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Hoja Santa

Piper auritum

Root Beer Plant

About This Plant

Best in dark shade; in sun it will wither. Hoja Santa is an interesting herbaceous perennial with heart-shaped leaves and knotty stems, forming spreading clumps during summer. This tropical herb is accustomed to heavy rain and warmth; it can technically be featured in the Texas landscape, but it’s much easier if you can provide south wall protection (from cold winds) and keep it out of summer sun. The complex flavor has been compared to licorice, tarragon, anise, and pepper. Children just call it the root beer plant (the flowers even look like straws.) In Mexico hoja santa is used to wrap meat or fish and to flavor soup, mole verde, and chocolate. (However, it contains a carcinogen — safrole — so use sparingly.)

Origins: Tropical Americas

Maintenance

Wilts in any sun; cut back and wait for rain. Normally freezes back in winter.

The root beer plant!

Min. Height: 2'

Max Height: 5 feet'

Min. Width: 2'

Max Width: 5 feet'

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