Growing Parsley


Parsley is a popular herb to grow across the world.

In this guide, we’ll cover what you need to know to grow your own parsley.

Planting parsley seeds

If you are starting your parsley from seed, the timing of your planting will be a bit different. Aim to plant the seeds with enough time for them to germinate, sprout and mature before you plant them outside.

It’ll typically take 2-4 weeks for parsley seeds to germinate. When this happens, you’ll start seeing parsley seedlings emerge from the ground.

To plant the parsley seeds, purchase some potting soil and fill a container or tray with the potting soil. It doesn’t have to be a deep container — even a shallow tray will be fine for parsley seeds. 

You can purchase plastic pots or packs to plant them, or use something you have lying around your home, such as an egg carton.

Once the container is full of potting soil, poke a hole in the soil with your finger no deeper than the first joint in your finger. Then, place the parsley seed in the hole and cover it up lightly with potting soil.

To initiate the seed’s growth, water the parsley seed lightly.

Try to keep the soil in direct sunlight as much as possible. You can cover it with some clear plastic to keep the humidity high as well. 

Make sure to keep on watering the soil lightly whenever it dries out. The soil doesn’t need to be more than damp, but it does need to be moist consistently for the parsley seed to germinate.

You’ll soon start seeing a baby parsley sprout emerging from the potting soil.

Transplanting parsley seedlings

After the parsley sprouts, you’ll want to let it grow a little bit to establish a root structure. If the seedling is planted with its own space to grow, you won’t need to transplant it until it grows its own root cube. 

However, if the parsley seed was planted with other parsley seeds in its own space, it should be planted earlier so that its roots aren’t in competition for limited space.

As long as the roots have room to grow, you’re fine to keep the parsley in its container. 

If you notice that the parsley seedling is drying up fast, this may be a sign that it’s time to plant it in a larger container. You can transplant parsley however many times you’d like before planting it in its final destination.

To transplant a parsley plant, pinch the bottom of the container as you gently pull the sprout up. If the seedling is very small, you can turn the pack upside down as you do this for each sprout so that the plant and its early root structure fall out into your hand. 

If the parsley is rootbound, meaning that the roots are tightly wound together forming the shape of whatever container it was in, then you’ll want to gently rip the roots apart once before transplanting the parsley into its next container.

After you have transplanted your parsley, water it in and make sure it gets some sunlight for continual growth.

Planting parsley outside

Whether you are growing your parsley from seed, or you purchased a young parsley plant from a local garden center or greenhouse, eventually you’ll want to plant it outside.

To plant your parsley, gently squeeze the bottom of the container and pull the plant out of its pack.

Then, use a trowel or your hand to remove soil from where you’d like to plant it. 

If the soil is hard and packed down, consider using a tiller to break it up, or just push a shovel in the soil a few times to break up the clumps.

Best soil type for parsley

You can check your parsley plant’s tag for specific information regarding soil needs.

In general, parsley will grow the best in soil that is well-drained and rich in organic matter.

You may need to mix in some potting soil or other soil additives to get your soil to the ideal consistency.

When to plant parsley outside

Choosing when to plant parsley outside is an important consideration. If you plant them too early, there’s the risk of a late frost killing them off.

As a general rule of thumb, typically if you wait until after Mother’s Day you’ll be fine to plant parsley outside. That being said, in Central PA we have had late frosts later than Mother’s Day, so make sure to check the forecast for your area in the spring to make sure that there isn’t a deep frost on the horizon.

In some cases, planting parsley outside before Mother’s Day is definitely doable. Some annuals are just hardier than others, so you’ll want to consider the hardiness of your parsley, too.

It depends on the plant’s size, maturity, hardiness (did the greenhouse you purchased the plant from “harden it off”?), and spring weather.

Where to plant parsley

Once you have your parsley, you’ll need some soil and a spot to plant it. If you’re going to be planting it directly outside from the pack you purchased it in, you have the option of planting the parsley in the landscape, in a hanging basket, or in a pot. Parsley will do great in any of these locations.

Sunlight requirements for parsley

If your parsley receives too little or too much sunlight exposure, it will likely still live, but may not grow as abundantly and could require more care.

Parsley plants love the sunlight, so make sure you plant them in a spot that will get 6-8 hours of sunlight.

There are general sunlight requirements for all parsley. For specific sunlight requirements for the variety of parsley that you purchased, make sure to check the plant tag.

Best temperature and humidity for parsley

Most areas have plenty of temperature swings, so an easy way to determine if your growing area will work for parsley is to check your USDA growing zone.

A parsley will grow well in most USDA growing zones, but the length of its season will vary depending on the region.

Watering parsley

One of the most important factors in keeping your parsley looking healthy is to diligently water the parsley plant throughout the summer. 

For parsley, you’ll know they need water when the top inch of soil is dried out. To check, you can stick your finger into the soil down to the first joint in your finger. If it’s moist, no need to water the parsley plant. If it’s dry, you’ll want to water it in.

Be careful that you don’t overwater the parsley. A parsley plant can be susceptible to diseases if it gets too much water. 

If you planted the parsley in a container, make sure that it has holes in the bottom for excess water to escape. Otherwise, the water can collect at the bottom of the container and cause root rot, or other diseases.

Fertilizing parsley

Another important factor for plant health is keeping your parsley fed with nutrition.

If the parsley is planted in the ground, you can lessen the amount of fertilizer it’ll need by building up the soil with compostable material in the year(s) leading up to your planting. Otherwise, you’ll want to fertilize the parsley throughout the summer. 

A good rule of thumb for fertilizing parsley is to give the plant a water-soluble fertilizer every third watering. This rule helps to account for the change in temperature and weather throughout the season. For example, in May you won’t be watering your parsley plant as much as in the heat of the summer in August. So feeding the plant every third watering helps to provide parsley what it needs throughout the season, no matter the weather conditions.

It’s also recommended to plant the parsley with a slow-release form of fertilizer to feed the plant slowly throughout the summer. You can add this in with your potting soil in a pot.

Growing parsley in a hanging basket

If you’re growing parsley in a hanging basket, you’ll want to make sure you don’t overfill the basket with plants. Plants will generally fill in the space you give them, so if the hanging basket isn’t packed full when you first plant it, that’s great.

The more parsley you plant in your hanging basket, the more you’ll need to water the hanging plants. In general, if you have more plants competing for water and soil, it’ll take more maintenance to keep the hanging basket looking beautiful.

If you’re watering your parsley in a hanging basket, you can check if it needs water by lifting the basket from beneath. If the basket is noticeably light, it could use some water. 

You’ll know you overwatered your parsley in a hanging basket if water comes dripping or streaming out the bottom of the basket where the holes are.

Growing parsley in a pot

As mentioned above, be careful you don’t plant too many parsley plants in a flower pot. If you are planting parsley with other herbs, make sure there is adequate space for all the plants.

The answer for how to care for parsley grown in a pot will vary according to the size of the pot. In general, make sure that it has plenty of room to grow and has adequate sunlight exposure where the pot is placed.

A parsley that is planted in a container, whether it’s a pot or a hanging basket, will need to be watered more than parsley grown in the landscape, since they won’t be able to pull natural water from the ground.

Growing parsley in the landscape

Parsley is often grown in gardens.

Since you’re planting them in a permanent spot, you’ll want to be extra careful when planting parsley in the ground outside. Make sure that there’s little chance of frost and that the parsley is in a spot that matches their sunlight needs.

If you do have a late frost, and your parsley are already in the ground, you can cover them overnight with a bucket or sheet to protect them in most cases.

Parsley going to seed.

If not given enough sunlight or not watered enough, parsley plants may go to seed. This is a signal that the plant is nearing the end of its lifespan.

Deadheading and pruning parsley

You can cut back your parsley to promote growth.

Cutting back or pruning your parsley can be healthy for the plant. You shouldn’t need to do this more than a few times throughout the summer. It can be good to do this if the plant is overgrowing its area or overpowering another plant in a container.

Common diseases for parsley

A parsley is more susceptible to common diseases, such as downy mildew or root rot when it isn’t cared for properly. That being said, even parsley that is given the correct care can fall victim to some diseases.

Some common diseases:

  • Fungus
  • Blight
  • Powdery Mildew

Consult with your local garden center if you notice that your parsley has a disease.

Overwintering parsley

You can definitely overwinter parsley.

This can be done by bringing your parsley plant inside by potting it up, or if it’s already in a pot, bringing that pot inside. Keep it at a sunny window and care for it as you would if it was outside.

Parsley that is left outside will die in colder regions, as it’s an annual and not a perennial.

Pest control for parsley

Typically, natural predators are enough to take care of bugs and pests that eat at your parsley. For example, ladybugs will eat aphids and can help control them.

However, in some cases, you will need to take extra measures to kill off plant pests. Again, consult with your local garden center for a specific solution to your pests.

Companion plants for parsley

There are many other plants that grow great with parsley. These are what we would call “companion plants.” This means that if they are planted together they will generally complement each other with their colors and growing styles.

Any other types of herbs are great companion plants for parsley.

When looking for companion plants for your parsley, look for plants that have similar growing needs. This is an easy way to find plants that grow well. For example, if two plants love the sun, require similar fertilizer needs and one is taller while the other is a spreader, they will probably be great companion plants in a pot or hanging basket.

Varieties of parsley

There are many varieties of parsley. In general, their growing needs will be consistent across these varieties, but it’s always best to check the plant’s tag to make sure there isn’t specific instructions for your variety of parsley.

Common varieties of parsley:

  • French “curly leaf” parsley
  • Italian “flat leaf” parsley

Propagating parsley

It’s possible to propagate parsley plants.

To do so, you can cut off a small piece of the plant and put it in water for a week or so. Soon, the parsley should start growing fine roots.

Eventually, you’ll be able to plant the parsley cutting into soil.