A dill plant is one of the most useful additions to any kitchen garden. With its delicate, fragrant foliage and bright yellow flowers it’s not only an attractive plant, but also a useful one. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of dill plants on offer, don’t worry. This helpful guide will help you to identify the variety that’s perfect for you.
About the Dill Plant
The dill plant’s distinctive flavor compliments many different dishes. Most commonly used as a culinary herb, dill is also packed full of nutrients, especially vitamins A and D. Its flowers and leaves can also be used to add interest to floral displays. Despite its delicate appearance, dill is surprisingly hardy. It’s also a useful companion plant.
Dill plants thrive in full sun, and self-sow enthusiastically. This means that unless you harvest and remove spent seed heads, the plant will return year after year. You can harvest dill within 8 weeks of the seeds germinating—as soon as the true leaves begin to emerge.
There are many different dill varieties to choose from. So many in fact, that it can be difficult to know which one is best for you and your needs. For example, the best variety for growing as a companion plant may not be the best type to use for pickling.
The Best Dill for Your Climate
Most people grow dill as an annual plant, which means that it doesn’t have a USDA hardiness zone rating. In cooler areas, dill will grow throughout the summer. In warmer areas, such as USDA zones 9 and warmer, the herb will go to seed. When this happens, growth and leaf production will slow or cease as the plant places all its energy into seed production. Leaf production will resume once the flower has faded.
Gardeners in warmer climates who struggle with plants bolting should choose bolt-resistant varieties. Alternatively succession planting or growing varieties that are slow to mature will extend your dill season.
Vierling is a reliable dill variety that’s slow to both mature and bolt. Additionally both Dukat and Superdukat are slow to flower and decline. This allows you to enjoy an extended harvest. It also means that you don’t have to bother with sequential sowing.
The Hercules variety also takes a long time to flower. It’s best harvested when the leaves are young and fresh, as older leaves can seem coarse, and lacking in flavor.
Gardeners in a cool climates, or with short growing seasons, may struggle to find varieties that are quick to mature. One alternative is to grow potted or dwarf varieties such as Fernleaf. These will grow all year round, regardless of the weather conditions outside.
The Best Dill Plant for Container Gardens
Dukat is a compact variety that will happily grow in a container. Also known as tetra dill, this variety produces rich foliage with a distinctive flavor. It’s best used in salads, or as a fresh herb garnish. Dukat seeds are also used as a seasoning.
Despite reaching a height of 5ft, Long Island Mammoth is also suitable for container gardens. However, as it has a long tap-root, the containers should be at least 12 inches deep. This may not be the best choice if space is at a premium. Many commercial producers grow Long Island Mammoth for its flavorsome leaves and seeds.
Ideal Dill Plants for Growing Indoors
If you only have a windowsill or a small balcony but still dream of having your own mini-garden then the variety Fernleaf is for you. It’s a dwarf variety, reaching no more than 2ft in height, so it doesn’t require staking. If grown indoors, away from extreme temperature changes, it’ll grow all year round. Fernleaf produces flavor-packed leaves, while its flowers are often cut and used in floral displays.
Dill as a Companion Plant
Companion planting is a way of enhancing growing conditions by attracting pollinators and beneficial insects while repelling pests. It’s also an effective way to make the most of a limited space.
Dill is a great pollinator attracting companion plant. It attracts a number of beneficial insects such as hoverflies, ladybugs, honey bees, and butterflies to the garden. Additionally dill repels various unwanted visitors such as aphids, and spider mites.
This herb does particularly well alongside a number of vegetables such as asparagus, basil, cucumbers, onions, lettuce and most members of the cabbage family. However, dill doesn’t thrive alongside every plant. Like dill, carrots are a member of the Umbelliferae family. After flowering, the dill seeds can easily cross-pollinate with carrots, and can also stunt their growth.
Young dill plants attract pollinators while repelling various harmful pests, allowing nearby tomatoes to thrive. As dill matures and starts to flower, nearby tomato plants will also slow or stop growing. If you do decide to plant this combination, the easiest solution is to prune the dill regularly to prevent flowering.
Which Dill Variety is Best for Companion Planting?
Any variety of dill is a good companion plant. The best varieties are floral, aromatic plants such as Bouquet. Whichever variety you plant, you can improve the aroma by keeping the soil slightly lean.
Dill Plants that Taste Best Fresh
Whatever the variety, dill is at its best when it is fresh. Delikat produces lots of thick, dense foliage, and is also a reliable, heavy-yielding variety.
The early-flowering Bouquet is a popular variety as well. It’s an attractive, aromatic plant, and produces a pleasantly flavored leaf alongside large seed heads. As well as being used fresh in salads, Bouquet seeds and leaves can be used in most recipes. It’s also a reliable pickling variety. In warmer climates, this herb will successfully grow in the spring or the fall.
If you have the space, Long Island Mammoth produces wonderfully flavor-packed leaves. It’s commonly grown commercially, and tastes best fresh. Similarly, Long Island dill is also a reliable variety that’s great when used fresh, or pickled. Like Mammoth this variety will take up a lot of space if not pruned regularly.
Finally, Superdukat is a hybrid variety that’s rich in essential oils and produces an intense flavor. As it’s a slow-growing variety, it’s also slower to flower and decline. This means that you’ll be able to enjoy the leaves for an extended period.
The Best Dill Plants for Pickling
While most dill varieties can be preserved, some will lose their intense flavor during the process. Bouquet produces large seed heads that retain their flavor, making great for pickling. Use it for delicious dill pickles, or garlic and dill carrots.
Bouquet is a fragrant variety with yellow flowers and attractive dark blue-green leaves, and will thrive in most gardens. Just note that it’s quick to flower. In areas that enjoy cold winters and hot summers, Bouquet is most successful as either a fall or spring crop.
Sow a couple of seeds every 3 weeks until the heat of summer arrives. Then resume sowing in the fall. This will provide you with a steady supply of fresh dill leaves.
Both Long Island and Long Island Mammoth retain their flavor after pickling. They will, however, take up a lot of room in a raised bed or salad garden if left unchecked.
The Best Heavy-Yielding Dill Plants
If you require a lot of dill, then Delikat is the best choice. It produces a pleasant, dense foliage that can be used fresh or cooked. It’s also a reliable, heavy-yielding variety.
Like Dukat, Superdukat is another heavy-yielding, reliable variety. This variety is slower to flower and decline than many others. You’ll be able to harvest the same plants throughout the spring and summer months, which negates the need to sow sequentially every 3 weeks.
The Pretties Varieties for Display
Many dill plant varieties also produce attractive flowers and foliage, making them an interesting addition to cut floral displays. One of the best varieties for floral displays is Fernleaf. This dwarf plant produces attractive, feathery foliage and delicate yellow flowers. Fernleaf can also be grown as a potted herb on a windowsill or on a sunny balcony.
While Fernleaf is the most popular variety of dill for floral displays, there are other options. Both Long Island and Long Island Mammoth produce attractive, blue-green leaves. However both are large plants and are unsuited to growing indoors or in a confined space.
Finally, Bouquet also produces deeply colored blue-green leaves and delicate yellow flowers. An early flowering variety, as the name suggests, it’s also a highly aromatic plant. Whether you grow dill in containers or let it loose in your garden, it’s a wonderful, multi-purpose herb to cultivate.