The Q&A Archives: Sprouting Parsley

Question: I have tried several times to start different types of parsley from seed without much luck at all. Last year I got only about 4 seeds to sprout out of at least 30 seeds that I planted (I probably planted more than that, even!) I have new packets of seeds so that shouldn't be a factor. I was wondering what I'm doing wrong? I have gotten all of my other herbs to germinate well (basil, oregano, dill, as well as lettuce and tomatoes), so I don't think it's a factor of over or under watering. I thought maybe they require a warmer temperature than I'm providing. I am sprouting them indoors. It isn't especially warm in our building since Okinawa is a warm island (about the same latitude as Miami) and they leave the air conditioning on all year, so it's usually around 68 - 70 degrees in the building, but it's been off for the last 3 weeks and the temps. have been somewhat higher - maybe 75 or above in the afternoon, and still no luck.
My friend who gardens a lot, said that she's tried growing parsley several times back in North Carolina, and she has a difficult time getting them to grow. She usually ends up buying small plants already started from the nursery!
I was wondering if I should invest in a heating mat for them. Oh, I also tried soaking the seeds the night before I planted them as the package suggested.
Any hints wold be welcome!

Answer: Parsley seed naturally has a somewhat poor germination rate, but soaking it overnight in water so it begins to soften, discarding that soaking water, and then planting the seeds in damp fresh clean soilless potting mix at about 75 degrees should do the trick. (Your temperatures sound warm enough that a heat mat would not necessarily be needed, although soil temperature is usually about five degrees below room temperature. Parsley will germinate at temperatures between about 45 and 90 degrees, so that is not as critical an issue as it is for some types of seeds.) Germination takes about two weeks but may be erratic. It is also important to use fresh seed and to take care in storing it as parsley seed viability deteriorates relatively quickly even under the best conditions. Good luck with the next try!

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