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FOENICULUM vulgare

Image of Foeniculum vulgare

Felder Rushing

Family

Apiaceae

Botanical Name

FOENICULUM vulgare

Plant Common Name

Common Fennel, Fennel

General Description

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.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Herb

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    2'-4' / 0.6m - 1.2m

  • Width

    1'-3' / 0.3m - 0.9m

  • Bloom Time

    Summer, Late Summer

  • Native To

    Southern Europe, Mediterranean

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Light Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes