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How to Grow Sweet Cicely

By Sharon Sweeny ; Updated September 21, 2017

Sweet cicely is a very hardy perennial herb that is not widely known or grown. It loves cool weather and grows best in the cool climate of the far north. It has a slight anise flavor that pairs well with cooked fruits. Although it can reseed itself prolifically in the garden, the seeds only remain viable for a short time. If you’re growing it from seed, make sure the seeds are fresh.

Pick a spot in partial shade. Sweet cicely is one of the few herbs that like rich, moist, fertile soil.

Improve the soil. Add at least 2 inches of compost and 2 inches of peat moss to the surface of the soil in the chosen site. Incorporate these by turning over the soil with a spade. Rake the area smooth.

Plant seeds of sweet cicely in mid to late fall. The seeds of this herb need freezing and thawing cycles in order to germinate. Plant seeds ½ inch deep and 4 inches apart. Do not water or mulch the soil. The seeds will germinate the following spring.

Thin the seedlings the following spring when they are 2 inches high so they stand 12 to 18 inches apart.

Mulch the planting bed with a 3-inch layer of hay, straw or shredded leaves.

Provide sweet cicely with the equivalent of 1 inch of rainfall per week.

Top dress the soil around your sweet cicely every spring with compost. Pull back the mulch and spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost around the plants. Replace the mulch.

Dig up and divide the roots of sweet cicely every 4 to 5 years. Set the plant on a hard surface and sever the roots with a spade. Replant the divisions, spacing 12 to 18 inches apart.


Things You Will Need

  • Compost
  • Peat moss
  • Spade
  • Organic mulch


  • Although they are not widely available, it may be easier to start sweet cicely from transplants or root divisions if you can find them.

About the Author


Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a professional writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.