Everything You Need to Know About Growing Parsley at Home

updated Apr 30, 2024
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(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

When I was growing up, parsley was just the frilly stuff sitting atop my entrée — the leaves that I flicked aside so I could enjoy my meal. Today, parsley is the most-used herb in my home kitchen. (Imagine that!). Not just a pretty garnish, parsley adds a bright freshness and flavor to any dish. You can use it in salads, stews, sauces, and so much more. I’m here to tell you why you should be growing parsley in your home and how easy it is to do.

Parsley grows well both outdoors and indoors, making it the perfect addition to any kitchen if you’re looking to add a bit of greenery. Just find a sunny windowsill, and you’ll have parsley on hand to reach for whenever you need. Here are some tips for growing parsley at home that’ll give you a thriving plant in no time.

Why You Should Grow Parsley at Home

Parsley (Umbelliferae) is a versatile herb. It is incorporated into many different cooking styles and cuisines. Similar to what salt does to a dish, parsley ties a meal’s flavors together — from garlic chicken, to zucchini noodles, to chimichurri sauce on a grilled steak, parsley adds a bright, high note to almost anything you’re making.

Aside from its deliciousness, parsley is a powerhouse of nutrients. Did you know that parsley actually has more vitamin C in it than an orange? Try adding a few leaves and stalks to your morning juice blend for a little bite and some extra vitamins.

Which Kind of Parsley Should I Grow?

Parsley is closely related to dill, carrots, and celery, and the resemblance is pretty clear. There are two main kinds of parsley that you’ll encounter: flat-leaf (Neapolitanum) or curly leaf (P. Crispum). Many cooks choose to grow flat-leaf parsley for its more vibrant flavor and its ease of chopping. Curly parsley is equally delicious but a bit more mild; it still provides an eye-catching, edible display in a garden, though.

(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

When to Plant Parsley

While parsley is an easy plant to start from seed, germination can be a slower process than for other herbs; it can take up to six weeks for seedlings to appear. Sow seeds directly into garden soil three to four weeks before the last frost. For a speedier germination, soak parsley seeds overnight before sowing them. I like to start my parsley seeds indoors, 2 1/2 to 3 months before the last frost, in order to get ahead and have larger plants to start off the growing season.

How to Cultivate Parsley

  • Soil: Plant parsley in moist, loamy, well-turned soil. Incorporate rich compost early in the growing season, just as you’re planting your parsley.
  • Sun: Parsley does well in both full-sun and partial-sun environments. If you’re planting parsley indoors, be sure to grow it near a sunny window.
  • Water: Although parsley grows best in moist soil, it is relatively drought-tolerant, meaning it’s pretty adaptable.
  • Spacing: If you’re starting parsley from seed, space it out about 9 inches apart. If you’re transplanting seedlings or small plants, go ahead and space it 9 inches apart as well.
  • Fertilizer: To give your plants a boost, feed them some liquid fertilizer every few weeks. You can also give them extra nutrients with some enriched potting mix or compost.

Growing Parsley Indoors vs. Outdoors

As mentioned, parsley can be grown both indoors and outdoors. If you plant parsley indoors, keep it in a pot with good drainage near a warm, sunny window. For a single parsley plant, a 6-inch-wide pot will work. For multiple parsley plants, choose a pot that’s at least 12-inches-wide.

If you want to grow your parsley outdoors, like many other herbs, it does well in a container or on the border of a garden bed. Plant it near rose bushes if you have them in your garden to reap more fragrant blossoms and help keep pests away. Be sure the area gets lots of light — at least 6 hours of full sun per day. I like to plant parsley in containers, alongside my tomatoes, where they make excellent companions (more on that below). Rather than starting from seeds, you can also buy parsley as young plants.

Companion Plants

  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chives
  • Corn
  • Pears
  • Peppers
  • Roses
  • Tomatoes

How to Harvest Parsley

The harvesting cycle for parsley is a little different, as it is a biennial (more on that below). The first year, harvest parsley for its leaves, choosing stalks furthest out from the plant’s center. Leave the inner stalks and leaves so the plant can keep growing. Aim to cut the stalks from the base of the plant, that way they will grow back bushier.

The second year, the leaves will be sparse and may be less flavorsome. You can use them, but you may also let the parsley bloom. Bees love the blossoms. Collect the seeds to sow the following spring.

In the fall of that second year, harvest the parsley’s root. It is actually the most flavorful portion of the entire plant! A particular cultivar of parsley, Hamburg, is known for the most flavorful root. Shave raw parsley root over salads for a great crunch and intense flavor. Or, the next time you put portobellos on the grill and make a batch of chimichurri or pesto, incorporate the stems for great texture and exceptional flavor.

Troubleshooting Your Parsley Plant

Parsley doesn’t require constant attention, but don’t worry if some things don’t go as planned. If you happen to run into any issues, follow these tips.

  • Be sure to water your parsley plant regularly. If you live in a warmer climate with drier conditions, you may have to water your plant more frequently. Aim to water the plant when you feel the top inch of soil is dry. While parsley does prefer moist soil, it does not like being waterlogged. Make sure your pot has good drainage so the roots don’t get soaked and end up rotting.
  • Cut off any leaves that are turning yellow. Just like other plants, parsley is prone to pests so be especially mindful to protect them from things like carrot flies, whiteflies, slugs, snails, aphids, and cutworms if growing outdoors. Spraying the underside of the leaves with an insecticidal soap should help. Companion planting also helps to ward off some of these pests. The benefit of growing indoors is that you won’t have to worry about these bugs as its pretty easy to keep them pest-free.

Is Parsley a Perennial or an Annual?

Perennials are plants that grow back each year, and annuals are plants that die after one season. Parsley is actually a biennial. This less common classification means that the plant only comes back after two gardening seasons — just enough time to produce leaves, go to seed, and develop a substantial taproot.

As a biennial, the parsley plant offers delicious leaves its first year and goes to seed its second year. Parsley also delivers an often overlooked bonus that final year: its taproot is edible! In fact, parsley’s root is the most pungent and flavorful part of the plant.

The Kitchn’s Favorite Parsley Recipes

Once you have a hearty plant, here are some recipes to put that delicious parsley to use: