How to Grow Parsley in Containers
Parsley (Petroselinium spp.) is prized for its featherlike leaves, which are used as crisp garnishes or to add flavor to salads, soups and other dishes. You don't need a lot of room to grow this annual herb. Parsley can thrive in a container garden, making it an excellent choice for apartment balconies and other small spaces.
Pot Selection and Spacing
Garden pots and containers come in multiple sizes. Parsley needs 1 gallon of potting soil per plant. The following common plant container sizes are among those with an appropriate potting soil capacity for parsley:
- An 8-inch-diameter plant pot, which holds 1 1/2 gallons of soil
- A 10-inch pot (2 1/2 gallons of soil)
- A 12-inch pot (3 1/2 gallons of soil)
- A 14-inch pot (4 1/2 gallons of soil)
Thus, an 8-inch pot with at least one drainage hole suffices for one parsley plant. If you wish to grow multiple plants, choose the appropriate larger size based on the 1-gallon-of-soil-per-plant rule. For example, a 12-inch pot can easily hold three evenly spaced parsley plants.
Parsley prefers a potting mix that is rich in organic matter. There are two basic kinds of potting soil: soilless mixes and soil-based mixes. Whichever type of potting mix you use, ensure it lists multiple sources of organic matter on its ingredient label. Common ingredients to look for include composted manure, compost, pasteurized soil, peat moss and ground bark.
Soilless mixes can be two to three times lighter than soil-based potting mixes. This makes them a top choice if you plan on lifting and moving your container garden often.
For optimal growth and the best flavor, container-grown parsley requires full or part sun. Full sun means the pot gets a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight every day. Partial sun is four to six hours of sunlight daily. Monitor where the sun hits your landscape. If necessary, move your container herb garden to maximize its sun exposure.
Parsley craves consistently moist soil conditions and shouldn't be allowed to dry out completely. Because it's exposed on all sides to wind and the sun's heat, a container garden dries out much faster than a traditional, direct-in-the-ground herb garden would.
Water the parsley pot until water begins to appear through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Water again when the top 2 inches of potting soil have dried out. This may mean watering the parsley once or even twice a day, depending on sun, wind and heat exposure.
A plant pot, due to its limited size, can only offer a limited amount of nutrients to the parsley plant. Over time, the herb will quickly use up any nutrients in the potting mix.
For the healthiest plant, fertilize potted parsley once every two weeks using any water-soluble fertilizer intended for herbs or vegetables. For example, if using a 24-8-16 water-soluble, all-purpose plant food, dissolve 1 tablespoon of fertilizer in 1 gallon of water and use the solution to water the parsley in place of one of its regular waterings.
Every fertilizer product is different. Carefully follow all product-specific guidelines on the label to avoid using too much, or too little, fertilizer on your potted herb garden.
Parsley can be harvested as soon as its leaf stems have split into three leafy segments. Start by handpicking the biggest leaves on the outer edges of the plant. Leave the leaves in the middle of the plant alone. As you harvest, these inner leaves will mature and become the new outer edge of the plant, allowing you to harvest continuously.
For the best flavor, enjoy parsley the day that it's picked. If you can't use the herb immediately, place unwashed parsley in a plastic bag and put it in a refrigerator. Chilled parsley can keep for up to 14 days.