How to grow parsley from seeds – when patience is rewarded

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 were the main ingredient in fresh salads and sauces. Parsley was the mildly bitter and fresh-tasting garnish used for most dishes.

So it was easy to choose parsley as one of the first herbs I started growing.

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

Here are three things you probably don’t know about growing parsley from seeds:

  1. Be patient – germinating parsley seeds can take 4-6 weeks.
  2. Parsley seeds suffer from a low germination rate. Before planting, soak seeds for 24 hours in room temperature water to increase the germination rate.
  3. Parsley is cold hardy, you can start seeds outdoors 4-6 weeks before your last expected frost date.

You can grow parsley directly in your vegetable or herb garden; I find it easier to grow parsley in pots or containers. And when parsley is established, it grows like a weed

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

Planting parsley seeds outdoors where they will grow (in situ)

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

Plant the seeds outdoors between April to 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 delay germination. 

When planting in the fall, you will see fresh, new plants in early spring the following year. You can, of course, also winter sow parsley for an earlier spring harvest.

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

Planting parsley seeds outdoors

  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 four or five, 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 (spray) again, this time more carefully, so you do not displace the seeds.

Now you need to wait and be patient.

That wonderful moment when the first leaves (cotyledons) finally show
First leaves or cotyledons, the first sign of life!

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 prefer to grow all my parsley in pots and containers. And this goes for both the parsley we grow indoors and outdoors.

Parsley can be grown from seed indoors year-round, but you must use a plant or grow light during the darker times of the year.

One advantage of growing parsley in pots is that I can 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 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 vigor. 

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

1. Choose your pot and potting soil

Use plastic or ceramic pots or containers to help maintain and control moisture. To help the parsley plants develop, use a pot at least 15 centimeters (6 inches) deep.

Use well-draining potting soil. I use a half-and-half mix of compost-rich potting soil and leaner cactus potting soil. 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 richer soil in the bottom part of the pot.

It may seem counterintuitive, but planting seeds in over-fertilized soil will risk burning the new roots and killing the plant before it gets started.

2. Water and plant the seeds

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

Then scatter the soaked parsley seeds generously on the pot’s surface. Press the seeds gently with your fingers to create contact between the seeds and the soil. 

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

3. Light, water, and patience

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

All you have to do is provide water and a sunny or light place for the seedlings and plants to grow and develop.

And there you have it. 

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

Transplanting seedlings from seeds started indoors

When transplanting seedlings, prepare the ground as if you were starting seeds.

Use well-draining soil and water the soil thoroughly before transplanting. 

Do not attempt to prick out the seedlings. Parsley develops a sensitive tap root and does not like having the root system disturbed.

Instead, plant the content of the stater pot as if it was an individual seedling. Space the planted seedlings about 15 centimeters (6 inches) apart. If planting in rows, we leave approximately 40 centimeters (16 inches) between rows.

We always have more than one seedling per pot as we plant the seeds in groups of 4-5 seeds.

Do not attempt to separate individual seedlings. Transplant the whole pot with seedlings and soil and let the seedlings fight it out in the garden and thin out the plants as they grow. I use this method for many herbs and vegetables like for example, cilantro (coriander), basil, and even corn salad. And it is a real treat to thin out (read harvest) young and delicate leaves as they develop on the plants.

Where to plant parsley outdoors.

Parsley prefers a sunny position but will tolerate partial shade. When established, the parsley plant is quite sturdy and just needs water to develop.

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

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

Did you know that 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, tastes, and smells.

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

Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to grow parsley from seed?

It will take about 4-6 weeks for the parsley seeds to germinate and 80 – 100 days for the plant to mature.

Is parsley hard to grow from seed?

It is not hard to grow parsley from seed, but it does require patience.

And parsley seeds have been known to have a low germination rate. Leaving the seeds overnight in room temperature water will increase the germination rate of the parsley seed.

Should I choose curly or flat-leaf parsley?

It all comes down to personal preference, but the flat-leaf parsley has a stronger flavor. It is outstanding in Asian cuisine. 

I grow both. I appreciate the curly leaf parsley for its subtle taste, and I use it for flavoring, garnish, and decoration.

What is the fastest way to germinate parsley seeds?

Soaking the parsley seeds for 24 hours in room temperature water will increase the germination rate. 

Meet the author: Sarah is a freelance copywriter passionate about gardening - particularly creating kitchen gardens with fruits, vegetables, and edible perennials. She has a professional background in the travel industry and now combines her interests with her writing skills to contribute articles on travel and horticultural topics for publication across the internet.