In the Garden
Parsley is a lush plant growing up to a foot high in a beautiful rosette of green foliage. Use parsley plants as companions to annuals, perennials, and herbs in beds, containers, and window boxes. Plants make a nice seasonal edging and provide a striking contrast to colorful annuals, like yellow pansies or bright pink petunias. Curled parsley has a more ruffled appearance than flat-leafed parsley, but both are equally lush.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Parsley is an annual in the North, growing from spring until freezing weather. In milder climates, it is frost-proof and lives through winter. The second spring after planting, the plant blooms, goes to seed, and then finally gives out. When you see it send up a flower stalk, it’s time to yank the plant because at this point the leaves will taste bitter.
Plant in the spring (or in fall in zones 7 and warmer). Normal winters in the South and Southwest provide wonderful growing conditions for parsley and many gardeners use it in pots and flower beds as a green foliage filler with pansies and violas for winter. For the summer, Italian flat-leafed parsley is a bit more heat tolerant than curly parsley.
Set plants in full sun or partial shade, and rich, moist soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.7. Add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil before or at planting. Keep the soil moist. Keep roots cool and moist by mulching around the plant, but don’t cover the crown of the plant or the plant will risk getting rot. In September, promote new foliage by cutting back plants set out in the spring; this is especially true for plants grown in vegetable and herb beds strictly for their harvest. Fertilize with Bonnie’s Herb & Vegetable Plant Food to boost new growth.
Parsley (along with dill and fennel) is a favorite food of the brightly striped parsleyworm caterpillar, which becomes the treasured black swallowtail butterfly. Some gardeners plant enough parsley for themselves and the beautiful butterflies-to-be, which are likely to appear in late summer and fall. While parsleyworms may eat much of the plant, they won’t kill it, and giving them habitat is worth it. A serious pest, though, is the whitefly. To get rid of it, spray the undersides of the leaves thoroughly with insecticidal soap.
Harvest and Storage
Gather parsley stems and leaves as needed. Harvest parsley by cutting the leafy stems from the base of the plant—this will also serve to make the plant grow back bushier. Freeze parsley for winter use; although it is easily dried, it does not keep its flavor well.
Parsley pairs well with meat and egg dishes, potato and pasta dishes, vegetables, rice, salads, and soups, as well as cottage cheese and herb butters. Add chopped parsley to a dish near the end of the cooking process or sprinkle it on vegetables or salads immediately before serving to keep the fresh flavor. Parsley is also a chief ingredient in bouquet garni.
Is parsley for seasoning or just a garnish?
I have caterpillars on my parsley. What can I use to kill them and still be able to eat the parsley?
My parsley lasted all winter, but now it looks terrible. I thought it was a perennial. What can I do?
Instead of being dark green, my parsley is covered with tiny white dots. What is happening?