Cow parsley's umbelliferous head of tiny white flowers

How to grow cow parsley

Find out all you need to know about growing cow parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris, in this practical Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sow
Sow

Do not Sow in January

Do not Sow in February

Do Sow in March

Do Sow in April

Do not Sow in May

Do not Sow in June

Do not Sow in July

Do not Sow in August

Do not Sow in September

Do not Sow in October

Do not Sow in November

Do not Sow in December

Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does flower in May

Plant does flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Cut back
Cut back

Do not Cut back in January

Do not Cut back in February

Do not Cut back in March

Do not Cut back in April

Do not Cut back in May

Do not Cut back in June

Do Cut back in July

Do Cut back in August

Do not Cut back in September

Do not Cut back in October

Do not Cut back in November

Do not Cut back in December

Anthriscus sylvestris, better known as cow parsley, and sometimes as Queen Anne’s lace, is very much in vogue. A common native plant, the light, airy umbelliferous heads of tiny white flowers that appear in early summer are a favourite choice for naturalistic planting schemes.

Advertisement

Also good for attracting insects, anthriscus looks wonderful planted in large drifts through other perennials. In the wild, it commonly crops up by roadsides, meadows and woodland edges, growing wild among grasses. You need space to accommodate and experiment with these graceful plants, but, easily grown from seed, it is worth having a go.

Take a look at our handy anthriscus Grow Guide.

The light, airy umbelliferous heads of tiny white flowers that appear in
early summer are a favourite choice for naturalistic planting schemes.

A swathe of purple-stemmed cow parsley 'Ravenswing' underplanting a cherry tree
A swathe of purple-stemmed cow parsley ‘Ravenswing’ underplanting a cherry tree

Where to plant cow parsley

Anthriscus sylvestris thrives in fertile, moist, but free-draining soil and will colonise areas that are in full sun or dappled shade. Grow Anthriscus sylvestris in an informal border, cottage or wildlife garden, or as part of a meadow.

Cow parsley's umbelliferous head of tiny white flowers
Cow parsley’s umbelliferous head of tiny white flowers

How to plant cow parsley

Sow Anthriscus sylvestris from seed in early spring. Sow outdoors directly into warm, prepared soil where plants are to grow. Soil needs to be weed-free, and lightly raked, to allow seedlings to establish.

Alternatively, sow in modules into light compost and cover with a layer of vermiculite. Pot on when seedlings are large enough to handle and plant out in early summer.

Purple stems, burgundy buds and pink-white flowers of cow parsley 'Ravenswing'
Purple stems, burgundy buds and pink-white flowers of cow parsley ‘Ravenswing’

How to look after cow parsley

Anthriscus sylvestris is a low-maintenance plant if you have the right growing conditions. As a native plant, it should not require additional watering or any added fertiliser. It will spread easily, so you may want to keep it in check by pulling up seedlings as you spot them, or by selectively cutting back some plants before they shed their seed.

Otherwise, leave flowerheads on the plant as long as possible and cut back at the end of the summer.

Watch Monty Don talk about using cow parsley and other umbellifers in his garden.

Collecting cow parsley seed in a paper bag
Collecting cow parsley seed in a paper bag

Propagation of cow parsley

An annual plant, Anthriscus sylvestris will self-seed readily. If you want to ensure continuity, make sure you save some seed. When the flowerheads have gone over, select a few plants to collect seeds from. Place a paper bag over the flowerhead, tying it closed with twine Then cut back the plant and hang it upside down in a shed to dry. Then you can shake the tiny seeds into the bag, ready to store for sowing next spring.

Cow parsley: problem solving

Anthriscus sylvestris is not affected by any pests or diseases.

Advertisement
Purple-stemmed cow parsley 'Ravenswing' planted along a grey stone wall
Purple-stemmed cow parsley ‘Ravenswing’ planted along a grey stone wall

Anthriscus varieties to try

Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ –  a pretty form of common cow parsley, with dark purple stems and lacy foliage contrasting with the white flowerheads. It can also be used in cut flower arrangements. ‘Ravenswing’  does not come true from seed, so always buy fresh seeds.