Parsnips Growing Guide

Perhaps the hardiest of all garden crops, parsnips don’t develop their sweet, nutty flavor until after enduring frosts and cold weather in fall. Can be overwintered for harvest as soon as soil thaws in spring.

Site Characteristics

 full sun
 part shade
 yields best in full sun
Soil conditions:
 requires well-drained soil; prefers well-drained, loose, fertile soil, free of stones pH 6.0 to 7.0. Heavy clay soils may cause crooked and branched roots. Needs a fair amount of moisture.

Plant Traits

Lifecycle: annual; biennial grown as an annual.
Ease-of-care: moderately difficult; requires deep, well-prepared soil, early planting, and good early weed control.
Height: 2 to 3 feet
Spread: 0.5 to 1 foot
Foliage color: medium green
Foliage texture: medium
Shape: cushion, mound or clump; leaves arise from spherical swollen stem.
 frost

Growing Conditions

How to plant:
Propagate by seed
Germination temperature: 50 F to 85 F
Days to emergence: 10 to 21 - Germination may take as long as 3 to 4 weeks with soil temperature at 50 F.
 Seed can be saved 1 year; seed does not store well.

Maintenance and care

Sow seeds ½ inch deep, 1 inch apart, in rows 18 to 24 inches apart, in early spring. Seeds germinate slowly, usually in about 2 to 3 weeks (longer in cold soils). To speed germination, keep soil moist. Sow along with radishes to break soil crust and mark row.
Thin to 3- to 4-inch spacings. Trim instead of pulling to avoid disturbing roots of remaining plants.

Mulch to suppress weeds and retain moisture.
Hill soil around base of plants to prevent greening of root shoulders.


Avoid planting on ground that was in sod the previous season. Use fabric covers to exclude insects.
Carrot weevil—Clean up garden debris in autumn. Beneficial nematodes are available. Apply as directed on label.
Leafhopper—Leafhoppers spread disease. No cultural control is available


Choose shorter-rooted varieties if your soil is not deep, light and stone-free.