How to harvest parsley without killing the plant: smart gardening tips

Harvesting parsley seems to be a piece of cake. In enough sunlight and proper watering, you can harvest parsley 90 days after germination. However, what should you know before you start harvesting so as not to kill your plants?


In this article, we are sharing the key tips on how to harvest parsley without killing the plant.

How to harvest parsley without killing the plant: the main facts about parsley

The parsley plant is a popular herb for many gardeners. It is insanely easy to grow and maintain, with its greatest feature being harvested multiple times in a year.

Parsley is not just a garnish for many dishes. Along with this simple use, the parsley plant is full of benefits and different uses. You can add it to multiple dishes to enhance the flavor and texture of your meal. You can improve your health conditions as the fresh parsley leaves can be used as a natural treatment for many purposes.

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Parsley is a great natural diuretic. It is also good at reducing bloating and blood pressure. In addition, it is rich in vitamin K, which provides bone growth and health.

Although most gardeners treat the parsley plant as an annual herb, it is a common way for regions with a climate that experiences frost. In the warmer regions, parsley can be grown as a biennial herb that it is.

Native to the Mediterranean region, the parsley plant prefers full-sunny weather to grow in. However, the optimal conditions for parsley require partial shade. Although parsley grows in full sun, it grows best in cool weather. So, make sure it is protected by enough shade in high summer temperatures.

As a biennial plant, parsley needs two years to complete its full life cycle.

During the first year of life, parsley plants send up leafy growth. You can’t see any parsley flowers this year!

In the second year, they only send up flower stalks that produce seeds for growing the new plants.

So, do you need to replant parsley every year? Well, it is not necessary for biennial plants. However, like many other herbs, parsley leaves start losing flavor and become bitter during the flowering season. That’s why it makes sense to replant parsley every year before it starts flowering.

What type of parsley is better to grow?

Generally, there are two main parsley varieties you can grow: curly parsley and flat-leaf parsley.

Curly parsley

Curly leaf parsley, or French parsley, has dark green leaves that are tightly curled (hence the name). The curly parsley leaves have a light, fresh flavor. However, this variety of parsley tastes slightly bitter, so it is not so widely popular.

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You can use the curly parsley leaves both fresh and dried, adding to salads, soups, sauces, and stews. It is also possible to use curly parsley leaves as a garnish. Although it is edible, this variety of parsley is more popular as a flavor booster or decorative element in some dishes.

When growing, curly parsley reaches height an average of 8 to 14 inches.

Flat-leaf parsley

Flat-leaf parsley is also known as Italian parsley. This variety of parsley is mostly used for different cooking purposes. That’s why you can see flat-leaf parsley growing in almost any kitchen herb garden.

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The flat-leaf parsley looks quite different from the curly-leaf variety and has a different taste. A flat-leaf parsley leaf is very thin and bigger that a curly parsley one. The universal flavor makes Italian parsley a good cooking ingredient in many dishes like soups, salads, stews, and casseroles.

This parsley variety is much taller than curly parsley. It can even reach up to three feet!

When parsley plant is ready to harvest?

This point is insanely easy to define because you can do it almost any time!

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Since parsley is a biennial herb, you can harvest it when the leaves become large enough for use. Keep in mind that harvesting parsley provides plant growth – the more often you harvest parsley, the larger it will grow!

What is the right way to harvest parsley?

Growing and harvesting parsley is simple. You need to know just a few smart and versatile tips, and you will be able to harvest parsley of any variety.

Generally, most types of parsley grow up in 70-90 days. In this period, the parsley plant is usually mature enough to harvest. However, you don’t need to wait for so long. You can start picking the leaves earlier when you can see that the plant is already strong enough.

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Technically, you can harvest parsley leaves as soon as the leaf stems have three segments. To find it out, examine one of the leafy stems branching off the main stem. Look at the segments that have a set of leaves on each one. If there are three of these, you can cut them out.

If counting stem segments is too fiddly for you, then just wait until your parsley plants start looking bushy and produce visually leafy stems. If you can see that, it means the time has come.

You can harvest parsley several times during the growing season. On average, you can harvest parsley without any trouble dozens of times in the first year!

If you harvest parsley for the first time in the growing season, wait until it produces multiple stems. 

Never cut the parsley plant all the way back! The optimal way is to leave at least4 parsley stems on the plant.

If the plant is large enough, you can only harvest the outer stems as you need. Let the inner stems and leaves grow and keep growing further. A good rule of thumb is to leave about ½ – ⅔ of the plant to keep growing whenever harvesting.

In case you harvest parsley in a large amount, let the plant rest for at least a week before the next harvesting.

When you harvest parsley, it’s better to pick the stems at their base. It can be either the connection point to the central stem or a point right at the soil level.

Picking stems is much better for the plant than collecting separate leaves! When you prune the stems, the plant regrows much more vigorously.

Don’t pull the parsley plant when harvesting! It’s better to use clean and sharp cutting tools to make an accurate cut. If you prefer pinching the stems by hand, always wash your hands before harvesting parsley.

The sharp and clean cutting tools are an essential point of harvesting parsley. A dull instrument can damage the stem and make it vulnerable to plant infections. As a result, you can easily kill the plant.

Harvest only younger plants to keep them healthy. It is not strongly recommended to harvest parsley during the second cycle. In this case, you can also kill the plant.

Always try to harvest parsley from different areas of the plant! Avoid removing all the leaves from one particular area.

When growing parsley, keep in mind that the winter season can affect the leaves of your parsley. A good idea is to bring your parsley inside before the first frost comes. Thus, you will have fresh parsley during the winter season as well.

What are the best ways to store parsley?

Suppose you have a bunch of freshly harvested parsley in your kitchen. So, what should you do next? How can you prepare it for long-term storage?

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You can choose from multiple ways of storing parsley.

Refrigerating parsley

If you are going to use harvested parsley in a day or two, you can store it in the fridge.

Take a glass jar or other container and fill it with an inch of water. Then, place parsley in the water at the bottom of your container. Store it in the refrigerator and don’t forget to change the water every day.

If you do everything right, the parsley can last up to 7-10 days in the fridge.

One more way to keep the fresh parsley in the refrigerator is to wrap it in a cotton towel or damp paper towel. Put the wrapped parsley in the crisper drawer in your fridge, and it will stay fresh for some time.

As for another alternative way of storing fresh parsley, you can keep it in a jar full of fresh water. Place it like a bouquet in the jar and change the water every day. In the fridge, this parsley bouquet will last fresh for 7-10 days. On the counter, you can keep it for about three days.

Freezing parsley

For longer storage, the best idea is to freeze parsley.

Wash and dry the fresh parsley. Then, you can cut it into small pieces or store it as whole sprigs. Place the parsley in the freeze-safe, airtight container. Before sealing, remove as much air as you can from inside the container.

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In the freezer, you can store parsley for up to 6 months.

A great alternative way of storing parsley is to freeze it in ice cubes. For this method, you should mince the fresh leaves and stems into small pieces. Then, mix them with olive oil. When the mixture is done, place it in the ice cube tray.

Freeze the parsley and oil until solid, and then take the cubes out. Store them in the airtight container or the ice cube trays until you need them. You can drop a cube or two in your favorite dishes any time you need!

Drying parsley

You can also dry parsley to store it for a long time. If you dry parsley in the right way, it will keep its flavor for six months to a year.

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The right way of drying parsley stalks is quite easy. Just tie them in bunches, hang them upside down, and place them in a dry, warm, and well-ventilated area. Make sure that you leave enough space between the parsley bunches to let air circulate freely.

Wait for about two weeks so that the parsley will be completely dry. Then, collect the dried parsley stalks and keep them in airtight containers. You can use this versatile herb for any cooking purposes!

As a variant, you can also dehydrate parsley in the oven or dehydrator. Like naturally dried parsley, you can store the dehydrated one in a clean plastic bag or a glass Mason jar.

How to harvest parsley seeds?

Harvesting parsley seeds is recommended in the second year of growth. During the second year of growth, the leaf production is minimal, so it is the right time for harvesting parsley plant seeds.

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Before harvesting parsley seeds, prepare a box or any other container with a solid bottom, as the seeds are tiny. A paper bag is one more good storage option.

Find the dried parsley seed heads that are already brownish. They can look completely dead, but in fact, they are ready for harvesting.

Then, snip or pinch the stem, and roll the seed heads gently between your index finger and thumb. Let the seeds fall into the container or paper bag.

When the parsley seeds are in the bag, sort them out over a piece of woven fabric or a mesh screen. This will help you to separate the ripest seeds.

Don’t hurry with harvesting seeds too soon. Since the seeds can be still immature, they are not fully dried out. As a result, the immature parsley seeds will not store them properly.


How do you pick parsley so it keeps growing?

When harvesting parsley, avoid cutting the individual leaves. It’s better to harvest the entire stems than the individual leaves. When you cut stems, the parsley plants get hormonal signals to regrow the new ones.

Does parsley regrow after cutting?

Yes, a great benefit of parsley plants is their easy regrowing. When you prune parsley stems, the plant gets a hormonal signal that boosts the growth of the new stems. In other words, the more you cut parsley, the more you promote new growth and keep the whole plant healthy.

Where do you cut parsley when harvesting?

The right way to cut parsley without killing the plant is to prune the outer stems about 1” from the plant bottom. Use sterile pruning shears or scissors so as not to infect the plant.

Before pruning, make sure that your parsley plant is grown enough for harvesting. It must be at least 6 weeks old or about 7-10” tall.

How do you harvest herbs without killing the plant?

  • A good rule of thumb is to always use sharp and clean scissors, knives, or clippers for harvesting herbs. A sharp knife or scissors can cut the sprigs carefully without damaging them. The clean blades are the necessary point so as not to infect the herb.
  • In case you prefer pinching herb sprigs with your fingers, always wash your hands before this procedure.
  • For annual plants like cilantro, Basil, dill, or stevia, start harvesting as soon as the plant is already strong. 
  • Like in harvesting parsley, cut the whole stems rather than the leaves. It is much better to separate them after harvesting.
  • Keep in mind that blooming leads to the flavor lost in herbs. So, always harvest herbs before their blooming period.
  • Cut the herb stems about an inch from the soil. In about a week, you will notice the growth of the new stems.
  • For the perennial herbs, such as sage, tarragon, and rosemary, prune them every week during the whole summer season. To boost the fuller plant’s growth along with a stronger root system, pinch off the top 2 inches of all new sprigs.


Growing parsley is an easy task when you understand the main points. Although it is a biennial plant, it is better to replant every year for better taste qualities. The right harvesting is also key for parsley.

Now, that you know how to harvest parsley without killing the whole plant, you can grow it regularly! Read how to harvest thyme in the herb garden

Elizabeth Martin

I am one of the best chefs and I work in a very famous Washington DC restaurant. My main hobby is to complement different dishes with fresh herbs. Almost all of them are grown in my house.

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