Grow celery in pots

Growing celery from the base of the stalks is a fun project that couldn’t be easier—plus, it’s great to do with kids. The celery sprouts surprisingly fast and, except for the cutting part, even very young children can do the whole project. If you are looking for activities to teach science and math skills, have the kids measure how fast the celery grows.

There are two ways to do the project: using just water or in a container with potting soil. If you are just sprouting in water, this project can be a good one for winter when it’s particularly fun to see something green and growing indoors. Also, it may be enough to grow the celery in a dish (it will get pretty bigbut for a more substantial project, you can plant the celery in a container with potting soil and grow it as you would a container garden.

While you may get more leaves than stalks with this method of growing and your celery may not be as big as a store-bought bunch, there are great ways to use celery leaves in cooking. Think of them as an herb: They can taste like mild celery, or be a tad bitter. You can use celery leaves in soups and stews, and some people use them as a substitute for cilantro.

What You Need

  • A bunch of celery
  • A large, sharp knife
  • A small dish or plastic container
  • Fresh water

If you want to grow your celery in a pot or container, you’ll also need:

  • A small garden pot or container with drainage holes in the bottom.
  • Potting soil
  • Slow-release fertilizer

Note: Consider using organic celery because, according to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of the foods with the most pesticide residue, celery ranks as No. 2, beaten out only by apples. However, if you don’t want to use organic, conventionally grown celery works just as well.

Look for a bunch of celery that is firm, with tightly packed stalks. The leaves should be green and look fresh.

Container Grown Celery: Can I Grow Celery In A Pot

Celery is a cool weather crop that takes 16 weeks of optimal weather conditions to mature. If you live in an area that tends to have hot summers or a short growing season as I do, you may never have attempted to grow celery even if you love the crunchy veggie. Since I love celery raw and for use in a variety of dishes, I thought, can I grow celery in a pot? Let’s find out!

Can I Grow Celery in a Pot?

Turns out that yes, container grown celery plants are not only possible but circumvent the vagaries of the weather. Celery grown in pots allows you to move the plant around to keep it in an ideal temperature range.

You can also start celery early in pots, well before the frost free date in your area and then transplant to a larger container to move outside.

Let’s look

at some tips for growing celery in containers as well as care for celery in a container.

Celery Grown in Pots

So how do you go about growing celery in containers?

Celery likes a soil pH of 6.0-6.5, alkaline. Limestone amended into acidic soil will cut the acidity.

Choose a container that is at least 8 inches deep and long enough to plant additional celery plants 10 inches apart. Don’t use unglazed clay pots, if possible, as they dry out quickly and celery likes to stay moist. Plastic containers are a great choice in this instance, as they maintain moist conditions.

Amend the soil with plenty of organic compost to aid in retaining moisture.

Plant seeds eight to 12 weeks before the last frost. Germination takes around two weeks. Sow seeds only 1/8 to ½ inch deep, covered lightly with soil. For an 8-inch pot, sow five seeds with 2 inches between seeds. I know they’re tiny; do the best you can.

When the seeds have sprouted, thin out the smallest by half. When the plants are 3 inches tall, thin out to one plant.

Care for Celery in a Container

  • Celery is a water hog, so be sure to keep the growing celery in a container moist at all times.
  • Use an organic fertilizer (fish emulsion or seaweed extract) every two weeks.
  • Other than that, once the seedlings have established, there is little to do but wait for those crunchy, zero calorie stalks to mature.

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Growing Celery in Containers

Utah celery growing in a sunny spot on my balcony.

Celery is a biennial: taking two years to complete it’s growth cycle. But that doesn’t matter to us. I guess the benefit is that is shouldn’t want to flower in its first year but under extreme conditions, it will try. I’ve been growing “Utah” celery. It’s suppose to be a compact plant and therefor better for container growing I guess. But I think I choose it because it was the cheapest celery seed I could find at the time.

Apparently celery takes a long time to reach maturity. I start mine indoors and transplant out when the weather warms past the possibility of a late spring frost. It’s not a large sprawling plant so it doesn’t take up much space. And it has a shallow root system so keep that in mind when selecting a container and watering. It’s a great candidate for drip irrigation but it will be equally happy in a self-watering container.

Celery requires lots of moisture to grow thick juicy stalks. Don’t let it dry out. It also helps to keep the stalks out of the sunlight so they maintain a mild taste. But it also requires a good amount of sunlight to grow. I’ve read that celery is a nutrient-hungry plant. As it has a shallow root system, all of its nutrients must come from the top layer of the soil which adds to the challenge because constant watering will wash nutrients into the bottom of the container where the plant’s roots will have a harder time reaching them.

I start my plants indoors. Germination time is around 2 or 3 weeks. Room temperature is fine. It takes a few weeks past germination for the plants to reach transplant size. Starting them in a window sill is not easy as the tiny plants will want to grow tall and spindly and always lean out towards the sunlight. But I haven’t had any real problems with starting celery. No more than I have with any other plant. When planting celery plants, be sure to leave the crown of the plant above the soil surface. The crown is that part of the base of the plant from which the stalks emerge.

The crown of a new celery plant. Don’t bury the crown of the plants when transplanting.

After a few weeks in their new container.

The best celery I was able to grow, I grew in a bucket on the floor of my balcony. I only filled the bucket to 2/3 with fertilizer rich potting soil. By growing it in a deep container I was able to keep the stalks shaded. The lack of sunlight exposer will give you a milder tasting celery. I placed the bucket on the floor of my balcony. It didn’t get as much sunlight down there and therefor, didn’t provide me with thick or tall celery. But I was able to keep the container shaded so I didn’t have to worry as much about the soil in the container drying out in the hot sun. I was also able to setup a gravity fed drip irrigation system to keep the celery container soil constantly moist.

Small stalks but ready to eat. They will get thicker over time.

Celery plants should reach maturity in 80 to 100 days. But with a plant that lets you steal stalks as it grows, I’m not sure if that really matters. I think the young stalks taste much better than the older tough stalks. If you harvest stalks early they will taste best but they won’t be very big. You can use tough or hollow stalks in a soup stock. And the leaves. Hollow stalks are usually a sign of under-watering.

Celery can be bound while growing. This blanches the inner stalks because it keeps them from receiving sunlight. That’s why the inner stalks taste different from the outer stalks. Although the darker outer stalks are darker and perhaps tougher in taste and texture, they contain more nutrients.

Late in the season some leaves will start to yellow. That’s a pretty good sign that the plants have exhausted their supply of nutrients from the soil. If you mow the plant down, removing all stalks while leaving the crown intact, it will continue to grow and put up new stalks. In fact you can take the bottom of a bunch of celery purchased at a store and plant it in the ground, and it will root and send up new stalks.

Growing your own celery in a container on a balcony, don’t expect really thick juicy stalks like the kind you get a the grocery store. To be honest, I’m not sure there is much point to growing it yourself in a container. It’s one of those things you grow for a challenge. I spend months tending to a few plants just to find they don’t taste all that great. And I’m not sure there is much variation between celery varieties either. With all the effort required to grow decent celery in a container on the balcony, you might be better off passing on this one. But it’s great it you’re looking for something different to try.

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Celery growing requires a good amount of sun – at least six hours a day. If it’s morning and afternoon sun with a shady break around noon, so much the better. A good way to increase light to the plants is to place your container near a white wall. Light-colored mulch such as white stones will also reflect more light onto the leaves.

Choose a container which is at least 8 inches deep and large enough to space the celery plants 10 inches apart. Don’t use an unglazed clay pot because it will dry out too quickly. Make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the container with half soilless planting mix, half compost and a small amount of hard organic fertilizer. Mix well and water with a weak solution of fish and seaweed emulsion, Let settle for an hour. If necessary, top off with more moistened soil mix to leave 2 inches of headroom for mulch.

Celery plants should be firmed in well and watered with the fish and seaweed. Apply mulch to a depth of 2 inches. Make sure night temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees or the plants will bolt (go to seed). Celery is a real water-lover and will yield tough stalks if it dries out. It may be necessary to water twice a day during heat spells. If you can’t keep a close eye on your celery, then consider installing drip irrigation controlled by a timer.

The easiest way to grow celery is to buy transplants. If you decide to raise it from seed start ten weeks before you want to plant it outside. Celery requires light for germination, so press the seeds gently into the surface of the wet planting medium. I cover the pot with plastic wrap until the seeds sprout to prevent drying out. When the plants have at least two sets of true leaves, harden them off over a period of a few days by putting them outside a little longer each day then plant them outside in your container.
Celery is a heavy feeder. Watering every two weeks with fish and seaweed emulsion should keep it growing strong. If the season is very rainy and watering is not an option, pull back the mulch and sprinkle on some high-nitrogen, dry organic fertilizer. The rain will wash it into the soil.

If you would like to blanch the celery stalks, slice a cardboard milk carton down the side and wrap it around the plant to shade it as it grows. But remember, green stalks have more nutrients. If they’re too stringy for fresh eating, I simply freeze the chopped celery in plastic bags and use it for homemade chicken soup – delish!

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