Parsley is a powerhouse of flavor and nutrients, attracts beneficial insects, and is surprisingly easy to grow in your backyard. Learn how to grow parsley from seed to harvest with these tips.
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5 Tips for How to Grow Parsley
1. Plant parsley at the right time
Parsley is a biennial plant that prefers cooler temperatures and can be planted in spring and fall. The best time to plant parsley depends on your climate and whether you start from seeds or seedlings.
If you’re starting from seeds, they can be sown indoors 10-12 weeks before the last spring frost date or directly in the garden 2-3 weeks before the last expected frost. Parsley seeds can take at least three weeks to germinate, so starting them indoors can give them a head start.
For fall planting, sow seeds in the garden 8-10 weeks before the first fall frost date. In mild-winter areas, parsley can be grown throughout the winter.
If you’re planting parsley seedlings, they can go into the ground as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Make sure to harden off the seedlings before transplanting them outside to acclimate them to outdoor conditions.
In the low desert of Arizona
Plant seeds outdoors from October – March
2. Plant parsley correctly
Parsley seeds are very slow to germinate. Sow seeds in the garden 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) deep and 6 inches (15.24 cm) apart. It can take 3 to 4 weeks for seedlings to appear. Thin seedlings to about 8-12 inches (20-30 cm)apart once they’re a few inches tall to ensure good air circulation.
You can also plant parsley transplants. Look for small transplants with bright green leaves. Plant parsley transplants at the same depth as the nursery container.
Parsley prefers well-draining soil and grows in full sun or partial shade. Do not overwater.
For square-foot gardening, plant 1-2 parsley plants per square foot.
Flat Leaf (Italian) Parsley: Looks like a large version of cilantro. Robust flavor often preferred over curly parsley. Try Dark Green Italian Giant.
Curly Parsley: Often used as a garnish. Flavor is similar to but less intense than flat-leaf varieties. Try Triple Moss Curled Parsley.
3. Care for parsley correctly
- Watering: Water the plant regularly, especially during dry spells, but be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot.
- Sunlight: Parsley does best in full sun but tolerates partial shade. Some afternoon shade can help prevent the plant from bolting if you live in a particularly hot climate.
- Soil: Parsley prefers rich, well-draining soil. Regularly adding compost or organic matter can improve soil fertility and structure.
- Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the parsley plants to help conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.
- Pest and Disease Control: Regularly inspect your parsley plants for signs of pests or disease. Rotate your parsley crops to help prevent soil-borne diseases.
A note about how to grow parsley in hot climates:
Parsley is a biennial plant, which means it typically spends the first year growing leaves and the second year flowering and setting seeds. However, in hot climates or under stress, parsley plants can “bolt,” or start flowering in the first year.
High temperatures often trigger this process, as the plant’s survival instincts kick in to ensure it reproduces before the end of its life cycle. When the weather heats rapidly, the parsley plant responds by rushing into its flowering and seeding phase. This is an evolutionary adaptation to secure survival in the event of unfavorable conditions.
Bolting can also be caused by other forms of stress, such as drought, poor soil conditions, or a sudden change in light or temperature. Once a parsley plant bolts, it puts most of its energy into producing flowers and seeds, which can reduce leaf production.
If you’re growing parsley for its leaves, it’s best to harvest regularly to encourage leafy growth and keep the plant in a cool, well-watered location to help prevent bolting.
How to grow parsley in containers:
- Parsley has a long taproot and does best in at least 8 inches (20cm) deep containers.
- Parsley grown in containers benefits from a liquid organic fertilizer application each month during the growing season.
How to grow parsley indoors:
- Plant a parsley transplant in an unglazed terra-cotta pot at least 8 inches (20cm) deep.
- Water parsley only when the top inch or so of soil is dry.
- Provide supplemental lighting for parsley for 10-11 hours, with the lights about 6 inches (15 cm) from the plant.
- Ideal indoor temperature: 50°F-75°F (10°C-24°C).
- Parsley grown indoors benefits from a liquid organic fertilizer application each month during the growing season.
4. Harvest parsley often
- When to Harvest: Begin harvesting parsley when the plants have at least three segments. This usually occurs around 70-90 days after planting.
- How to Harvest: Cut stems from the outside of the plant first, as these are the most mature. Snip them off close to the ground. This method allows the younger inner leaves to continue growing.
- Frequency of Harvesting: Regular harvesting encourages growth, so don’t be shy about picking your parsley! During peak season, you can often harvest parsley every 1-2 weeks.
- Preservation: Fresh parsley is best used immediately, but you can freeze-dry, freeze, or dry it if you have a surplus. Wash and chop the parsley, then freeze it in ice cube trays with a little water. To dry, tie the stems together and hang them in a well-ventilated, dark place until completely dry.
For more information about freeze-drying herbs, read this post.
- Culinary Uses: Parsley is incredibly versatile in the kitchen. Use it fresh in salads or as a garnish on soups, stews, and roasts. Add it towards the end of cooking to retain its flavor and color.
- Health Benefits: Parsley is packed with vitamins A, C, and K, and is a good source of iron and folate. It’s also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Get my favorite recipe for garden fresh vegetable stock in this post.
Remember, never pull the parsley up by the root if you want it to keep producing.
5. Use parsley to attract beneficial insects to your garden
Allow a plant or two to bolt. The tall flower stalk will form in the center of the plant. Many beneficial insects, including swallowtail butterfly larvae, are attracted to parsley flowers. The flowers develop into seeds. Save the seeds to plant again or leave them in place to scatter and (hopefully) reseed.
The foliage of second-year parsley is coarse and not as tasty. Plant new parsley each year to harvest the greens.