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Sweet Fennel Foeniculum vulgare

Previously known as:

  • Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum
Phonetic Spelling
fin-ICK-yoo-lum vul-GAR-eh
Description

Fennel is an evergreen, herbaceous perennial, normally grown as an annual, with flowers and leaves that have a sweet, mildly anise or licorice flavor. The flowers bloom in  summer and are often used in egg and fish dishes. The aromatic seeds are also put to use in cakes and breads. It has an upright, branching habit and can grow 3 to 5 feet high with aromatic, yellow-green leaves and tiny yellow flowers. The flowers are very attractive to butterflies and fennel is a larval plant for certain swallowtail butterflies. The genus name comes from the Latin name for this potherb which, in Italian, is called finocchio. The species name means common.

Fennel is grown across a wide range of USDA hardiness zones and does best in moist, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun. It will tolerate clay and sandy soils and, once established, drought. Fennel can be grown from seed sown directly in the garden in spring and it freely self-seeds in the garden. Fennel plants are know to have escaped gardens and naturalized. To prevent an unwanted spread of this plant through self-seeding, you should remove spent flowers and stems before seed is produced.

Diseases, Insect Pests, and Other Plant Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems. Stem and root rot can occur in poorly-drained soils and aphids and slugs can be a problem.

VIDEO Created by Laura Barth for "Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Nuts", a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Davidson County Extension Demonstration Garden Extension Master Gardenerâ„  Demonstration Garden, Durham Co.
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Purpureum'
    Purple bronze foliage
'Purpureum'
Tags:
#edible plant#edible flowers#swallowtail butterflies#dye plant#herbaceous perennial#edible seeds#pollinator plant#edible leaves#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#vhfn#vhfn-h#early childhood#herb garden#buncombe county sun and shade garden#wildlife friendly#th-smell#th-taste#child#children#preschool#early care
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Purpureum'
    Purple bronze foliage
'Purpureum'
Tags:
#edible plant#edible flowers#swallowtail butterflies#dye plant#herbaceous perennial#edible seeds#pollinator plant#edible leaves#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#vhfn#vhfn-h#early childhood#herb garden#buncombe county sun and shade garden#wildlife friendly#th-smell#th-taste#child#children#preschool#early care
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Foeniculum
    Species:
    vulgare
    Family:
    Apiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Shoots can be used to make a yellow dye.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southern Europe and the Mediterranean
    Distribution:
    Worldwide
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts bees and other beneficial insects, feeds caterpillars that morph into swallowtail butterflies.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 4 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 6 in. - 3 ft. 3 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Herb
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Spreading
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Green
    White
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Description:
    Aromatic seeds follow the flowers in late summer, early fall.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Umbel
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Description:
    Tiny yellow flowers in large, flattened, compound umbels bloom from June to August.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Description:
    Feathery, compound, aromatic, yellow-green leaves with needle-like segments.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought