Dill is a feathery looking annual and popular herb used as a flavoring for favorite recipes—and sought after by black swallowtail caterpillars as a food source. It grows on stiff, hollow stems covered in aromatic, delicate, blue-green leaves that divide into threadlike segments. Easy to grow and wonderfully productive, dill produces enough foliage and seed for people and pollinators alike. Plant dill alongside vegetables in a traditional vegetable garden or enjoy its scented foliage in a perennial garden or in container plantings.
Garden Plans For Dill
Dill Care Must-Knows
Dill grows best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Choose a planting site that receives at least 8 hours of bright light a day. Plant this herb in containers or raised beds if poor soil drainage is a challenge.
Dill is easiest to grow when seeded directly into the garden. Plant seeds 1 to 2 inches apart in garden soil, cover them with ¼ inch of fine soil, and water gently after planting. Make a small sowing every few weeks for successive harvests of young, tender foliage. Seeds usually germinate in 7 to 14 days. Dill can also be cultivated from nursery-grown transplants placed in the ground or a container in spring. Dill tolerates light frost, so feel free to plant it outdoors a couple of weeks before the last anticipated spring frost.
Thinning is critical to producing lush growth and preventing crowded seedlings from developing seed heads, which stops foliage production. When seedlings are 3 or 4 inches tall, reduce their numbers to just the strongest seedling every 6 to 8 inches. Some dill plants become floppy with age and size. Keep plants upright by sinking a sturdy twig or stake in the ground near the base of the plant. Use garden twine to loosely anchor the plant to the stake.
Be patient with the striped caterpillars munching on stems and foliage; they'll eventually become delightful black swallowtail butterflies. Other beneficial insects drawn in by dill's charms include bees, hoverflies, lacewings, and ladybugs—which start out as larva that dine on pests like aphids, mealybugs, and mites.
Dill Harvesting Tips
Scented flat-headed yellow flowers bloom in mid-summer, followed by the production of aromatic seeds. Pick dill's fernlike leaves as needed for flavoring; they'll have the best flavor about the time the plant is flowering. Add fresh leaves to hot dishes just prior to serving because heating dissipates flavor. To preserve leaves, air-dry or freeze sprigs in airtight bags. To use frozen dill, do not thaw; snip stems directly into dishes. Harvest seeds in fall as they start to turn brown. Clip flower heads and suspend them, upside down, inside paper sacks, so dried seeds will fall into bags. Dill seeds can be used crushed or whole in bread, pickles, salad dressings, soups, and vinegar. Chopped dill is used in chicken dishes, deviled eggs, potato salad, tossed salad, tuna salad, and gravlax, a Nordic dish made with salmon.
More Varieties for Dill
'Long Island Mammoth' dill
Anethum graveolens 'Long Island Mammoth' is an old-fashioned favorite. Its fernlike leaves may be harvested for use fresh or dried for long-term storage. It grows up to 3 feet tall and bears large clusters of flat-top yellow flowers that develop into brown seed heads.
A productive dwarf variety that grows just 18 inches tall, Anethum graveolens 'Fernleaf' is an excellent choice for container gardens or compact in-ground beds. It has fine, feathery foliage with excellent dill flavor. This All-America Selections Winner blooms from midsummer into fall.
This cultivar has fine bluish-green foliage on plants that grow to 30 inches tall. Its large yellow flower heads reach 6 inches in diameter, and they can be cut for fresh floral arrangements or dried as an everlasting. Swallowtail butterfly larvae love its foliage.