How to Grow Parsley from Seed

Learning how to grow parsley from seed means you'll have ready access to this versatile herb almost year-round. Named 2021’s Herb of the Year by the International Herb Association, parsley is one of the most recognizable of herbs. If you’ve been to a restaurant, you’ve probably been served curly parsley as a garnish. However, parsley is much more than a garnish and it can be an important herb to grow if you’re selling herbs and produce for profit.

Learning how to grow parsley from seed means you'll have ready access to this versatile herb almost year-round.

Starting Parsley from Seed 

Over time and use herbs, such as parsley, have gathered lore that’s passed from generation to generation. It is said that parsley is the property of the devil and it travels to him seven times before it can grow. This lore most likely sprung up because parsley takes a long time to germinate. At Turner Farm, a certified Real Organic farm in the Village of Indian Hill in Cincinnati, Ohio, both flat-leaf and curly parsley are staple long-season crops that are started twice a year from seed.

“We start them both from seed and parsley is a little bit persnickety, a little bit sensitive when it comes to seed starting. It typically takes ours two to three weeks to even start coming up from seed. And even when it does, it’s really tiny and grows pretty slowly,” said Abby Lundrigan, the Turner Farm Crop Production Manager.

At Turner Farm, parsley is started in open flats, then moved to trays with cells, allowed to grow and fill the cells, then planted in the field. It is started in February then field-planted mid-April with a second field planting in July.

Learning how to grow parsley from seed means you'll have ready access to this versatile herb almost year-round.
Biennial Life Cycle

Parsley is a biennial plant, meaning it grows during its first season then flowers and dies back in its second season. Turner Farm manages parsley as an annual and puts in new plants each season. 

“Once the plant is putting its energy into producing seeds, the seed stalk it sends out is really thick and tough and woody. It’s putting its energy into producing seeds so it’s not putting nearly as much effort into growing these smaller vegetative leaf stalks that we would be harvesting. At that point, because we want to keep harvesting a consistent quality and quantity, we will put in new plants,” said Lundrigan.


Parsley is a member of the Umbelliferae family along with celery, carrots, cilantro, anise and fennel. It has a basal plate — a central growth point where leaves are grown. At Turner Farm, parsley is harvested with this basal plate in mind.

“We harvest parsley from the outside of the plant. The largest, oldest stems are going to be on the outside of the plant. That’s how we harvest off of it for so long. We always want to leave that central growth point intact so that it keeps growing new shoots,” said Lundrigan. “Celery is in the same family and is maybe a better visual example. Celery has those outer stalks and then that inner heart. If you think of parsley the same way, we want to keep the center part always producing new shoots so we are harvesting those outer stalks. When we harvest celery, we do the same thing.”

Learning how to grow parsley from seed means you'll have ready access to this versatile herb almost year-round.


Parsley can be the backbone of a working garden because it grows well into the cold weather. At Turner Farm in planting zone six, parsley thrives under winter row covers. July curly parsley plantings are harvested well into March/April and flat-leaf plantings last into December/January.

“I honestly remember times I would go to look under the row cover and expect the parsley to be dead and it just didn’t look like it knew anything was going on,” said Lundrigan. 

“We had this one bed that had fall and winter crops in it and the field was pretty much full of turnips and watermelon radishes. I remember harvesting everything around the parsley and the parsley was this one lone strip that remained after everything else was gone.”

Customer Popularity

At Turner Farm, parsley is gathered by bunches to be added to CSA shares and sold at an on-site farm market and local farmers' markets. Bunches sell, depending on size, for $1 to $2. This equals about $1 an ounce/$16 per pound. A typical grocery store bunch is about this size. Turner Farm also sells parsley to restaurants in half to one-pound increments.

While both are offered, flat-leaf sells much better than curly parsley. Lundrigan says curly is grown because it is more cold-hardy than the flat-leaf so they can be sure to have it as an offering for a longer time. 

“For some reason, flat-leaf is so much more popular than the curly. I’m not sure why,” she said. “I like the curly for things like Tabouli or if I’m putting it in something fresh like a salad. I think it’s a little sturdier or crunchier it just has a little bit more texture than the flat-leaf. I think they taste the same. I’m not sure why there’s this prejudice against the curly.”

Learning how to grow parsley from seed means you'll have ready access to this versatile herb almost year-round.

Butterfly Host Plant

Parsley is a host plant for black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. Many people actually call them parsley caterpillars.

“We try not to squish those guys when they’re eating our parsley or fennel or anything in that family,” said Lundrigan.

When planting parsley, be sure to leave enough for the caterpillars!

This article about how to grow parsley from seed was originally published in The New Pioneer magazine. 

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