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How to Grow Parsley from Cuttings or Seeds

  • Bob Styer
  • Herbs
Harvested Parsley In A Basket Surrounded By Growing Parsley Plants

Parsley is a biennial plant, but northern areas grow it as an annual.  If you have cold winters, you can grow parsley in pots and bring the pots indoors before winter.  This will allow you to get the second year from your plants.  After the second year, you could allow some plants to flower and go to seed, and the seeds will self-sow.  Parsley is easy to grow from seeds or cuttings and would be a welcome addition to your garden.

In ancient Greece, they gave parsley garlands to warriors to honor them.  The garlands represented joy and festivity.

If I spent a few weeks swinging a sword at Persians I’d be more joyful and festive with a rib barbecue or steak dinner. Why would I wear the garnish on my head?.

Parsley is one of the more popular herbs, often used as a garnish.  You’ll also find it in sauces, vegetables, meat dishes, pestos, salads, and plates of pasta.  Cooking parsley decreases its flavor, so add it near the end of the cooking time.

Types of Parsley

Parsley has four main types, but each type has several varieties.  They all prefer full sun but like indirect sunlight in zones with sweltering summers.  The soil should be rich, moist, and well-draining. Here are the four main types:

  • French Curly Leaf Parsley (Petroselinum crispum crispum). This is the most decorative parsley. Because of its appearance it’s often a garnish, but it’s also excellent for cooking.  The plant grows 12 – 18 inches tall and tends to be upright, so it can also serve as a decorative border.  Grows well in hardiness Zones 2 – 11.
  • Italian Parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum). The flat leaves on this variety make it look like cilantro.  If you live in Zones 7 and above, Italian parsley is more heat tolerant than curly parsley.  This parsley is also more flavorful and easier to chop than curly parsley.  The plant can grow 2 – 3 feet tall and has a loose, floppy appearance.  It prefers hardiness Zones 2 – 11.
  • Hamburg Parsley (Petroselinum crispum tuberosum). Also known as root parsley, this variety isn’t widespread in the US but is prevalent in northwest Europe.  This parsley looks like flat-leaf parsley, but the leaves have a strong taste.  The root, though, is a delicacy. The root grows up to 8 inches long and looks like a parsnip or white carrot.  This type prefers Zones 2 – 11.
  • Japanese Parsley (Cryptotaenia japonica).  A native of Japan and China this type doesn’t fit as a true parsley since it’s an evergreen perennial.  True parsley is a biennial and isn’t evergreen.  This type likes the shade and gardeners grow it as a vegetable. It that tastes like bitter celery and prefers hardiness Zones 4 – 7.

Would you like to learn about other herbs? Check out our post “The Complete Guides to Growing Culinary Herbs” for links to those articles.

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Growing Parsley from Seeds Outdoors

Sow seeds outside 3 – 4 weeks before the last spring frost.  In areas with mild winters (Zone 7 and above), you can plant the seeds in the fall or late winter.  That will give you harvests in early spring or early summer.

Before planting, soak the seeds in warm water for about 24 hours. Parsley is infamous for being slow to germinate, so the soaking helps.  Sow the seeds ¼ inch deep in rows 12 – 18 inches apart.

Parsley grows best in rich and well-draining soil, with a pH of 5.5 – 6.7.  Mix in some well-aged compost or other organic matter to improve soil fertility. The germination rate for parsley is about 3 weeks.

When the seedlings appear, thin them so they’re 9 inches apart.  Keep the soil moist and feed the plants with liquid plant food a few times during the growing season.

Parsley prefers full sun for 6 – 8 hours daily, but it will also tolerate partial shade.  During sweltering summers, keep the plants in partial shade.

Starting Seeds Indoors

To start seeds indoors, put them in peat pots or trays filled with potting mix.  A good time to start is  6 – 10 weeks before the last spring frost. The peat pots or trays should be at least 4 inches deep to allow room for the taproot when it grows.

Place them in a 55o – 70o F location.  If you don’t have an area at that temperature, you can put them on a heating pad.  The seeds will germinate in 12 – 28 days.

Before transplanting, move the parsley seedlings outside for a week. That will give them time to harden to the weather.

When transplanting to the garden, space the plants 9 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart.  Plant the parsley in indirect sunlight if you have sweltering summers.

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Growing Parsley in Pots

Any container for growing parsley should be at least 12 inches deep to allow room for the tap roots to grow.  As a guide, a pot 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep can hold three plants.

Fill the pots with a mixture of three parts of potting soil to one part of compost.  Also, mix in some coconut coir, perlite, or vermiculite to improve drainage.  A bit of bone meal will keep the roots healthy.

Plant six seeds in each pot ¼ inch deep to increase the chances of germination.  If more than three seedlings germinate, thin them out or move them to another pot.

The plant will grow with joy if you keep them near a sunny window.

Check out our article, “Growing Vegetables in Containers,” for more information.

How to Grow Parsley from Cuttings

The cuttings should be 4 – 6 inches long, taken from below the lowest leaf node.  Remove the leaves from the bottom third of the cuttings and place the cuttings in a glass with about 1 inch of water.

Change the water when it gets cloudy.  Roots will appear in about a week, and the cuttings are ready to plant when the roots are about 2 inches long.

Parsley on a wooden cutting board with a knife
Getting ready to chop parsley

Harvesting Parsley

You can pick parsley once the stems have at least three leaf segments.  Pinch the parsley leaves from the outer stems whenever needed, and they’ll regrow in 2 – 3 weeks.

The parsley plants are ready for harvest 70 – 90 days after planting.  In the warmer zones, parsley will go dormant in the winter and return in the spring for its second year.

During the second year, the plant will flower and form seeds.  Once the plant sends up a flower stalk, the leaves will be bitter.  You can pull up the plant at that time.

One advantage to pulling up the plant when it flowers is that it has a delicious taproot.

To reseed the parsley for next year, leave a few flowering plants in the ground.  The plants will take care of it from there.

You can also cut off the seed heads after they form, making sure you leave a few inches of stem on them.  Tie them together, hang them upside-down, and cover them with a paper bag.  Once the seed heads dry, shake the seeds into the bag.

Parsley will go dormant at the end of its first year.  Cut back the old plants and cover the base of the plant with a 2-inch thick mulch of straw or dried leaves.

This will protect them from the cold weather.  The mulch is optional if you live in a zone with warm winters.  Remove the mulch the following spring so the plants can sprout easier.

Storing Parsley Fresh or Frozen

Fresh parsley will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.  First, rinse the sprigs in cold water, then pat them dry.  Wrap the sprigs in damp paper towels and place them in a Ziploc bag. Next stop, the refrigerator.

You could also place sprigs of fresh parsley in a glass with about an inch of water and keep it in the refrigerator.  Change the water if it gets cloudy.

When storing parsley in the freezer, rinse the sprigs in cold water and spin dry them or pat them dry with towels.  The sprigs need to be completely dry to prevent freezer burn.

Place several sprigs at the bottom of a freezer bag, then roll the bag up tight like a cigar.  Push all the air out of the bag before sealing and freezing it.

Use the parsley by removing the “cigar” and cutting off the amount you need with kitchen shears. Use frozen parsley for cooking because making it look good as a garnish is impossible.

Another way to store parsley in the freezer is by using olive oil.  Rinse and dry the parsley as described above, then chop the parsley with a knife or use a food processor.  Chop it to the point where it’s almost a paste.

Place the chopped parsley in ice cube trays and top each cube with olive oil.  Once frozen, remove the parsley/oil cubes from the trays and place them in freezer bags.  Use the cubes as needed when cooking.  Frozen parsley will last up to a year.

How to Dry Parsley

You can dry parsley with all the methods used to dry herbs.  Before drying parsley, rinse it and dry any remaining water.  Remove any damaged parts or woody pieces of stems.

Air Drying Parsley

For air drying, hang tied bundles of parsley upside down in a dark, well-ventilated area.  Cover the bundles with paper bags to keep out the dust.  Poke a few small holes in the bags to allow air circulation.

After about two weeks, the leaves will be dry enough to crumble off the stems.  Store the crumbled leaves in air-tight containers and discard the stems.  If you live in an area with high humidity, you’ll need help for successful air-drying.

Drying Parsley in an Oven

Always set to oven at the lowest possible heat for herb drying.  Roughly chop the parsley into ¼ inch pieces and placed in a fine-mesh sieve.  Place the sieve in boiling water and blanch the parsley for 30 seconds.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the blanched parsley in a single layer.  The parsley will take 2 – 4 hours to dry, but check it several times in the oven to ensure it doesn’t burn.  You can crush the dried parsley with a mortar and pestle while removing the stalks.

Drying Parsley in a Dehydrator

A dehydrator is the easiest way to dry parsley.  Rinse, chop, and blanch the parsley as described in the paragraph for oven drying.  Place the parsley on a single layer on the dehydrator trays.  Follow the instructions for your dehydrator.

Drying Parsley in a Microwave

When drying in the microwave, rinse and dry the parsley and chop it into ¼ inch pieces.  Place the pieces in a single layer on paper towels.  Microwave the parsley for 1 minute and check the dryness.  Continue microwaving in 10-second intervals until the leaves are crumbly.

Storing Dried Parsley

Once the parsley has dried with any of these methods, you can crush it with a mortar and pestle.  Remove any stalks as they get free of leaves.

Store the dried parsley in air-tight containers in a cool, dry place.  Dried parsley starts losing its flavor after a few months, but it’s still safe to eat for 2 – 3 years.

Parsley Companion Plants

  • When allowed to flower, parsley will attract honeybees and the black swallowtail butterfly.  Black swallowtail caterpillars will eat the leaves but not damage the plant.  If you get these caterpillars, grow enough plants for yourself and to keep them fed.
  • The flowers also attract predatory wasps and tachinid flies.  These beneficial insects will attack cabbage worms, codling moths, armyworms, gypsy moths, cabbage loopers, and sawflies.  Getting rid of those pests protects various plants, including corn, beans, and cole crops.
  • Parsley and asparagus enhance each other’s growth, and parsley repels asparagus beetles.
  • Parsley also attracts hoverflies which will attack aphids.  This makes it a good companion for tomatoes and many others.  If the hoverflies aren’t around, parsley will also serve as a trap crop for aphids.
  • Onion family members (alliums) include onions, garlic, ramps, leeks, and shallots.  Any of these will stunt the growth of parsley if planted nearby. Chives are an exception.
  • If planted next to lettuce, parsley will cause the lettuce to bolt (go to seed) too early.
  • Carrots and parsley can cross-pollinate.  If you save seeds or let the parsley reseed, this can be a problem.  They both attract carrot root flies, so they aren’t helping each other in that case, either.

Get the full scoop on companion planting by using our Companion Planting Chart.

Pests and Diseases of Parsley

Parsley Pests

Aphids, carrot fly larvae, and celery fly larvae can infest parsley.  Remove them by spraying them with water.  Use caution when spraying parsley with neem oil or organic insecticidal soap.  Too much of either can burn the leaves.

Learn more about organic pest control in our article “Top 5 Natural Pest Control Methods You Can Use Now.”

Parsley Diseases

Since parsley is in the same family as celery and carrots, they can all get the same diseases.  Fungal diseases (crown and root rot) are typical problems.

Avoid fungal diseases by keeping the ground moist but not soggy wet. Overhead watering also encourages diseases.  Besides excessive water, lack of air circulation can add to the problem.

Blight, or Gray Mold

This disease, caused by the botrytis fungus, can affect many garden crops.  It starts with spots that are brown to black.  Then, they turn into whitish-gray fungal growth on all the leaves.  At that point, the plant is on borrowed time.

Leaf Spot

Leaf spot is a Septoria fungus that can affect an entire parsley crop.  Yellow spots will appear on the leaves, and the spots will turn brown with a golden halo.

The spots weaken the whole plant, and the leaves will fall off.  This fungus is either splashed onto the plants or carried by the seeds.

Pull up any plants with diseases and burn them or throw them in the trash.

Try growing a disease-resistant variety such as Paramount Parsley to avoid fungal diseases.  The best way to prevent fungus is to be careful with water.  Keep the parsley out of soggy wet soil and water at the plant roots in the morning, not over the leaves.

Final Thoughts

Growing parsley indoors or outdoors is easy.  And its common use makes it a no-brainer to have your garden planted with some parsley..

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Bob Styer

As a child, I hated gardening. That was mainly because Dad expected us to work in the garden every so often even though we thought play was more important. Over the years, though, I've developed a real appreciation for growing things. Whether you're growing plants for food or to enjoy their beauty, gardening can make your life better. Seize the moment!

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