Hey, guess what? I haven’t had a freeze yet this year! I can’t decide if I’m bragging or bewildered, maybe some of both. Since my little 2 acre oasis isn’t located in Hawaii, I know it will eventually freeze, but for the present I am still enjoying the beauty of a green landscape (thanks to the recent rain).
One of the plants I’m still enjoying is called Root Beer Plant (piper auritum). Root Beer plant, also called Hoja Santa, is a perennial related to the pepper. As soon as we get a freeze, this plant will die back to the ground. It’s root hardy to 15-20 degrees, so in Zone 8, it will come back pretty reliably. Mine came back even after last winter’s 17 degree low.
Root Beer plant is one of those fun pass along plants. I saw one in a nursery for the first time this year, but normally you would get one of these from a gardening friend. Root Beer plant has a tendency to spread by underground runners, so there’s always some to share with friends.
Grow Root Beer plant in the shade, water it regularly and you’ll be rewarded with lush tropical foliage and exotic flowers. I've read the plants can get quite large, but mine have never gotten larger than 3-4 feet tall.
The leaves on this plant are big and have a spicy scent when crushed. Some say it smells like root beer, but I think mine smells like black licorice. In Mexican cooking, the leaves are chopped for flavoring or used to wrap meat and tamales.
The flowers of the Root Beer plant are long, white, and unusual enough to attract the attention of passersby.