How to grow parsley from seeds

My parents would always grow parsley (Petroselinum crispum) in the garden. I grew up with Parsley being the one herb my parents always had at hand.

Parsley and tomatoes were more or less year round staples. Tomatoes as the main ingredient in salads and parsley as a mildly bitter and fresh-tasting garnish on pasta and fish dishes.

So it was an easy decision when parsley became one of my first herbs that I started growing myself.

But little did I know about the patience needed to grow this versatile herb.

If I could only tell you two things about growing parsley from seeds it would be:

  1. Be patient – parsley can take as long as 4-6 weeks to germinate.
  2. Parsley seeds suffer from a low germination rate. Soak seeds for 24 hours in room temperature water before planting them to boost their chances of germination.

I prefer to grow parsley in pots or containers. It is however also possible to grow parsley directly in your vegetable or herb garden.

Here we will look at both ways to grow parsley from seeds.

Planting parsley seeds outdoors where they will grow

Parsley seeds need to be planted very close to the surface with just a thin layer of covering soil.

Plant seeds outdoors from April – June or earlier.

You can sow parsley outdoors pretty much year round. But when you plant the seeds late in the year the cold ground will further delay the germination. 

When planting in the fall you will see fresh, new plants early spring the following year.

Always soak your parsley seeds for 24 hours in room temperature water before planting.

Planting parsley seeds outdoors

That wonderful moment when the first leaves (cotyledons) finally show
First leaves or cotyledons – that first sign of life!
  1. Draw a line in the soil approximately 0.5 centimeters (0,2 inches)deep and water generously
  2. Wait for the water to be absorbed. Now plant the soaked seeds in groups of  4-5 seeds with a distance of 15 centimeters (6 inches) between each group of seeds.
  3. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Now water (spay) again, this time more carefully so you do not displace the seeds.

And that is really all you need to do. 

Now you need to wait and be patient.

The parsley seeds are slow to germinate and you may have to wait 4-6 weeks before seeing signs of life.

Planting parsley seeds in pots indoors

I actually prefer to grow all my parsley in pots and containers. Both for growing parsley indoors and outdoors.

Parsley can be grown from seed indoors year round but you will need to use a plant or grow light during the darkest times of the year.

One of the reasons I grow parsley in pots is that I bring the pots with parsley indoors in the fall. I can often keep the plants going and harvest for quite a while.

Parsley plants will not grow as strong indoors as they do outdoors in your vegetable garden. 

You should however be able to get 2-3 good harvests from a plant before it loses its force and vigour. 

Planting parsley indoors is easy. And as always we soak the parsley seeds for 24 hours in room temperature water before planting.

1. Choose your pot and potting soil

I use plastic or ceramic pots or containers as they help me maintain and control the moisture.

To help the parsley plants develop I use a pot that is at least 15 centimeters (6 inches) deep.

I choose a half and half mix of compost rich potting soil and a leaner cactus potting soil.

I place the richer soil in the bottom half of the pot and the leaner potting soil on top. 

This mix will allow the seeds to germinate in the leaner soil. And as the roots develop the seedlings will have access to a richer soil in the bottom part of the pot.

It may seem counterintuitive but planting your seeds in an over fertilized soil will risk burning the new roots as they are forming.

2. Water and plant the seeds

Next I water the soil generously and then wait for the soil mixture to absorb the water.

I then scatter the soaked parsley seeds generously on the surface of the pot.

I press the seeds gently with my fingers to create contact between the seeds and the soil. 

Next I cover the seeds with a thin layer of the leaner cactus potting soil.

3. Light, water and patience

Now we need to wait for the seeds to germinate. It may take 4-6 weeks or even more for the first leaves or cotyledons to appear.

All we have to do is to provide water and to provide a sunny or light place for the seedling and plant to grow and develop.

And there you have it. 

Depending on the time of year the seedlings can be nurtured into full plants in pots indoors/outdoors or transplanted into your vegetable or herb garden.

Transplanting seedlings grown from seeds indoors

When we transplant seedlings we prepare the ground much the same way as when we sow seeds. 

We use well drained soil and water the soil thoroughly before transplanting. 

We plant the seedling about 15 centimeters (6 inches) apart. If we plant in rows we leave approximately 40 centimeters (16 inches)between rows.

Since I plant seeds in groups of 4-5 seeds I often have more than one seedling per pot. 

I do however never separate out individual seedlings. I simply transplant the whole pot with seedlings and soil and let the seedling fight it out in the garden.

Much like growing coriander, basil or corn salad we thin out the plants as they grow. It is a real treat to harvest young and delicate leaves as they develop on the plants.

Where to plant parsley outdoors

Parsley prefers a sunny position but will tolerate part shade.

Companion planting parsley with chives in a pot
Parsley and chives go well together

The parsley plant is quite sturdy when established and mainly wants water to develop.

Make sure you water regularly to avoid dry outs. And do water generously when you water.

And did you know, parsley is a great companion plant for chives, carrots, chili, sweet peppers, peas and tomatoes.

Harvesting and preserving parsley

Parsley can be harvested year round. But do not cut the parsley plant with herb scissors. 

Instead harvest your parsley plant one stalk at a time much like you would pick flowers. When you harvest by the stalk the plant will regrow to full size after two to three weeks

Parsley is an excellent herb to freeze. Freezing will retain colors, taste and smells.

I do not recommend drying parsley. Dried parsley loses its flavour and vibrant color. 

Frequently asked questions

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants and garden vegetables. For the past two years he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.