Caring for Dill: From Seed to Harvest, Everything You Need to Know About Dill

Immature dill in leaf

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is one of the easiest herbs to care for. It has a distinctive sour flavor that makes an interesting and sometimes unexpected statement in cooking. That sour bite is one of the things that makes dill a premier pickling spice. Dill's leaves, seeds and flowers all have their distinctive uses. That's good value for any backyard chef.

Many cooks prefer to use fresh dill, so having a supply nearby is handy if you grow and pickle your own cucumbers or other vegetables, or love fresh fish or gravlax. Dill is also delicious in any of a number of other dishes, especially those that feature sour cream or lemon. Let's explore a few ways to care for dill that will help ensure a successful harvest this season.  

Dill Plant Care - Caring for Dill in the Garden

A tender annual, dill grows to five feet high (dwarf varieties come in at between two and three feet). It likes full sun in a sheltered location and prefers well-drained soil that has been amended with manure. In the garden, dill looks like fennel but shouldn't be planted near it as the plants will cross-pollinate. 

Dill gets spindly after a month or so, and even a light wind will topple it. It's a good idea to stake taller plants if you encounter this problem, and harvest regularly. 

In midsummer, dill will produce delicate clusters of fragrant yellow flowers. If you want a larger harvest of leaves, remove the flowering buds as they develop to encourage leaf production.

Dill Seeds

Caring for Dill - How to Keep Dill From Bolting

One problem with growing dill in a hot climate is its inclination to bolt. Putting on a burst of growth and flowering out quickly in hot weather means dill will produce few if any more leaves. That's a bad outcome from a harvesting prospective unless you're interested in dill flowers or dill seed. If you want to keep your plants in leaf longer, be ruthless about pinching back the developing flowers.

To discourage bolting, rather than relying on a classic heirloom dill variety like bouquet dill, prefer one of the newer offerings from growers. Some are specifically designed to resist bolting. Good candidates include:

Dill Cultivars that Resist Bolting

  • Fernleaf Dill (Anethum graveolens 'Dwarfgurke'): Perfect for container growing due to its compact size (12" to 18"), Fernleaf dill is also known for its slow bolting habit. This will allow you to enjoy fresh dill leaves to the end of summer.
  • Hera Dill (Anethum graveolens 'Hera'): This slow-bolting variety has good flavor and great leaf production. It's a versatile choice for the home cook. It will grow from 18 to 24 inches tall.
  • Tetra Dill (Anethum graveolens 'Tetra'): This bushy dill reaches 32 inches in height and is also favored for its slow bolting tendency. It offers a continuous harvest of aromatic and flavorful leaves. Like Hercules dill below, its height makes an attractive background plant in an herb patch.
  • Hercules Dill (Anethum graveolens 'Hercules') Hercules grows slowly and resists bolting for an extended harvest. Height tops out at about 35 inches.
  • Greensleeves Dill  (Anethum graveolens 'Green Sleeves') Grows to 18" tall. This slow bolting dill is dark green, compact and has the potential for a long harvest time.
If you prefer to use an heirloom dill, or another dill cultivar that isn't slow to bolt, consider successive plantings.  Sow seeds every 3-4 weeks through the growing season for consecutive harvests.

Note: If your dill  does bolt, won't affect the flavor or safety of it's remaining leaves.

Over-wintering Dill

As an annual, dill is not appropriate for over wintering. It sprouts, grows, flowers, sets seed and dies in a single season. For the best results, harvest dill seeds every year to plant season after season.

Caring for Dill During Plant Propagation

Dill self seeds readily, and one plant can produce a good crop of seeds that will stay viable for years. Some cultivars are known to produce up to a cup of seeds per plant. You can plant seeds directly outdoors in spring, but be sure to keep them well watered. Thin dill seedlings to about 12 inches apart. 

Dill can also be propagated from stem cuttings in soil or in water. The emerging roots grow from the small nodes attached to the plant's stems. Choose stem cuttings that are about 6 inches long and contain a node. Remove any flowering heads from the stems, and then submerged the stems in either water to which rooting hormone has been added, or to soil that drains well. When rooting in water, remove all leaves below the the water line. This will reduce the risk of fouling the water. In warm weather, it should only take a couple of weeks for dill roots to begin to develop in water. In soil, the process may take twice that long.

Dill rooting in water

Growing Dill Indoors

Dill can thrive indoors if you situate it in a sunny window or provided artificial illumination. The plant will be smaller in overall size, but flavorful nonetheless. It will still get leggy as it grows, but keeping it trimmed back will help it maintain a pleasing shape. It also fares well in a hydroponic setup.

Caring for Dill By the Numbers

This summary will give you good basic at-a-glance instructions about common dill plant care. For information about specific dill cultivars, like varieties that resist bolting or have other useful characteristics, please check out Understanding Dill Cultivars.
  • Botanical Name: Anethum graveolens
  • Life Cycle: Biennial/Annual
  • Hardiness Zones: 2-11 (USDA) 
  • Sowing: Direct sow seeds outdoors in early spring after the danger of frost has passed. Sow seeds shallowly 1/4-inch deep) and keep the soil moist until germination. Alternatively, start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost for transplanting later.
  • Days to Germination: 7 to 14 days
  • Soil: Well-drained, fertile soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.5-7.0). Amending the soil with compost before planting is beneficial.
  • Moisture and Humidity Needs: Consistent moisture, but avoid overwatering. Prefers cool weather.
  • Light Requirements: Full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily)
  • Spacing: 12 to 18 inches between plants
  • Days to Maturity: 50 to 60 days (for harvesting leaves)
  • Height at Maturity: 3 to 5 feet tall
  • Pests and Diseases: Aphids, caterpillars, powdery mildew
  • Uses and Benefits: Dill attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs (to control aphids), wasps and honey bees.

Fresh harvested dill

Caring for Dill - Harvesting

Here are some tips for harvesting dill to keep your pantry stocked.

Make timing a priority

Harvest dill: Harvest in the morning after the dew dries but before it starts getting hot. This ensures the leaves contain their highest concentration of essential oils and are at their peak of flavor. Choose dill that's at least six weeks old and mature enough to have four to five sets of leaves -- at least. For the continued health of the plant, avoid removing more than one-half of the leaves at any one time during future harvesting.

Before Flowering: Harvest leaves before the plant flowers. This is important. Dill's flavor is strongest at this stage. After flowering, the plant focuses its energy into producing flowers and not aromatic, flavorful leaves. To increase leaf production, pinch back developing flower buds as soon as you see them.

Seed Collection: If you want to collect dill seeds, let the flowers bloom and the seeds mature and turn brown before harvesting. It's a good idea to harvest your own dill seeds every season. Plants that grow from them are a known quantity because they come from a mother plant that thrived in the conditions available in your garden. It's a bit of added insurance for a future crop.

Caring for Dill: Harvesting Techniques and Suggestions

Hydration: Water your dill plant the day before you plan to harvest stems and leaves. This helps the plant recover from trimming shock.

Use Sharp Tools: Use a sharp knife, scissors or pruners to avoid damaging dill stems. Dull implements damage tender stems, which can lead to disease problems. Make sure your tools are sharp, and before using those nice sharp tools, sterilize them with a bit of rubbing alcohol as an added precaution.

Careful Trimming: Less is more here. Conservative snipping encourages new growth, which will extend harvest time and often help ensure a larger dill harvest overall. Tip: Harvest older leaves first as this encourages immature and more flavorful ones to flourish.

Fresh Dill forSuggestions

Caring for Dill  -  Storage, Short Term and Long Term

Fresh in the Refrigerator: Wrap washed dill stems loosely in damp paper towels and store them in a sealed container in your produce drawer. This step will keep them from wilting for up to five days or so.

In Water: Place freshly cut stems in a glass of water covered with a plastic bag. Change  the water daily. This requires more effort, but will extend the life of fresh dill stems the longest.  If you've had limited success with this method, try  an old florists trick. After harvesting, retrim dill stems underwater. Sometimes an air bubble will develop at the cut edge of the stem that prevents water uptake. Trimming stems underwater eliminates this problem.

In the Freezer: Blanch dill in a generous amount of boiling water for one minute.  Remove to a container of ice water for rapid cooling. Once chilled, pat dry. (Blanching helps preserve dill's color, texture and flavor.) Chop dill and then spread it on a wax paper lined baking sheet. Freeze and then place in a freezer bag for long-term storage. You can also place dill leaves in water, and freeze this slurry in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, transfer the ice cubes to an airtight container. Frozen dill can last three to six months.

Drying for Long-Term Use: Tie dill stems together In a loose bundle and hang them in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area to dry. You'll know they're ready if the leaves crumble easily when handled. Store dried leaves in an airtight container. Dill can also be dried in a dehydrator, an oven, an air fryer or a microwave.

By following these tips, you can enjoy fresh dill for months.

Uses for Different Parts of the Dill Plant

Dill vinegar is a culinary favorite

All of the dill plant can be used with the exception of the tough stems and roots. Depending on the part you are using, there is a big difference in the flavor intensity. Here are some of the most common uses for different parts of a dill plant.

Dill Leaf Uses - The leaves are the most delicately flavored part of the plant, so use them in mild egg dishes, with fish, on spreads, in dips and on vegetables. If you feel that your navy bean soup lacks punch, try adding a pinch of dill a few minutes before serving to spice up the flavor. The leaves also work well In classic dishes like lemon dill chicken.

Dill Blossom Uses - The flowering tops of dill have more flavor than the leaves and make a good addition to the pickle jar. Instead of just pickling gherkins this year, try making a colorful vegetable medley -- with plenty of dill blossoms for visual interest and savor. Other dill blossom uses include employing them as a parsley garnish substitute, particularly in dishes where dill is an ingredients. You can also add dill blossoms to decorative spring bouquets.

Dill Seed Uses - Dill seeds provide the strongest flavor by far. Used whole or ground, they are a good accompaniment to soups, hearty stews and root vegetables. They can be used to make herbed bread, flavored vinegar, and can even be added in small quantities to desserts, particularly those containing apples or pears.

Beyond the Pickle

So, what can you do with dill after you've harvested it? 

Here are a few practical suggestions for fun  projects that use dill:

Let it ride - Leave a few dill plants in your garden for the entire season to flower and fade. Dill flowers attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and butterflies, and the strong aroma of dill repels destructive pests like squash bugs and hornworms.  Dill can be your secret weapon against garden pests.

Make dill vinegar -Make your own dill flavored vinegar. It's fast, easy and is a great holiday gift. Add a bright yellow dill flower to each jar. It makes a beautiful presentation. Here's my recipe: Dill Vinegar Recipe - Deliciously Dill-y

Make a sachet - The aroma of dill has soothing properties. Place a tablespoon of dried dill in a length of cheesecloth, secure it into a bundle and add it to your bathwater. You can also make these in bulk using cheesecloth bags available online. They make thoughtful gifts for friends that occasionally have headaches or suffer from stress. If you aren't particularly fond of dill's , add other restful dried herbs like lemon balm, lavender, and chamomile. Aim for a maximum of two tablespoons of mixed herbs per bath sachet.

Make dill antacid tea  - Dill is a natural antacid that can be administered as a simple tea. You can find instructions here: Dill Tea - The Natural Antacid

Dill seeds are very hardy and can remain viable for replanting for 4 to 5 years.

Medicinal Uses for Dill 

Dill has a long history as a medicine, but current scientific research to support many of these claims is limited. However, the research is on going. Here's what we know:

Dill for digestion: Dill tea and dill seeds have been used as digestive aids to reduce flatulence and bloating.

Dill for inflamation: Dill contains flavonoids and organic compounds
that have antioxidant properties that may help fight free radical damage and inflammation.

Dill to lower cholesterol and promote heart health: The flavonoids and antioxidants in dill may also help lower cholesterol and break up arterial plaque. This can potentially lower the risk of heart disease. 

Dill for diabetes treatment: Studies suggest dill may help decrease blood sugar levels.

Dill as an antimicrobial: Dill essential oil and extract have antimicrobial properties that may be effective at killing certain types of bacteria and fungi.

Dill for insomnia: Research indicates dill may have sleep inducing properties.

A tea made from dill may help treat indigestion and hiccups. It has also been used to treat colic and to stimulate milk production in lactating women.

To sum up, dill is a versatile herb with wide ranging medicinal potential. More research is necessary to fully explore and evaluate it's benefits for treating specific conditions, though. If you are dealing with chronic medical issues, please consult your doctor before starting any new treatment, even one that involves a common herb like dill.

Dill may not be the most beautiful plant growing in your garden. It looks a bit weedy, and doesn't have the good sense to stand up straight, but it is a useful herb -- and looks aren't everything.

Notes About Dill:

Photo of a Flowering Dill Plant
Dill in flower
Dill in History

Dill (Anethum graveolens) has impressive historical pedigree. Its uses date back to the bible. That lanky, fernlike, yellow flowering plant you see in the produce department of your grocery store was once so valuable that it was kept under lock and key. And even though its monetary value has plummeted over the centuries, its appeal hasn't. Dill was also once an important herb in witchcraft, and a purported aphrodisiac.

Delicate feathery dill leaves

Caring for Dill - Companion Planting Using Dill

Everyone needs a friend. Here are some plants that make great neighbors when companion planted with dill - and a few that don't.

Dill repels cabbage worms and cabbage loopers (Trichoplusia ni). Interspersing dill plants among brassicas helps control infestations involving:
  • BroccoliBrassica oleracea var. italica
  • Cabbage:  Brassica oleracea var. capitata
  • Cauliflower:  Brassica oleracea var. botrytis
  • Kale:  Brassica oleracea var. sabellica
  • Kohlrabi:  Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes
  • Brussels sprouts:  Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera
  • Turnips:  Brassica rapa var. rapa
  • Bok choy: (also pak choi, bok choi) Brassica rapa var. chinensis
  • and other mustard family vegetables.
Dill discourages:
  • Striped cucumber beetles:  Acalymma vittatum
  • Spotted cucumber beetles:  Diabrotica undecimpunctata undecimpunctata
  • Earworms:  Spodoptera frugiperda
  • Common asparagus beetles:  Crioceris asparagi
  • Spotted asparagus beetles:  Crioceris duodecimpbeetles
  • Flea beetles:  Chrysomelidae
  • Aphids:  Aphidobugs
  • Squash bugs:  Anasa tristisB
Dill makes a good companion for plants like:
  • Beans and peas:  legumes - (mostly genus Phaseolus)
  • Asparagus:  Asparagus officinalis
  • Cucumbers:  Cucumis sativus
  • Lettuces:  Lactuca sativa
  • Corn (especially sweet corn):  Zea mays var. saccharata (sweet corn is a variety of Zea mays)
  • Spinach:  Spinacia oleracea

Dill also attracts beneficial insects that can help control pests, including:

  • LadybugsCoccinellidae
  • LacewingsChrysopidae
  • Wasps - various
  • Minute pirate bugsOrius insidiosus
  • HoverfliesSyrphidae
  • Honey bees: Apis mellifera

Some plants that are not recommended companion plants for dill include:

  • Fennel: (Foeniculum vulgare)  Fennel and dill are closely related and can cross pollinate.
  • Potatoes: Dill stunts the growth of potatoes.
  • Tomatoes: Dill can attract tomato hornworm, and may interfere with tomato pollination.
  • Caraway: (Carum carvi L.). Caraway and dill are not closely related, but may still have negative effects on one another where flavor is concerned.
When laying out your herb or vegetable garden, don't forget to companion plant dill to take advantage of its unique protective properties.

Salmon with dill

Dill in Other Words (Common Names for Dill)

In your travels, you might come across other names for dill. Here some of the most common:
  • Anethum graveolens (Botanical name)
  • Dillweed
  • Anet
  • Lao coriander
  • Meeting seed
  • Sabbath Day posy
European names for dill
  • French: aneth
  • Italian: aneto
  • Portuguese: endro
  • Spanish: eneldo
  • German: Dill
  • Dutch: Dille
South Asian names for dill
  • Sholpa (India)
  • shepu (in Bengali)
  • sava (in Hindi)
  • soa (in Punjabi)
  • Soa-kura (In Telugu)
  • sada kuppi  (in Tamil)
If you are planning to start an herb garden this year, consider adding dill to your must have list.  It's easy to grow, makes a good companion plant and almost always produces a good harvest if you can keep it from bolting.

Happy gardening and caring for dill!

To learn more about dill checkout:


Photo1 - Dill1_Wiki.jpg By Titantoma (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo2 - Public Domain

Photo3 - Dill3_Wiki.jpgBy Arto Alanenpää (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo4 - Courtesy of


  1. Anonymous2:36:00 PM

    very helpful thank you!

  2. Great information on the herbs and Flowers, I'll be visiting often as I just started an herb garden.Love the blog!

  3. Anonymous8:26:00 PM

    This blog is excellent. i have learned a lot of interesting facts about the plants i have growing. thanks so much.

  4. It's my pleasure. Thanks for commenting.


    1. I'm currently harvesting seeds from my first batch of dill. I have 2 more in various stages, as I harvest the leaves. I'll eventually harvest it all as seeds. I always have return plants, despite our cold Zone 5 Winter. The butterflies love dill too, and it's fun to feed their caterpillars. I plant dill near fennel and plant lots of it, so the caterpillars and me both have enough to enjoy HaHaHa Always love your site- keep it going please 8^)

    2. Anonymous10:01:00 PM

      Good to know love dil

  5. Hi Deborah,

    I've read that dill and fennel will cross pollinate and the results are less than tasty. Has that ever happened to you? I've always kept mine separate but would definitely put them in the same patch if I thought it would work out.

    Just wondering,


  6. Crazy about dill. Love it in German potato salad, simply put together with onion, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and, of course, loads of dill. In a green bean salad, along with a bit of savory, and in cucumber salad with loads of sour cream :)

    1. Sounds about right. German potato salad particularly is a guilty pleasure of mine.

  7. my friend planted dill and purple flowers came from a few of the plants. have you ever heard of this happening?

  8. Tpanz,

    I'm not familiar with a purple dill, but someone else here may be able to help.

  9. Excellent and very helpful thank you!

  10. Cold nights might turn leaves purple


Post a Comment

Share some ideas.