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White Spots on Parsley- Causes and Solutions!

Parsley growing in the garden.

White Spots on Parsley- Causes and Solutions!

Parsley is a widely used herb packed with health benefits and flavor.

You’ve probably seen it as a garnish on your plate at a fancy restaurant or perhaps even used it to make pesto. 

According to Healthline, parsley not only heightens the flavors of your favorite dishes, but it can also contribute to immunity, heart health, and more.

Although parsley is easy to grow at home, like many herbs and plants it can develop problems like white spots. 

In this article you’ll learn about 5 factors that can contribute to white spots on parsley leaves:

  1. Not enough sunlight
  2. Poor soil structure or nutrition
  3. Too much/not enough water
  4. Attacks from garden pests
  5. Plant diseases

You’ll also learn what you can do to get back the green!

Let’s jump in!

RELATED: Parsley can also suffer from yellowing leaf discoloration. Learn why and what you can do in our post!

1. Insufficient Light

All plants (including parsley!) need different levels of sunlight to produce chlorophyll, which gives plants their green appearance. 

When there’s not enough chlorophyll produced, you may see your parsley leaves turning white.

Planting parsley under or around hedges or trees that block natural sunlight from reaching the plants could result in insufficient lighting.  

Another risk from insufficient sunlight is mildew, a type of mold. Mold thrives in environments that are warm and dark, like an overcrowded corner or sheltered porch corner. 

The good news : It won’t kill your parsley. But it will slow down growth and production and cause unsightly white spots.

Solution: Look to the light!

This fix is easy if your parsley is in pots: Move them to a bright windowsill or area of your porch or deck that gets direct sunlight. 

When the weather is cold or overcast, use a grow light for a few hours each day to simulate sunlight.

For outdoor in-ground parsley plants, trim the leaves and branches of plants and trees around the parsley that block the sunlight. 

If there’s too much shade or you just can’t bring yourself to trim trees or bushes, consider transplanting your parsley to another, sunnier site in your yard.  Don’t worry- Parsley is pretty hardy, even though it is slow to grow!

2. Poor Soil Conditions

Soil conditions can be challenging to deal with, depending on where you live and what you’ve planted in the soil before.

Take clay soil, for example. It can be tricky to figure out how much to water your parsley because clay is so absorbent and holds on to moisture. 

This can lead to water staying trapped in the soil instead of draining down into the lower layers of the ground. 

Graphic showing how clay soil causes moisture retention in the shallow ground.

Rocky soil can be difficult to grow in as well because it doesn’t allow for root expansion and growth and lacks the nutrients parsley needs to grow.

Solution: Improve soil structure and add nutrients

When growing your parsley in a container, use a good potting soil mixture that will feed the parsley as it grows.

And as we mentioned before, make sure there’s good drainage in your parsley pot.

For in-ground planting, till up the soil (or clay) well and add some compost or mulch around the base of the plant. 

RELATED: Visit our post on applying compost for mulch to learn how to use this method in your garden.

For soil care and improvement, take the following steps:

  1. Till up the ground where your parsley will be growing.
  2. Remove any rocks from the soil.
  3. If clay is present, soak with water to soften (if dry or solid) and till again.
  4. Add compost to the soil and mix together.
  5. Once planted, maintain a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to maintain moisture levels.
  6. Consider having your soil tested for pH and nutrients if you have trouble with growing or maintaining your plants.

Most local hardware and gardening centers carry great options for potting soil, garden soil, and organic fertilizer. 

3. Watering Problems

It’s easy to over-water plants. You want to do right by your plants, so you give them ample water to make them happy, right?

Or perhaps life got busy and you forgot. We’ve all done it- plant neglect and abuse.

It’s ok!  We’re not all born with that “green thumb”.  It is better to under-water than over-water, but we can attempt to fix both.

If you use an automatic watering system or a sprinkler system, they’re just not smart enough to water individual plants based on their needs.

When you’re growing parsley in pots, you also need to ensure that you have sufficient drainage to prevent over-watering or moisture backup.

Solution: Make it a Habit to Check Soil Moisture and Ensure Good Drainage

Since both under-watering and overwatering could be to blame for your parsley leave’s white tinge, you’ll have to do a little investigating.

A good method to measure soil moisture is by sticking your fingertip in the soil.

If all you feel is dry and crumbly soil, your parsley likely needs some water ASAP.

What about over-watering? Aim to water less often to prevent soggy soil or standing water. If you use a sprinkler system, set the timer to water less often or at less volume.

Here again, be sure to manually check soil moisture. If your finger comes out covered in wet soil, don’t water. If only a couple small bits of dirt stick to your finger, don’t water.

But when the soil does feel dry about 1 inch deep, add water until it soaks in.

For new in-ground plants, water twice a day until you start to see new growth, then only once a day or less often as needed.

For potted parsley, give water until it just starts to drip from the pot’s drainage holes.

Good drainage is also essential for healthy moisture levels, especially if you’re growing your parsley plant in a container. 

Make sure nothing is blocking the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. Use a rock or piece of wood to cover the hole and prevent loss of soil while still allowing for water drainage.

Also, consider adding about a one-inch layer of gravel or bedrock at the bottom of the pot before adding potting soil.

RELATED: White spots on mint is another garden woe- find out what might be going on and what to do!

4. Harmful Insects

The University of Florida lists these garden pests as potential causes for white spots or dusty leaves on parsley:

  • Aphids
  • Whiteflies
  • Cutworms
  • Leafminers

Here’s what these pests look like:

Pests can cause injury to leaves by feeding on them or by laying their eggs on or underneath them. 

Insects are not only annoying because they can damage your parsley plant, but also because they can spread disease to other plants and animals.

You can tell if insects have been feasting on parsley leaves if you see holes in the leaves or semi-circular patterns of leaves missing.

Solution: Prevent infestations and treat existing ones

The best method to get rid of harmful insects is to prevent them.

Hang up a hummingbird feeder as a draw for insect-eating hummingbirds. And bring in plants that attract beneficial insects like dragonflies, wasps and ladybugs.

These options will cut down on insects and bring some color to your garden!

If you have it available, growing your parsley in a greenhouse will also reduce the risk of pests feasting on your plants. 

But parsley isn’t the only plant that can benefit from sheltered growing conditions. Visit this article to learn more about the best crops for greenhouses.

Here are some natural ways to rid your garden of unwanted pests:

  1. Remove the bugs and affected leaves by hand. Unfortunately, this can be a time-consuming process if there’s a great deal of damage or a lot of bugs. In this case, it might be better to start over with some new parsley plants.
  2. Use insecticidal soap. This treatment is especially effective against aphids. It works by preventing insects from landing on plants and deters them from munching. You can purchase pre-made insecticidal soap or make your own by mixing 1 quart water and 1 tablespoon of non-detergent dish soap in a spray bottle. 
  3. Use neem oil. This is my go-to solution! Not only is it a natural deterrent to these pests, but it also disrupts their feeding and growth cycles. Make sure to dilute neem oil according to the instructions, or buy a ready-to-use formula.

For both insecticidal soap and neem oil, spray the affected plants liberally, on both the top and bottom of the leaves. You may need to reapply several times if you’re dealing with a heavy infestation. 

5. Plant Diseases

Insects, soggy soil, fungi, and other types of mold can cause diseases in your parsley plants. These are the 4 most common diseases you might run into:

  1. Powdery mildew (fungal disease)
  2. Downey mildew (fungal disease)
  3. Celery mosaic virus (viral disease)
  4. Bacterial infection (bacterial disease)

Powdery mildew and downy fungus mildew cause white, velvety patches to appear on leaves. Overcrowding, poor air circulation, and excessive moisture contribute to the development and spread of fungal diseases.

Powdery mildew on pumpkin plants in the garden.

Warm and humid conditions are perfect conditions for fungal spores to cause powdery mildew. If your parsley feels cramped or doesn’t get enough fresh air, powdery mildew takes advantage and settles in. Downy fungus mildew is caused by the pathogen-like organism called Peronospora spp. It thrives in cool and humid conditions, especially when foliage remains wet for extended periods.

The celery mosaic virus is primarily transmitted through infected plant debris, contaminated tools, or insect vectors such as aphids. Once infected, the virus causes mottled or mosaic patterns on the leaves, stunted growth, and distorted foliage.

A plant with white leaf discoloration from mosaic virus.

Bacterial infections on parsley leaves are caused by various bacteria, including species of Pseudomonas and Xanthomonas. These pathogens enter the plant through wounds, natural openings, or during wet conditions. Overwatering, poor drainage, and injuries to the plant create favorable conditions for bacterial infection.

Solution: Treat the Disease

To treat fungal disease, remove the white-spotted leaves by hand and dispose of them by burning or in a plastic bag in the garbage can. Once that’s done, there are natural solutions for ridding your parsley plants of powdery mildew without using harmful chemicals or breaking the bank. 

Here are some options using ingredients you probably already have in your spice cabinet or pantry:

  1. Vinegar and water. Mix one part vinegar (preferably white vinegar) to three parts water in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray the solution on your parsley plants once or twice a week. Avoid spraying when sunlight is high as vinegar can burn plant leaves.
  2. Baking soda and water. Add ¼ cup of baking soda for each cup of water in a spray bottle and shake well. Use this solution directly on plants every other day to help get rid of white spots on parsley leaves.
  3. Copper fungicide. You can get concentrated formulas, but I recommend keeping it simple and getting a ready-to-use copper fungicide. This a fungal treatment approved for organic gardening, but you still want to use caution and follow the package directions exactly.

To prevent both powdery and downy mildew, prune dense foliage to allow better airflow and provide adequate spacing around your parsley plants. And make sure to pull weeds as soon as you see them. Additionally, avoid overhead watering, as it promotes leaf wetness. 

For viral diseases, unfortunately, there is no effective treatment. You’ll have to pull the affected parsley plants immediately and dispose of them in the trash or by burning. Do not put the plants in the compost.

Since there’s no treatment, prevention is key. Start with healthy plants and avoid planting near infected crops. Minimize the presence of aphids and other potential vectors through insect control measures.

To manage bacterial infections, keep the garden area clean and remove any plant debris regularly. Avoid overwatering and ensure proper drainage to prevent excess moisture.

When harvesting or transplanting your parsley plant, handle the plant gently to avoid jagged edges or broken stems where bacteria could attack. In severe cases, infected plants should be promptly removed and destroyed to prevent further spread.

Perhaps most importantly, keep disease at bay with proper watering techniques, soil treatment and care, and rotating plants to different areas of your garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

That depends on what is causing the white spots.

If you figure out the cause is poor soil or insufficient light, then your parsley is safe to eat.

For the other causes including powdery mildew, don’t risk it! Dispose of the affected leaves and work on prevention of disease for new parsley plants.

Unfortunately not.

Not only will powdery mildew kill your parsley plants and slow down growth and production, but it could also spread to other plants. It’s best to take steps to prevent the growth and development of powdery mildew or to slow its growth if discovered. 

According to Iowa State University, humans are pretty safe from actual harm from powdery mildew.

Usually, the only effect on the plant is it changes the taste and decreases the nutritional value.

Always be sure to wash your parsley before preparing or consuming to remove any fungus or bacteria that may be on the plant and contributing to the leaves turning white. 

Final Thoughts

Parsley is a versatile herb that has earned its place as a garden staple.

But it is slightly more vulnerable to leaf discoloration from poor environmental factors, pests or diseases than its herb brethren. 

The good news is that most of the time, you can pretty quickly get to the bottom of what’s causing those white spots on parsley. Then take the steps we’ve outlined here to return to a healthy green and delicious flavor! 

What’s your favorite way to use fresh parsley? Do you have any other helpful tips to share?

Let us know in the comments!