How to grow chervil – indoors and outdoors

Chervil (anthriscus cerefolium) is also referred to as French parsley or garden chervil.  

Chervil is a wonderful flat leaf herb with a mild but characteristic taste and smell. 

The chervil plant is an annual but often mistaken for a perennial as it is a prolific self seeder if left to bloom. 

We will look at four ways to start your very own chervil plant in your herb garden.

  1. Sow seeds outdoors in vegetable or herb garden
  2. Plant seeds in pots indoors
  3. Sow seeds indoors to cultivate seedlings for transplanting outdoors
  4. Buy a plant and grow chervil in your herb garden

Sow Chervil seeds outdoors in vegetable or herb garden

You can sow and grow chervil seeds outdoors in situ (where they will grow) from April to July. 

Unlike for example tomatoes, chervil does not like direct sun. Instead find a shady spot maybe between rows of kale or cabbages. An added benefit is that chervil will repel slugs.

Chervil prefers well drained soil. Loosen the soil with a rake or garden iron and water generously before planting.

Next scatter the seeds. Do not be too generous as each seed will produce a plant. 

When the seeds are scattered, press gently to make sure there is contact between seed and soil. Do not cover the seeds with soil as the seeds need light to germinate.

Now the main job is to make sure that you keep the soil moist. Chervil does not like dryouts. 

The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days. Seedlings will develop in 2-5 weeks. 

Thin out seedlings to about 10 centimeters (4 inches) apart when they reach 7-10 centimeters (3-4 inches). 

I usually sow batches of seeds in between rows of vegetables about a week apart. This allows me to harvest chervil continuously throughout the season.

Plant seeds and grow chervil in pots indoors

You can sow and grow chervil seeds indoors in pots year round as long as you use a plant or grow light during the darker months.

1. Pick you pot

I use a plastic or ceramic pot to help me control moisture. Terracotta pots do look nicer but as they breathe they also dry out quicker.

2. Choose your potting soil

As always I use a 50/50 mixture of compost rich soil and a leaner cactus potting soil.

I use the richer soil in the bottom of the pot and top up with the leaner potting soil.

3. Water and plant the seeds

Chervil seedling in pot
Chervil seedlings in starter pot

Next, water the soil thoroughly. When the water is absorbed, scatter the seeds sparingly across the top of the soil. Press gently on the seeds to ensure contact between seed and soil. Avoid covering with soil as light germinates the seeds.

4. Care for the chervil plant

It will take approximately 7-10 days for the seeds to germinate. Seedling will develop in another 2-3 weeks. Keep the soil moist and thin out the seedling as needed when they reach 7-10 centimeters (3-4 inches)

Sow seeds indoors to cultivate seedlings for transplanting outdoors

Planting one seed per pot for easy transplanting of seedlings
Seed leaves showing after roughly 7-10 days

Cultivating seedlings in pots indoors follows more or less the same process as when we grow chervil from seeds in posts.

I would however like to add one tip.

When you sow chervil seeds to cultivate seedlings for planting outdoors, you of course want strong seedlings. 

I have however had mixed results when separating individual seedlings from crowded pots. The roots are so fragile and it is close to impossible to see if you break or tear the root systems.

My solution is to transplant the whole seedling with root system, soil and all. 

Consequently my recommendation is to use several smaller pots and not to plant too many seeds per pot.

I am not saying one seed per pot. Feel free to plant 5 seeds per pot but each seed in a separate hole.

And be prepared to thin out the weaker seedlings when it becomes time to transplant.

I transplant the seedlings when they reach 10- 15 centimeters (4-6 inches). 

Allow approximately 10 centimeters (4 inches) between seedlings. If planting in drills (rows) allow for 40 centimeters (15 inches) between rows. 

Buy a plant and grow chervil in your herb garden

It is not always easy to find chervil seeds in the stores. And sometimes you may just not want to wait for the seeds to germinate and the plant to mature.

The solution is to buy a chervil plant in your local Supermarket or garden store.

Transplanting a ready grown plant can be a bit of a lottery. Sometimes the plants are driven very hard under conditions that are difficult to replicate.

Here it may be difficult to make the plant grow and flourish in your home or herb garden.

But it can of course be done. I have had the most success with the following method.

1. Buy your plant

Select a healthy looking plant. If packaged in plastic try to get a glimpse of the root system. It will be easier if there is soil in the pot.

2. Water the plant

Next we water the plant generously. Give the plant time to absorb the water fully.

3. Remove plant from pot

Turn the pot upside down and tip the chervil plant into your hand. You may have to squeeze the pot gently to get the plant moving.

Do not worry if some soil falls off but do protect the roots. 

4. To divide or not

You will most likely not need to divide the plant into smaller bunches if you bought your plant at a Supermarket.

But do feel free to gently divide the plant into smaller clumps should the plant have a root system that fills a 15 centimeter (6 inches) diameter pot.

Just make sure that each new smaller plant has a healthy looking root system.

5. Replant the plants

Next, replant the plant(s) outdoors or in a pot that is at least 15 centimeters (6 inches) in diameter.

Make sure to place the plant centrally if using a pot and plant it at the same level or depth as in the original pot.

We add fresh potting soil and apply pressure to firm the soil as we are placing the plants. 

6. Looking after the plant

Chervil is not difficult to care for as long as you remember two things. Chervil does not like direct sun and you need to keep the soil moist as the plant does not like to dry out.

7. Start harvesting

You can now start harvesting our new plant.

You can even take a pair of scissors and harvest all the top leaves leaving only stems and the odd new growth. Now place the pot in a bright and warm place and you will soon see the plant generate new shoots for you to harvest.

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.