Is parsley a perennial?

Learn how to grow parsley in minutes. Parsley is a biennial herb usually grown as an annual. There are two types of parsley: curly leaf parsley has finely divided, ruffled leaves and grows from 8 to 12 inches tall; flat-leaf parsley has flat, bright, green leaves that resemble a celery stalk and grows 18 to 24 inches tall. Flat-leaf parsley is also called French of Italian parsley.

Parsley is a favorite of most Western cooks—used for its clean, fresh taste in sauces, salads, stuffings, and omelets. It’s commonly added at the end of cooking for its fresh peppery and tangy flavor. It has a light spicy aroma with hints of anise and lemon.

Parsley grows to its full size the first season and after winter’s cold temperatures, it blooms, sets seeds, and dies in its second season. If you are growing parsley for kitchen use and not seed, you may want to simply treat the plant as an annual and plant it anew each spring.

Get to Know Parsley

  • Botanical name: Petroselinum crispumneapolitanum (flat or plain-leafed parsley, also called Italian parsley); Peroselinum crispum (curly leafed parsley. Parsley is a member of the Apiaceae – carrot and parsley family.
  • Origin: Eastern Mediterranean
  • Type of plant: Biennial plant is usually grown as an annual.
  • Growing season: Spring through fall
  • Growing zones: Zones 5 to 9
  • Hardiness: Parsley can withstand frost but does not tolerate very hot weather; plants thrive in soil between 60°F and 65°
  • Plant form and size: Grows 12 to 20 inches tall in clumps of deep green foliage.
  • Flowers: White to yellowish-green flowers grow on flat clusters called umbels; flower stalks form in the second year growing to 24 inches high
  • Bloom time: Blooms early to midsummer in the second year.
  • Leaves: Rosette of dissected leaves that resemble carrot leaves. Curly parsley leaves are tufted and finely cut with serrated or toothed edges and wrinkled surfaces. Plain-leaf or Italian is similar but has a flat surface. Individual leaves consist of a leafstalk, side branches, and several separate leaflets.

How to Plant Parsley

  • Best location: Grow parsley in morning sun or partial shade in the afternoon. Parsley grows best where the air temperature is about 60° to 65°F. In hot summer regions, start parsley outdoors in the fall and let it grow on through the winter.
  • Soil preparation: Parsley grows best in compost-rich, moist soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.7. Add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil before or at planting time.
  • Seed starting indoors: Sow parsley indoors in late winter or early spring 4 to 6 weeks before transplanting to the garden. Soak seeds in warm water for 24 hours before planting. Seeds germinate in 5 to 6 weeks and plants mature in 70 to 90 days.
  • Transplanting to the garden: Transplant parsley outdoors in mid to late spring after the soil has warmed to 50°F.
  • Outdoor planting time: Sow parsley seed outdoors in spring after all danger of frost has passed and the soil is at least 50° Parsley is slow to germinate and emerge from the soil—usually 5 to 6 weeks after sowing. For best germination soak seed overnight in warm water before sowing or pour boiling water in the planting hole before sowing seed. In mild winter regions and hot summer regions, sow seed outdoors from early winter to late spring.
  • Planting depth: Sow parsley seed ¼ inch deep.
  • Planting and spacing. Space parsley 6 to 8 inches apart in all directions.
  • How much to plant: Grow 6 plants for cooking; grow 10 to 20 plants for preserving.
  • Companion planting: Grow parsley with asparagus, sweet corn, peppers, and tomatoes. Parsley is said to repel asparagus beetles and reduces the number of carrot rust flies. It’s best to grow parsley apart from like family plants including carrots, celery, and parsnips to avoid cross-pollination.

How to Grow Parsley

  • Watering: Keep the soil evenly moist; do not overwater parsley.
  • Feeding: Parsley is a heavy feeder. Feed parsley with liquid seaweed extracts two to three times during the growing season. Side-dress parsley with aged compost in midseason.
  • Mulching: Where the weather gets hot, mulch around plants to keep the roots cool; be sure not to cover the crown which can cause rot.
  • Care: To keep parsley productive, cut back the full length of outside stems (cut at the base). Remove flower stalks that form. (When flowers are allowed to remain, the leaves will become bitter.) Prune away dead leaves as needed to keep the plant tidy. Towards the end of the growing season, cut back plants to promote new growth.
  • Container growing: Parsley grows and yields well in a container. Choose a container at least 6 inches wide and deep. Grow parsley indoors in summer or winter in 6-inch pots.
  • Winter growing: Bring parsley indoors for winter harvest and to avoid freezing damage and continue cut-and-come-again harvest. Parsley leaves grown in the house will be tougher than those grown outdoors.

Troubleshooting Parsley

  • Pests: Cabbage loopers, carrot rust flies, carrot weevils, whitefly, nematodes, parsley worms, and spider mites can attack parsley. The brightly striped parsley worm caterpillar which becomes the swallowtail butterfly will feed on parsley. You may want to plant enough parsley to feed the parsley worm caterpillar to support a butterfly colony. Whiteflies can attack parsley in large numbers. Spray the undersides of the leaves thoroughly with insecticidal soap to control whiteflies. Give leaves an occasional rinse to keep spider mites from infecting plants.
  • Parsley usually is not attacked by disease if planted in well-drained soil. Crown rot can occur if the soil is too wet and not well-drained. Leaf spot can occur if watering is sparse or the weather is hot.

How to Harvest Parsley

  • When to harvest: Gather parsley stems and leaves as you need them. Parsley will mature 70 to 90 days after sowing. Harvest leaves before plants flower; once flower spikes form, the leaves will be bitter tasting. At the end of the season, let parsley flower, collect the seeds to replant next year.
  • How to harvest: Cut outer leaf stalks at the base for fresh foliage (let inner leaves continue to grow). Cut the whole plant at once and it will re-grow. Harvest parsley by cutting the leafy stems from the base of the plant—this will also serve to make the plant grow back bushier. Harvest the larger, outer leaves first. Dig roots in fall of the first year or spring of the second year using a garden fork.

Parsley in the Kitchen

  • Flavor and aroma: Flat parsley has a stronger more pungent taste than curly parsley; use it sparingly so that it does not overpower other flavors. Parsley will tone down strong flavors such as garlic. Parsley is a chief ingredient in bouquet garni.
  • Leaves: Use first year leaves with salads, sandwiches, eggs, vegetables, meats, soups, stews, roasts, sauces, and vinegar. Strip leaves from coarse stems before chopping. Add leaves to green salads, potato salad, cold pasta dishes or mince over deviled eggs. Add parsley to any savory dish, fish, and poultry. Add parsley to cottage cheese, soft cheese such as ricotta, and herb butter. Second-year leaves are unpalatable.
  • Cooking: Parsley added at the last minute to cooked foods will be crisper, tastier, and greener. Flat-leaf parsley is the best flavor choice for cooking. Parsley tastes good with omelets, stews, vegetables, soups, eggs, sauces, rice, and pasta, also with fish, shellfish, meat, and poultry.

Preserving and Storing Parsley

  • Refrigeration: Store fresh parsley in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or sprinkle with water and wrap in a paper towel, or cut the ends and place stems upright in cold water.
  • Drying: Dry leaves in the refrigerator; wash them first then let them air dry spread on a baking sheet covered with paper towels. Leaves will take 2 to 7 days to dry in the fridge. Hang dry parsley in bunches or in a mesh bag to hang dry; hang dry parsley in the shade. Dried parsley quickly loses flavor; freezing leaves may be a better alternative.
  • Freezing: Chop and freeze leaves in a zippered plastic freezer bag. Freezing will retain the flavor.
  • Storing: Dried parsley leaves should be kept in an airtight container away from light and moisture.

Propagating Parsley

  • Seed: Pour boiling water over seed before sowing or soak seed in warm water for 24 hours or refrigerate or freeze seed before sowing. Let a few plants go to seed at the end of the season; they will reseed for next year.

Parsley Varieties to Grow

  • Choose from these parsley varieties: ‘Giant Italian’ and ‘Giant of Naples’ are flat-leaf Italian parsley for cooking; ‘Moss Curled’ and ‘Extra Curled’ are curly-leaf parsley.

Also of interest:

How to Grow Basil

How to Grow Rosemary

How to Grow Sage

How to Grow Oregano

How to Grow Mint

How to Start a Herb Garden

Growing Herbs for Cooking

Parsley

Parsley – okay, it can be a bit ubiquitous, turning up as a garnish on all manner of dishes, from salads to steaks and everything in between. But don’t write it off; parsley is amazingly good for you and is an excellent cure for the dreaded ‘onion breath’. Plus, it’s dead easy to grow, needs very little water, and will fancy up your next dinner party!

Position, Position, Position!

Position depends on the variety of parsley you choose to grow – flat leaved ‘Italian’ parsley loves a hot spot in full sun, whereas the ‘Curly’ parsley will do best in a part sun position, where it receives about four hours of sun a day.

Talking Dirty

Parsley loves nothing more than a rich soil, chock full of compost. If growing in pots, which parsley adores, choose an organic potting mix. Both types of parsley do best with a neutral pH, so aim for about pH 7.

Feed Me!

Like many leafy, green vegies and herbs, parsley will respond really well to regular feeding. Use a liquid seaweed feed at planting time and then continue weekly until plants are about 20-25cm tall.

What About The Water?

Ever heard the term ‘wet feet’? Well, this applies to parsley! They like it damp and will run to seed rapidly if left to dry out. For a prolonged lifespan and healthier plants, water every second morning (but only if the soil is not damp!).

Pests and the Rest

Parsley suffers from very few issues but watch out for snails and slugs. If left to bolt to seed, you may find parsley throughout your Yummy Yard in years to come!

Are we there yet?

There is no specific time limit here, but, as a rule, wait until two rows of nice, strong stalks have formed and harvest, as required, from the outside. Parsley is a biennial, so, in the right spot, it should continue to grow and provide much parsley for a couple of years!

Hot tip

Parsley are said to make excellent companion plants for both tomatoes and asparagus and apparently improve the flavour of both significantly.

Good friends: Asparagus, corn and tomatoes.

Bad friends: Lettuce.

Quick Guide to Growing Parsley

  • Plant parsley in spring once the ground is workable. The edible green foliage is great to grow on its own, but is also a wonderful complement to flower beds and window boxes.
  • Space parsley plants 6 to 8 inches apart in an area with full sun and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.7. Offer partial shade if growing in warm climates.
  • Before planting, ensure your native soil is packed with nutrients by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.
  • These leafy herbs enjoy consistent moisture, so check soil regularly and water when the top inch becomes dry.
  • Promote prolific leaf production by regularly feeding with a water-soluble plant food.
  • Harvest parsley stems by cutting them at the base once they’re large enough to use. Never cut more than one-third of the plant at a single time.

Soil, Planting, and Care for Growing Parsley

Parsley is an annual in the North, growing from spring until freezing weather. In milder climates, it is frost-proof and lives through winter. The second spring after planting, the plant blooms, goes to seed, and then finally gives out. When you see it send up a flower stalk, it’s time to yank the plant because at this point the leaves will taste bitter.

Plant in the spring (or in fall in zones 7 and warmer). Normal winters in the South and Southwest provide wonderful growing conditions for parsley and many gardeners use it in pots and flower beds as a green foliage filler with pansies and violas for winter. For the summer, Italian flat-leafed parsley is a bit more heat tolerant than curly parsley.

Set plants in full sun or partial shade, and rich, moist soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.7. Improve the quality of the soil by mixing in some aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil with the top layer of existing soil before planting. Or, if you prefer to grow parsley in pots, fill them with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix. It also contains nutrient-filled aged compost, but is lighter and fluffier than in-ground soil—just right for pots.

Rich, nutrient-filled soil will form a strong foundation for growing, but you’ll get even better results if you replenish those nutrients throughout the growing season by feeding parsley with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition. Not only does it feed your plants, but it also feeds the valuable microbes in the soil that help those plants take up all the nutrition they need.

Keep the soil moist by watering thoroughly whenever the top inch is dry. To help keep roots cool and moist, mulch around the plant, but don’t cover the crown of the plant or the plant will risk getting rot. In September, promote new foliage by cutting back plants set out in the spring; this is especially true for plants grown in vegetable and herb beds strictly for their harvest.

To grow parsley year-round no matter where you live, you can also grow it indoors, either in pots in a sunny window or in a water-based (aka hydroponic) growing system. A unit like the Miracle-Gro® Twelve™ Indoor Growing System is a great choice—it’s simple to use (even if you’ve never grown in water before), provides the plant with a truly nurturing growing environment, and has a sleek, modern look.

Parsley Care In Winter: Growing Parsley In Cold Weather

Parsley is one of the most commonly cultivated herbs and is featured in many dishes as well as being used as a garnish. It is a hardy biennial that is most often grown as an annual throughout the spring and summer months. To keep a continuous supply of fresh parsley year round, you might ask, “Can you grow parsley in winter?” If so, does parsley need special care in the winter?

Growing Parsley in Winter

So, the answer to the question “can you grow parsley in winter?” is…sort of. To fully understand about growing parsley in winter, it’s helpful to know a bit more about the lifecycle of parsley.

Parsley is grown from notoriously slow germinating seed in the spring. To hasten germination, the seed should be soaked in water overnight before planting. Grow parsley in moist, nutrient rich, well-draining soil in either sun or dappled shade. Soil temperatures should be around 70 degrees F. (21 C.).

Parsley in Cold Weather

Parsley is a bit persnickety about temperature. As mentioned, although it is a biennial, it is usually grown as an annual. That is because if you try to overwinter it, the resulting plant generally bolts (produces a seed stalk) in its second season, which results in bitter, tough leaves. That’s why most people replant each season.

Parsley in cold weather conditions doesn’t bode well. That said, protecting the parsley plants can allow you to overwinter them.

Winter Care for Parsley

So how do you care for parsley in the winter? Cut the plants back in the early fall and apply about 2-3 inches of mulch around them. The mulch keeps the ground from freezing and thawing in the winter. This makes it less likely the roots will become damaged.

Another way to care for parsley in winter is to dig some plants up and bring them inside. This can be a bit tricky. Parsley plants have a long taproot which can be difficult to dig up in its entirety. Dig deep to get the entire taproot and then provide the plant with a deep pot to accommodate the root.

Plant the dug up plants in the deep pot, water well and then leave them outside for a few weeks in a shaded area to recover from the shock of transplanting. Then bring them in and place them in a sunny window.

They should last through the fall and given enough light may even produce new leaves. By late winter, however, leaf quality decreases since the plant’s life cycle is nearing an end and it is preparing to go to seed. At this time, you should deposit the aging parsley in the compost bin and start some new seeds inside for spring planting of parsley.

Need Help?

How to Grow Herbs

The following questions and answers will help you learn about herbs and their requirements for growing. Click the link below for our Herb encyclopedia which gives more specific information for each culinary herb.

1. How long is this plant going to live? What is the normal lifespan of this plant?

Most herbs are perennial except for some that are annual. Perennial means that they will either stay green all winter or go dormant over the winter season and come back again in the spring. Annual herbs will only live over one season and are expected to live from only 1-4 months, depending upon the plant before they will stop leaf production, make flowers, and go to seed. An exception to the rule is Parsley which is biennial and lives for about 1 year before going to seed. See the chart below for specific life spans.

2. How large is this plant going to be when fully mature? How big will it get?

Many herbs can get very large, some as big as 6 feet across! In order to know how and where to plant them it is a good idea to know the expected size of the plant 3 months after you plant or 3 years after. See the chart below for specific herb sizes.

3. How much water and sun does my herb plant need?

Most herbs need about 4 hours of sunlight per day and on average watering should be done when the soil feels dry to the touch. Some herbs can be kept more moist such as Basil, others need to have soil dry completely between watering such as Lavender. If you plant them together in a large container or planter, you can water when the soil feels dry and keep them in a half day of sun. Check the chart below for “dry” herbs and “moist” herbs and allow more sunshine for dry, and slightly less for moist.

4. How do I harvest this herb for cooking and what kind of pruning does it need?

Generally harvesting herbs is like giving them a hair cut. Cutting off the tips, down to a intersection of leaves, makes them branch out and regrow as a fuller plant. Cut them regularly so they do not grow leggy and never cut off more than a third of their growth at any one time. Perennial herbs should be pruned back every fall, about a third to keep them from getting too woody over the winter months and to encourage new growth in Spring.

For more growing and cooking information on herbs, view our: Growing Encyclopedia for Herbs

Annual Herbs Perennial Herbs
Basil & Cilantro (very short lived)
Dill
Arugula
Rosemary
Oregano
Marjoram
Thyme
Sage
Chives
Lavender
Lemon Verbena
Mints
Tarragon

Herb Plant Sizes

Small: under 1 foot in diameter
Parsley, Dill, Chives, Cilantro, Arugula

Medium: 1-2 feet in diameter
Thyme, Tarragon, Basils, Marjoram, Chocolate Mint and Peppermint

Large: 3 feet or more in diameter or over 4 feet high
Rosemary, Oregano, Lemon Verbena, Sages, Spearmint, Orange mint

Perpetual Parsley

Josh Byrne

JOSH BYRNE: I’ve got herbs dotted all the way through this part of the garden and it makes it really easy to duck out from the kitchen and pick them when I need them for cooking – now including things like this which is Flat Leaf or Italian Parsley and you can see that I’ve let it go through to flower and that’s for a couple of reasons. First, when these flowers are at their peak, they’re great for attracting beneficial insects like lacewings, hoverflies and even lady beetles whose juveniles are beneficial predatory insects that predate on sucking pests like aphids, mealy bugs, scale and these types of things.

Now clearly, this is past its prime. It’s spent and it’s time to come out, but the other reason I let them go to flower like this is so they set seed. Now Italian Parsley produces loads of seed and if I shake this, you’ll see, they’ll start to drop out, right? Now once you’ve got Italian Parsley in the garden – and I’m just going to shake this about – you’ll have it for ever, so once that seed’s been scattered around – and in fact, you can see just how readily it does self sow….look down here in my lawn. This is it right here. It’s popping up. Now, it’s not where I want it, but that’s not a problem. The mower will run right over it and rid of it, but I do want it in the garden beds, so I’ll give it a shake prior to chopping the rest out which will then just go into the compost.

Ok, so no need to replant. It will do it itself. Now right next door, there’s another type of parsley. This is Curly Leaf. Very similar, but it doesn’t self sow anywhere near as well. Now this one’s better to collect the seed and to save that and re-sow it into some soil into trays and you’ll get a better result that way, but what you can do is just chop this one back and it tends to re-sprout from sort of a fleshy root system and you can see there already coming up – right – there’s this lovely fresh growth, so rather than chopping it right back and pulling it out like the Flat Leaf parsley, the Curly Leaf parsley can be cut back and you’ll actually get another sort of six months of lovely, lush, soft foliage to pick. Have a look at that.

COSTA GEORGIADIS: Let’s head to Tassie now where Tino’s working on the engine room for The Patch – compost.

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