Herself's Houston Garden

Conservation through cultivation

Root beer plant ( Piper auritum )




I found this one at a Jerry’s Jungle sale last spring. It was the bamboo like stems that got me. The staff at the sale were more impressed with the root beer smell given off when you crumble the leaves. Some botanists claim it smell like anise.

Upon getting it home and reading up on it, I found it listed as invasive by several gardeners. Cool, I have a spot where nothing grows so I planted it there. It’s done very well and not been invasive. It spreads – be careful where you plant it. This spot is part/mostly shade. This plant prefers shade.

Root beer plant also prefers a moist to damp soil, I’m finding it is doing well in a slightly dry area despite our current drought so perhaps that’s the key to keeping it from being invasive. Watch for suckers, that’s its favorite way to spread.

This is a shrub which can grow to 9′ tall width should be about the same as height once it is settled in.

It is a tropical, It’s too soon to tell how it will do in the winter. It is rated to grow as far north as zone 8a so it should be ok. It died back to the ground in the winter, reappeared in late March.

It has not even wilted under the heat wave so I’m sure heat is not a problem. It did die back to the ground in the winter, then came back in the spring.

Flower are tiny, white and clustered and can appear year round.

Propagation is done by division.

I’m told the leaves are used in cooking, other sources say all parts of this plant are poisonous.

Native to Mexico and central America where it grows along the edges of forests and open sites in moist soil.

Note: Thrived the summer of 2011 in the extreme heat and drought

Elsewhere:
A giant herb called hoja santa