Queen Anne’s Lace is an attractive wildflower herb. Its clusters of small white flowers sit above delicate fern-like foliage. In the center of the flower is a dark purple spot. This is said to be the blood of Queen Anne, an English queen who was a keen lace maker. One day she pricked her finger on a needle and her blood dropped down onto the plant, forever staining the flower that today bears her name.
Common in many parts of the United States Queen Anne’s Lace, also known as wild carrot, originates in Europe. The plant is known as wild carrot because it has a carrot like root. This root can be used as a substitute for carrots.
Like celery and fennel the plant is a member of the Apiaceae or carrot family. Usually grown as a biennial Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) flowers in its second year. This flower lasts from spring until the fall. As the flower fades the plant produces ribbed, birds nest like fruit with sharp spines. If grown in favorable conditions wild carrot can reach a height of 4 ft.
A reliable and attractive plant, here is everything you need to know about Queen Anne’s Lace.
A tall, elegant plant. This is a great option if you want to add soft structure or height to a garden.
Carefully managed, Queen Anne’s Lace is an attractive addition to any garden. However, it does have an intense growth habit if left unmanaged. This means that in some areas, including Michigan. Washington, Tennessee and Illinois, Queen Anne’s Lace is considered invasive.
In other areas the plant is classed an exotic ornamental plant and can be grown in a controlled environment. Before planting wild carrot it is wise to check with your local extension office. They can tell you the status of the plant in your area as well as providing you with any area specific growing information and advice.
What is the Difference between Queen Anne’s Lace and Poison Hemlock?
Queen Anne’s Lace is a hardy plant and thrives in a range of climates however it does best in dry conditions. Flowering throughout the summer the plant produces flat white flower clusters known as umbels. Each umbel is 2 to 5 inches in size and can contain up to 30 small flowers. Each flower has about five petals.
Wild carrot’s showy flowers are supported by delicate flower bracts which raise the flowers above the fern like foliage of the plant.
Queen Anne’s Lace bears a similarity to the poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) plant. As the name suggests, poison hemlock can be deadly if consumed.
While the similarity between the two plants isn’t a problem if you are planting a purchased Queen Anne’s Lace in your garden, it is important to know the difference if you are trying to identify a plant already in your garden. Luckily there are a few ways to tell the two plants apart.
The easiest way to tell the difference between the two plants is by smell. Queen Anne’s Lace has a pleasing carrot-like smell. Both poison hemlock, and fool’s parsley (Aethusa cynapium), its close relative, have a distinctly unpleasant aroma.
Another difference can be found in the stems of the plants. The stem of wild carrot is hairy while poison hemlock stems are smooth.
While these are two clear ways to tell poison hemlock and Queen Anne’s Lace apart, if you are at all unsure, leave the plant alone and contact an expert or your local extension office. They will be able to definitively identify the plant. You should also always consult an expert before harvesting any wild plants and berries.
Poison hemlock is not the only plant that bears a resemblance to wild carrot.
False Queen Anne’s Lace (Ammi Majus)
Also known as Bishop’s weed or Laceflower this belongs to the same family as Queen Anne’s Lace. Originating in the Nile River Valley, today Bishop’s weed is commonly grown in many places as an ornamental plant. It is also often used in florists displays.
While the flowers look like Queen Anne’s Lace, Bishop’s weed lacks the showy flower bracts of the wild carrot. Bishop’s weed also lacks the invasive growth habit of wild carrot.
Warning Bishop’s weed is toxic to dogs, cats and horses.
Wild carrot bears a resemblance to other plants. However there are a few easy ways to identify it amongst the imposters.
Cow Parsley (Anthriscus Sylvestris)
Also known as Wild Beaked Parsley or Wild Chervil this is a biennial plant that looks like Queen Anne’s Lace. Originating in Europe and Asia the plant can also be found in Africa and high-altitude parts of the United States.
Like wild carrot, cow parsley is a member of the carrot family but is closer to the parsley and hemlock subgenus. Flowering during the spring and early summer, cow parsley plants produce small florets of green-white flowers.
Cow parsley has an aggressive growth habit. While it is edible it is not a pleasant taste. As well as Queen Anne’s Lace the plant also looks like poison hemlock and fool’s parsley.
How to Grow Queen Anne’s Lace
When planted in the correct position Queen Anne’s Lace is pleasingly simple to grow.
The plants are hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9.
Plant somewhere with a bit of space. Wild carrot plants like room to spread. Their vigorous growth habit means that they can quickly overcrowd smaller or slow growing plants.
If you don’t want the plants to spread, or want the hassle of regularly pruning and digging up the plant, try growing them in a raised bed. For a truly low maintenance garden you can even plant in self-watering containers.
Seeds are best sown in their final position to avoid disturbing the developing taproot.
The plants do best in well draining soil. Before planting thoroughly dig over the soil and work in some organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost. This helps to enrich the soil as well as improving drainage. If you have heavy soil try growing in containers or planters.
While wild carrot does well in a range of soil profiles the plants prefer neutral or alkaline soil profiles. A soil test kit will tell you the profile of your soil. Extreme soil conditions should be amended. Alternatively plant in raised beds or containers filled with fresh potting soil.
Finally, wild carrot does best in full sun positions. They also do well in partial sun positions but growth and flowering may not be as abundant.
You can purchase young plants ready for transplant or grow from seed.
How to Sow the Seeds
Once the last frost has passed and the soil has warmed up you can begin sowing the seeds. Like carrot plants, Queen Anne’s Lace likes to set a long taproot. For this reason the seeds are best sown in their final position.
For flowering in the first year sow seeds from late March until May. Seeds sown from June until August won’t flower until the second year.
If you are growing in pots or planters make sure that they are deep containers. Water barrels cut in half are more than deep enough. Make sure the container is clean and has drainage holes in the bottom. Fill with fresh, well-draining potting soil.
Before planting, moisten the soil. This helps the seeds to stick in place.
Spread the seeds out to a distance of 15 to 18 inches. This gives the plants plenty of room to spread without the danger of overcrowding each other. If you find it difficult to handle and spread the seeds correctly, try a seed dispenser such as the Wpxmer Seed Dispenser. This is a handy gadget that helps you to space out your seeds.
Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
Germination can take a while. As you wait for your seeds to germinate, keep the soil evenly moist and weed free.
When seedlings first emerge they can look like grass.
Allow the seedlings to grow to a height of 2 to 3 inches long, about the size of your thumb, before thinning out. Each seedling requires a space of about 1 ft. This gives them plenty of room to spread.
Despite the small stature of the flowers, these plants require room to flourish. Properly spacing your plants also helps to keep them healthy.
How to Transplant Young Plants
If you have purchased young plants, or have started seeds undercover you will need to transplant the seedlings into their final position. This is best done in the fall or spring, when the plant is dormant.
Young or small plants have smaller root systems than larger plants. This means that they are more likely to survive transplanting and to take in a new position. While you can transplant older plants you need to be careful not to disturb the root system too much. Older transplants are also more likely to fail.
To transplant large plants, use a shovel to deeply dig all around the plant. This helps you to lift as much of the root system as possible. Lift the plant carefully from the soil. Try to disturb the roots as little as possible.
Replant as quickly as possible. If you can’t replant immediately, place the plant in a cardboard box. Keep the roots moist and cool until you are ready to plant.
Transplants are most successful if the soil has already been worked over well before planting. To plant your transplant, dig a hole in the soil and plant the transplant to the same depth as in its original container.
Keep the soil moist until the plant has rooted. This usually takes about two weeks.
How to Care for Queen Anne’s Lace
Once planted, Queen Anne’s Lace care is pleasingly simple.
Water and Fertilizer
Keep the soil evenly moist. Using a watering can gives you more control, and helps to ensure the soil is properly watered. It also helps you to keep the foliage of the plant dry. This is important, damp foliage is a breeding ground for disease.
Mulching around the base of established plants helps the soil to conserve moisture. An organic mulch also breaks down, giving the plants a nutritional boost.
Plants growing in containers may require more frequent watering than those in the ground. However, most growers will find that they only need to water the plants during periods of drought.
If planted in good or fresh soil, wild carrot plants don’t require fertilizing in order to flourish.
A low maintenance plant, wild carrot plants don’t require pruning. However if you want to control the growth of the plant, you will need to prune with garden scissors once flowering has finished.
As the flowers fade they go to seed. Ripe seeds turn brown and can be cut from the plant before they have the chance to spread around your garden.
Wild carrot plants readily self seed. As flowers fade they give way to seed heads. If you don’t want the plant to spread through the garden, deadhead the spent flowers. Deadheading is the easiest way to control the spread of the plant.
If you want the plant to return the following year but also want to control where it will grow, allow some of the flowers to go to seed. As the seed heads ripen they turn brown. Cut the brown seeds from the plant and either resow immediately or store in a labeled paper envelope until you are ready to use.
How to Dig up the Plants
If your wild carrot plant threatens to spread and crowd out other plants, the best option may be to dig it up. To do this dig deeply all around the plant, making sure that you get as much of the taproot as possible.
Dampening the soil before digging helps to make the process easier by softening both the soil and the root.
Lift the plant from the ground and destroy.
Be careful when lifting plants. Allowing even the smallest bit of root to remain in the soil can lead to the plant returning.
Companion planting is the process of planting similar or mutually beneficial plants together. This helps the plants to flourish. It can also help to keep them healthy and pest free.
Queen Anne’s Lace does best with Rudbeckia or Black Eyed Susan. It also compliments Bee Balm and Daisies. In the wild, the plant often grows alongside Wild Sweet Pear, Chicory and Madia.
Sometimes known as Birds Nest, the fascinating flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace provide plenty of interest.
Regularly check your plants for signs of pests or disease. If properly spaced and cared for the plants are pleasingly trouble free.
Elegant and attractive the delicate flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace are a pleasing addition to any garden. Just remember to check their growth habit.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.