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 is easy to grow since it’s very flexible with light and water.

Gardeners have cultivated parsley from all regions around the globe. People consider it 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 Should You Prune Parsley?

Parsley is a biennial plant (which lives for two years) that we treat 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.

We usually cut back annual plants as we harvest them. That means you can focus on harvesting your parsley on time. 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″ 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 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 produced 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 each parsley stem’s length and also the number of leaves. That helps me decide if I should cut it.

You may be late to harvest your parsley. Keep in mind that you need to take off at least the yellow and the overly grown stems to keep the plant growing well.

What if you’re growing your parsley under unregulated conditions? IT would be best if you pruned it before the first expected frost. If not, 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.

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

Here is a key point to focus on before you proceed with pruning your plant. The younger growth of parsley comes from the center, where longer stems usually shade it .

Pruning parsley that is growing in pots

We need to trim the long stems preventing light from reaching the younger ones. This should encourage the plant to grow back quickly.

We also need to cut back any overlapping stems that are causing the plant to become overcrowded. Overcrowded branches can create a hot, humid environment. That allows fungal pathogens to spread 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.

Remove stems that are longer than 8 inches, have a wide stem and a yellow color, or 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. 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. 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 stored in its foliage.

There is a way to compensate for this loss. After pruning, you must ensure you enrich the soil with nutrients. Adding compost or any other type of high-nitrogen organic fertilizer after pruning helps the plant.

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

2- Use Sharp Pruning Scissors

I always emphasize this point—gardeners often overlook it. It’s imperative to use sharp, high-quality shears to prune your parsley.

Never cut your parsley with poor scissors or your bare hand. Doing so could create unwanted tears in the plant. That would make the herb more susceptible to pests that drain the nutritious sap of the parsley. It also opens the plant up to diseases that would then find it easy to infect the foliage, stem, and roots.

Use premium-quality gardening scissors. They will help ensure 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. Its leaves usually touch the soil.

That means soil particles would cover the plant. Some insects can also be living on the bottom part of it.

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

Don’t wash your parsley if you’re going to dry the plant. The added moisture might invite mold to spread all over the stems and leaves. In this case, 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. It doesn’t produce seeds in its first season, so you don’t have to worry about stopping it from flowering.

It’s necessary to prevent your leafy herbs from flowering. 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.

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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

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