The useful dill plant makes a great addition to any kitchen garden or herb spiral. A popular culinary herb Dill can be used either fresh or preserved. Additionally its fragrant foliage and bright yellow flowers add interest to any floral display or herb garden. Despite its delicate appearance dill is also surprisingly hardy.
This growing dill care guide will help you to select the best dill plants for your situation. We will also take you through everything you need to know about dill planting and growing your new plant.
Selecting a Dill Variety
Dill plants are normally grown as an annual. In USDA zones 9 and warmer dill will go to seed in the hottest months. However in cooler climates Dill will grow throughout the season. Gardeners in warmer climates can either grow bolt resistant Dill varieties, sow successively or grow slow growing types of Dill. Any of these options will extend your growing season.
There are a number of varieties of dill plants available to purchase. Try to select the best Dill variety for your climate and situation.
Dill by Sakura / CC BY 2.0 The herb’s delicate foliage is both attractive and useful. This is a common culinary ingredient, used in a range of styles and dishes. Dill is also a useful addition to the garden, attracting many beneficial insects to the plant.
This is a compact variety of blue-green foliage that has a very aromatic, bold taste. Since this is a smaller herb, it only grows between 12 and 18 inches tall at full maturity. It’s also slow to bold once it matures. It offers a very bold, aromatic taste profile, and it’s slightly heat and drought-tolerant. The leaves are ready to harvest between 40 and 50 days after you plant it, and it works well as a container herb due to the compact size.
This type of dill offers a very thick, abundant, dense foliage. It’s a very reliable producer, and you’ll get very heavy seed and leaf yields for every plant when you compare it to other dill varieties. At full maturity, this plant will get between 10 and 24-inches tall. The foliage will be ready to harvest within 40 days of planting it, and the seeds start maturing at 90 days.
Dukat dill is also known as Tetra dill, and this is a Danish variety that has a slightly slower bolt period than other types. It offers a very intense flavor, and it’s a great option if you want to harvest the leaves to cook with. Once you plant it, the leaves are ready for you to harvest within 40 to 50 days. The seeds are good to harvest between 90 and 100 days.
This is another petite version of dill that will get only 18-inches tall at full maturity, and it has a very compact growth habit. It works well in a small herb garden or container. It makes a wonderful specimen plant if you have a more ornamental garden, and it works well indoors. After cutting, the leaves will keep their flavor much longer than other dill varieties. The seeds are ready to go between 90 and 100 days and the leaves are ready to go between 40 and 60 days. The leaves will give you a fern-like appearance, and they work as a filler.
Hera is also slow to bolt, and you’ll get very dark green leaves with a blue tinge. This is a bunching type of dill that offers very fragrant leaves. The leaves will mature in 40 to 60 days, and the seeds will mature around 50 days later. It grows to a more compact 12 to 18-inches at full maturity. This herb also works well to grow containers due to the smaller size.
Mammoth Long Island
As the name suggests, this is a larger variety of dill that you can have in your herb garden. It can get up to three feet tall, but it can max out at six feet tall when it gets fully mature. It’s very popular due to the flavorful, large, leaves. You can easily chop them up and sprinkle them on fish. You may have to stake this variety for additional support due to the taller height as they grow.
Teddy is a dill variety that grows very fast, and you get dense foliage with an upright growth habit. The cultivar has very thick leaves, but they’re typically very delicate and fine. It’s a dwarf variety, and it works well in containers and smaller greenhouses. You can start cutting the leaves 45 to 55 days, and the seeds are ready to be harvested between 95 days and 115 days from the time you plant them.
This is a type of dill that resists bolting, and it gives you a surprisingly large amount of deep green leaves per plant. You’ll get a very mild and sweet flavor when you use it, and it stays to a slightly more compact height of 30 inches tall throughout the growing season. You can harvest the leaves on this plant in 45 days, and the seeds take around 100 days to be ready to harvest.
How to Sow Dill Seeds
The dill herb does not transplant well. For this reason the plant seeds should be sown directly into the garden or container.
Sow seeds outside when the last local frost date has passed and the soil temperature is between 60-70ºF. For a successional harvest sow seeds every couple of weeks until midsummer. This will allow you to enjoy a constant supply of fresh dill weed.
Aim to sow plant seeds as thinly as possible. Should they germinate in clumps, or too close together, you will need to weed out weaker plants.
If sowing indoors, sow from early April onwards. If you have sown the herbs in containers indoors and wish to move them outside, they will need to be hardened off before permanently being sited outside.
If planting dill outside, select a full sun location. The soil should be well draining and fairly pH neutral. Slightly acidic soil is also fine. There should also be some shelter from the wind in this full sun location. Work in organic matter, such as homemade compost, to further enrich the soil.
Dampen the soil slightly before sowing. This will help the seeds to stick to the soil and stay in place.
Sow dill seeds as thinly as possible to a depth of about a quarter of an inch. Following germination you can thin out seedlings to 12 inches apart to 15 inches apart. This may vary depending on the variety, larger varieties will require more space. Check the seed packet for spacing information.
Confused Dill by Rebecca Wilson / CC BY 2.0 The plant will germinate within a couple of weeks if the conditions are correct. Best sown in their final position and full sun location, this herb is a largely trouble free addition to the garden.
Dill seeds will germinate within 14 days.
Sowing in a Container
Dill has a long tap root. This means that the Dill container should be at least 12 inches deep. The Dill container should also be clean and have drainage holes in the bottom.
Fill the container with fresh, general purpose compost. Dampen the soil before sprinkling the dill seeds on the surface and covering with a light layer of compost.
Place the containers in a warm (over 60°F) light location. Dill needs to receive 6-8 hours of light every day. Dill herbs growing undercover can, once any danger of frost has passed, be placed outside in a warm and light position.
How to Care for Dill
Following germination, dill plants will require some care and attention to ensure that they thrive. Here is our dill care guide.
Water the Dill regularly during the Dill growing season. Don’t allow the soil to dry out completely. Dry soil and arid conditions can trigger bolting. Plants that require regular hydration can be watered with rainwater harvested from your garden. This is a great way of cutting your water usage without making the Dills suffer.
Applying a general purpose granular feed to the soil when sowing will enrich the soil and give the seeds a boost. However this is not necessary.
You can also apply a general purpose liquid plant feed in the summer. This will help the Dill to produce more foliage. Store purchased feeds are fine, or you can try making your own.
How to Prune Dill
If you wish to extend the harvest period remove Dill flower buds as soon as they emerge. This will also help the Dill to maintain their flavor.
Should the Dill flower remove the flower heads before they go to seed. If you do not do this, the seeds take to the soil and regrow next year in the same position. The seeds may also spread throughout the garden.
Dill by ((brian)) / CC BY 2.0 The flower heads not only look attractive but are also necessary if you want to harvest the dill seed. However flowering and dill seed production comes at the expense of foliage production.
If growing as a biennial, allow the dill to die back to ground level during the fall and winter. Cut away old flower stems and remove dead foliage. As long as your winter isn’t too harsh the dill should return in the spring.
Taller Dill varieties will also require some support. Tying loosely to a bamboo cane will provide support whilst not damaging the Dill leaves.
Once established the Dill plants are unlikely to succumb to any problems. Young Dill can fall victim to aphids and other infestations. However if caught and treated early enough these are easily remedied.
If aphid infestations are left untreated the Dill may develop Carrot Motley Dwarf disease.
Fungal diseases such as damping off may also strike. This can be caused by rotting seeds that have failed to germinate. Infections can be treated with a fungicide. However planting in well drained, warm soil should prevent the disease from emerging.
Downy mildew fungus can cause leaves or dill weed to develop yellow spots. It can also cause fluffy growth to emerge on the underside of the dill weed. The main cause of this disease is overcrowding of the dill plants, resulting in poor air circulation. Space your dill plants correctly and, if you are growing year after year, practice crop rotation.
Similarly powdery mildew is often developed by dill plants in humid areas. Protective fungicides can be applied. Alternatively try not to over fertilize your dill plants. If powdery growth does appear treat the infection with an application of sulfur.
Companions for Dill
As well as being a useful member of the herb garden, dill plants are also great companion plants. Not only does Dill attract pollinators and beneficial insects such as ladybugs and butterflies to the garden, dill plants also repel unwanted visitors such as aphids. Aromatic varieties such as bouquet are particularly useful. Planting a dill near a bug hotel will help to attract visitors to your structure.
This is one of the most reliable companion plants. Pollinators and beneficial insects such as ladybugs and hoverflies will be drawn to the sweet aroma and colorful flowers of the plants.
The growing dill plants thrive when planted alongside members of the cabbage family as well as corn, cucumbers, asparagus, onions, lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, basil, and more.
Plants to Avoid
Growing dill plants will struggle if grown alongside bell peppers, lavender, eggplants, potatoes and cilantro. However these combinations are still regularly planted, and with the right care and attention will succeed.
You should avoid planting near carrots. Both are members of the Umbelliferae family. Planting them near each other can lead to cross-pollination. Carrots may also become stunted.
Many people avoid planting this herb near tomatoes. This combination can produce mixed results. While it may initially thrive, as the growing dill matures and flowers the tomatoes will slow or cease growing. If you do decide to grow this combination, regularly pruning the growing dill to prevent flowering.
How to Harvest Dill
Cut the dill weed as and when you need them. Remove either with a scissors or simply pinch them away from the main plant. Take up to 5 leaves at a time. Regular harvesting will encourage more, fresh growth. It also helps to delay flowering.
The dill weed is best used fresh. However they can also be frozen or dried for use during the winter months.
If you want dill seeds you will need to allow the dill plants to flower and fade. The spent blooms will give way to dill seed heads. Once the dill seed heads have turned brown and ripened they can be harvested. Again these can be used fresh or dried for use during the winter months.
Storing Fresh Dill
You can get fresh dill at your local produce department at your store. The leaves will wilt very quickly, but the flavor will stay intact. If you have fresh dill at your home, you can cut it and store it by spritzing the whole stems using a spray bottle. Wrap the moist stems in paper towels, put them in a sealed ziplock bag, and place the bag into your refrigerator’s vegetable bin. It can last up to a week or slightly longer.
Another option you have available is to trim the stems, put them in a glass, and put an inch of cold water into the glass. Get a paper towel damp and loosely wrap it around the top of the stems. Invert a plastic bag over the top before storing it in your refrigerator.
You can freeze intact dill sprigs for months. They’re usable in the winter and even until the spring months. If you plan to use your dill in canned goods, you want to freeze both the flower dead and leafy stems when you freeze them. Doing this will maximize how flavorful the dill is.
You Will Need:
- Airtight container (such as a plastic pail)
- Fresh dill sprigs (including stems and flower heads)
- Paper towels
How to Freeze Fresh Dill:
- Start by cutting and rinsing your flower heads and dill fronds with water to get rid of any insects or dust. Shake the herbs very lightly to remove most of the excess moisture.
- Dry your dill thoroughly by letting it hang upside down to maintain the shape. You could also lay your dill out on an absorbent material like a layer of towels. You want the dill to get rid of most of the moisture without letting the dill get crispy and dry.
- Put your washed and dried dill into your airtight container. A pail works as long as it seals tightly. If the container allows the herbs to sit upright, the dill will continue to keep the attractive shape in the freezer.
- Put the container into the coldest part of the freezer until you need to pull it out and use it.
Drying Your Dill
If you don’t have room in your freezer to store a full container of cut dill, you can store it as a ground, dried herb. Doing so will give you a very convenient way to add dill to a range of dishes, and you dry this herb just like you would basil. If you have a large dill harvest, you could consider both freezing and drying methods to store as much of it as possible. To dry your dill, you’ll need:
You Will Need:
- Fresh dill sprigs
- Glass jar with a tight-sealing lid
- Large bowl
How to Dry Fresh Dill:
- Make bundles of your dill and allow it to hang upside down for one to two weeks. You want the dill to get crispy and crumble when you pinch it. When it does, it’s ready for you to store it.
- Get a large bowl and crumble the leaves from the stem, allowing them to fall into the bowl. If the dill is dry enough, it’s easy and quick to crumble with your hands into the bowl.
- Once you get the dill ground fine enough to your liking, put it in your glass jar with a tight-sealing lid.
The dill will retain the flavor profile for up to a year in this jar.
Making Dill Vinegar
You can also preserve your dill by capturing the taste in vinegar and storing it for whenever you should need to use it in recipes.
You Will Need:
- 1 cup of chopped dill
- 2 cups of apple cider or wine vinegar
- Chopping knife
- Cutting board
- Decorative jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid
- Fresh dill sprigs
- Medium saucepan
- Plastic wrap
- Small bowl
- Vinegar (apple cider or wine)
- Wooden spoon
How to Make Dill Vinegar:
- Start by chopping your dill leaves up and put them in a small bowl. Crush the chopped leaves with a wooden spoon.
- Get a saucepan and heat one cup of vinegar until it’s warm, but don’t let it boil. Put whole dill sprigs into the warmed vinegar and allow them to soak it up.
- Carefully separate the dill springs from your vinegar and pour the hot vinegar over your crushed vinegar in your small bowl.
- Let the mixture cool for 20 to 30 minutes before adding the remaining vinegar and mixing it well.
- Get a funnel and pour the mixture into a decorative bottle, straining it through a double layer of cheesecloth.
- (Optional) You can add the warmed fresh dill sprigs, including some seed heads into the bottle for a decorative touch.
- Label your bottle and store it. You can display these bottles on your countertop.
Cooking With Dill
Since this herb has such a unique taste associated with it, you only need a small amount in your dish. This is why dill does so good as a garnish. It has a feathery texture on the dill leaves that looks beautiful, and adding even a smaller sprig can add a noticeable smell to your dish. Dill works well in salads as a key ingredient when you pair it with buttermilk, and this is what gives ranch dressing the unique flavor profile.
When you cook with dill, you’ll make it lose more flavor the longer you use it. So, you only want to add it in the last minute or so of cooking time to preserve the flavor. The opposite rings true when you cook with dill seed. The seeds develop more flavor and aromas when it heats up. Recipes usually call for you to roast your dill seed in a hot frying pan before you add it to your dish. Dill seeds are also popular for pickling.
Fresh and dried dill also has a huge difference when you cook. Fresh dill will give you the more intense flavor profile, and you have to use a decent amount of dried dill. Here are a few hints and tips you can use when you cook with dill:
- A tablespoon of chopped fresh dill equals a teaspoon of dried dill
- Dill works well with a large type of seafood. It’s good with spreads, sauces, cream cheese, sour cream, lamb, and more.
- ½ of a cup of leaves gives you a ½ ounce of fresh dill
- The longer you cook the dill, the more the flavor will diminish. This is why you only add it in during the last minute you cook.
- Heating your dill seeds brings out the flavor and aroma.
- For pickling, you’ll add 1 ½ teaspoons of dill seed per quart of pickling liquid
- Dill seeds taste like diluted caraway, and you can substitute it in caraway bread in a one-to-one ratio
- To make a quick dill butter, you’ll add ½ cup of softened butter to ¼ cup of minced fresh dill. Mix it well and cover and refrigerate it for at least two hours before you use it.
If you want to substitute dill seed for dill weed in a recipe, you’ll have to remember that one tablespoon of chopped fresh dill is equal to a teaspoon of dried dill weed. Some recipes will call for you to use weight over volume, so you should know that ½ fresh ounce of dill is around ½ cup of leaves.
Dill will give you an amount of manganese, calcium, and vitamins A and C. They also have fiber and phytonutrients. A lot of cultures use dill for medicinal properties, particularly to help soothe stomach problems. Some cultures use them as a breath freshener, alleviating colic, and for antibacterial properties.
Growing a dill plant is both a useful and attractive addition to any floral or herb garden. As well as being a reliable companion plant dill is also a useful culinary ingredient and can be incorporated into floral displays. The many varieties on offer means that you will easily find something to suit your style.
Elizabeth learnt to love gardening as a child in her grandparents backyard. Today, she is a trained horticulturist and has maintained a productive allotment for over 10 years. When not growing her own, Elizabeth enjoys helping other people with the plant problems. An experienced writer and editor, away from gardening Elizabeth is also a keen bird watcher, local historian and genealogist, meaning that she can often be found with her dogs exploring an overgrown graveyard.