Bronze fennel – host plant for Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies

Wildlife 005

Bronze Fennel

Name:  Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’

Zones:  4 to 9

Size:   3 – 4 feet tall and 18 inches wide

Conditions:  Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil.

Bronze fennel is grown in my herb garden for one reason:  as a host plant for the Eastern black swallowtail butterfly.  The plant itself is very lusty looking.  Bronze color adds interest in an herb garden that can be heavy on green.  The feathery foliage looks good all summer, as long as it is not allowed to go to seed.  To avoid this, feel free to cut it back during the summer, or just let the larvae do it for you.  Invasive in some areas.


  1. tina said

    I started some fennel from seeds last winter. It is still hanging on in the seedpacks. I plan to plant it soon and hope it takes root. My yard is sun challenged though so I am not so hopeful. Some herbs do well in shade, some not so well. Lucky for me parsley works well so we have that. I’ve been seeing tons of caterpillars but no swallowtails yet. I better go look. The fennel is perennial?

  2. Yes Tina, bronze fennel should be perennial for you. It is short lived though. But you are in luck, it will tolerate some shade. H.

  3. Les said

    No so much bronze, but the regular is invasive on the Eastern Shore. It covers the ES Wildlife Refuge at Kiptopeke as well as other areas. Even so, I love it my garden. It sort of comes up where it wants and I let it be knowing that plant won’t be there long.

  4. Janet said

    They haven’t found my fennel yet. I have lots of caterpillars on my parsley (or what is left of it).

  5. Hey Janet, I find they go for my parsley first. Once the parsley is exhausted, then they seek fennel…not scientific, just a pattern I’ve noticed in my garden. I don’t have as many as I normally have 😦

  6. Dave said

    One of these days I should plant fennel but the swallow tails seem to come by anyway. I wouldn’t mind have a few more to watch though.

  7. Dave said

    One of these days I should plant fennel but the swallow tails seem to come by anyway. I wouldn’t mind have a few more to watch though.
    Oops…forgot to say great post! Looking forward to your next one.

  8. My fennel (in the butterfly garden of course) is in the third summer and is over 5 feet tall. I cut it back earlier in the summer!


  9. Sounds wonderful C. The same at the JCRA, it is so huge. We need to get in there and cut it back since it is blocking the path! Still no larvae…soon I hope.

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