by Matt Gibson
Also known as Bishop’s weed and false Queen Anne’s lace, toothpick weed (Ammi visnaga) is a gorgeous and hardy annual or biennial flower with white bloom clusters shaped like umbrellas, or domes, which grow up to five inches in diameter. This long bloomer is a sight for sore eyes from early summer until late fall, yet it retains some of its beauty even longer, as dried flower heads remain intact and continue to attract birds to your garden to feed on its nutritious seeds. Because of the long shelf life of the blooms, toothpick weed also makes a great cut flower for indoor arrangements.
The foliage of toothpick weed is crisp and finely divided, with leaves similar to that of the rosemary plant. The attractiveness of the foliage makes toothpick weed a great choice as a filler plant for additional foliage in the garden bed, even when the flowers are not in bloom. Relatively low maintenance and pest resistant, toothpick weed is a great addition to any garden and a strong attractor for birds, butterflies, and bees, as well as predatory insects, all of which help to pollinate your garden, and most of whom add charm and mystique to your garden view.
Native to North Africa, Asia, and Europe, and belonging to the carrot family (with which it shares a very similar foliage), toothpick weed is a flowering herb that has been used traditionally as a medicinal plant for centuries. In ancient Egypt, the flowers were made into a tea to treat kidney stones. In modern times, toothpick weed is most commonly used by gardeners to fill in the gaps between flowers in decorative beds, due to the long blooming cycle and attractive greenery. The full toothpick weed plant grows up to three to four feet in height and 16-18 inches in width, ideal for garden beds and borderlines. The large white umbel cluster blooms pair perfectly with roses, lilies, and almost any more vividly colored flower.
Growing Conditions for Toothpick Weed
Toothpick weed prefers a pH neutral soil type as well as soil that is rich in nutrients and kept constantly hydrated. Small toothpick weed plants need to be watered regularly, especially during dry periods. Toothpick weed prefers a loosely packed and well-drained soil consistency. Though toothpick weed will do rather well in a bit of shade, it prefers full sunlight exposure for optimal results.
How to Plant Toothpick Weed
Sow in the middle of spring or late summer/early fall (for larger, heartier plants) under partial cover or directly into your garden beds for blooms that last from June to as late as November, depending on sowing time. Start seeds about six to eight weeks before the final frost. You can also directly sow toothpick weed in early spring, when there is still a chance of a light frost. Transplants should go into the bed three to four weeks after the last frost. Plant seeds a foot apart if planting in spring, or a foot and a half apart if planting in late summer through fall. Seeds will germinate in seven to 25 days.
Care of Toothpick Weed
Though toothpick weed needs plenty of water and lots of sunlight, if planted at the right time and in the right growing conditions, caring for toothpick weed is relatively hands off. Once plants are fully established, you only need to water them occasionally, during hot, dry weather. For larger toothpick plants, staking may be necessary.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Toothpick Weed
Toothpick weed grows without threat of pests and diseases, so don’t stress about its health if it begins to droop or sag, as it is likely due to under or overwatering or inadequate soil conditions. Simply till a bit of the soil in the area of the plants, loosely pack it in around the bases, ensure proper draining is taking place, and your toothpick weed should thrive.
Toothpick Weed Flowers for Indoor Bouquets
With a cut flower shelf life of seven to 10 days, toothpick weed makes a great cut flower bouquet piece, especially in a supporting role of a more colorful centerpiece. Strip all bottom leaves and some higher sprouting leaves to avoid early yellowing in the vase. Toothpick weed is a very versatile cut flower, and it will be handy pairing it with tons of different annuals and perennials for indoor bouquets.
Aside from being a garden staple, many gardeners harvest toothpick weed for its medicinal qualities. In natural medicine circles, toothpick weed is used to treat heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, kidney stones, angina, asthma, coughs, PMS, vitiligo, colic, bronchitis, and atherosclerosis. It is also believed to relieve inflammation. The stems are used as toothpicks in the Middle and Far East, giving the plant its common name.