Herb Fennel is a bit of a thug, it has to be said. It has a strong, pungent liquorice flavour, which can none the less be used to great effect (with moderation) in cooking. Likewise, it can be a bit of a bully in the garden and does not play well with many other plants but can be very beautiful, attracting beneficial insects and filling the garden with tall, waving fronds and a lovely scent. Fennel can be a great thing to grow, providing you grow it in the right place, and it can add great interest both to your cooking and your garden.

How to grow fennel

The key thing to remember when growing fennel is that it will take over if you let it and form a monoculture, refusing to let other plants grow nearby. It will stunt almost anything else planted next to it, and in ideal conditions, fennel can grow to immense size – though it is almost invariably an annual plant and will grow around 2-4 feet tall.

Fennel likes to grow in full sunlight but can grow in up to three quarters shade, which is where this plant really comes in handy. Fennels ideal conditions are in a rich, moist but well-draining soil although fennel is tough and will cope with almost any conditions. It is a useful addition to a layered or forest garden and can also be the perfect plant to use as camouflage against a shady, boring wall. Seed can be planted around the time of the last frost and it will be easy to collect more seed from the plant for use the following year. When sowing fennel, scatter seeds on the soil and cover lightly with a little compost.

If you want to collect the seed, do not plant fennel with dill. Though dill is one of the few plants who can stand to grow next to fennel, the two will cross-pollinate and the results are not good.

Why grow fennel in the garden?

Due to the fact that fennel grows so easily and is so little bothered by pests, it is a boon for the kitchen garden – one thing that you will not have to worry about giving a yield. What is more, the feathery fronds of the foliage can please the eye while the scent pleases the nose.

We humans are not the only ones to enjoy the scent of fennel wafting in the breeze. Fennel is one of the very best herbs to plant if you would like to attract butterflies and other beautiful and beneficial insects to your garden. This makes it the perfect addition to a wildlife garden.

By attracting or distracting insects, fennel is also of help to those growing vegetables. By attracting ladybirds and other predatory insects it can help to keep aphid numbers down. Fennel can also help if you have dogs because it can keep down the number of fleas.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Foeniculum vulgare