Plant Profile: Dill

February 3, 2020

By Matt

Did You Know?

Dill is a favorite host plant of black swallowtail caterpillars!


Caption: Dill Flowers
  • Often mistaken for its cousin fennel, dill is an annual herb in the same family as celery, caraway, and carrots, and has a deep taproot like these plants.
  • Dill grows to more than 3 feet tall with a similar spread and has thin, hollow stems, and feathery, aromatic leaves.
  • In summer, dill produces large, lacy flower heads with many tiny yellow blooms.
  • Dill is grown for its leaves and flat, oval seeds, which are prized for culinary use. Historically, dill was cultivated for medicinal properties, including its ability to soothe an upset stomach or freshen bad breath.

What Makes Dill So Awesome?

Dill is an easy plant to grow, and its leaves mature quickly to harvest for culinary use. Many recipes call for dill weed or seed. It’s used in potato salad, soups, sauces, breads, salad dressings, dips, and of course, pickles wouldn’t be the same without dill.

Like the rest of the plant, dill flowers are edible and can be used to garnish salads, cheese trays, or soups. The blooms make excellent dried flowers.

The plant itself is attractive, and belongs in pollinator gardens as well as herb gardens. It’s showy in containers, as long as there’s plenty of room for its large roots, and it even does well in a sunny window (it may need a stake grown indoors).

Dill is a surprising source of nutrition: 1 tablespoon of dill seed contains more calcium that ⅓ cup of milk. Fresh dill contains quercetin, amino acids, and is high in potassium, vitamin A, and folate.

How Can I Grow One?

Dill grows best in full sun, in well-drained, slightly acidic soil that’s rich in organic matter. Plants can tolerate less than 6 hours of sun, but it’s a good idea to provide stakes or other support because stems can become a bit floppy in shade. Dill also needs some protection from wind.

Plant seeds directly in the ground 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost date (dill seedlings don’t transplant well). Sow about ¼ inch deep and 18 inches apart, or plant together and thin young plants. Keep soil consistently moist.

Dill leaves may be harvested as soon as they’re big enough to use. Remove flower heads to prolong leaf harvest because, once dill blooms, it will put its energy into seed production instead of leaf growth. If you’re planning to use your dill for pickles, start a few plants every 2 weeks so you’ll have dill maturing along with your cucumbers. 

Caption: Dill Plants

To harvest seeds: Allow blooms to mature and seed. Cut seed heads about 3 weeks after bloom, place in paper bags, and keep in a dry location. Seeds will fall off when dry. If you don’t remove blooms, dill will self sow in the garden.

Varieties to try: If you’re growing dill for its leaves, plant Bouquet. Dukat is a smaller cultivar and is good for containers. Long Island Mammoth is a large variety that’s good for leaves and seed. 

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