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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.