OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312



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Foeniculum vulgare



Fennel in early sources

Description      Propagation      Cultivation        Harvest

Scientific name

Foeniculum vulgare

Common names, modern

Fennel, fenchel, fenouil, fenouille,  finkel, finocchio, Florence fennel, hinojo, sweet fennel



Perennial, somewhat short-lived but self-seeds readily

Cold hardiness

Hardy zones 4-9


3' to 6' tall and 2' to 3' wide


Fennel is a tall, airy plant. Bushiness can be encouraged by cutting the stems back nearly to the ground. Crowding produces tall, skinny plants; spacing more generously allows the plants to become fuller.


Bright yellow, flat umbels that bloom mid to late summer


Feathery, dark green foliage that is often harvested by cutting back the plant, which then sends up fresh new leaves for use in the kitchen.









Foeniculum rubrum

The whole plant -- flowers, leaves, stems, seeds -- smells like licorice. Seeds smell better once dry.

Swallowtail butterflies love fennel, and if you leave the seed heads on the plants in the fall, the birds will thank you.

Varieties of fennel include:

  • Wild fennel, Foeniculum vulgare - Naturalizes readily, grows vigorously, provides foliage and seeds for use in cooking; its base is not bulbous.

  • Florence fennel, F. vulgare var. Azoricum - Has a thick stalk and a hefty, bulbous base that looks like celery but has a strong anise flavor, very nice with fish and in salads.

  • Bronze fennel, Foeniculum vulgare purpureum (AKA bronze, rubrum, smokey fennel) - Has lovely, rosy bronze foliage; does not have a bulbous base.


By seed

Easy to propagate by seed, and seed is easy to save. Sow just after the last frost in the spring. Or let the plants self-sow, and relocate volunteers later on in the spring.

Germination temperature


Germination time

12-18 days


Keep soil moist but not soggy


Cover seed well with 1/4" of soil; less soil is more when it comes to these seeds, which need light to germinate.



Prefers moist soil and demands good drainage; flourishes in alkaline soil, but also tolerates more acidic soils.


Tolerates dry soil and drought


Full sun

Natural habitat

Dry, sunny, alkaline soils, often on well-drained banks


Though individual plants are short-lived perennials, a bed of fennel can be very lush from year to year, thanks to fennel's propensity to self-seed.


Little seems to bother fennel, especially if it is planted in a location with good air circulation and full sun.


Rarely a problem


Season to bloom/bear

Blooms in late summer

Seed collection

Mid to late fall


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