Fennel is a beautiful, aromatic herb. Its stalks, leaves and fruit, which all have an anise-like flavor, are used for both culinary and medical purposes. It is one of the primary ingredients in absinthe. Bulbing forms are used more as a vegetable.
Fennel grows best in full sun but will tolerate some afternoon shade. The soil should be of poor to average fertility, moist and well drained.
Fennel is grown as cool-season herb in Texas because it does not tolerate our summer heat. Harvest stalks and leaves from fall through spring, and harvest seeds in late spring and early summer. The “bulbs” form Florence fennel can be harvested when they reach the size of a tennis ball.
With its feathery leaves, fennel is an attractive addition to a mixed perennial bed or border. It can be included in a vegetable garden but does well in any sunny location. Excellent in containers.
F. vulgare forms a clump of fine, feathery foliage. Clusters of large yellow flowers are borne at the tops of sturdy stems. Var. azoricum (Florence fennel) forms a large, bulb-like structure at the base of the plant. While the flavor is still anise-like, it is milder and sweeter. Plants tend to be smaller, and the bulb-like section is harvested and prepared like a vegetable. ‘Purpureum’ (‘Nigra’; bronze-leafed fennel) makes a stunning ornamental plant in the garden with other cool-season annuals.
Features: feathery, edible foliage, stems and seeds; large, yellow, spring flowers; edible seeds[SQ3]
Spread: 12" or more
Hardiness: frost-hardy, cool-season annual in Texas
Notes: If you plan to harvest seed for re-planting, dill and fennel should not be grown close together. They will cross-pollinate and the seeds of both plants will lose their distinct flavors. Like dill, fennel is also a host plant for black swallowtail butterflies, so be sure to plant a few extra plants for your caterpillars.