Family

Apiaceae

What is it?

Summer flowering perennial for the border or a wildflower meadow.

Size

Height: 1m. Spread: 1m. 

Where to grow

Sunny border or wildflower meadow with well drained soil.

Distribution Map

Blue dots: native occurrences
Red dots: introductions
© BSBI & BRC, reproduced with permission

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A relative of cultivated carrots, this biennial bears wonderful feathery foliage and lacy umbels of creamy flowers in summer.

This such an attractive plant. It’s a biennial, meaning that it takes two years to flower, after which it dies. In the first year, it produces a low mound of hairy, highly-dissected leaves with a lovely greyish-green hue. The next year, more leaves are produced and then, in high summer, branching stems appear carrying the flowers. Like all plants in the carrot family these are arranged in ‘umbels’, which start tightly closed, open into flat plates and then become domed. The creamy white flowers are delicately arranged, and umbels are sometimes highlighted by a few startling reddish flowers in the centre. The seeds that follow the flowers are equally attractive. The wild form has an unmatched purity, but several garden varieties are available, such as ‘Dara’ and ‘Black Knight’, with flowers stained in various shades of blackberry purple.

Wild Carrot is a plant of well drained, usually infertile and lime-rich soil. It pops up wherever the soil has been recently disturbed and is often found on chalk downland and rough grassland on limestone, as well as along roadside verges, waysides and railway banks. It’s most frequent in the south and east of Britain, but around our coast a short, compact form (Sea Carrot) grows on cliff-tops and dunes.

Seed is best sown in autumn, as it germinates better following a cold winter. Sow seed thinly in shallow rows where plants are to flower and cover the seed lightly with soil. Or grow in pots of well-drained compost for planting out the following spring. To provide a continual display, sow seed each year. In meadows, it’s best to try along paths, edges and gateways, as seeds only grow in disturbed soil.