What causes plants to wilt

Fixing Wilted Parsley Plants: Reasons A Parsley Plant Is Wilting

Most herbs are easy to grow in well-drained soil and bright light, and parsley is no exception. This common herb has a rich history of use for flavoring, medicine, ritual purposes and it even freshens your breath after a meal. Wilted parsley plants may represent a water issue or even disease. Refreshing wilted parsley might be as simple as providing water, but be cautious. Too much moisture can have a similar effect and may promote rot, a condition the plant can’t overcome.

Why a Parsley Plant is Wilting

You’ve planted a variety of herbs in your cottage garden or a window box and now it’s time to let them flourish and begin using them in your favorite dishes. One day you look out the window and wonder, “Why is my parsley plant wilting?” Site conditions, lighting, moisture levels, disease, damping off and even failure to harden off seedlings can cause limp leaves and stems. Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and let’s walk through a few possible causes and solutions.

If young plants are wilting, it may be a symptom of damping off or you may have forgotten to harden off seedlings. Damping off is caused by a fungus that favors overly moist, warm conditions. Often grayish fuzz will appear at the base of the plant, which will eventually rot off the stems, separating them from the life-giving roots.

Wilted parsley plants may also come about due to improperly exposing new plants to the outdoors. Indoor grown seedlings require some time to adapt to outdoor lighting, wind and temperature circumstances. Gradually exposing them to the outside setting will give them a chance to adapt and prevent stress, sun and wind burn and other issues.

A few diseases are the cause when a parsley plant is wilting. Stem rot and leaf spot will cause yellowing foliage and eventually limp leaves. Destroy these plants.

Cultural Care of Parsley Plants

Parsley is fairly easy to grow provided the soil drains freely and the plants get adequate light. Plant parsley in moist, rich soil that has been loosened deeply. This will promote deep rooting and help plants uptake water and nutrients.

Spread mulch loosely around the plants to prevent weeds and conserve moisture. Parsley likes consistent moisture but cannot tolerate boggy soil. Keeping the soil evenly moist will make for happy plants, but too much or too little water can cause wilting.

Full sun locations in the summer may also see limp leaves and stems appearing during the middle of the day. This is because the plant is evaporating more moisture than it can uptake. Watering them is not always the correct response to refreshing wilted parsley. Try shading them during this time of day. Usually the plants perk up in the evening and morning.

How to Revive Wilted Parsley

Container grown plants need more water than those in the ground. Check the soil to a depth of 3 inches with your finger. If it is dry, water until the pot leeches the soil through the drainage holes.

You may also want to move the container to a lower light situation in the hottest part of the summer. If soil doesn’t drain freely, wait until the cool of evening and dig the plant up. Incorporate some sand or other gritty matter to increase percolation. Replant the parsley and water it in. It may seem wilted for a few days due to shock but should eventually recover.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Parsley is a very commonly grown herb, used mainly as a garnish and to make delicious parsley sauce. But it is also an excellent ingredient for flavouring savoury dishes, making flavoured butter and stuffings and is very rich in vitamin C.

The more usual curly-leaved parsley looks good when used as a garnish, but flat-leaved parsley (pictured above) has a better, stronger taste and is a better choice for cooking.

How to grow parsley


For the main summer crop, you can grow parsley in either a partially shaded position or full sun. An overwintering crop will need a protected site in full sun.

Parsley needs a fertile, moist, but well-drained soil.

Parsley varieties

Parsley is available as the common curly-leaved parsley, but don’t forget flat-leaved, French parsley.

Common parsley: Bravour, Champion Moss Curled, Envy

French parsley: Festival 68, Italian

There is also Hamburg parsley, which is grown as a root vegetable.

Sowing parsley

Parsley seeds are very slow to germinate, taking up to one month, especially in very wet, cold soils. So make sure the soil is warm and even pre-warmed by covering with cloches for very early sowings.

Sow seed thinly outdoors from March to July in well-prepared soil in drills 30cm (12in) apart and thin out the young plants to 10-15cm (4-6in) apart.

Seeds can also be sown indoors from August to March in cell or plug trays filled with seed sowing compost at a temperature of 18-21°C (65-70°F). Lightly cover the seed with more compost and keep moist. Grow on the seedlings in cooler conditions of around 10°C (50°F) and plant outside when the last frosts are over, after hardening off – gradually acclimatising them to outdoor conditions – for 10-14 days.

Planting parsley

You can also buy young parsley plants from garden centres, which can be planted outside anytime from spring to late summer.

Dig over the planting area, incorporating some organic matter – such as compost or leafmould – if the soil is heavy clay. Dig a good sized hole big enough to easily accommodate the rootball.

Place the rootball in the planting hole and adjust the planting depth so that the crown of leaves is at soil level.

Mix in more organic matter with the excavated soil and fill in the planting hole. Apply a general granular plant food over the soil around the plants and water in well.

Or grow plants indoors on a brightly lit windowsill to have fresh leaves readily to hand.

How to care for parsley

Keep the soil moist by watering regularly during prolonged dry periods; dry soils can cause the plants to ‘bolt’ (going to seed prematurely).

Parsley is a hungry plant, so use a general granular plant feed in the soil before sowing or planting out and feed with a liquid plant food throughout summer.

Should plants start to flower and go to seed, remove the flower heads immediately. This usually signifies the plant is getting past its best and you should grow some more to replace it.

Parsley is a hardy biennial and can carry on into autumn to provide small pickings over winter. Cover plants with a cloche to give protection from cold and so provide pickings for longer. Parsley is in the same family as carrots and is subject to carrot root fly attack, so cover early sowings with a cloche or horticultural fleece to protect plants against the female laying eggs in the soil.


Don’t start harvesting the plants until there are at least 8 to 10 leaves. Then pick regularly to encourage a continual supply of leaves. Cut single leaves or bunches of leaves, starting low down on the stems.

Although fresh leaves have the best flavour, any excess can be frozen or dried in a microwave.

Dig up Hamburg parsley roots when they’re large enough to use. They should be ready to harvest 3 to 4 months after sowing. The roots can be left in the ground in winter and dug up when needed. The leaves can also be used as any other type of parsley.

Flowering season(s)


Foliage season(s)

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter


Partial shade, Full sun

Soil type

Clay, Loamy

Soil pH


Soil moisture

Moist but well-drained

Ultimate height

Up to 20cm (8in)

Ultimate spread

Up to 15cm (6in)

Time to ultimate height

3-4 months

So you’re keen to jump on that urban gardening bandwagon, and the only thing standing in your way is your spectacularly morbid history with indoor herbs (let’s just say you’re more Grim Reaper than green thumb).

Well, great news! You can turn your herb graveyard into a thriving indoor garden with a bit of guidance. Even clueless cultivators can learn the error of their ways, and chances are you’re making one of these common mistakes.

You’re not giving your herbs enough sun

Image via Cote Maison

Let’s go back to eighth grade science class for a second — plants need sunlight. They trap light energy and use it to make food in a process called photosynthesis (it’s all coming back now, right?). So rule #1 — don’t set up your herb garden in a dark, dusty corner, because no matter how much you spritz, water and preen, they will be doomed.

Also, bear in mind different herbs need different amounts of sunlight, for example; basil and thyme love the sun and need a lot of it to thrive, while parsley and chives don’t need all that much light. Always check the labels and do your research before positioning.

You’re giving your herbs too much sun

Image: iStock

More sunlight doesn’t automatically equate to more photosynthesis, i.e. more food — they can only handle so many rays before they fry. Again, check your plant labels, and position accordingly — a spot that gets plenty of morning sun but some respite from the harsh afternoon rays suits most varieties.

You’re trying to grow from a seed

If you’re new to this whole plant-growing biz, be careful not to get too over your head by doing something silly like growing your herbs from scratch. Don’t get us wrong — it’s a great skill to learn, but for novice gardeners we recommend growing from seedlings or buying pre-cultivated starter plants in the beginning, so you can simply concentrate on more pressing things like, erm, trying to not kill them.

You’re watering your herbs like houseplants

While your bog-standard houseplant may only require a top up each week, herbs aren’t nearly as resilient and may need their thirst quenched on the daily.

We’ve all been guilty of this at some stage — forgetting about your leafy babies for a few days and then discovering them, wilted and brown, languishing in the summer heat. Just like us, herbs need to stay hydrated and this is never more crucial than in the warmer months. Do regular soil checks by sticking a finger in the pot or container and determining whether it’s moist enough.

Consider the different needs of different herb varieties, as some will obviously require more H2O than others.

You’re not pruning often enough

Image via Food 52

You can grow all the hipster beards and Rapunzel-worthy locks you want without putting your health in jeopardy, but your herbs need regular haircuts to thrive. Pruning makes your herbs grow faster and remain in a stage of growth, which keeps the herbs producing for a longer period of time. Use visual cues as a guide — if your herb is looking on the bushy side, trim it back.

You’re picking leaves from the wrong spot

Approach your herb harvesting in the same way you would selecting a can of tomatoes from a supermarket display pyramid and never, ever, take from the bottom. This classic mistake gets many a rookie gardener. Those bottom leaves might look older and bigger, thus more tempting to cull, but you need to think of them as the well-developed solar panels of the plant. Always pluck from the top, chopping just above a pair of leaves, as the new growth will happen in the spot where the leaf joins the stem.

You’re herb container doesn’t drain

Image: iStock

You made the world’s most adorable Pinterest-worthy upcycled tin can herb garden but forgot to put holes in the bottom. Whether you’re growing in pots or containers, drainage is critical to plant health, otherwise the roots can’t breathe and will turn to mush. It’s that simple. Ensure your vessel has holes in the bottom for drainage, and something underneath to catch the water in so it doesn’t leak.

You’re using horrible, nutrient-deficient soil

Plants leech the nutrients in soil, so fertiliser is a must. If your soil is looking tired, sandy and dry, it may need a fertiliser pick-me-up. Herbs have unique soil needs, so it’s worth finding out prior to planting.

Easiest herbs to grow at home

Now that you have a clearer idea of where you’ve been going wrong, it’s time to put your reformed herb killing hands to work. These herbs are container friendly, meaning they can still thrive in a small kitchen, and require roughly the same care. We recommend positioning these herbs somewhere with a good mix of sunshine and shade, such as a windowsill, and checking soil daily for moisture and nutrient levels.

1. Basil

Great for Italian cooking and leafy salads, this fragrant herb can withstand plenty of sunlight and grows abundantly.

2. Parsley

While this versatile herb is part of the sun-loving set, it can handle a bit of shade too. It only require a moderate-to-low amount of watering and fertilisation, and will probably grow more than your cooking can keep up with.

3. Mint

This fast-growing herb likes a combination of sun and shade, but grows better when not crammed in together with other mint plants.

4. Rosemary

Arguably the easier to grow of the herb family, this resilient plant doesn’t need as much water or sunlight (in fact, be careful not to over water), but will provide you with ample sprigs for cooking and flavouring.

5. Chives

This herb thrives in container gardens and, like the others, require plenty of sunshine and a well-drained vessel.



Parsley, Petroselinum crispum is an herbaceous biennial or perennial plant in the family Apiaceae grown for its leaves which are used as a herb. Parsley is an aromatic plant with an erect growth habit and possesses branched, hollow stems and dark green flat or curled leaves which are arranged alternately on the stems. The leaves form a rosette on younger plants. The plant produces small, yellow flowers on umbels. Parsley can reach 30–100 cm (12 –39 in) in height depending on the variety being grown and is commonly grown as an annual, harvested after one growing season. Parsley may also be referred to as garden parsley and likely originates from the Mediterranean.
Flat leaf parsley
Parsley flowers
Curly parsley
Parsley leaf
Parsley flowers
Parsley seedling ‹ ×


Parsley leaves are used fresh or dried as a culinary herb. Fresh leaves are also commonly used as a garnish. The taproot of some cultivars is edible and may be eaten as a vegetable. Essential oil can be extracted from the parsley flowers and is used as a flavoring.
Basic requirements Parsley plants will grow best when planted in bright sunlight or partial shade. Plants grow best at temperatures between 7 and 16°C (45–61°F) in a well-draining loam which is high in organic matter. It will grow optimally when the soil pH is between 4.9 and 8.2. Propagation Parsley if propagated from seed, either by direct seeding or sowing indoors to produce transplants. Seeds should be sown in the spring when the soil has warmed. Soaking the seeds overnight prior to planting will aid germination. Seeds should be planted no more than 6 mm (0.25 in) deep using 10 to 15 seeds per inch of row space. Seeds should be kept moist and not allowed to dry out. after emergence, seedlings should be thinned to a final spacing of 10–15 cm (4–6 in) apart, leaving 30–60 cm (12–24 in) between rows. Parsley should be left in the ground for a second year if the collection of seed is desired. General care and maintenance Parsley is generally very easy to care for. Keep plants productive by clipping the branches to promote new growth. Remove any flower stalks as they form during the first year of growth to prevent the plant going to seed, retaining the flavor of the leaves. Weeds should be removed from around parsley plants by carefully cultivating the soil. A layer of mulch applied around the plants can help suppress weeds. Fertilizer may be applied to the soil before planting seeds and during the growing season, plants can be side dressed with nitrogen to keep plants productive. Parsley can be overwintered successfully by protecting the plants with a frame or layer of straw. Leaves can be continually harvested over the winter months. Harvesting Parsley is usually ready for harvest about 75 days after sowing, when the plants have reached approximately 20 cm (~8 in) in height. In the home garden, parsley leaves can be harvested as required or whole plants can be harvested and dried for longer storage. If the whole plant is cut, plant growth is usually sufficient to allow for 3 cuttings per year.

Anderson, C. R. Parsley. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Available at: http://www.uaex.edu/publications/PDF/FSA-6091.pdf. . Free to access. Brobst, J. E. (2012). Essential facts for parsley Petroselinum crispum . The Herb Society of America. Available at: http://www.herbsociety.org/herbs/documents/Parsleyfactsheet_000.pdf. . Free to access. CABI Crop Protection Compendium. (2008). Petroselinum crispum (parsley) datasheet. Available at: http://www.cabi.org/cpc/datasheet/38808. . Paid subscription required.

How to Store Parsley

How to store parsley and tender herbs so they stay fresh for weeks! This simple trick will save your fresh herbs from imminent brown mushy doom.

I generally have a black thumb when it comes to gardening, but I have this parsley plant at the moment which refuses to die. I noticed last fall, around the time when I permanently forgot to water the herb garden on my balcony, that while the basil, mint, and chives all shriveled into sad, delicate nothings the parsley seemed un-phased. So I spent the winter testing the impenetrable parsley, going months without giving it proper watering or love. But still, it prevails.

And so in honor of the little parsley that could, the next two weeks will be all about cooking with this zingy herb. But in case your parsley isn’t as unbreakable as mine, or if you bought a big bunch of it at the store and need to keep it fresh, today I’m sharing my favorite, ultra-effective way of storing parsley.

This method of how to store parsley keeps your greens fresh for so much longer than the usual method (the usual method being to throw them in a Ziploc bag and watch as they quickly turn from green to brown mush). And it works with most tender herbs, like cilantro and mint!

Recipes using fresh parsley

I love using parsley as a fresh garnish on just about any savory dish. Here are a few of my favorite parlsey-containing recipes!

  • Bulgur Pomegranate Salad
  • Chimichurri Orzo Salad
  • Fresh Tomato Marinara
  • Veggie Lettuce Wraps
  • Rainbow Spring Rolls

How to store parsley and tender herbs so they stay fresh for weeks! This simple trick will save your fresh herbs from imminent brown mushy doom. Pin Keyword: how to store herbs, store herbs, store parsley Time: 15 minutes or less Prep: 5 mins Author: Sarah Bond 3.75 from 8 votes


  • 1 bunch parsley or any tender herbs*


  • Trim: Trim a little off the bottoms of the stems so they can take in more water.
  • Water: Fill a jar or glass partially with water and set the parsley in so that an inch or two of the stems are submerged.
  • Cover: Cover the jar of herbs loosely with a plastic bag.
  • Store: Store in the fridge. Change the water when becomes cloudy (every few days). Herbs should stay fresh for 1 to 2 weeks.


*If using this method on basil, keep at room temperature instead of refrigerating.

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Please explain how to keep coriander and parsley fresh. I buy them in pristine condition and they start to wilt in a day or two in the fridge. I’ve tried putting them in a glass of water, but that creates a sludge at the base of the stalks. Not attractive.
Adil, London

The road to lovely leaves starts with what you’re buying, Adil; it all hinges on how long ago that coriander or parsley was cut before it took up residence in your kitchen. If you’re buying them from a supermarket, you just aren’t going to know.

“If you’re struggling with parsley, then you’re not getting it very fresh,” says Jane Scotter, who farms at Fern Verrow, a patch of 16 acres in Herefordshire – it supplies a number of restaurants, including Skye Gyngell’s London venue, Spring, and counts Nigel Slater as a fan. Parsley, Scotter says, is a herb that likes to be kept in water and out of sunlight: “The absolute ideal would be to put the stems into a bowl of water, put a plastic bag over the herbs and bowl, then put it in the fridge.” As soon as the water starts to turn murky, refresh it as you would a vase of flowers.

Jekka McVicar, the largest grower of culinary herbs in the UK, and author of A Pocketful of Herbs: An A-Z, wraps hers in damp kitchen towel and puts them in the salad drawer of the fridge. Nikki Duffy adds, in the River Cottage Handbook to Herbs, that wrapping herbs loosely in this way will “absorb any vestiges of moisture”, giving you a few days for soft herbs, and a week or so for woody ones (bay, thyme or rosemary, for example). If your weekend forecast includes copious herbs, food writer Gill Meller suggests that if you have space, to remove one of your drawers from the fridge, fill it partly with water, put the stalks of the herbs in, close and leave undisturbed: “The time between buying them and getting them home and in the fridge is crucial.”

When it comes to parsley, McVicar also finds an ally in her freezer: “If you have a glut, put them in a plastic bag and straight in the freezer. When you want your parsley, take it out, crush the bag immediately and you have chopped parsley.” Meller hangs bunches up for drying, blanches, purees and freezes in ice-cube trays, or turns a big bunch of parsley into soup: “It’s one of the most fantastic soups you could hope to eat with poached haddock or a poached egg.”

Coriander prefers a dry plastic bag in the fridge – or you could use a container. Fridges draw the moisture out of plants, but the plastic bag will “act like a barrier against the life-sucking air that’s in the fridge”, explains Scotter.

However, a better option is to invest in a live plant: “It is more sustainable than the cut herbs you will bin,” says McVicar. As soon as you get your pot home, stand it on a saucer of water and top up the saucer every morning. “They’ve been without their routine feed for however long they’ve been in the shop, so that first source of water is very important,” McVicar says. “You want to cut above the new shoots coming in, then, on the third day of watering, add some liquid seaweed – it’s like a tonic and gives the plant all of its minerals.” If you can put it outside and out of the midday sun, so much the better.

You could even go one step further and grow your own. As luck would have it, the best time to sow coriander seeds is at the end of August, so there’s no better time to hone those green fingers.

• Do you have a culinary dilemma? Email [email protected]

This is not a sexy post. At least, not so if you define sexy in fattened goose livers and truffles from Alba. This is as many of our posts, practical. If you want foie gras, Iranian caviar, Alba truffles and more of the same, you may book the Degustation menu in Chef Lij’s restaurant. Otherwise, here, we make simple food easy and tasty for homely everyday cooking.

In fancy fine dining restaurants like the one Chef Lij works in, herbs and micro-greens are ordered and delivered daily. This means there is nary a wilted parsley or micro green in your garnish. He orders through a complex system of purveyors who specially supply restaurants and where necessary, will fly in food cargo to special terminals for express delivery, all the while being stored at optimal temperatures and humidity during transporation. But, again, this is not a fancy restaurant, it is our humble home kitchen and our purveyors are the supermarkets and markets of the Middle East. We do not have access to daily harvested herbs nor the space for a herb garden and if you shop on the wrong day of the week, you will get herbs that look ready for the compost heap instead of your dinner plate.

How to keep fresh herbs longer

Since market day is only once per week, fresh herbs have a 7-day cycle. They only get worse as the week wears on. At least, until you start applying the tricks we gleaned from our Dubai-based chef and food stylist friend, Fiona Archibold. Fiona is one of the premier food stylists in the country and has a solid background as a private chef (Ferrari among her former clients). When a real food lover tells us something about extending the life of food, we listen.

Usually, I would put herbs in a ziploc bag in the fridge with a dry paper towel. That was better than leaving it out on the counter but so it leaving them in a bucket of water- but that only lasts a day or so before the stems begin to get water-logged and start to rot. I love fresh herbs so, I end up having a lot of waste as I try to get batches from different sources that look a little better from the last. I would dump batches of parsley, coriander, parsley and dill weekly because they just couldn’t stay fresh and looked pathetic after a few days. Alas, no more!

Here is our confession. The naked truth. The coriander/cilantro pictured is over 2 weeks old. No, we are not joking. Yes, we are telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The secret is lining an airtight container with a few sheets of damp paper towel, then adding the herbs and spraying with a mist with either a brumisateur or a small spray bottle that sprays a light mist (use spring water). Cover the herbs (you may put several kinds together) and keep refrigerated. Take out what you need and put them back in the fridge. We have been keeping these for an experiment to see how long they will look and taste fresh. So, far, it’s two weeks and counting! If this doesn’t excite you, then you will have to tell us just what will!

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