How to grow parsley?

Growing parsley from seed can be a bit frustrating for beginners. But, once you know a few tricks, you’ll have much better success. In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know, and show you exactly how to grow parsley seeds step by step.

Parsley is a very popular herb that is low maintenance once it becomes established. It is a biannual, which means that it will flower (bolt) the second year.

It’s very hardy too, so most people will be able to have it for two years. It has even survived the winter in my garden here in MN zone 4b before!

This is a complete guide to growing parsley from seed. In it, I will cover everything from start to finish! This includes the best methods to use, and when to start.

Plus I’ll give you step-by-step planting instructions, the expected germination time, seedling identification, care and transplanting to your garden, how to fix common problems, answers to your FAQs, and more!

Here’s what you’ll find in this detailed guide for growing parsley seeds……

  • Types Of Parsley Seeds To Grow
  • What Do The Seeds Look Like?
  • Recommended Seed Starting Methods
  • When To Plant
  • Starting The Seeds
    • Soaking The Seeds
    • How To Plant: Step-By-Step
  • Germination Time
  • What Do The Seedlings Look Like?
  • Parsley Seedling Care Tips
    • Light
    • Water
    • Fertilizer
    • Air Circulation
    • Thinning
    • Potting Up
  • Transplanting Your Seedlings Into The Garden
    • When To Transplant
    • Hardening Off
    • Where To Plant
    • Spacing
    • Planting Depth
  • How Long From Seed To Harvest
  • Troubleshooting Common Problems
  • FAQs
    • Does parsley need light to germinate?
    • How deep do you plant them?
    • How many seeds per hole?
    • How long does parsley take to germinate?
    • How do you germinate parsley seeds faster?

Growing Parsley From Seed

Growing parsley from seed is pretty easy, but does take some patience (and I’ll probably say that more than once throughout this article!).

But the good news is that you can follow these instructions for any type that you want to grow. The planting steps are the same for all.

Types Of Parsley Seeds To Grow

I grow both flat leaf and curly leaf varieties in my garden every year. Flat leaf parsley is better for cooking. Some of my favorites are Italian dark green flat, single plain-leafed, and large leaf.

Curly leaf parsley is super decorative and fun to grow. Not only is it delicious, it looks beautiful as an ornamental plant in pots or the garden. It makes a wonderful garnish for your dishes too.

Parsley seed packets

What Do Parsley Seeds Look Like?

Parsley plant seeds are fairly small, and very lightweight. They look a lot like fennel seeds, if you’re familiar with that popular kitchen spice.

They are oval shaped, and slightly rounded into an arch. They are tan in color, and have lines running vertically along them.

Parsley seeds in my hand

Recommended Parsley Seed Starting Methods

Parsley seeds can either be planted directly into the garden, winter sown, or they can be started indoors. The method you choose will depend on where you live.

If you’re in a cold climate like me, starting parsley seeds indoors will give them more time to mature, which means you’ll get a better harvest. However, I have direct sown them with great success as well.

In warmer growing zones, you should direct sow the seeds right into your garden, or you can try winter sowing them.

When To Plant Parsley Seeds

Since it is cold hardy, and won’t be harmed by frost, you can start sowing parsley seeds directly into your garden 4-6 weeks before your average last frost date, or as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring.

If you plan to start them inside, you should be plant them 6-8 weeks before your average last frost date.

The exact planting date will vary depending on where you live. For example, I live in zone 4b, so I would start my parsley seeds indoors sometime in March.

Starting Parsley From Seed

Since they tend to be slow to sprout, there are a few things you can do to ensure good germination, and help to speed things up.

In this section, I’ll talk about how to prepare the seeds, and then show you exactly how to plant them, step by step.

Soaking Parsley Seeds

Before planting parsley seeds, soak them in water for 12-24 hours. Soaking the seeds will help to speed up germination.

It’s not required though, they will germinate just fine without being soaked first. But it’s a good option if you’re in a hurry.

How To Plant Parsley Seeds Step-By-Step

The planting steps are the same whether you’re sowing them indoors or out, you just won’t need any equipment if direct sowing. Otherwise, you’ll need to collect a few items…

Supplies Needed:

  • Seedling flat with a lid
  • Pre-moistened seed starting soil or peat pellets
  • Seeds
  • Water
  • Heat mat (optional)

Step 1: Fill the seed trays – If you’re starting parsley seeds indoors, fill your seedling trays with a good quality seed starting medium. You could use seed pellets if you prefer, and place those into the tray.

Step 2: Decide how many seeds to plant – Since they can be a bit finicky, it’s a good idea to plant 2-3 per hole, cell, or pellet (whether you’re starting them indoors or outside). If you’re planting the seeds directly into your garden, space the groupings 6-8″ apart.

Step 3: Plant the seeds – Since they’re so small, you should only plant them about 1/4″ deep. To make sowing them easier, I like to lay them on top of the soil, and then gently press them down to the correct depth.

Planting parsley seeds indoors

Step 4: Cover the seeds – Cover the seeds lightly with soil, and gently press it down. Don’t pack it down too tight, but just enough so that the soil comes in contact with the seeds.

Step 5: – Add water – Water your seeds with a gentle spray from the hose in your garden, or by pouring water into the trays indoors so you don’t displace the small seeds.

Step 6: – Cover the trays – If you’re growing parsley seeds indoors, then cover each tray with a plastic lid to keep the soil moist, and help it stay warm too.

Parsley Germination Time

One thing to keep in mind when you’re growing parsley from seed is that they can take a long time to germinate. Normally it’s anywhere from 14-28 days, so be patient.

It’s also normal for germination to be sporadic. So don’t give up if a few of your seeds sprout right away, and the others don’t.

If you’ve started the seeds indoors, using a seedling heat mat can help to speed up germination. Otherwise, be patient and give it plenty of time.

What Does Parsley Look Like When It Sprouts?

The first two leaves that emerge after germination are called the “seed leaves”. They are oval shaped and rounded on the ends.

All of the other leaves that grow after the seed leaves are called the “true leaves”, and those look like tiny baby parsley leaves. Those usually begin to form within a week after the seed leaves unfurl.

Baby parsley seedlings germinating

Parsley Seedling Care Tips

In addition to being slow to germinate, the seedings can also be very slow growers. So don’t panic if it seems to take forever for them to get bigger.

Following these parsley seedling care tips will give you the best success, and ensure yours will grow to be healthy and strong. You can also learn more about general seedling care here.

Light

As I already mentioned, parsley seedlings don’t grow very fast. But they will start reaching for the window if they don’t get enough light.

In order to prevent that from happening, it’s best to use a plant light when growing parsley from seed indoors. Hang the light 1-2 inches above the seedlings at all times, and keep it on for 14-16 hours per day.

If you’re a DIYer, then you can make your own lights using an inexpensive fluorescent light fixture and plant grow bulbs.

Whatever you decide to use, make sure to plug your lights into an outlet timer to make it easy to give your seedlings plenty of light.

Related Post: A Beginner’s Guide To Grow Lights For Seedlings

Water

Parsley seedlings like evenly moist soil. So never allow it to dry out completely, but be careful not to overwater them. They won’t tolerate sitting in soggy soil for very long.

To make it easy to water them without harming the delicate seedlings, water from the bottom rather than over the top. Simply pour water into the tray, and dump out any that hasn’t been absorbed after 20 minutes.

Fertilizer

Once parsley seedlings begin growing their first true leaves, it’s time fertilize them. Start with a weak half-dose of liquid fertilizer, then gradually build it up to full strength as your seedlings mature.

Indoors, the best types of liquid fertilizer for seedlings are an organic compost tea solution (you can make your own using compost tea bags), or a plant starter.

You can also use those outdoors, but I prefer to switch to fish emulsion or liquid kelp instead. Those can be a bit stinky, so that’s why I only use those outside.

Flat leaf parsley seedlings in the garden

Air Circulation

After your parsley seedlings have a few sets of true leaves, it’s a good idea to start giving them some air circulation. This will help to prevent mold growth, and also strengthens the seedlings.

First, remove the lids to allow them to get some fresh air. Then, after a few days, set an oscillating fan on low, and run it over them for a couple hours a day.

Gradually add more time, until you’re finally able to plug the fan into the same outlet timer as the lights. Just make sure to keep a closer eye on the moisture level. Once the air starts moving, the soil will dry out much faster.

Thinning Parsley Seedlings

If you planted more than one seed per hole, pellet, or cell, then you will need to thin parsley seedlings. Wait until they’re an inch tall, then thin out the weakest one(s) so there’s only one left per grouping.

Don’t pull them out while thinning though, or it could damage the delicate roots of the one you’re keeping. Instead, use a sharp pair of micro-tip snips or bonsai shears to cut them off at the soil level.

Potting Up

If your seedlings grow tall enough indoors to outgrow the cells/pellets, then you can pot them up to give them more room.

Parsley doesn’t love to be transplanted, so I recommend using plantable pots. Not only does that make transplanting into the garden easier, it is less disruptive for the seedlings.

If you like that idea, but prefer a more sustainable alternative to peat, try coco coir or cow pots. They both work great too!

You certainly could use small plastic nursery pots (which are reusable). But be careful not to disturb the roots when transplanting.

Transplanting Parsley Seedlings Into Your Garden

If you are direct sowing them outside, then you can skip this section. But, if you grow parsley from seed indoors, then you’ll definitely want to read through these transplanting tips.

When To Transplant

Since parsley is frost hardy, you can plant the seedlings into the garden as early as 2-4 weeks before your average last frost date. Or you could wait until after frost, if you prefer.

If you’re unsure, you can figure out the exact timing for when to transplant seedlings into your garden here.

Hardening Off

While it’s true they can withstand frost, parsley seedlings growing indoors will still need to be hardened before you can move them outside for good.

This is a critical step that you don’t want to skip, or your seedlings likely won’t survive the shock of being transplanted into your garden.

Starting a few weeks before you plan to transplant, set them outside for a few hours a day in a protected spot. Over the course of the next few weeks, leave them out a little longer every day, gradually introducing them to full sun.

Once they’re used to being outside all day, they’ll be ready to go into the garden. Learn exactly how to harden seedlings before transplanting here.

Where To Plant

Parsley grows great in anywhere from partial shade to full sun. If you live in a warm climate, put it in a spot where it’ll be protected from the hot afternoon sun.

They also do really well in pots and containers, so they would be perfect for growing on your deck or patio.

They do like rich, well draining soil. You can amend garden soil with compost or worm castings. Or use a high quality container potting mix in your pots.

I also like to add organic granular fertilizer into the soil before planting out my parsley starts, which gives them the added nutrients they need to grow nice and full.

Curly parsley seedlings in the garden

Spacing

Parsley doesn’t need much room to grow, however it will get much bushier if you give it plenty of space. So space your seeds or seedlings about 6-8 inches apart when you plant them into the garden.

Planting Depth

Take care to plant your parsley seedlings into the ground at the same depth they were growing in the pot. You don’t want to plant it too deep, but enough to cover the rootball completely.

How Long From Seed To Harvest?

Parsley days to harvest is usually much earlier than many of the other edibles in your garden, since we eat the leaves. In general, from seed to harvest is somewhere between 70-90 days – but that is the days to full maturity.

You can usually start harvesting sooner than that. Wait until there are at least ten mature leaves on the plant, and then you can harvest sparingly until it fills in more.

You will be able to harvest from your plants all season long, so only take what you need. Never remove all of the leaves from a plant, it needs them to produce energy so it can keep growing.

Mature parsley ready to harvest

Troubleshooting Common Problems

There’s nothing worse than putting all that time and energy into growing parsley from seed, only to have problems. Especially when you don’t know what’s wrong, or how to fix it!

So below I will list a few of the most common issues you may encounter, and how to fix them. You can read all about fixing common seedling problems here.

  • Parsley seeds not germinating – When seeds fail to germinate, it can be caused by a few things: old seeds that aren’t viable, soil is too wet or dry, it’s too hot or cold. Make sure the soil temperature is between 50-85F (using a soil thermometer), and it’s not soggy or dried out. Also remember that they are notoriously slow, so you may just need to give it more time.
  • Tall, leggy seedlings – If your parsley seedlings are growing tall and leggy indoors, or look like they’re reaching for the window, that means they aren’t getting enough light. So, if you start to see this happening, then add a grow light right away.
  • Seedlings are not growing – First, remember that parsley seedlings are naturally slow growers, so this is pretty normal. Just make sure the soil stays consistently moist, and start feeding them once they get a few true leaves to help them grow their best.
  • Parsley seedlings falling over – If your seedlings flop over and the base and die, this is called damping off, and it’s caused by using dirty equipment. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to save the ones that have already toppled over. All you can do is make sure you properly clean and disinfect the flats before using them again.

FAQs About Growing Parsley Seeds

In this section, I will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about growing parsley from seed. If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, then ask it in the comments section below.

Does parsley need light to germinate?

No, parsley seeds do not need light to germinate. Just make sure you don’t plant them too deep.

How deep do you plant parsley seeds?

The rule of thumb for seed planting depth is twice as deep as the seed is wide. So, since they are fairly small, plant parsley seeds about 1/4″ deep.

How many parsley seeds should I plant per hole/cell?

Because they can be a little stubborn, it’s a good idea to plant 2-3 parsley seeds per hole or cell, and then thin out the extras. But if you’re using brand new seeds, you can keep it to one per hole.

How long does parsley take to germinate?

Germinating parsley seeds can take anywhere from 14 – 28 days in ideal conditions. It’s also very common for germination to be sporadic.

How do you germinate parsley seeds faster?

Soaking the seeds before planting, and also placing the trays on a heat mat will both help make parsley seeds germinate quicker.

Growing parsley from seed can be a bit of a challenge, so remember to have patience, and give them plenty of time. Starting them indoors will give them more time to mature, but you may find it’s easier to direct sow them instead. Whichever sowing method you choose, following the parsley planting instructions above will give you the best results.

Looking for a quick-start guide or refresher to help get you going? Then you need a copy of my Starting Seeds Indoors eBook!

Otherwise, if you need more help, and would like to learn how to grow any type of garden seed you want, check out my online seed starting course. This comprehensive, self-paced online course is specifically designed to teach beginners how to grow seeds. Sign up and get started right now!

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Share your tips for growing parsley from seed in the comments below!

That clean, green, mineral-like flavour of flat-leaf parsley in winter, particularly in salads, is one of the ways I hold dear to getting through the darker months. It’s rich in iron, vitamin A and C, several B complexes, packed with flavonoids and has a long history of aiding digestion.

For such a health-giving herb, parsley has long been marred by strange superstitions and devilish ways. Apparently, one of the reasons it is notoriously slow to germinate (and it can take over a month) is because the seed has to visit the devil several times first, often forgetting to come back from the underworld. In reality, this is just the vagaries of being in the Apiaceae family: it is notorious for having seed with underdeveloped embryos, which results in patchy germination.

Parsley Italian Giant. Photograph: Gap Photos

Now the days are slowly lengthening, my parsley is thinking ahead – come late spring it will want to flower. Parsley flowers are beautiful: lime green and much loved by hoverflies and bees.

If you have parsley that you’ve over-wintered, now is the time to move it, to a spot where it can flower without taking up valuable growing space. If you get a good amount of seed, save some for tea: it’s good for indigestion and flatulence, but not advisable if you are pregnant.

You can sow the seed indoors now, or outdoors in mid-spring. Outdoors, I’d pre-warm the soil with a cloche. Parsley has a huge germination range, from 5C-32C. However, germination often fails if the night-time temperature drops too low. The ideal temperature is 27C during the day and 20C at night. If you sow indoors now, you can plant out in April.

Petroselinum crispum. Photograph: Compulsory Credit: GAP Photos//Lynn Keddie

Take care to keep the soil moist, but not sodden, until the seedlings peek out. Parsley likes to grow long and plentiful roots. If you want healthy plants from which you can pick all summer, you must give them space to roam. Thin the plants out to 30cm apart in either direction; if you are growing in a pot, put a single plant to a 10-litre pot. There’s an old trick where you water the drill (where the seeds are to be sown outside) with a kettleful of boiling water before sowing (not after, as that might kill the seeds). The heat doesn’t stick around, so it’s likely that the boiling water sterilises the soil to keep disease and perhaps other weed seeds away over the long germination period. A second sowing in July and you’ll have parsley all year round.

Flat-leaf parsley is superior tasting – try Giant Italian or Plain Leaved 2; but I have a fondness for the curly stuff, Champion Moss Curled or Lisette, particularly as a frill to the edge of beds and borders.

What Is Parsley Root: Tips On Growing Parsley Root

Parsley root (Petroselinum crispum), also known as Dutch parsley, Hamburg parsley and rooted parsley, shouldn’t be confused with the related leaf parsley. If you plant curly or Italian flat leaf parsley expecting a big edible root, you will be disappointed. If you plant parsley root, however, you’ll get a big parsnip-like root, as well as greens, that can be harvested and regrown throughout the summer. Keep reading to learn more about how to grow parsley root.

What is Parsley Root?

Though its root sets it apart, parsley root is indeed a variety of parsley. Parsley is a member of the carrot family, which goes a long way to explain its appearance. Although its root could be mistaken for a parsnip or a white carrot, its flavor is most similar to celery. Its texture is dry like a parsnip, however, and it can be cooked like one.

The leaves are broader and tougher than those of herb parsley varieties, and their flavor is stronger and a bit more bitter. They’re great for garnish, or as an herb when you want a bold taste.

How to Grow Parsley Root

Parsley root plants can be grown from seed. The roots need a long growing season to develop, so start them indoors 5-6 weeks before the last frost date if you live in an area with hard winters. Germination can take as long as 3 weeks, so soak the seeds for 12 hours in warm water first to help it along.

When your parsley root plants are 3 inches (7.5 cm) tall, harden them off outdoors, then transplant them when all risk of frost has passed. In hot areas without frost, plant your parsley root plants during the cool season in autumn, winter, or early spring.

Growing parsley root plants like rich loamy soil and frequent watering. They can also be grown in containers provided they are deep enough to accommodate the long roots.

Parsley root harvesting happens in phases. If you’re after the leaves, cut the outer stalks off at ground level to encourage new growth. Always leave the inner stalks in place.

At the end of the growing season, dig up the entire plant and separate the stalks from the root. Store the root in damp sand or peat and freeze or dry the leaves.

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