How to Grow Parsley: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide

Parsley – curly-leaved (Petroselinum crispum) and flat-leaved (Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum). Both curly-leaved and flat-leaved parsley are commonly used as garnish or for flavouring. Curly-leaved parsley makes an attractive, compact addition to borders and planters. Flat-leaved parsley forms a bigger, less attractive plant but is often preferred for its stronger flavour.

Cultivation: Parsley is a hardy biennial that is grown usually as an annual. In colder climates like ours, seeds are best started indoors about eight weeks before the last frost. Germination can be slow, taking as long as five weeks. To speed up the process, soak the seeds for 24 hours or more in warm water before planting.

Once danger of frost has passed, transplant parsley seedlings into the garden or into a container. Parsley also grows well indoors in a pot placed on a sunny windowsill. For container culture, it is important to use a pot at least 15 centimetres deep to accommodate the plant’s long tap root.

Parsley thrives in soil that is rich in organic matter and prefers full sun, though it can tolerate some shade.  It must not be allowed to dry out. Fertilize plants in garden beds a couple of times a season with a balanced fertilizer. Container-grown plants will benefit from feeding with fertilizer at one-half the label-recommended strength. Fertilize every three to four weeks if grown outdoors and every four to six weeks if grown indoors.

Harvest leaves by snipping them at the base, starting with the outside leaves, and continue until the plant sends up a flower stalk signalling that its life cycle is complete. Leaves can be frozen in ice cubes for winter use. Parsley can withstand light frost but will eventually collapse in winter. Plants can be left in place and may resprout in the spring.

Parsley is host to Black Swallowtail caterpillars, which may temporarily cause significant damage.

Disclaimer: Toronto Master Gardeners does not advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. Any information in the recommended resources should be regarded as being for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any medical or health treatment.

For more information:

Herb Society of America, Quick Fact sheet: Parsley https://www.herbsociety.org/hsa-learn/hsa-publications/hsa-quick-fact-sheets.html

RHS: Grow- Your-Own Herbs: Parsley  https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/herbs/parsley

University of Illinois Extension Growing Parsley https://web.extension.illinois.edu/herbs/parsley.cfm#:~:text=Parsley%20can%20be%20grown%20indoors,new%20transplants%20for%20the%20garden

University of Minnesota Extension: Herbs: Parsley  https://extension.umn.edu/vegetables/growing-parsley

West Coast Seeds https://www.westcoastseeds.com/blogs/how-to-grow/grow-parsley

Missouri Department of Conservation : https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/black-swallowtail-parsnip-swallowtail

Date revised: December 2021

Prepared by the Toronto Master Gardeners, these Gardening Guides provide introductory information on a variety of gardening topics.  Toronto Master Gardeners are part of a large, international volunteer community committed to providing the public with horticultural information, education and inspiration.  Our goal is to help Toronto residents use safe, effective, proven and sustainable horticultural practices to create gardens, landscapes and communities that are both vibrant and healthy.

Statement on Invasive Plants: When choosing plants, avoid invasive plants, which can spread quickly and dominate gardens.  Invasive plants are sold by nurseries, big box stores or even at community plant sales.  Invasives may already be present in your garden.  They can invade gardens by spreading from under a neighbour’s fence or may be transported by wildlife.  For beautiful, sustainable options to invasive plants, see the Ontario Invasive Plant Council’s “Grow Me Instead – Beautiful Non-Invasive Plants for your Garden” at https://www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca/resources/grow-me-instead/before purchasing or accepting “gifts” of plants.

Statement on Home Remedies: The Toronto Master Gardeners do not recommend home remedies, as these have not been proven effective through scientific investigation, and may even damage other living organisms in the soil or plants in your garden.  There are other garden friendly options you can use.

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