 to 6 feet wide. Its golden leaves distinguish it from other types of anise. The foliage is gorgeous throughout the year, but it especially shines on dreary winter days. 'Florida Sunshine' is also characterized by red stems that contrast with the yellow foliage. The glossy, fragrant leaves smell of licorice when crushed. I can smell my 'Florida Sunshine' at least ten feet away without crushing the leaves. The fragrance is fabulous!

The plant is tolerant of a wide variety of soil conditions, but it will grow best in moist soils. It likes filtered sun to shade. I was impressed when I saw it at the nursery. Unprotected through the winter, it withstood subfreezing temperatures with no problems and was already putting out new leaves. In fact, it is hardy in zones 6-9, tolerating temperatures down to -5 degrees fahrenheit. 

Illicium parviflorum is native to the Deep South, most often found in moist areas of the Florida panhandle and southern Georgia. The species can grow into a small tree up to 20 feet tall. Suckers sometimes appear around the base of mature plants, which may be dug for new plants, and it is also easily rooted from cuttings. It has small yellow flowers that may go unnoticed. 

Florida anise, Illicium floridanum, is also a native and is cousin to the gold-leaf anise. This species will grow in hardiness zones 7-10 and likes well drained, moist acid soil. It has leathery dark green leaves and will grow to about 10 to 15 feet tall by 6 to 10 feet wide. In spring it produces maroon, 2 inch flowers with strap-like petals. There are smaller cultivars, and there are some cultivars with white flowers. 'Shady lady' is a cultivar with variegated foliage and pink flowers. All anise shrubs have wonderfully fragrant leaves.

Both Illicium parvifolum and I. floridanum are toxic if ingested, despite the delightful aroma of their leaves. Illicium verum, or star-aniseis a non-native from China and Vietnam that is used as a culinary spice.

Whichever one is chosen, an anise shrub is a great addition to the garden. I am very excited about my 'Florida Sunshine'. It truly brings a gleam of sunlight to my shady woodland.


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Reader Comments (14)

We love our Illiciums and we've taken note of both. Gorgeous plants and great to hear about thier hardiness!

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

Very pretty! I don't recall ever seeing it in a nursery here, although my Sunset Western Garden Book lists it as suited to a broad range of western areas, including my own. The moist soil requirement may rule it out even if I can find it, though - despite a couple days of rain, we're still looking at a dry year.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

I remember spotting that in a nursery in North Carolina and seriously considered getting it for quite a long time as I was looking for something for a damp site. I ended up getting something else that would be a little smaller in the end, but I thought it was a beautiful shrub. It has such gorgeous colored foliage!

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

you always choose such interesting trees and shrubs, this looks a real beauty.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

You know you have matured as a gardener when you get as excited to see a picture of green leaves almost as much as you do one of flowers. I just love the color of your latest garden addition. Your hellebores are looking terrific in the last post as well. Have a wonderful weekend Deb!

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

You seem to have found a wonderful shrub that will look really good in your woodland. I've not heard of it before, must look into that!

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpauline

Oh, I can see why it's a favorite! If it would work in my zone, I would try it! I don't like the flavor of Anise, but I love the scent. That's a beautiful one, too!

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPlantPostings

The foliage of this shrub is just beautiful and what a nice addition it is to your garden! Thank you for sharing!

I love this shrub too, especially Florida Sunshine, which I've been seeing in the garden centers lately. I remain skeptical about illicium parvifolium's being toxic, since something ate the one I planted in my garden! Very distressing. Maybe I'll try Florida Sunshine, though. It's too tempting to resist.

Licorice fragrance in the garden…mmmmmmm…..what a great idea! The plant looks beautiful, Deb.
Lucky that it survived your rare winter snow storms - it's one tough plant!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAstrid

Sadly it won't like it here, too cold, tooooo dry, too hot.

But maybe one day I will find something similar.

Are you near Lynn, who lives in Lower Alabama?


Hi Deb, This is a new plant for me, so interesting to get to know a Florida native that I am unlikely to see round here. I get the glow, pity you can't transmit the scent through the screen ...

March 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercatmint

I've seen this shrub and it's a beauty. I considered adding it to the garden but didn't have the right spot, although I wish I did. It would look so bright and cheerful in your woodland garden. :)

March 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

I was wondering why I had not heard of this shrub here and then I realized it is not hardy. Too bad.

March 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View
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