Helping You Become a More Successful Gardener
James H. Schutte
FOENICULUM vulgare 'Purpureum'
Fennel, Purple Fennel
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Fennel is a versatile, large, clump-forming perennial herb from the Mediterranean that has been valued for cooking since Ancient Roman times and earlier. Its seeds have a pungent anise flavor and are used as a common spice in vegetable and meat dishes. In fact, they are the predominant flavor in Italian sausage. Vegetable fennel cultivars develop large, bulbous bases that have the crisp texture of celery and a mild anise flavor. Bulb fennel is a traditional ingredient in Mediterranean cooking and may be eaten cooked or fresh.
Visually, fennel is often mistaken for dill. In summer this fast, upright grower bears flat heads of yellow flowers on tall hollow stems. Branches of threadlike, aromatic foliage with finely dissected leaves arise from the ribbed joints along the stems. The airy leaves give the plant a fluffy, light, semi-transparent appearance. Bulb fennel cultivars develop white bases comprised of layered leaves, much like celery. These generally mature in 67 to 80 days, usually by late summer.
Grow fennel in ample sun and well-drained soil with high tilth and average to good fertility. Bulbous forms develop more tender white bulbs if compost or soil is piled up around the base of the plants in early summer. Over time, fennel will expand and may require division. It self-sows prolifically and often becomes weedy, so it is wise to collect the all the fennel seed before it falls. In fact, this plant is considered a noxious weed in some parts of the world, including Australia and regions in the western United States.
Naturally drought resistant, fennel is a popular plant for Mediterranean style gardens and dry landscapes in the west. It is a beautiful large garden perennial, especially purple-leaved cultivars, and is also at home in herb and vegetable gardens. An added perk is that it a host plant for the larvae of several butterfly species, so it’s good to let caterpillars enjoy its foliage. Fennel tends to look washed out and lose foliage after flowering, so consider this when designing with it.
9 - 1
4 - 9
A1, A2, A3, H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Full Sun, Partial Sun
2'-4' / 0.6m - 1.2m
1'-3' / 0.3m - 0.9m
Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer
Southern Europe, Mediterranean
Clay, Loam, Sand
Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant, Average Water
Spring, Summer, Fall
Container, Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border
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