So, you want to grow fennel from its bulb.
The terms “cuttings” is often used interchangeably with bulb scraps, but can also refer to the leaves or fronds.
If you’re new to fennel, you should avoid trying to regrow it from the leaves because this has a low rate of success (and takes forever).
Instead, try regrowing from bulb scraps because you can just buy it from the market and boom. You got your own fennel going.
So let’s dive in and learn how to propagate this distinctly-flavored herb.
Can you grow fennel from scraps?
Fennel is a popular plant that’s extremely versatile and can be regrown in more ways than you probably thought.
It’s a vegetable that can be propagated through something as simple as a plastic food storage container indoors. Regrowing it from scraps is easy and requires little to no effort.
Even the inexperienced gardeners will have no issue propagating fennel from cuttings or scraps.
Fennel fronds are their leaves. While it’s possible to grow fennel from the fronds, it’s often unsuccessful and just a waste of time.
Starting from bulb cuttings or seeds is easier and has a high chance of success compared to fronds.
Regardless, some people refer to cuttings as the leaves of the herb.
While others refer to cuttings as slices of the bulb. In this tutorial, we’ll only be focusing on regrowing from the bulb slices- NOT the fronds.
While fennel is a safe herb for most, some people may be sensitive to fennel.
Please do your research first and consult with a professional before attempting to regrow it for consumption or other usages.
How to regrow fennel plants from bulb
Regrowing fennel is extremely easy and you can use fennel that you buy from the grocery store.
It doesn’t require anything special and you can use the very last bit of the bulb to regrow it.
This is usually the bottom of the bulb- where you see the small, tiny roots coming out. This is the only piece necessary to regrow it from scraps. If you cut this part off, keep it handy to regrow.
The bulb is the easiest way to regrow fennel. It’s even easier than starting from seed because you can buy fennel bulbs at the local market and those should be ready to propagate.
Growing indoors from cuttings
Here are the steps to regrow the bulbs indoors using a bulb.
Choose a container
Fennel isn’t picky and you can use anything that holds water as a DIY container.
A vessel that has no holes to keep all the water in will do. You can use anything from a mason jar to a shallow dish. The exact container doesn’t matter.
As long as it holds water with a flat surface, it’s fine.
You don’t need soil to propagate it from cuttings. All you need is a few rocks in the container to hold the bulb in place.
And even this is optional. You don’t want it to float around.
Use the rocks to hold it down in place so it doesn’t go anywhere.
Of course, once you move it outdoors to transplant, you’ll want to use well-draining soil for vegetables.
Use organic and rich compost if possible to help supplement the plant with more food to thrive and produce that delicious distant flavor for you to enjoy.
For now, keep the container near a windowsill. This should receive plenty of sunlight for the bulb to root quickly.
Place the bulb face down so that the roots are growing towards the bottom of the container.
Don’t place it upside down or else it may not root.
Every few days, change the water in the container completely. This will prevent any rot, fungus, or mold.
Watch the roots and bulb. If you notice root rot, discard the entire thing and start over. The fungus will be difficult to control with the bulb inside.
Be sure to clean the container completely. Sterilize it. This is necessary before you start over.
Wait for it to root
In a few days, the bulb should start to take root.
This depends on a few different things- such as temperature, local humidity, nutrient availability, and water quality.
Do it right and you’ll see a few roots sprout out within a few days. If you don’t see new green shoots coming up from the base of the bulb, you may have to start over.
Don’t worry. The bulb was likely cut incorrectly and you can easily leave more of the bulb behind next time.
Over time, new roots will sprout.
Decide whether to transplant or grow in water
Now you have to make a tough decision. You can either keep it how it is or transplant the fennel to your garden.
It can be kept indoors like this over water and harvested indefinitely.
Over time, it may lose flavor and not grow as quickly as the ones outdoors. It may also not have as much flavor as soil-grown fennel.
But if you have no garden or little space, growing fennel in water indoors is easier.
If you have garden space and want to transplant it, you should do so after a few roots have developed on the bulb.
Slowly dig out a hole in some organic and well-draining soil for it. Then backfill with compost or rich soil.
This will encourage the bulb to adapt to the new environment.
This should only be done after a few weeks when the roots are large enough to sustain the plant.
Don’t rush it and do it early. You could kill the fennel if it’s not ready yet.
You can replant your fennel outdoors in the soil or inside a container. If you choose a container, make sure it has plenty of vertical space for it to grow deep roots. It likes its space.
Growing outdoors from bulb cuttings
Now that you’ve successfully moved your fennel outside, the requirements to care for it will slightly change.
Since it’s not grown in a container over water anymore, you should note the differences.
(If you haven’t already, read the previous sections for complete directions on starting from a bulb.)
Once you’ve moved it outdoors, you’ll notice that it takes the sunlight in with big gulps. You’ll notice that the fennel you grow outdoors is larger and possibly tastier than indoor ones.
Use well-draining, organic, nutritious soil. It should be moist with water retaining preppies.
Keep it wet by mixing dirt with organic compost and a layer of sand at the bottom to help improve drainage. If you’re growing organic fennel, keep everything organic certified.
The soil should be soft, loose, and fertile. Always properly space your fennel from each other and other plants.
Don’t plant with competitive plants. And remove nuisance plants like weeds that suck up the nutrients.
Fennel cultivars like Florence variants don’t take weeds well.
Plant the bulb about 0.25″ deep. Space each plant about 18 inches apart to minimize competition.
Fennel will do well in both partial or full sun. Full sun seems to produce fuller fronds, but don’t overdo it.
If you’re in a zone with scorching hot summers, partial shade is necessary.
Herb fennel will do fine in both. But if you’re growing Florence fennel, this choosy herb prefers full sun only.
Watering should be done once or twice a week, depending on your hardiness zone and local weather forecast.
Use regularly scheduled waterings during the summer.
Keep soil moist, but not waterlogged. The top 1” of soil should be moist at all times. Don’t let it dry between waterings.
Fertilizer is optional, but if you want to help improve growth, use organic fertilizer in the springtime. This will help it grow quicker and may produce larger fronds.
However, you don’t need to offer any if not necessary. Excess fertilizer will just lead to nutrient buildup, which can be harmful to the plant and also attract pests.
You can get away with just basic TLC and no plant food for fennel herb.
For Florence fennel, use a high potash fertilizer throughout the early spring and summer.
Use as directed up to twice a month. It needs plenty of food. If it starts to slow the production of fronds, increase the dosage or frequency.
Remove the heads of each flower to help produce larger leaves.
The flowers will just produce seeds, which can be useful if you want to further grow your plants for the next season.
However, if you’re looking to harvest for consumption, cut the flowers off. This will redirect the plant’s energy to the leaves to produce larger ones.
You can also do half cut and half intact.
This way, you have some for the next growing season. It also determines if you want to keep it a perennial or annual.
If you harvest the entire fennel plant, it’s an annual. If you let it propagate on its own and flower, it’ll come back next season, thus it’s a perennial herb.
Prune the plant when it dies back in the winter to help remove rotting vegetation. This will reduce pests.
Fennel can propagate on its own if you let it flower and collect the seeds for replanting.
You can also just divide the bulbs and cut them into small sections.
As long as they’re complete, the plant can be regrown.
It can be propagated in one of three ways:
- From cuttings
- From seed
- Or from bulb
Fennel is ready to harvest about 3 months after you plant it.
The plant becomes established around that time with sturdy roots and large levees. You can start to cut off the leaves, seeds, or even the bulb and use it for cooking.
Only a few leaves should be pruned if you want to keep t growing.
Don’t cut off all the leaves at once to keep it going. The bulb is ready to harvest when it reaches the size of a tennis ball or so.
Other questions about fennel care
Here are some common questions readers ask.
Does fennel come back every year?
Fennel can be propagated to come back every season.
On its own, it’ll flower and produce seeds for the next generation. But if you prune it, you can still grow it using the bulbs.
This plant is perennial that you can grow indoors or outside, so you have a lot of options with it. It’s also easy to grow and can be grown as both a perennial or annual herb.
Can you regrow fennel in water?
Yes, fennel can be regrown in water using cuttings or bulb slices. You can even keep it indoors until it takes root and then move it outside later.
Or keep it inside your kitchen and cut off a piece when you need it in your cooking!
What does fennel taste like?
Fennel has a distinctive taste that’s similar to licorice. It’s not for everyone.
But for those that enjoy the kick it adds to seafood dishes, growing it yourself is a given because it’s so easy to grow and saves you money if it’s something you’re constantly buying.
Fennel is easy to regrow from bulbs, stubs, or cuttings. You can even regrow it from the leftover stub that’s usually discarded.
Tips and tricks
Do you want to get the most from your plants?
Check out these handy tips and tricks you may find useful when growing your fennel:
- Only use fertile soil that’s not clumped
- Stick with organic soils only
- Keep temperatures between 60-70 degrees
- Space each bulb 18 inches apart to give them plenty of room
- Pack extremely gently around the bulb with loose soil
- Water generously the first time you plant it
- Always start indoors when possible
- Growing from a cutting is possible, but beginners will benefit from bulbs
- Bulbs can be stored for an extended period if not in use
- The entire fennel herb can be used in cooking
- The seeds are strong and can be used as a chili
- The fennel leaves can be used in stews, soups, meats, and more
- Use a rich soil with a pH of 5-7 for best results
- Cool-weather benefits fennel more than heat
- Don’t let it get too cold or too hot
- Use extra water during dry periods, but don’t overwater
- There are two main types of fennel- herb and Florence
Best uses for fennel
Fennel can be used as a herbal flavoring for a variety of recipes.
It’s added to seafood, meats, and even stews to help improve the flavor. The slightly spicy licorice taste it adds can be a nice balance to otherwise bland or bitter flavors.
It can also help bring down the salty taste of seafood or add a nice kick to meat products like beef or chicken.
With its distinct flavor, the entire seeds, fronds, and bulbs can be used for many recipes.
They’re easy to grow, easy to care for, and you can grow them forever.
Here are some references you may find useful:
Go and grow your fennel
Now you can stop by the grocery section and pick up a bulb or two. That’s all you need to propagate it at home.
With the district flavor of fennel and the variety of uses, you can grow this unique herb however you want and never pay for it again!
What do you think? Do you have any questions? Post a comment below and let us know 😊.
I’ve always been interested in gardening, but I never took it seriously until I was forcefully gifted an orchid. This was what got me into the hobby and I’ve never looked back. I enjoy writing about it, but not nearly as much as getting into the dirt and sculpting the perfect decorative ornamental to enjoy for the times.