Italian Flat Leaf Parsley: What Does Italian Parsley Look Like And How To Grow It

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By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Italian flat leaf parsley (Petroselinum neapolitanum) may look unassuming but add it to soups and stew, stocks and salads, and you add a fresh flavor and color that makes the dish. Growing Italian parsley in the garden or in a window box will allow the home cook to harness the lively flavor of this plant. Try growing Italian parsley indoors as it does better than curly leaved parsley. You can also learn how to grow Italian parsley outside in the kitchen garden.

What Does Italian Parsley Look Like?

Even the foodie with moderate herbal knowledge may wonder, what does Italian parsley look like? This 6 to 12 inch (15 to 30 cm.) tall plant has sturdy, slender stems topped with flat, deeply divided leaves. The leaves are soft and pliable and useful whole or chopped. In fact, the entire stem is good cut up and used in chicken salad or other places where celery or some crunchy vegetable would be appropriate. You can even use Italian flat leaf parsley roots in salads or sautés.

Types of Italian Parsley Herbs

There are several cultivars of Italian flat leaf parsley:

  • Gigante Catalogno is a large leaved variety.
  • Italian Dark Green has deep green leaves with a strong flavor and Italian plain leaf, which is the fastest growing type.
  • Giant of Naples is another larger variety.

Whichever variety you choose, know the proper conditions for growing Italian parsley and you’ll have a biennial herb that is useful for years.

How to Grow Italian Parsley

Italian parsley herbs require temperate conditions. They don’t perform well in extremely hot areas and are prone to freezing back in cold climates. Choose a sunny site in well-draining soil with plenty of organic amendment.

If you’re planting several plants together, allow at least 18 inches (35.7 cm.) between them to prevent mildew from forming on the leaves.

Potted plants thrive in a window with indirect light, no drafts and comfortable household temperatures.

Growing Italian Parsley from Seed

Italian parsley is started outdoors after all danger of frost has passed, or inside six to eight weeks before the last expected frost. Use a fine mixture of potting soil, peat moss and sand. Cover with 1/8 inch (3 mm.) fine dusting of soil, and keep the seeds misted and lightly moist. Thin seedlings to 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm.) apart.

Care of Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

Allow the soil to dry out partially between watering. Water deeply approximately once per week and allow excess moisture to drain out.

Fertilize plants in the ground in early spring with a balanced fertilizer. Potted plants may be fertilized monthly with a half dilution of liquid plant food.

Trim what you need, taking the stems back to the core of the plant. If your plant is skinny and spindly, try moving it to a brighter area. Cut off any blooms as they occur, as this will cause the plant to seed and leaf production to diminish.

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How to Grow Parsley in AeroGarden – Full Guide

If you cook most of your meals at home, then you probably already know about parsley and the importance of it. Parsley will go best with tomato sauces, poultry dishes, seafood, egg dishes, potatoes, and soups. Not only that but it has also been proven that parsley has a lot of health benefits for you. It is also easy to grow since it is a herb and does not require a lot of space.

Hydroponics Growing System

  • Seed starting indoors: Sow parsley indoors in late winter or early spring 4 to 6 weeks before transplanting to the garden. Soak seeds in warm water for 24 hours before planting. Seeds germinate in 5 to 6 weeks and plants mature in 70 to 90 days.

  • Transplanting to the garden: Transplant parsley outdoors in mid to late spring after the soil has warmed to 50°F.
  • Outdoor planting time: Sow parsley seed outdoors in spring after all danger of frost has passed and the soil is at least 50° Parsley is slow to germinate and emerge from the soil—usually 5 to 6 weeks after sowing. For best germination soak seed overnight in warm water before sowing or pour boiling water in the planting hole before sowing seed. In mild winter regions and hot summer regions, sow seed outdoors from early winter to late spring.
  • Planting depth: Sow parsley seed ¼ inch deep.
  • Planting and spacing. Space parsley 6 to 8 inches apart in all directions.
  • How much to plant: Grow 6 plants for cooking grow 10 to 20 plants for preserving.
  • Companion planting: Grow parsley with asparagus, sweet corn, peppers, and tomatoes. Parsley is said to repel asparagus beetles and reduces the number of carrot rust flies. It’s best to grow parsley apart from like family plants including carrots, celery, and parsnips to avoid cross-pollination.

We tested the growing system by ourselves, these are the results after 3 weeks.

Italian Parsley

You’ve seen two types of parsley at the supermarket: the flatter type that looks a bit like cilantro, and the bushier, curlier parsley. Italian parsley is the flatter of the two, and it has a more distinct, robust flavor with a bright, clean flavor. Parsley is not only an essential Italian herb, but some people (this writer included!) consider it an essential everyday herb. Add the chopped fresh leaves to virtually any salad, soup, pilaf, casserole, roast or pasta—it really complements most savory flavors and ethnic cuisines from around the world.

Parsley grows easily in different environments and does especially well potted, so it’s a really easy addition to any home garden—just make sure it gets at least 4-6 hours of moderate sunlight each day. Learn more about growing parsley here.

Parsley can be prone to a handful of fungal diseases, including Septoria leaf spot, a couple of leaf blights, powdery mildew, and damping off. Start with good quality, disease-free seed and allow the plants to have access to good air circulation, to limit spread.

The biggest pest problem of parsley is the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly. It is a host plant for these butterflies and the caterpillars will hatch and munch on the leaves, doing considerable damage. However since these butterflies are so welcome in the garden, it is recommended you don't do anything to kill the caterpillars. They will mature soon enough and leave your plants alone.

How to Harvest and Use Parsley


Allow the seeds to mature on the plant and then cut off at the stem once they’re completely dry. Store in an envelope until next year. Simple and fuss-free.


Pick the young leaves regularly to ensure a constant supply. They’re perfect in any Italian dish and I love them in salads. The leaves of the flat leaf variety are better torn or roughly chopped. The curly type is better finely chopped and sprinkled on food.

White sauce with finely chopped parsley is one of my favorites. You can also dry the leaves to use throughout the year in soups and stews. Dry the leaves in a food dehydrator or by hanging them. My mother used to dip the sprigs in boiling water for two minutes, then place in a very low oven until dry. Crush the dried leaves and store in a glass jar.


Four months after planting, you can pull your Hamburg parsley out of the ground. The roots taste like parsley and parsnip combined. You can use it anywhere you’d use carrots or parsnips, like shredded in a salad or cooked up in a stir-fry.

Growing parsley is one of the easier gardening endeavors. Give it a go: you’ll be glad you did. Do you have any tips and tricks for those that are new to growing parsley? Do you have any great recipes to share with us on how to use your parsley harvest?

Watch the video: How to Grow Parsley in a Pot from Seed

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