Growing dill: Complete guide from seed to harvest

Welcome to our guide to growing dill at home. Dill (Anethum graveolens) is easily recognisable with its fluffy, ferny foliage and slightly lemony-aniseed scent. 

Its long, upright stems produce delicate leaves, which when around 10 cm / 4 inches long are snipped off and used in a variety of dishes. These delicate fern-like leaves are sometimes referred to as dill weed.

The flavor of dill is very distinct. Popular in Asian and Middle-eastern cooking, dill is even considered the king of herbs in Scandinavia, finding its way into many dishes during the summer. Most noticeably with fish and its use in pickling

Dill – one plant with many uses

Dill is one of those plants that can be used as a herb, but also as a spice and condiment.  

The delicate fern like dill weeds
The fern like delicate leaves are also called “dill weed”

You see, if unused, dill plants will continue to grow and produce tiny yellow flowers. But this doesn’t mean your plant is over.

Unused dill can be left to bloom, and eventually you will be able to collect the tiny dill seeds to replant in your kitchen garden.

And while growing dill is a bit more complicated than growing basil or lettuce, dill is a must in any herb and vegetable garden.

This article will show you how to start and grow dill from seed. We will show you what you need to keep in mind when growing dill indoors vs outdoors as well as in pots, containers or planted in situ in your garden.

We will also share how to harvest and store the dill that you do not use fresh.

Being from Scandinavia, home grown dill is a must at the traditional crayfish festivities in August every year. And trust me, we use a lot of dill every year for cooking the crayfish as well as garnish and decoration.

Often asked questions about growing dill at home

Is dill difficult to grow from seed?

Growing dill is not difficult or complicated. Still, many home gardeners struggle growing dill as there are a few more steps to be aware of. But don’t worry, we will cover them all here in this article.

How long does it take for dill seeds to germinate?

Dill seeds can take anything from 1-3 weeks to germinate depending on seeds used and external factors such as temperature, seed stratification, watering and level of moisture to mention a few.

Do I need to soak dill seeds before planting?

Soaking dill seeds can shorten time needed for germination but in the interest of full disclosures we have never felt the need.

At what depth should dill seeds be planted?

Dill seeds should be planted about 5mm / ¼ inch deep and then be covered lightly with soil mix or vermiculite.

Quick facts about dill

Growing zones: Zone 3-11 (3-7 as an annual).

Hardiness: Tolerates cold and heat relatively well.

Growth: Dill plants can grow 1 meter / 3 feet tall and beyond, will bloom, self seed and spread if left unchecked. 

Soil mix: Soil mix that drains well with a loose to normal structure (not compact).

Propagation: Best grown from seed (cuttings and plant division possible but low success rate).

Companion planting: Dill makes a good companion plant for peppers, tomatoes and many other plants as it attracts insects that promote pollination as well as prey on pests and harmful insects.

Dill helps repel aphids and spider mites which can be harmful to many plants including garlic, carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes as well as other vegetables. 

As a companion plant dill can also help protect against some fungal diseases like black rot.

The hardiness of dill 

Dill is one of those plants that will tolerate cold and heat. But only to a degree. 

Growing dill in zone 7 means that the first winter frost will kill all our plants if kept outdoors. Dill does not tolerate freezing conditions.

On the other hand, dill plants will bolt, bloom and stop growing if the weather gets too hot. Sweltering heat does not sit well with dill plants.

So to summarize, even though dill is a hardy plant we need to protect the plant from the extremes.  

Sow dill seeds indoors year round and from early spring to late summer when sowing seeds outdoors.

Dill seeds will germinate in temperatures as low as 5 Celsius / 41 Fahrenheit. 

Growing dill in grow bags will allow you to easily move your plants indoors and outdoors as the weather dictates.

Growing dill in pots and containers

Dill grows a long, central taproot as it develops – much like fennel and coriander/cilantro. And while growing dill in pots, containers and grow bags is quite straightforward it is important to provide enough depth for the root system to grow strong.

Use pots and containers that are at least 30 cm / 12 inches (1 foot) deep when growing dill.

5 easy steps to growing dill from seed

Growing dill from seed does not have to be complicated. Whether you start your dill seeds indoors (year round) or outdoors (from early spring) these 5 steps will help you get started on the right foot.

1. Find a pot or container that is deep and wide enough

As dill grows a long taproot you are looking for a depth of at least 30 cm / 12 inches. 

As for width, you can of course go as wide or narrow as you wish. But do keep in mind that due to its long taproot dill does not transplant well.

Ideally you are sowing the seeds in the same pot or containers where the dill plants will grow and develop.

2. Use a soil mix that drains well

Fill your pot or container with a soil mix that drains well with a loose to normal structure. 

Use a good quality potting soil with added compost and add perlite or coarse sand for improved aeration and drainage.

As you can see in the video below you want the soil to be firm enough to make a ball with your hand but that same ball should crumble on the gentle touch of your fingers. 

Watch this video on YouTube.

3. Soak your seeds overnight

Dill seeds can take up to 3 weeks to germinate. Soaking the seeds in water can however dramatically shorten this germination time to under a week.

Place your seeds in a glass overnight in room temperature water the day before planting. 

We do not soak our dill seeds before planting any longer. But not because it doesn't work. We just use our 5 component soil mix instead.

To make a long story short we ran a garden project a while back. We compared using our standard potting soil mix to using our new 5 component soil mix when planting 8 popular herbs.

And some of the results were that dill and parsley responded well to our 5 component mix. So that is what we do now.  Read the entire article with week by week updates: Growing herbs from seeds using a new 5 component soil mix

4. Sow seeds and cover lightly

Do not plant your seeds. Instead lightly sprinkle seeds on the soil and then cover them with a 5mm / ¼ inch layer of soil mix or vermiculite. This added layer will help keep the seeds from drying out.

5. Keep moist and do not let dill dry out

Keep soil evenly moist and you should see your seeds germinate in less than a week (up to 3 weeks without pre-soaking)

Two best ways to propagate dill 

There are really only 2 good ways to propagate dill. 

You can start dill from seed. Choose to plant seeds indoors in pots or containers or plants seeds outdoors in containers, grow bags or directly in the ground. 

Growing dill from seed gives you full control and germination rate is high.

You can also leave your dill plants to bloom, and eventually you will be able to collect the dill seeds to replant or why not let the plant self-seed.

Self-seeding works great if you have the space. But keep in mind that dill seeds are light and will “travel” why you may find dill plants in unexpected places in your garden.

But what about growing dill from cuttings?

Dill can be grown from cuttings but from my experience it is not worth it.

Many herbs and vegetables respond well to propagation from cuttings. You propagate basil, rosemary, Thai basil, French tarragon, lemon grass, sage and many more plants as it is even easier than growing from seed.

Dill does not belong to this group of plants where propagation from cuttings is easier than seeds. 

Still, it can work. But the results will vary greatly.

If you still want to try simply cut a fresh dill stem cutting and remove all but the top leaves. Put the cutting in a container with water and place it in a spot with plenty of light. 

Replace water daily and roots will show in 1-3 weeks if the cutting survives.

Is growing dill from plant division a good alternative?

Lavender, peppermint, oregano, thyme and many more herbs are ideally suited for propagation by division. We choose propagation by division where the plant is well suited for the method.

And as dill grows a central tap root as the plant develops it is not suited for propagation by division.

Growing dill in pots inside

Choose a loose, humus-rich soil to sow your dill seeds, and ensure the soil does not dry out. Make sure your pots have good drainage holes as dill likes moist but not wet soil.

Ideally, sow seeds in the pot or container where the plant will grow as dill seedlings and young plants are difficult to transplant from one pot to another. 

Make sure your pot is at last 30cm / 12 inches deep to give the root system and the dominating tap root room to grow and develop.

Growing dill outdoors

Choose a humus-rich soil to sow your dill seeds, and ensure the soil does not dry out. Dill is best easily grown directly in the ground.

In fact, as the plant is so delicate, it can be difficult to transplant from pots into your garden, so sowing seeds directly into the ground is advisable.

Dill care tips

Here are 5 tips that will help you grow bumper crops of dill at home.

Healthy dill seedlings in soil covered with vermiculite

1. Keep soil moist: Dill does not like wet soil or to dry out completely. Dill will tolerate poor soil quality but not wet or dry soil.

2. Plant directly into the ground when possible: Dill grows a long dominant taproot and it is difficult to transplant seedlings and young plants without hurting the root system.

3. Use loose, humus-rich soil that drains well: Dill needs a loose soil for the taproot to grow strong and good drainage will prevent soil getting too wet.

4. Sow dill every 3 weeks: Starting early spring and sow dill seeds every 3 weeks for continuous harvest.

5. Dill likes full sun: Dill requires full sun to flourish. 

Harvesting dill

Harvest dill weeds (or leaves) continuously throughout the growing season as soon as they are established. 

Simply cut or pinch whole sprigs growing from the stem. As a rule, never harvest more than ⅓ of the plant at one time. 

Harvesting dill seeds requires letting the dill plant to flowers and bloom. As the blooming passes you will see small seeds start forming. 

When the seeds turn to a light-brown or tan color, cut the branches with the seed heads and hang them upside down in a brown paper bag. 

How to store dill weed and seeds

Dill weed is best stored dried but can also be frozen.

When you dry dill weed there is an inevitable loss of flavor. On the other hand, when you freeze dill weed there will be a loss of shape and texture.

You can read all about preserving herbs in the article 3 ways to preserve garden herbs

Drying seeds are best kept in sealed containers. If you notice condensation forming, open the lid and let the seeds dry out more.

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants and garden vegetables. For the past two years he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.