By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a hardy herb grown for its flavor, which is added to many dishes, as well as used as a decorative garnish. Growing parsley also makes an attractive edging plant. Its curly, fern-like foliage is high in vitamins and the plant is rarely affected by disease, though pests such as aphids, can occasionally present a problem.
Parsley is considered a biennial but is treated as an annual in cold climates. This herb can be grown in containers or out in the garden and is generally established through seeds. Read on to learn more about how to grow parsley.
Parsley seeds can be started indoors or out. While they can be sown directly in the garden as soon as the soil is manageable in spring, the best time when to plant parsley seeds is to sow them indoors about six weeks beforehand. This is typically due to its slow germination rate, which can take up to three weeks or more. As parsley seeds are quite small, there’s no need for covering them with soil. When planting parsley, simply sprinkle seeds on top of the soil and mist well with water.
Once seeds have sprouted, thin them down to only one or two plants per pot. Spring is the ideal time for planting parsley seedlings in the garden.
Although this herb tolerates poor soil and drainage, it’s always preferable to situate plants in organic-rich, well-drained soil when growing parsley. Planting parsley in areas with full sun to partial shade is also recommended. This easy-care herb requires little maintenance, other than occasional watering or weeding, once established. These tasks, however, can be reduced by applying mulch around the plants.
Parsley can be harvested throughout the year, especially when growing it in a cold frame or indoors during winter. You can begin harvesting parsley once the leaves start to curl. For optimal flavor, pick parsley early in the day (morning hours) when the plant’s oil is strongest. Parsley is best used while fresh; however, it can be frozen until ready for use. It’s also better to freeze parsley rather than drying, as this may cause the herb to lose some of its flavor.
Now that you know more about how to grow parsley, you can add it to your garden. Growing parsley not only adds a delicious herb to your garden, but a lovely one as well.
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Parsley is an excellent addition to most recipes, it is rich in vitamins and minerals (A, C, calcium, and iron), and it fights bad breath. This is a plant that we can grow all year round. There are two main varieties of parsley the flat-leaf and the Chinese parsley. Learn all about how to grow parsley in this article.
The plant needs soil moist but well-nourished and having good drainage. It can be in full sun or partially shaded, preferring at least 6-8 hours of sun a day.
There are over 30 varieties of parsley that vary in the shade of green and curl of the foliage. The most popular types of parsley are cultivated for their foliage, but there are some varieties that are grown for edible roots too.
Curly parsley is the type we often find on our restaurant dinner plates. The leaves are ruffled, and the flavor is very mild. Curly parsley grows in a lush green compact plant that will be about 12-inches tall and wide when mature. This variety is often chopped added to soups and stews.
Flat leaf parsley, also called Italian parsley features wide serrated leaves, and has a more robust peppery flavor than curly leaf. The plant will reach a mature height of 24-inches and tends to be hardier and will grow under less than ideal conditions.
Flat Leaf Italian Parsley
German parsley, also known as Hamburg root parsley is cultivated for its flavorful turnip-like root. The root can reach up to 10-inches and is delicious when roasted, fried or chopped up and incorporated into soup or stew.
Growing herbs in containers or a small space is so easy—and who likes paying for a package of herbs from the grocery store every time you need a few sprigs or leaves? See the best way to grow herbs, which herbs to plant for a beginner, and a few handy gardening tips.
If the meals at your house have been a little bland, fresh herbs can make a huge difference in flavor they are considered the mark of a serious cook and are essential ingredients in many culinary classics.
In late spring, garden centers offer a wide selection of herb plants making it easy for you to start an instant herb garden. Or, many annual herbs like dill or cilantro are easy to grow from seed. Having trouble deciding what to grow? Take a look in your cupboard and start with the herbs you already like to use. Once you have become a seasoning pro, you can branch out and add some new herbs to your repertoire.
Annual herbs such as dill, basil, cilantro, and summer savory are easy to grow from seed. The plants last for one season only so grow plenty of extra to dry or freeze for use over the winter. Once you get used to their flavors you won’t want to cook without them.
Biennial herbs such as parsley and caraway can be started from seed also. They will grow well the first year and come back the second year when they will bloom and set seeds. Then the original plants will die.
Perennial herbs include Greek oregano, thyme, sage, winter savory, chives, and mint. Once established in your garden these plants will increase in size and come back every year.
Tender perennial plants such as tarragon, rosemary, and stevia need to be grown in pots so they can spend the winter indoors. Put the pots outside as soon as the weather warms in the spring.
Check out our video to learn more about herbs in your garden.
It is fine to have your herbs scattered throughout the landscape—many are as attractive as they are useful—but it is easier for you to harvest them if they are all in one or two spots. You can spend a lot of time planning an elaborate herb garden if you like but you don’t have to. A sunny corner close to the kitchen door is an ideal location and will make it easier for you to step out and snip what you need for the meal you are making.
A small space is all you need to grow a gourmet herb garden but if space is really limited or even non-existent, culinary herbs grow well in containers. Use window boxes, hanging baskets, or a whiskey barrel to grow a mini-garden of kitchen herbs.
Even though I have large patches of culinary herbs in the garden, I always keep a hanging pot of rosemary, thyme, oregano, summer savory, and basil growing just outside the back door. Since it is so convenient I find myself using those herbs in my dishes more often and the fresh flavor makes a huge difference in my otherwise plain cooking. When the weather gets cold, I bring the pot indoors and keep it going in a sunny kitchen window. It doesn’t get much handier than that!
Herbs are forgiving plants and will grow in less than ideal conditions.
The season for bumper crops of fresh produce is approaching fast! Be ready by growing the herbs necessary to flavor your world and spice up your life!
See our Herb Growing Chart.
See our indivdual Herb Planting Guides for our more popular herbs.
With all of these herbs the best preventative is to deadhead them. remove the flowers before they go to seed. If you catch them in the window after they bloom and before they're dry they won't reseed themselves.
This is easily done with dill, Valerian and chives. Calendula is a little more challenging because of the large quantities of flowers it produces. Chamomile is darn near impossible.
If catnip is harvested as soon as it flowers, the seeds should not be a problem at all. Towards the end of the growing season it's puts extra effort into flowering so you really have to stay on top of it or every single seed you miss will plant itself!
Basil can self seed like catnip unless harvested regularly (though personally it hasn't for me) so it's a good idea to keep it trimmed or pinch off the flowers when they start to develop.
Other herbs with a reputation for reseeding themselves: fennel, sage, cilantro, sweet Annie, feverfew, borage, mullein, comfrey and tarragon. Rosemary tends to grow like crazy in southern states though sadly, that's not a problem up here in Pa!
If you mulch heavily or put down a weed barrier each year then reseeding won't be much of a problem for you. I tend to only mulch heavily directly under my plants so these herbs pop up all along the walkways and in the lawn!
While that is sometimes a good thing since I never have to plant them, every year I end up selling dozens of plants and composting even more of them. Maybe I should open a farm stand?
For plants that spread through runners, the best bet is a raised planter. Metal is best for a pot, although wooden raised beds work well too. Stay away from ceramic or plastic pots if you plan on sinking them into the ground. They will weaken over the years and eventually the runners will break through.
If all else fails you could plant invasive herbs in a container garden to keep them, well. contained, just be careful because dropped seeds still might grow in in small cracks and crevices!
Related reading: These are the 11 Medicinal herbs the can be grown indoors which makes them much easier to control!
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