Mounds of glorious light lacy fern like leaves in a mixture of bronze or smoky purple and green which often seem to hang like smoke. The plant is strongly scented with a sweet licorice flavor and scent will waft over the entire garden. At our farm the scent is noticeable a whole field away! It makes a wonderful plant all on it's own or an interesting backdrop for other smaller plants, with the contrast in foliage it make smaller plants and flowers stand out. It's delicate lacy foliage adds a sense of light and air to any bed.
Foliage mounds reach a height of about 2 - 3 feet depending on location and soil conditions. In mid to late summer it puts up a long stalk which can reach to four feet with delicate open umbels of tiny sulfur yellow flowers which are loved by native beneficial insects. These flowers are an important additions to the garden as they feed predatory insects which keep down other less desirable bugs in your garden. Planting several in the vegetable garden helps repel pests. The foliage is also a very important food source for the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly.
Deer do not eat this plant! However moles and voles will eat out the roots over the winter, so take preventative measures if these pests are in your area.
Fennel plants create a tap root and do not like to have their roots disturbed so grow in peat pots which can be planted directly in the ground. If transplanting or moving a plant take great care to remove all the root and water very well for several weeks after moving. Even so moving larger plants may not be successful.
Hardy in Zones 5-9. The plant dies down in winter and sends up shoots in early spring. Lower number zones grow as an annual. The plant can reach quite large dimensions in one year. Allow several feet between plants grown as perennials as they do spread with increasing years.
Both the foliage and the seeds are edible. The leaves can be picked and just chewed, a nice aromatic snack when wandering the garden. Use in salads or many different recipes, just snip off what you need for cooking or use the foliage as a filler in flower arrangements and bring the wonderful aroma indoors.
Seeds are prized in sausage making and are used in Chinese and many wok created dishes. Cut seeds before they turn brown and finish ripening inside for the best flavor.
Fennel has also been used as a medicinal plant for centuries. It is believed to relieve flatulence and colic while stimulating digestion. It's also a carminative anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and is similar to anise in calming bronchial coughs.
When working to encourage wildlife and especially Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies grow several plants as the large caterpillars can devastate only one plant. Spread across several plants the damage caused by their eating is not server. Offering a plant to help these beautiful creatures ensures they visit your garden and gives you a great talking point.
Zones 5-9 lower numbers grow as an annual.
Low water, but some water produces bigger plants
Edible foliage and seeds
Helps native wildlife
Encourages beneficial predatory insects
Note: Medicinal uses of herbs mentioned in our here is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Please see a qualified medical practitioner for diagnosis if you have a health problem.