Pruning Parsley: When and How to Cut Back Parsley!

Parsley is such a lovely and unique herb, and its presence in the kitchen is almost always necessary.

This herb can be easily grown since it’s very flexible with light and water.

Parsley has been cultivated by gardeners from all regions around the globe and is considered one of the most popular herbs worldwide.

Mature parsley ready for pruning

Nonetheless, people who grow parsley usually get confused about pruning it.

If you’re growing parsley and it’s growing fast but you don’t know when or how to cut it back, don’t worry. I will be answering all of your questions below!

When to Prune Parsley?

Parsley is a biennial plant (lives for two years) that is treated as if it were an annual. This aspect of the herb’s growth tells us a lot about the best time to cut it back.

Annual plants are usually cut back as they’re harvested, which means you can just focus on harvesting your parsley on time, and that will automatically keep the plant in shape.

Parsley is one of the fastest-growing herbs, so you will be trimming it many times per season. Each time you prune its stems it will grow back to full size after two to three weeks.

Some gardeners agree that the best time to trim your parsley is when it’s about 6 inches tall. In their reasoning, this is when you get the most parsley that has the best flavor.

curled parsley with overcrowded stems

On the other hand, some experts say that you should cut back a parsley stem only when it has developed an adequate number of leaves. This means you can only trim stems that have developed three or more segments of leaves.

You can trim your parsley according to either of the above two rules. I usually follow both, so I inspect the length of each parsley stem and also the number of leaves on it to decide whether or not to cut it.

If you are late to harvest your parsley, just keep in mind that you need to take off at least the yellow and the overly grown stems to keep the plant growing well.

In case you’re growing parsley under unregulated conditions, remember that you should prune it before the first expected frost or else you might lose the whole yield and the plant won’t be able to reemerge in its second season.

How to Prune Parsley?

Pruning parsley is easy. The resiliency of this plant makes it possible to cut it back in the harshest way possible.

If you only pinch off the top leaves of a parsley stem, it will dry after a few days. This is why it’s always better to prune the plant heavily. 

One important point to focus on before you proceed with pruning your plant is that the younger growth of parsley comes from the center, where it’s usually shaded by longer stems.

Pruning parsley that is growing in pots

To encourage the plant to quickly grow back, we need to trim the long stems that are preventing light from reaching the younger ones.

We also need to cut back any overlapping stems that are causing the plant to become overcrowded. Branches that become overcrowded can create a hot, humid environment that would allow fungal pathogens to spread all over the plant.

Procedure:

To prune your parsley, start by searching for the longest stems that are growing at the outer edges of the plant.

Trim the grown stems by producing a cut at the base of each one. Keep about one inch of the bottom of each stem untouched so that new growth will be able to emerge.

Focus your attention on removing stems that have grown longer than 8 inches, have a wide stem and a yellow color, and that are blocking sunlight from reaching other parts of the plant.

Stem of a parsley plant hanging from a pot

Don’t forget to take an adequate amount of the soft, green, and flavorful growth to use in the kitchen. Parsley leaves and stems can become stiff and bland as they grow older, so don’t be reluctant to remove stalks that have grown well.

Never cut back all the stems of your parsley plant at the same time because that would stunt its development and prevent it from growing back again.

Extra Tips to Keep in Mind

1- Fertilize the Soil After Pruning

Pruning may not be tiring for you, but it is an exhausting process for your parsley. When you cut back the plant to the ground, it loses all the food it has been storing in its foliage.

To compensate for this loss, you need to make sure the soil is being regularly enriched with nutrients. Adding compost or any other type of high-nitrogen organic fertilizer after pruning helps the plant during this stage.

We highly recommend Wiggle Worm Soil Builder Earthworm Castings, which is a natural fertilizer high in nitrogen!

2- Use Sharp Pruning Scissors

I always emphasize this point because it’s often overlooked by gardeners. It’s very important to use sharp, high-quality shears to prune your parsley.

Cutting your parsley with poor scissors or your bare hands can create unwanted tears in the plant. This makes the herb more susceptible to pests that drain the nutritious sap of the parsley and to diseases that would then find it easier to infect the foliage, stem, and roots.

Use premium quality gardening scissors so that you don’t lose your parsley in the middle of its growing season.

3- Inspect and Wash Your Harvested Parsley

Parsley is a plant that grows very near to the ground. This means its leaves usually touch the soil.

Aside from the fact that the plant would be covered with soil particles, some insects can also be living on the bottom part of it.

Make sure to check your harvested parsley stems and leaves. If you find any insects on them, shake gently. Afterward, wash your parsley with clean water.

Don’t wash your parsley in case you’re drying the plant. This might invite mold to spread all over the stems and leaves. In this case, be sure to spray your parsley with water the day before you harvest it.

4- Pinch Off the Flowering Buds in Your Parsley’s Second Growing Season

Parsley grows for two seasons. In its first season, it doesn’t produce seeds, so you don’t have to worry about stopping it from flowering.

By the way, it’s necessary to prevent your leafy herbs from flowering because otherwise they will shed their seeds and die. Blooming also makes the herb stiffer and less flavorful.

If you let parsley grow to its second season, it will start producing flowering buds. In such a situation, all you need to do is pinch off these flowers and cut back the plant to the ground.

That’s all you need to know about pruning parsley! Enjoy growing the plant, and don’t forget to share your questions and thoughts in the comments below.

Blogger, Gardener | + posts

I'm Jad, a biologist, blogger, and experienced indoor gardener. I am knowledgeable in plant biology, particularly in plant cultivation and propagation. I founded HerbsWithin.com in 2019 to share my knowledge in indoor gardening with passionate home growers.

1 thought on “Pruning Parsley: When and How to Cut Back Parsley!”

  1. Thank you! I learned a lot from that, looks like I’ll be looking at the rest, I’ve just expanded my indoor garden to include herbs in my kitchen

    Reply

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