Umbellifers are the flowering plants that are part of the Apiaceae, or celery family.
Most umbellifers are characterised by their disc-shaped umbels, which are made up of many tiny flowers held on short flower stalks. This is best seen in umbellifers like fennel and cow parsley, though some species, sea holly for example, can look quite different.
In beds and borders, these elegant, often tall plants, bring an airy and relaxed feel to plantings, and look especially good combined with wildflowers like knapweed, foxgloves and field poppies.
Pollinators, hoverflies especially, are highly attracted to umbellifers as the nectar can be quickly and easily accessed. For more ways to help pollinators, consider creating bee hotels.
Check out some of our favourite plants with umbellifer flowers.
Whether you like the flavour or not, fennel is a must-have in the garden for the flowers alone. They’re a magnet for pollinators, especially hoverflies, the larvae of which have an appetite for aphids.
A mass of yellow fennel flowers
If you’re gardening in shade, astrantias are lovely, summer-flowering perennials to consider. Discover how simple they are to grow in this quick video guide to caring for astrantias. Attractive to a range of pollinators including bees, hoverflies, butterflies and soldier beetles.
Pink-edged, white flowers of Astrantia ‘Star of Passion’
Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) is an old cottage garden perennial. Traditionally it was grown near the kitchen door, where the leaves were in easy reach for sweetening dishes. In the right conditions it can grow to 2m tall. Grow in full sun or partial shade.
White flowers of sweet cicely
There are many species of angelica, but the best known is probably garden angelica, Angelica archangelica – a biennial that can reach a towering 2.5m. You could also grow Angelica gigas or Angelica sylvestris ‘Ebony’ (pictured) for their gorgeous purple flowers.
Purple flowers of Angelica gigas
Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is undoubtedly one of the most well known umbellifers. A common UK native, it’s often found growing in hedgerows, ditches and meadows. The popular cultivar ‘Ravenswing’ has deep purple stems and foliage, contrasting with white blooms.
White flowers of cow parsley ‘Ravenswing’, with deep purple stems and foliage
White laceflowers (Orlaya grandiflora) are pretty annuals native to the Mediterranean, where they grow among vineyards and olive groves. Try growing alongside lavender, santolina and agastaches. Or use it in this spring pot for pollinators.
This wild form of the cultivated carrot has large, pollinator-friendly flowers that are deep maroon before turning white as they open. Leave wild carrot seedheads on over winter for interest. Discover more more plants with attractive seedheads.
Flowers of wild carrot, deep maroon in bud and opening into white
You’re more likely to come across the popular cultivar ‘Roseum’, than you are the pure species, Chaerophyllum hirsutum. Grow this delicate perennial en masse in sun or partial shade, with alliums, mountain cornflowers and ageratums.
Pale pink flowers of hairy chervil
Bishop’s flower, Ammi majus, is pretty annual, growing to around 1m in height. Sown en masse, the flowerheads mesh to form graceful white clouds. Try growing with other summer flowers like salvias, cornflowers and echinaceas. For larger, denser umbels, consider Ammi visnaga.
Large, white flowerhead of Bishop’s flower
White flowers of Scots lovage
10 native umbellifers
- Pignut, Conopodium majus
- Wild parsnip, Pastinaca sativa
- Common hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium
- Cow parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris
- Ground elder, Aegopodium podagraria
- Pepper-saxifrage, Silaum silaus
- Hemlock, Conium maculatum
- Scots lovage, Ligusticum scoticum
- Corn parsley, Petroselinum segetum
- Burnet-saxifrage, Pimpinella saxifraga