University of California
UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County
Parsley, a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae), is a hardy biennial grown as an annual. This versatile herb is used in cooking or as a garnish and may be harvested in Sonoma County year-round. For its continued presence in the garden, set out new plants each year or allow an existing plant to reseed.
- Curley-leafed French parsley grows 6-18 in. tall and wide. Its deeply ruffled leaves give it a handsome appearance often used as a culinary garnish.
- Flat-leafed Italian parsley grows 1½-3 ft. tall by 2 ft. wide. It is considered more flavorful than the curly-leafed French type and is often preferred for cooking, although either variety can be used in any cuisine.
- Grow in beds or containers, plant as an edging, or mix parsley into an ornamental flower bed.
- Provide moist, fertile soil amended with compost; usually no additional feeding is needed.
- Purchase plant starts from a nursery or sow seed of this cool-weather crop March-May and again August-October. Provide some shade in a hot, summer garden.
- Start seeds indoors 6 weeks before the last frost date.
- Soak seeds overnight to hasten germination, which takes 10-28 days depending on the variety. Consult seed packets for days to germination.
- Plant seed ¼ in. deep or less in a dampened, sterile germination mix; keep the planting area evenly moist. Spray with a mister to avoid disturbing seeds and continue spraying daily until seedlings are well-anchored. Place the container in a sunny window.
- Transplant into beds or containers when seedlings reach about 2 in. tall.
- Cover the soil with mulch to help keep it evenly moist.
- Plan on 2-3 plants to supply individual or family needs.
- Protect parsley from a hard freeze to survive over winter. A few plants started in spring usually last all winter in Sonoma County.
- Expect to find parsley worms, larvae of the beautiful swallowtail butterfly, feeding on a few sprigs. Larvae go through 5 stages from black/brown with orange markings and spines to smooth, pale green fat bodies with black and yellow stripes before pupating and emerging as yellow and black butterflies.
- Start harvesting parsley 60-75 days after planting and after several sprigs appear.
- Harvest from the outside of plants. Cut only 2-3 sprigs from each plant at one time to keep it vigorously growing. Fresh sprigs can be kept in the refrigerator crisper for a week or longer.
- Freeze or dry extra parsley for long-term storage.
- Plants shift from growing leaves to growing flower stalks and blooms after overwintering. They start to bolt and form seed as days get longer in spring and temperatures warm up.
- Remove year-old plants and replace them with a new crop.
- Harvest some of the remaining sprigs until the new crop is ready.