July 2006 Plant Profile: Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpurescens’

Traditionally used as an herb, bronze leaf fennel has been a favorite among perennial gardeners for many years because of its airy texture, soft smoky color, anise-aroma, the height it can reach making it a stand out in the garden.

The main drawback of this plant for many gardeners is its invasive potential in the landscape. When allowed to set seed, one will spend endless hours eradicating them if seedlings are allowed to establish because they have a long taproot (being in the carrot family).

During a visit to a colleague’s garden this fall, I was struck by a plant that reminded me of bamboo or horsetail. I immediately assumed that it was some rare New Zealand or South African plant he had just acquired and has refused to share a piece of it with me, but when I read the label, I was blown away!  It was Bronze Leafed Fennel!

Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpurescens' after pruningHe had stripped the stems completely of the seed heads and wilting leaves revealing chalky blue-green stalks that looked so architectural and visually appealing at this time of the year. So, I took some time and did the exact same thing to our specimen here in the Soest Garden. If this technique were performed earlier, I could have prevented the plant from seeding itself around.

Family: Apiaceae
Origin: Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region
Height: 5-8ft
Spread: 3-5ft.
Bloom Time: Summer
Bloom Color: Lime green/chartreuse
Sun: Full Sun/Part Shde
Water: Medium/minimal moisture, well drained.