Growing chervil indoors

Chervil is actually a member of the parsley and carrot family, the plant can be a fantastic addition to your indoor herb garden if you do any French cooking. Chervil is a cool-season annual herb that is not often found in grocery stores and it prefers lower temperatures which makes it perfect for growing indoors.

This plant is a cool-season, annual herb that grows between twelve and twenty-four inches tall in USDA hardiness zones three through seven. Chervil is also known as French parsley and is native to the Caucasus area between the Black and Caspian seas. The plant prefers cool, moist weather and it will quickly bolt and go to seed prematurely if exposed to high temperatures.

The finely divided leaves on chervil plant are dark green and curly, similar in appearance to those of parsley and carrot plants. The plant tiny white flowers bloom mid-spring to early summer in umbels resembling Queen Anne’s lace.

Chervil Uses

Chervil is grown primarily for culinary uses, both in French cuisine and also as an alternative to parsley. Sometimes Chervil is grown for medicinal purposes or used as a companion plant for other vegetables or herbs.

How to Grow Chervil Plant Indoors

Chervil plant prefers lower temperatures and will bolt when the thermometer gets too high. If you want to grow them outdoors they should be planted early in the spring or in late summer so they mature before or after scorching summer temps. Because of the need for a more temperate climate, this culinary herb makes a great addition to a sunny windowsill inside your home.

Growing Chervil plant is pretty straightforward, similar in supply needs and growing conditions to many other herbs.

The Chervil plants are best started from seed instead of propagating them from stem cuttings. Purchase high-quality seeds and get a good containers and growing media to get started.

Good Containers: Make sure you look for containers that keep the growing media damp instead of porous pots that encourage air movement through the root zone. Also look for plastic or fiberglass pots as they will hold more water in the soil; they still need adequate drainage holes though, so buy the ones with holes or use an electric drill to put them in yourself.

As a relative to carrots, chervil plants have a long taproot to anchor themselves into the soil, so they do best in containers that are deeper than is needed for most other herbs. Containers should be a minimum of eight inches wide and ten to twelve inches deep if possible.

Growing Media: Due to chervil’s affinity for consistently damp growing media, it’s important to choose one that has a higher capacity for good water retention. Commercial potting soil mixes are a good option, especially if you look for one that is specifically formulated for moisture-loving plants.

If you can’t find one specifically you can always mix extra coconut coir or peat moss into the potting mix to increase water retention. Be careful not to mix too much peat moss into the potting soil; it has a naturally low pH and can make the growing medium too acidic for your chervil.

Chervil Seeds: Chervil Seeds are inexpensive, typically only costing a couple of dollars for a packet containing about a gram of seeds. With between 400 and 500 seeds per gram, this will be plenty to get you started.  

You may be able to purchase them locally in a nursery or gardening center but as a less popular herb, they might be more challenging to find. If this is the case don’t fret as they are available from many online retailers.

Instructions

It’s important to plant the chervil seeds in the containers you will grow the plants in, as they don’t handle transplanting well.

Fill your containers with the pre-moistened growing media you’ve chosen to use.

Place the chervil seeds on the top of the media three to four inches apart.

Sprinkle approximately ¼” of media over the top to cover them.

Until seeds germinate, keep the growing media moist but not overly soggy. The chervil seeds need a lot of water for germination but too much moisture can cause damping off.

Germination typically takes seven to fourteen days. After the seeds germinate, allow them to grow until they are about three inches tall and thin the plants to one per 8” container or 3 per 12” container.

If this is an herb that you will use frequently sow the seeds every three to four weeks to provide a constant supply of fresh chervil leaves.

Chervil Growing Conditions: As a cool-season crop, chervil grows well indoors where the temperatures are cooler than outdoor summertime conditions, but it’s still important to provide the appropriate growing conditions.

Light Requirement: Chervil does best when placed on a windowsill that receives a minimum of four to six hours of indirect sun daily. Avoid placing it in a spot that receives direct sun as this can scorch the plant leaves. When grown outdoors the plants prefer light shade or partial shade to full sun locations.

If you need to supplement lighting indoors, hang T5 fluorescent lights about twelve inches above the tops of plants. High-intensity discharge lamps give off too much heat and should be avoided unless adequate ventilation or air conditioning can keep plants cool.

Water requirement: Keep the chervil plants well-watered, with the growing media staying slightly damp at all times. Avoid overwatering which can encourage root rot or letting containers sit in standing water after watering. It’s necessary to find the proper balance between enough water without giving plants too much.

Temperature Requirement: Along with proper lighting and watering, the ambient temperature is also very important when growing chervil indoors. Classified as a cool-season herb by the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and University of Florida, chervil prefers temperatures below 70 °F during the day and below 55 °F at night. When daytime temps climb higher, the plants will slowly start to bolt.

As with all of your houseplants, avoid placing containers too close to leaky windows or anywhere else they are exposed to drafts from doors or register vents. Extreme temperature variations cause internal stresses for plants that hinder plant growth and the quality of edible plants.

Chervil Care

With the following basic care, your chervil plant will flourish indoors.

Fertilizing: Herbs need little in terms of fertilizer as it affects the flavor of the leaves, especially if you give them a high nitrogen plant food as it encourages foliage growth. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, after the plants germinate you should feed your chervil using a complete fertilizer formulated for indoor plants; feed at half strength of the label directions.

Pruning: Regular pruning is good practice with chervil to remove flower buds as they form to lengthen the plant’s lifespan. Once the plant flowers it loses its flavor and should be discarded.

As flower buds form pinch them off with your fingernails or remove them with clean sharp scissors or pruners. This will also help to keep your plant bushy and compact instead of allowing it to get tall and spindly.

Harvesting: Your chervil is ready for harvest when the plants reach at least six inches in height. This is typically forty-five to sixty days after germination but can vary slightly depending on your indoor growing conditions.

When it’s time to harvest, remove the stems using clean, sharp scissors or pruners. To get the optimal flavor from the leaves you can harvest before the plant blooms.

Conclusion

If you do any amount of French cooking, I highly recommend trying your hand at growing chervil indoors in containers. These cool-season plants love indirect sun, moist potting soil, and cooler temps making them a fantastic addition to your indoor herb garden.

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