How to grow parsley

Common parsley (Petroselinium crispum) is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae). Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a member of the carrot family that is native to Europe.

The two most popular types of parsley are:

- curly leaf parsley (Petroselinium crispum)
- flat leaf or Italian parsley (Petroselinium neapolitanum)


Parsley is thought to have originated in Sardinia, but the plant has been altered significantly by cultivation. In mythology, parsley was believed to have sprung from a Greek hero, Archemorous, the forerunner of death. Greeks crowned winners at the Isthmian games with parsley, and warriors fed the leaves to their horses.

The ancient Greeks and Romans knew parsley well as a medicinal plant and as a seasoning. Native to the Mediterranean area, parsley has a biennial life cycle, but is usually grown as an annual in the U.S. because the plants often die during cold winters.

Where to plant

As with most herbs, parsley does best in a sunny area which receives direct light for 6-8 hours a day, although it can tolerate some light shade. Parsley grows best in full sun.

The plants can be interspersed around the edges of the garden and along pathways.


Germination is notoriously slow. The rate of germination is dependent upon seed freshness, ranging from 2-5 weeks. To help hasten the process, soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours prior to planting.

Seeds can be started indoors in the late winter approximately 6-8 weeks ahead of the last frost date. Seeds can also be sown directly in the ground where they are to be grown, after danger of spring frosts has passed.

How to plant

Cover seeds with 1/8 inch of soil, and keep them moist. Since germination is so slow, it’s a good idea to mark the rows. Emerging seedlings will appear almost grass-like, with two narrow seed leaves opposite each other. Thin or transplant seedlings when they are 2-3 inches high.

Parsley planted in the fall is far more productive than when planted in the spring.

When planting seeds into the garden, cover them with a quarter-inch to a half-inch of soil. Water lightly every day, and the seeds should be up in 10 to 14 days. After three or four weeks, when the sprouts are a few inches tall and have several leaves, thin seedlings growing in the garden to allow about 10 inches between the plants. If desired, extras can be transplanted to other spots.


Do not allow the plants to dry out completely between waterings in the garden. Water deeply at least once a week.


Fertilize plants in garden beds once or twice during the growing season, using a 5-10-5 commercial fertilizer. Use a liquid fertilizer at one half the label recommended strength every 3-4 weeks for container grown plants outside and every 4-6 weeks for parsley grown indoors.

Fill the container with moistened potting mix and add some slow-release fertilizer – or plan to water the plants twice a month with a soluble fertilizer.


Begin harvesting parsley when it produces leaf stems with 3 segments. Begin harvesting parsley when it has grown to about 8 inches in diameter and has numerous leaves. Harvest the larger, lower leaves at the outside of the plant – leaving the newer interior shoots to mature. Generally, remove no more than one-third to one-half of the foliage at any one time.

Indoor growing

Parsley is an easy herb to grow indoors as long as it has a bright location and holes in the bottom of the pot to insure good drainage. The plants may be a bit spindly when grown indoors; this is due to lower light levels.


- The most common variety is curly parsley, Petroselinium crispum. They quite versatile, typically growing 8-14 inches tall, forming dense clumps which are great for borders, interplanting in the garden beds, and indoor or outdoor containers.

- Italian flat-leaf parsley, P. neapolitanum is another popular variety. This plant can grow quite tall (2-3 ft) and is more gangly in habit. The flat serrated leaves have a much stronger and sweeter flavor than the other varieties, making it more desirable for cooking.

- Hamburg parsley, P. tuberosum, is mainly grown for its white, fleshy, parsnip-like roots, used in flavoring soups. Tall, fern-like leaves make up the foliage.


Growing Parsley - University of Minnesota
Growing Parsley in Louisiana - LSU AgCenter
Parsley — Herbs — Penn State Extension
Parsley, sage, cilantro, basil, thyme, chives, and mint are some of the best container herbs - Whole Foods Market
Splitting Daisy, Parsley and Chamomile Transplants: MFG 2014 - YouTube
Parsley: Garnish or Superfood? | Planet Natural

Related reading:

Article: A Cases of Near-fatal Anaphylaxis: Parsley “Over-use” as an Herbal Remedy Free Full Text

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