You can grow celery best if you live in hardiness zones 4 – 10. A cool weather crop, it has a low tolerance for heat. This makes it ideal to grow as a summer crop in the far northern states, a fall crop in the central states, and winter crop in the south.
Whatever your climate, you’ll need patience. It’s a slow-growing vegetable. It takes four and a half months to grow.
For crisp stalks full of flavor, read these tips for how to grow celery, especially if you are a beginner gardener. You’ll want to ensure it isn’t watery, bitter or too stringy.
You can grow it from seed, starts, or from store-bought celery. The great news is it does well in pots and containers.
This is a biennial grown as an annual. It’s scientific name is Apium graveolens. It’s part of the parsley and carrot family. It has a long growing season.
How to grow celery
Where to grow
Choose an area that receives direct sunlight for 5 – 7 hours each day. You can grow it right in the ground in a garden, in a garden bed, or in pots and containers. It doesn’t take a lot of room to grow as it grows up instead of out.
Roots are 2 – 3 inches deep. You can grow celery plants in a pot or container as long as it’s a minimum of 10 inches in diameter. Roots spread wider than they go deep. An advantage of growing in a pot is there may be less weeds.
When to plant
Depending on your climate, you can start seeds 8 – 12 weeks before the last frost. Start them indoors if you live in a cold climate. This means you can plant them indoors in December through January.
Plant outdoors in early spring when soil temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer.
Note: If you live in USDA hardiness zones 9 or 10, plant in the fall or winter. It’s not recommended to start growing in the spring and into summer. It thrives in cooler temperatures. If you want to grow during the summer, find an area with morning sun and keep it out of the afternoon sun. It will need a lot of water.
Growing celery from seed
Soak celery seeds overnight before planting. Plant seeds 1/8″ – 1/4″ deep. The seeds are tiny; leave two inches between seeds.
With ideal conditions, they’ll germinate in 7 – 20 days.
After a few weeks of growth, snip the weak seedlings and leave the larger, stronger ones. It’s important to thin them so only one plant remains when planting.
Transplant outdoors when they have five or six leaves. Soil temperature should be a minimum of 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Growing from starts
You may find celery starts at your local hardware store, garden center, or grocery store. Transplant them into the garden two weeks before the last frost or when each plant has at least six leaves.
Whether you are planting seedlings you started indoors or starts you purchased, when you plant them outdoors, be sure to space them 6 – 10 inches apart. If you are planting in rows, leave 18 – 24 inches between rows.
Depending on the variety, they can grow from 6 – 12 inches wide.
Growing celery from celery
Another option is to regrow celery from store-bought celery. This makes better use of it than throwing away or adding the to the compost. Choose organic if possible. In order to do this:
- Cut off the stalks, leaving approximately two inches from the base
- Insert toothpicks into the sides and hang on the rim of the container so the celery is in the bowl of water but doesn’t touch the bottom of the container.
- Put the base with the end side in water
- Change the water every few days
After a week, new growth will form from the center. When roots are 1 – 2 inches long, replant in soil outdoors.
Choose moisture-retentive, nutrient rich soil. Consider enriching potting soil with compost. Fertile soil with organic matter will be important as it has shallow roots. Celery roots will derive nutrients from the top layer.
Soil should be moist. It will thrive in neutral soil with pH between 6.5 – 7.5.
Plants will benefit from a fertilizer higher in potassium. Consider a fertilizer with a ratio of 4-4-8.
In addition to feeding with fertilizer, continue to amend soil with compost. This will provide nutrition as well as help retain moisture.
In dry climates, water 2 – 3 inches per week. In moderate climates, water 1 – 1.5 inches per week. If it doesn’t get enough water, it will become stringy.
It’s important to water regularly, during the entire growing season, even once the plant is established. Consider setting up irrigation to get sure it gets plenty of water, especially in the summer.
Be sure the soil remains moist but not damp between waterings so it doesn’t get root rot. Consider rainfall so you don’t overwater.
It typically doesn’t have companion plants. For certain, don’t plant root vegetables nearby as they will compete for the same nutrients.
The best way to grow celery is with other celery to support blanching.
Blanching is when the plant is protected from sun, helping the stalks turn lighter green and white. Shading the stalks may happen naturally when growing multiple plants together.
However, if they don’t partially shade each other, consider blanching. This is something you’ll want to do 3 – 4 weeks before harvesting.
It’s not necessary for the stalks and leaves to blanch in order to grow but it will help keep the roots cool. Generally, it will also taste less bitter when it’s blanched. However, it’s important to know that darker green stalks contain more nutrients than lighter ones.
There are two ways to blanch when growing celery. The important thing to remember is they still need access to sun.
Cover celery base and stalks lightly with paper bags or newspaper
Tuck the newspaper into the soil to secure it and wrap it around the plant. Bring the newspaper or paper bags up to just under the leaves. You can also use burlap sacks or other protection.
Mound with dirt
If you live in a rainy climate, consider hilling. With this method, instead of covering the ribs with newspaper, you cover them with soil and/or mulch.
Every few days or after watering or rainfall, you’ll need to add more dirt. As in the above method, mound up until you reach the leaves.
Wildlife and Insects
Deer, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and more animals will enjoy eating it. Consider fencing and other ways to keep animals out of gardens.
Depending on where you live, insects can infest leaves, stalks, and roots so check plants regularly. Some insects to watch out for include:
- Slugs, snails, cutworms
- Celery leaftiers also called greenhouse leaftiers
- Cabbage loopers
- Tomato hornworms
The great thing about growing celery is you can harvest some stalks and they will continue to grow. It’s important to pick the ribs from the outside in.
Cut it from the base. Get a ruler and measure the stalk from the base to the lowest leaf. If it’s a minimum of six to eight inches tall, it’s ready for harvesting.
On average, it takes four and a half months to sow celery. Cutting will encourage new growth.
In hardiness zones 2 – 8, you’ll likely harvest it in mid-July into early August.
Tips for growing celery
It is considered difficult to grow and not recommended for beginners. One of the reasons is seeds often don’t germinate.
Also, it prefers cooler temperatures. Most varieties do well with light frost protection can be damaged by moderate frost. However, cold weather after transplanting can cause bolting. In hot weather, it will bolt as well. This means it will flower and produce seeds.
After bolting, the stems will be woody and difficult to chew. It will likely be bitter as well.
It’s also important to keep it moist. Winter Vegetables List to Plant
How to use
Homegrown celery is tasty and can be eaten raw as a snack, cut into salads, including chicken and tuna salad recipes, or cooked in soups, stews, stuffing, as a garnish, and more. You can also juice it.
You can eat celery leaves and the stalks. It’s best when the stalks are tender and crunchy. Freeze what you won’t be able to use.
You can grow celery with hydroponics as well.
Types and varieties
There are different varieties of celery. These are some of the best varieties for home gardens. Choose organic seeds when possible.
- Tango Hybrid
- Grows 15 – 18 inches tall
- 6 inch spread
- Sweet, crunchy
- Tall Utah
- Grows 18 – 24 inches tall
- 12 inch spread
- Dark green stalks
- Pascal Giant
- Two feet tall
- Winter adaptability
- Mild taste when blanched
- Pale green edible root
- Shoots, leaves, stem all edible
- Also called knob celery, turnip-root
FAQs about growing celery at home
How long does it take to grow celery?
On average it takes 4.5 months to grow and harvest.
Can I grow celery from a stalk?
Instead of using the stalk to regrow the plant, use the base that’s usually discarded. Cut the bottom root from the stalks, and place in water.
How easy is it to grow celery?
If you have rich soil amended with compost and keep it moist, you can grow it. Much depends on when you plant it and if cold fronts come through. It also doesn’t like the heat. Therefore, because it’s somewhat finicky, it’s considered difficult to grow.
But if you have a celery bottom from the grocery store, try rooting it and transplanting it into a pot. With patience, you can grow it.
What is the best way to grow celery?
It’s really personal preference if you want to grow from seeds, starts, or the bottom. Starts may be difficult to find, depending on where you live.
If you have had luck growing seeds indoors and have good lighting, you can start from seed. Be sure to soak seeds overnight to speed up germination.
Does celery grow back after cutting?
Yes, it grows back. Cut stalks from the outside in. Wait until they are a minimum of six inches tall.
There’s nothing like homegrown vegetables from the garden. Keeping in mind that it’s mildly frost tolerant and doesn’t do well in heat, you can be successful growing celery.
While it’s not recommended for first-time gardeners and is better for experienced green thumbs, following these tips for how to grow celery will help you grow a successful crop.