Foeniculum vulgare
Common Name: sweet fennel 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Apiaceae
Native Range: Mediterranean
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Herb, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer


Easily grown in moist, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun. May be grown from seed that is sown directly in the garden in spring. Freely self-seeds 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.

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

Specific epithet means common.


No serious insect or disease problems. Stem and root rot may occur, especially in poorly-drained soils. Watch for aphids and slugs. Larvae (caterpillars) of swallowtail butterflies may chew on the foliage.


Borders, vegetable gardens, herb gardens, cottage gardens or meadows. Good plant for a butterfly garden. Seeds are commonly harvested for use as flavoring in a variety of foods such as bakery products or sausages. Chopped leaves may be used as flavoring for salads, potatoes or fish.