Can You Grow Fennel In Pots: Learn How To Plant Fennel In Containers


By: Liz Baessler

Fennel is a popular herb that’s usually grown for its distinct anise flavor as a culinary ingredient. Bulb fennel, in particular, is grown for its large white bulbs that pair especially well with fish. But can you grow fennel in pots? Keep reading to learn more about potted fennel plants and how to plant fennel in containers.

How to Plant Fennel in Containers

Can you grow fennel in pots? Yes, as long as the pots are big enough. For one thing, fennel produces a long taproot that needs plenty of depth. For another thing, you grow extra tender fennel bulbs by “earthing up.” This means that as the bulbs get bigger, you pile more soil around them to protect them from the sun.

If you’re growing bulb fennel in pots, this means you have to leave several inches of room between the soil and the rim of the container when you sow. One good way to achieve this is to plant your container grown fennel in a tall grow bag with the top rolled down.

As the plant grows, unroll the top to make room for the extra soil. If your pot simply isn’t deep enough, you can fake the earthing up process by surrounding the bulb with a cone of cardboard or aluminum foil.

Fennel is a Mediterranean plant that loves warm weather. It also hates having its roots disturbed, so it grows best if sown directly into the soil after all chance of frost or cool nighttime temperatures has passed.

Container grown fennel has to be kept moist at all times without getting waterlogged, so plant it in well-draining soil and water frequently.

Harvest the bulb before it bolts to get the best flavor.

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Read more about Fennel Bulb


Planting Bulbs in Containers

  • Containers
  • Potting soil

Choose a container. Anything that has drainage holes and is deep enough to accommodate a few inches of soil and the bulbs works as a container. You'll need to allow a 1-inch space between the tip of the bulb and the rim of the pot. Examples:

For a 2-inch-tall daffodil bulb, use a 6-inch-deep pot (3 inches of soil, 2 inches for the bulb, 1-inch space at top).

For a 1-inch-tall crocus bulb, use a 5-inch-deep pot (3 inches of soil, 1 inch for the bulb, 1-inch space at top).

If you have containers that don't fit these sizes exactly, you can experiment with different soil depths and spacing. But be sure the bulbs have at least 2 inches of soil beneath them.

Choose a potting mix. Use any bagged potting mix labeled for general houseplant use. The mix just has to drain freely and maintain moisture. Mix some fertilizer, such as a granular 5-10-10 or 9-9-6 bulb formulation, into the potting mix at the rate recommended on the product label.

Pot up the bulbs. Add 3 inches of potting mix to the container, and firm it gently. Place a bulb on the soil, and twist it a quarter-turn to give it some grip in the soil. Add the rest of the bulbs, spacing them no more than 1/2-inch apart.

Add more potting mix around the bulbs, firming it into place with your fingers. The tips of the bulbs should barely show through the soil surface.

Water well until some moisture leaks from the drainage holes. If channels or holes develop in the potting mix, fill them with moistened potting mix.

Time to chill. In order to flower, spring-blooming bulbs require a chilling period of 8 to 14 weeks at temperatures between 35? and 40? F. To simulate the effect of winter, place container in a cool, dark place such as an unheated, frost-free basement, garage, or porch. A spare refrigerator is an ideal spot, but keep bulbs away from fruits or vegetables they give off ethylene gas, which can cause the bud inside a bulb to abort.

Check pots regularly. During the chilling phase, the bulbs are growing roots, so it's important that the potting mix not dry out. Check regularly for moisture by sticking your finger into the potting mix. If it feels dry an inch deep, fill the pot to the rim with water, and allow it to drain. Be careful not to overwater-excess moisture can lead to rot.

Watch for emerging top growth. After six to eight weeks of chilling, green shoots should begin to emerge. If you live in a mild climate, this should coincide with the emergence of bulbs in outdoor beds. If you live in a cold-winter region, keep the containers in their cool place until you wish to encourage growth.

Place containers where they will receive light. Temperatures over 75? F push bulbs to grow too quickly, resulting in floppy, leggy top growth. A location in light shade should provide the right balance of light and moderate temperatures. To ensure that your bulbs stand erect, you can support top growth with flower rings or stakes and twine.

Maintain the show. As your bulbs grow larger and bloom, check soil moisture daily, and water as needed to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Post-bloom care. If you want to save these bulbs, water regularly after the blossoms fade. The leaves will eventually start to turn yellow and dry up. When the leaves have completely turned dry and brown, empty the pot onto your compost pile. Retrieve the bulbs and allow the soil that clings to them to dry. Remove dead foliage, brush off dry soil, and store the bulbs in a cool, dry place. In the fall, plant these bulbs-except tulips, which don't rebloom well-in a garden bed and purchase new bulbs to pot up in containers.

Extend the bloom period by planting separate containers with varieties that have various bloom dates (early, mid-, and late season).

Face the flat side of tulip bulbs outward toward the wall of the pot. When the leaves and blossom stalks emerge, they'll grow up and outward, instead of crowding toward the center.

As the bulbs start to bloom, you can move them to a prominent place for best viewing. When they cease to bloom, move the bulb container to an out-of-the-way place while it fades.

You can plant various bulbs in a single container-but be sure to select varieties that are timed to blossom simultaneously (for example, don't pair late-season daffodils with early crocuses). Plant bulbs in layers in deeper containers, with large bulbs deeper and small bulbs closer to the surface. Space bulbs so they aren't planted on top of one another.

Follow these easy steps, and you'll have a display that brings spring to your doorstep.

Extend the bloom period by planting separate containers with varieties that have various bloom dates (early, mid-, and late season).

Face the flat side of tulip bulbs outward toward the wall of the pot. When the leaves and blossom stalks emerge, they'll grow up and outward, instead of crowding toward the center.

As the bulbs start to bloom, you can move them to a prominent place for best viewing. When they cease to bloom, move the bulb container to an out-of-the-way place while it fades.

You can plant various bulbs in a single container-but be sure to select varieties that are timed to blossom simultaneously (for example, don't pair late-season daffodils with early crocuses). Plant bulbs in layers in deeper containers, with large bulbs deeper and small bulbs closer to the surface. Space bulbs so they aren't planted on top of one another.

Photography By Sabin Gratz/National Gardening Association.


Why You Should Grow Fennel

The fennel herb, also known as Foeniculum vulgare, has quite a long and colorful history of its use. Both the Chinese and Egyptians used this plant for its medicinal purposes, and during the Middle Ages, people believed that fennel possessed magical qualities. They would use it to drive away evil spirits!

I’ll be honest – that’s not one of my preferred uses for the herb, although I guess that’s good to know. Instead, I like to use this herb as a seasoning for fish and eggs. It has a sharp flavor that makes it delicious for use in things like baked goods, too.

The plant is native to southern Europe, but you can grow it in your garden (or even indoors or in a container) just about anywhere you live.

Fresh fennel, whether you’re using the seeds or the leaves, is loaded with nutrients. It’s high in manganese as well as other nutrients like vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and more.


Planting Fennel Bulb:

  • Fennel will germinate very quickly in well drained soil as well as in sunny locations.
  • Plant the fennel seeds after the last frost date in your area.
  • Fennel requires a pH level of 5.5 to 7.0, so you may need to add lime to raise the pH.
  • Sow the seeds directly into the ground at about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch deep.
  • Once the plants have sprouted, thin them to a distance of 6 to 12 inches.
  • You can cultivate fennel at any stage depending on what you wish to use it for: bulbs, stem, or seeds.
  • You can also plant fennel in the fall, about 6 weeks before the first frost.
  • Fennel is a perennial that is actually invasive, so you must be careful when planting fennel and remove the seed head.

Harvesting Fennel Bulb:

  • Harvest fennel stalks when they are almost ready to flower.
  • Cut them off to the ground and use them as you would celery.
  • After removing the stalk, add some earth around the base, wait about 10 days, and then harvest the bulb.

Now that you know how to grow fennel bulb, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to planting!


Planting

From the buds of the fennel flowers emerge the seed when developed. Source: tinkiak

The key to growing fennel is the consistency of temperature, sunlight, and moisture. Plant fennel in the garden in moisture retentive well-drained soil, improved with lots of organic matter, and located in full sun.

Common fennel develops a long taproot and does not like root disturbance. Sow seeds directly into their final growing positions in mid to late spring after the last frost date.

Bulb fennel can be sown from mid-spring to late summer depending on your climate. If you live somewhere with a Mediterranean type climate, you can start sowing seeds under cover in mid-spring. Seedlings should be ready for planting out after 4-5 weeks when they are 2-3inches tall and all risk of frost has passed. Space plants 12 inches apart (30cm), and 18inches (45cm) between rows. The crop should be ready for harvest from mid-summer onwards. Seeds may also be sown directly when soil temperatures are a minimum of 50ºF (10ºC).

If you live in a northern cool climate, sow fennel seeds directly in mid-summer when the weather is warm and temperatures shouldn’t fluctuate too suddenly. Bulbs will be ready for harvest in autumn.

A great tip to grow show-stopping bulbs is to earth up soil around the base of the plants as the stem begins to swell. This provides stability as they grow and gleaming white, sweet bulbs.

Both varieties of fennel can be grown under cover in climatically controlled environments where the risk of bolting and wilt is managed. Garden greenhouses and polytunnels tend to overheat even in the cooler months and are not suitable for growing fennel.


Fennel Companion Planting

Fennel is a highly aromatic and slightly odd plant that is pretty much a poor companion plant for everything.

Fennel companion planting generally only works when growing dill. However, even dill is a poor choice because the two herbs tend to cross-pollinate.

Fennel & Insects.

Fennel Flower being polinated by a parasitoid wasp

Fennel attracts a variety of beneficial insects including ladybugs, syrphid flies, tachninid flies, beneficial parasitoid wasps and hoverflies and other beneficial predator insects to your garden. Aphids are said to find fennel exceptionally offensive and are strongly repelled by it.

Fennel as a flea repellant.

Fennel is a strong repellent for fleas. An old gardening mantra suggested to “plant fennel near your kennel” to protect your pooch from fleas. Dried fennel leaves will provide additional flea deterrence when put inside the dog house or kennel.


Watch the video: growing fennel in containers: Part 1


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