A step-by-step guide to growing dill in pots on your patio or deck
I got my start growing herbs with the usual suspects: basil, oregano and thyme. They’re the familiar flavors you find in pasta sauce, pizza and soups, and they’re easy to grow in pots.
But after a couple of seasons I was itching to branch out — and dill was next up.
Like a lot of herbs, dill (anethum graveolens) is easy to grow in pots and easy to harvest for use in the kitchen.
This perennial herb with fern-like feathery leaves produces one of my favorite flavors. Imagine dill pickles, dill dip with rye bread … not to mention dill on roasted veggies, in soup, or on fish.
And there’s truly something magical about a good piece of salmon baked with a hunk of dill butter on top. YUM.
The leaves can be used as an herb in all those ways and the seeds from its lacy yellow flowers have culinary uses as a spice for pickling, bread and more.
Dill is part of the parsley family, which also includes carrots, celery, and spices like caraway and cumin. But it grows a lot taller than some of those low-growing cousins, topping out as high as 3 or 4 feet.
However, some of the most common culinary varieties of dill tend toward a dense 18 inches — totally doable for a container garden!
And the bright yellow flowers attract butterflies and other beneficial insects.
In other words, dill is awesome, it’s easy to grow in a pot or container, and it’s a great herb with a unique flavor to broaden your cooking horizons.
So read on for easy instructions for growing dill in a pot for your deck or patio garden!
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Growing dill in pots
How to start dill from seed
Dill should be started from seed, not seedlings.
Dill seedlings set down a long taproot like carrots do, which makes it hard to transplant them without doing damage.
For this reason, one important thing to remember with dill is to sow seeds in the container you plan to use all growing season, since they don’t transplant well.
Ideally, sow dill seeds after danger of frost has passed. In most zones, the best time is between April-May. If you’re not sure when that is, check out this frost dates calculator.
Don’t be intimidated by starting dill from seed or let that deter you! It’s not hard:
- First, choose a deep container at least 12-18 inches deep and 12 inches wide, with good drainage holes at the bottom. That taproot needs room to grow vertically and support the 2-4 feet of the plant’s full height, so don’t skimp on container size.
- Next, fill with good quality potting soil mixed with a handful of compost or other aged organic matter, and sprinkle a few seeds on top, toward the center of the container. You can get soilless potting mix at garden centers, of course, or make your own potting mix. You want loamy soil texture with essential nutrients, nothing fancy.
- Cover with a thin layer of soil, about ¼ inch.
- After that, keep soil evenly moist and seedlings should appear within two weeks.
Clay or terracotta pots are great for lots of patio garden plants because clay dries well between waterings and a lot of herbs prefer drier soil.
But in this case, dill prefers steady moisture, so a plastic or glazed ceramic pot may be a better fit. Just make sure it’s plenty deep!
Can I grow dill from cuttings?
While it’s not ideal to start potted dill from seedlings, it is possible to grow dill from cuttings set in water.
What’s the difference between a seedling and a cutting?
- A seedling is a young plant grown from seed.
- A cutting is a piece of a stem, leaf or root taken from an established plant. This makes the new plant a clone of the original. Generally, cuttings are taken to recreate the qualities of the parent plant.
To take a dill cutting, first find a stem with 3-4 inches of new growth and snip with sharp scissors. Then pull off the bottom leaves and set in a container of water. No need to fertilize.
TIP: Keep in mind that roots can easily tangle if you’re growing multiple cuttings. Don’t put more than 2-3 cuttings in each container.
Once the cuttings have grown a few inches of roots (generally in 2-3 weeks), gently set in potting soil.
How to thin dill seedlings and position on your deck
- After another 10-14 days, once seedlings are a few inches tall, thin down to one or two seedlings per container. It can be a little heartbreaking to pull healthy seedlings out of the soil, but the goal is to keep the strongest one so it can live its best life.
- Finally, once the seedlings are thinned, set the container outdoors anytime after the last frost. Keep soil moist but not soggy until you make the move.
What variety of dill does best in a container garden?
There are a lot of varieties out there, some better than others for culinary use or flowering. Here are a few varieties that do especially well in container gardens:
- Bouquet is a great choice, a popular dwarf variety with dark green leaves and abundant seeds from the plentiful yellow flowers.
- Fernleaf is a compact, productive variety that grows about 18 inches tall and does very well in containers. This is a good one to plant if your patio or deck gets less than 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
- Compatto is another compact option, only growing to about 12-18 inches tall and slower to bolt than some others.
- Dukat tops out between 12-24 inches and has a high oil content that makes it great for culinary use.
I’m growing fernleaf dill this year and while it had a slow start, it picked up the pace and it’s doing awesome now! Next year I’ll also try bouquet dill and see how they differ.Choose a sunny spot on the deck for your dill
Dill likes: plenty of direct sun, steady water, moderate temps, protection from wind, support when it gets tall
Dill doesn’t like: lots of shade, intense heat, drying out, falling over
In other words, find a sunny spot that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight, with some wind protection. Dill does well against a wall or trellis for some support. Staking is another option.
How to take care of a potted dill plant on your deck or patio
Many herbs are great edible plants for a container garden – they’re small and not overly fussy about conditions. Even with minimal care they can produce enough to use in your kitchen throughout the growing season. And drying or preserving them gives you plenty for winter.
Dill is undeniably one of them! Read on for easy-to-follow instructions for keeping dill happy, alive and thriving.
1. Keep dill moderately watered
While many herbs like to dry out between waterings, dill prefers steady moisture. Water when the top inch of the soil feels dry.
2. Go easy on the fertilizer
Dill doesn’t need much fertilizer. Add a bit of compost or slow-release fertilizer when first planted and a small amount in late spring, and you should be good to go.
3. Stake dill to keep it upright
While not as necessary for dwarf varieties like fernleaf, dill can often benefit from a bamboo stake to prevent falling over or blowing in high winds. If you decide to stake, do it early so you don’t disturb roots at the base of the plant. These 18-inch bamboo stakes (ties included) are perfect for light, feathery dill.
How to harvest dill in a pot
Dill should be ready to harvest about 8 weeks after you first sow the seeds.
To harvest dill leaves:
You can pick some as soon as the plant is established with leaves big enough to use, preferably at least 4-6 inches tall. Be sure to harvest older leaves first, picking or snipping leaves close to the stem, starting from the top of the plant.
TIP: You’ll get the best flavor from fresh dill leaves picked before it bolts (produces dill flowers), so don’t wait. Once the bright yellow flowers bloom, the plant stops sending energy to the leaves.
To harvest dill seeds:
After your dill plant bolts (produces flowers), cut off the seedheads when they start to turn light brown. Dry completely in a paper bag for a few days, then separate the seeds from the chaff.
Watch how and when to harvest dill leaves:
As I’ve said, dill is a fun, easy herb to add to grow in a pot on your deck or patio.
Just make sure it has a deep pot, steady sun and water, and some protection from the wind. You’ll be making amazing fish, potato salad, and your own pickles in no time!
Planning to grow herbs in pots on your deck? These articles can help round out your container herb garden:
- Growing oregano in pots
- How to grow basil in a pot
- Growing rosemary in containers
- How to grow thyme in a pot
- How to grow catnip in a pot
- Growing chamomile in pots