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FOENICULUM vulgare 'Smokey'

Image of Foeniculum vulgare 'Smokey'

Jessie Keith



Botanical Name

FOENICULUM vulgare 'Smokey'

Plant Common Name

Fennel, Smokey Fennel

General Description

The fine, feathery, bronzy green foliage of smokey fennel adds a puff of color to flower gardens and containers. This selection is true to seed and is also valued as a potherb and vegetable.

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, or bulb 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. 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.


  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 6

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    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

  • Plant Type


  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    2'-4' / 0.6m - 1.2m

  • Width

    1'-3' / 0.3m - 0.9m

  • Bloom Time


  • Native To


Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH


  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Flower Color


  • Fruit Color


  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Purple, Blue Green, Bronze

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Purple, Blue Green, Bronze

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Purple, Blue Green, Bronze

  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Flower Petal Number


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Foliage Texture


  • Foliage Sheen


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Attracts