How to grow chervil – A fast-growing alternative to parsley

I really like to grow chervil as it grows fast and delivers a mild yet distinctive taste to salads, and cold sauces.

Chervil is a beautiful flat-leaf herb with a mild but characteristic taste and smell, also referred to as French parsley or garden chervil. 

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 growing chervil plants in your herb garden.

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

1. Sow seeds outdoors in a vegetable or herb garden

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

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

Chervil prefers well-draining soil. Loosen the ground 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. 

Press gently when the seeds are scattered to ensure contact between the seeds and the soil. The seeds need light to germinate, so do not cover them with soil.

The main job is to ensure that you keep the soil moist. Chervil does not like dry-outs. Using row coverings can help keep the correct soil moisture.

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 between rows of vegetables about a week apart. This allows me to harvest chervil continuously throughout the season.

2. Start chervil from seeds and grow plants in pots indoors

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

Step 1. Pick your pot

I use plastic or ceramic pots to help me control soil moisture. Terracotta pots look nicer, but as they are made from a material that breathes, they also dry out quicker. And they are much more expensive.

Step 2. Choose your potting soil

I prefer using a 50/50 mixture of compost-rich potting soil and leaner cactus potting soil. I use the richer soil in the bottom of the pot and top it up with the leaner potting soil.

But it works great to use any good quality and well-draining potting soil.

Step 3. Water and plant the seeds

Next, water the soil. When the water is absorbed, scatter the seeds sparingly across the top of the soil.

Press gently on the seeds to ensure contact between the seeds and the soil. Avoid covering with soil as light germinates the seeds.

Step 4. Care for the chervil plant

It will take approximately 7-10 days for the seeds to germinate.

Chervil seedling in pot
Chervil seedlings in a plastic starter pot

The seedlings 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)

3. Sow seeds indoors to cultivate seedlings for transplanting outdoors

Developing 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 want vigorous seedlings. 

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

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

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

Consequently, I recommend using several smaller pots and not planting too many seeds per pot. I am not saying one seed per pot.

Plant 3-5 seeds per pot, each 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. 

4. Buying a plant to grow chervil in your herb garden

It is not always easy to find fresh chervil in stores. And sometimes, you may 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 fully-grown plant can be a bit of a lottery. Sometimes the plants are driven hard under conditions that are difficult to replicate.

Making the plant grow and flourish in your home or herb garden may be difficult.

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 and not just roots in the pot.

2. Water the plant

Next, we water the plant generously. Give the plant time to absorb the water entirely.

3. Remove the plant from the 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 chervil plant or not

If you buy your plant at a Supermarket, you will likely not need to divide the plant into smaller bunches. The plants tend to be growing in smaller pots.

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.

Make sure that each new smaller plant has a healthy-looking root system.

5. Replant the chervil plants

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

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

Add fresh potting soil and apply pressure to firm the soil around 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 sunlight, and you must keep the soil moist as the plant does not like to dry out.

7. Start harvesting

Chervil can be harvested aggressively and will regrow if looked after properly.

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

I harvest a maximum of 1/3 of an established plant at one time.

Frequently asked questions

How can I preserve chervil?

You can freeze chervil leaves or mince the leaves and use them to infuse oils. I do not recommend drying chervil as it loses its flavor and color.

How do I germinate chervil seeds?

Scatter seeds early spring in pots or your vegetable garden (in situ). Do not cover the seeds with soil, as the seeds need light to germinate. It takes 7-10 days for the seeds to germinate.

Will chervil self-sow?

Chervil is a prolific self-seeder when left to bloom and go to seed. To avoid self-seeding, you will need to remove seed capsules.

Does chervil need full sun to grow?

Chervil prefers part shade to full sun exposure. Try planting chervil seeds in between rows of kale and cabbages.  

Mattias Magnusson: Hello, I'm Mattias, a passionate and experienced gardening enthusiast. I am the creator of, your guide to year-round herb and veggie growing. Let's simplify green living, no matter your space or location.