Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum
Common Name: florence fennel
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Apiaceae
Native Range: Mediterranean
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Herb, Vegetable
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer

Culture

Grow in moist, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun. Sow seed directly in the garden in spring several weeks before last frost date. Seed may also be sown in late summer for a fall crop. Best swollen basal stem growth occurs in cool temperatures. As the basal stems begin to form bulbs, mound soil around the bulbs. Bulbs may be harvested approximately three weeks later. Fennel may freely self-seed in the garden. Remove spent flowering stems before seed is produced to avoid any unwanted self-seeding.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Foeniculum vulgare, called common fennel, is an upright, branching perennial that is typically grown in vegetable and herb gardens for its anise-flavored foliage and seeds, both of which are commonly harvested for use in cooking. It somewhat resembles a very large dill plant. It grows to 3-5’ (less frequently to 6’) tall and features feathery, compound, aromatic, yellow-green leaves with needle-like segments and tiny yellow flowers in large, flattened, compound umbels. Flowers bloom in mid- to late summer, and are followed by aromatic seeds. Plants have escaped gardens and naturalized in many parts of North America. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies. Fennel is a larval plant for certain swallowtail butterflies.

Var. azoricum is called Florence fennel, finocchio or bulbing fennel. It is noted for the mild anise-like flavor of its stems, leaves and bulbous bases. Although it is a biennial or short-lived perennial, it is also a vegetable that is primarily grown in the St. Louis area as a cool weather annual. It typically grows to 3’ tall, and from a distance is reminiscent of dill. Florence fennel is distinguished by its swelling basal stems that form at ground level a bulb-like structure suggestive of celery. These basal stems (often descriptively referred to as “bulbs”) are harvested for use as a vegetable (raw or cooked). Feathery, fern-like, light green foliage and seeds may also be harvested for a variety of culinary applications. Flowers appear in flat yellow umbels. Flowers are attractive to butterflies. Flowers are followed by aromatic seeds. Common fennel (Foeniculum vulgare is a larger plant (to 6’ tall) that is grown primarily for its anise-flavored foliage and seeds. Common fennel does not produce the swollen basal stems that are the signature of Florence fennel.

Genus name comes from the Latin name for this traditional salad and potherb which, in Italian, is called finocchio.

Specific epithet means common.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Vegetable or herb gardens. May also be grown as a self-seeding annual in ornamental gardens or butterfly gardens.