With its bright green curly or flat leaves, parsley is a workhorse plant. Use this easy-to-grow herb either fresh or dried and as an edible or an ornamental.
Basics of growing parsley
Parsley is easy to grow, demanding little more than lots of light and ample water.
You can buy an established plant from a nursery, but you'll get more plants for less money if you start with parsley seeds.
Sow seeds outdoors in spring or early fall when temperatures are mild. Plant the seeds 1 to 2 inches apart and about 1/4 inch deep in soil that drains easily. Choose a location that gets full sun to partial shade. In warmer climates, the plants do better if they get afternoon shade protection from the sun.
Each plant can grow 1 to 2 feet tall, depending on variety, and can withstand a light frost.
Parsley seeds don't sprout all at once. Continue to keep soil moist but not waterlogged to encourage more parsley seed germination. Once a plant reaches full size, parsley needs 1 to 2 inches of rain or supplemental water per week to continue growing well. Water is the crucial element for keeping parsley happy. If you let the soil go too dry, the plant withers and dies. But don't go overboard with the water or the roots will rot.
When parsley plants develop several sets of leaves, thin them (pull or snip out the extras with a scissors) so they stand 3 to 4 inches apart. Parsley is a biennial plant, not perennial, meaning it grows the first year, then sends up a tough stalk with flowers that turn into seeds and dies the following year. Sow parsley seeds each year for a bountiful harvest.
How to grow parsley indoors
Any indoor herb garden benefits from the addition of parsley. Choose a container with drainage holes, add a soil-less potting mix (garden soil is too heavy to use in a pot), and sow seeds 1 to 2 inches part, about 1/4 inch deep.
Place indoor parsley pots in the brightest light possible. However, these herbs may still grow spindly and weak because window glass decreases the amount of light the plants can receive.
Which parsley to grow
Choose from numerous types of parsley. Curly leaf parsleys work well for cooking and add a gorgeous deep green dimension to ornamental flowerbeds.
Flat leaf parsleys include Italian types that taste sweet and strong, with a flavour recommended for cooked dishes.
Harvesting parsley leaves
Once parsley reaches at least 6 inches tall, you can begin to harvest the leaves. Beginning with the outside stems (the ones that grew first), cut the stems close to the ground. As you harvest the stems on the outside of the plant, it will respond with new growth from the centre. Avoid shaving off the tops of stems; this stunts new growth.
How to dry parsley
Either type can be dried for later use. The easiest way is to place washed, stemmed leaves on a dish to air dry. Parsley can be quickly dried in just a few minutes in a warm 100 to 110 degree F oven; watch carefully so the leaves don't burn.
When parsley leaves are completely dry, place them in a container, cover with an air-tight lid, and store them in a dark, cool location. You also can freeze dried parsley leaves in plastic bags.
Use dried or frozen parsley leaves within a year for freshest flavour.