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How to Grow Celery

In cool spring and summer regions, plant celery in early spring. In warm spring and summer regions, plant celery in late summer for harvest in late autumn or early winter.

Grow celery in the gardenCelery is a cool-weather crop. It requires 16 weeks of cool weather to come to harvest.

Start celery seed indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost in spring. Set transplants in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date when seedlings have 5 to 6 leaves.

In cool spring and summer regions, plant celery in early spring. In warm spring and summer regions, plant celery in late summer for harvest in late autumn or early winter.

Description. Celery is a hardy biennial grown as an annual. It has a rosette of 12- to 18-inch (30-45cm)  stalks, topped with divided leaves. Celery is grown for its stalks, leaves, and seeds.

Celery Yield. Plant 5 plants per household member.

How to Grow Celery

Site. Grow celery in compost-rich, moisture-retentive soil that borders on wet but still drains. Celery prefers soil with a pH between 5.8 and 6.8. Celery has a low tolerance for heat and prefers a cool, cloudy location where growing temperatures range between 60°F and 70°F (15-21°C). Plant celery where the growing season offers 4 months of cool weather.

Celery seedling
In cool spring and summer regions, plant celery in early spring. In warm spring and summer regions, plant celery in late summer for harvest in late autumn or early winter.

Celery Planting Time. Celery is a cool-weather crop. It requires 16 weeks of cool weather to come to harvest. Start celery seed indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost in spring. Set transplants in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date when seedlings have 5 to 6 leaves. (To delay transplanting time and slow growth, cut seedlings down to 3 inches (7.6cm) tall and then allow them to grow on.) Cold weather will inhibit growth as will warm weather. Temperatures below 50°F (10°C) for more than 12 hours may cause celery to bolt. In cool spring and summer regions, plant celery in early spring. In warm spring and summer regions, plant celery in late summer for harvest in late autumn or early winter.

Planting and Spacing Celery. Sow celery seed ¼ to ½ inch deep, 6 to 10 inches (15-25cm) apart; space rows 24 inches (61cm) apart. Transplant seedlings started indoors into trenches 3 to 4 inches (7.6-10cm)  deep set 6 to 10 inches (15-25cm)  apart. As plants grow mound up soil around the stems to blanch them. Plant self-blanching celery in blocks 6 to 12 inches (15-30cm) apart; planting closer will give a higher yield but more slender stalks.

Companion plants. Lettuce, spinach, English peas. Avoid pumpkins, cucumbers, and squash.

Container Growing Celery. Celery can be grown in an 8-inch (20cm)container. Set celery on 10-inch centers in large containers. To blanch celery growing in a container, tie paper, or cardboard cylinders around the stalks.

Caring for Celery

Water and Feeding Celery. Keep celery well-watered during all phases of growth. Lack of water will slow growth, cause stalks to become stringy, and encourage plants to send up flower stalks. Celery is a heavy feeder. Add aged-compost to planting beds before planting and side-dress plants with compost at midseason.

Celery in a row
Thin plants so that there is room for sunlight and air circulation.

Celery Care. Keep celery planting beds weed-free to avoid competition for moisture and nutrients. Keep cultivation shallow so as not to damage roots. Blanch celery to enhance its sweet flavor and whiten stalks. Celery that is not blanched can be bitter tasting. Blanching is achieved by covering the stalks with soil, straw, or paper cylinders rolled up to the top of the stalks to protect them from the sun, which encourages them to produce chlorophyll and turn green. Blanch celery up to 10 to 14 days before harvesting. Celery that sits too long after blanching will become pithy and may rot.

Celery Pests. Celery usually encounters no serious pest problems but can be attacked by celery leaf miner and slugs (during blanching).

Celery Diseases. Pink rot, black heart, and blight can attack celery. Make sure there are adequate magnesium and calcium in the soil to discourage these diseases.

Harvesting and Storing Celery

Celery Harvest. Time from planting to harvest is 100 to 130 days from transplants about 20 days longer from seed. A 10-foot (3m) row should yield about 20 heads of celery. Start harvesting before the first hard frost when the head is about 2 to 3 inches (5-7.6cm)in diameter at the base. Cut off the head at or slightly below the soil level.

Storing and Preserving Celery. Celery will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Leaves cut for use as an herb will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. Celery can be dried, canned, and frozen. Seeds can be used as an herb.

Celery Varieties to Grow

‘Golden Plume’ (85-116 days); ‘Golden Self-Blanching’ (80-118 days); ‘Green Giant’ (95-115 days); ‘Summer Pascal’ (‘Tall Fordhook’) (115 days); ‘Red Celery’ (120 days); ‘Starlet’ (120 days); ‘Utah 52-70’ (125 days); ‘Ventura’ (80-100 days); ‘French Celery Dinant’ (Chinese celery) (55 days).

Cleriac growing in the garden
Celeriac also called celery root is a celery relative.

Celeriac (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum) also called celery root and knob celery is a relative of celery. The edible part of celeriac is its enlarged, knobby base which is part stem and part crown. Grow celeriac as you would celery; it is easier to grow than celery.  Celeriac is ready for harvest when the base is 2 to 4 inches thick.

Celery botanical name. Apium graveolens dulce

Origin. Europe

More tips: How to Harvest and Store Celery.

Grow 80 vegetables and herbs: KITCHEN GARDEN GROWERS’ GUIDE available at Amazon.com.

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32 Comments

  1. I cut the bottom from a celery stalk bought from the store and
    stuck that in dirt. Now I have a stalk growing in my garden
    but it is flowering in the leaves. I tasted a stalk and it is
    bitter.. I WILL WATER IT MORE .. and cover it as you say.
    But should I cut it just below the dirt since it is flowering?
    Flo

    • You will not get a plant out of it. Once the stalks have formed, the plant “remembers” and knows that part of it’s job is done, it will ONLY FLOWER once the stalks have grown and been used. You can allow it to flower and plant the seeds in your garden next year.

  2. There could be a few reasons for the bitter taste of your celery: (1) not enough water–celery is shallow rooted and needs regular water; (2) the soil is not rich–celery loves a compost-orangic matter rich planting bed; (3) it is not a self-blanching variety so it requires blanching–blanching improves the flavor of favorites such as Fordhook, Giant Pascal, or Utah 52-70; (4) the plant is maturing past the tender, tasty stage and is moving on in life to the flowering to produce seed stage (it also may have bolted in the heat if you are in a hot summer region–celery grows best in a mild summer climate). Reason 4 is the best bet since your celery is already flowering. Flowering comes in the second year or season of a celery’s life (it is a biennial). Your celery is in its second year or thinks it is due to a cold snap followed by warm weather. So now the plant is on to reproducing itself before it dies. that makes sense since your celery was started from a nearly mature plant, from roots, not seed. The plant is concentrating its effort on flowering and seed production–it is beyond young and tender. If you allow the plant to flower and set seed, you can save the seed and sow and grow new plants next season. If you have plants that are not flowering they will likely still be tasty, you can harvest celery cut-and-come-again–taking the stalks you want when you want them by cutting the individual stalk at soil level or harvest the whole plant by lifting it roots and all.

  3. Side-dressing is a term used to describe the application of fertilizer or plant food alongside or around plants already growing in the garden. For example, your celery plants are likely planted in rows with each plant 6 to 8 inches apart and the rows 2 to 3 feet apart. Celery can benefit from a fertilizer of compost tea (aged compost diluted in water) or manure tea (aged cow manure diluted in water)–so you can side-dress your plants by pouring the liquid fertilizer alongside or around the plant about three or four inches from the plant–or alongside the row of plants (close enough that the fertilizer makes its way to the plants’ roots). You can also sidedress plants with a dry fertilizer–say aged compost or aged cow manure–by sprinkling it around or alongside the plant; dry fertilizers will work their way into the soil and down to the plant’s roots with the next watering.

  4. I, too am a first time grower. Actually by accident. the celery seedlings were labels as parsley. Anyway, I’ve done everything you said not to do. They’ve been in full sun throughout a very hot summer and yet they seem to be doing well. My question is: I’ve got the stalks with the leaves growing above ground and they’re quite hearty, but are the hearts (the part that you usually buy from the grocery) below the ground?

  5. The heart of the celery is at the center of the stalk–surrounded by the stalks you see above ground. Celery is relatively shallow rooted; if you lift a stalk from the garden, you will see directly below the soil level the plant’s roots. As you cut away the outside stalks, you will see smaller stalks that are ‘blanched’–that is not exposed to the sunlight and less green, more white in color–you are moving to the heart of the stalk.

  6. I have just found out about “re-growing celery and want to give it a try. A friend told me she put the root section in water first then after it had developed roots transplanted it to the garden. My question is which is better to start them in water first for the roots or to plant directly into the soil? Thanks

    • Celery is a biennial plant meaning it will live two seasons. The second season the plant will flower, set seed, and die. This means that you can overwinter celery but one winter. Overwintering means protecting your celery from temperatures below 60F–if you don’t consider celery an annual, a one season plant. Your friend is suggesting that you take up your celery plant, overwinter it in damp soil and get it started again the second year in water or a very watery medium (celery is by nature a marsh plant, so it loves water). Give it a try. But you will also want to start a new crop of celery this year from seed. You can start celery directly in the garden, but commonly it is started indoors and later transplanted out. See the Topic Index listing for Celery for growing suggestions.

  7. I’m a first time planter of celery from the caribbean, i want to know which type of soil is best for the celery to grow because we hardly have cool temperature.

    • Compost rich soil is the best soil for growing celery. Aged compost or an organic planting mix will be rich in nutrients and will be well draining–important for celery. Compost rich soil also holds soil moisture; this will be helpful in keeping the celery a bit cooler. You may want to place a frame over the planting bed and then drape shade cloth across the frame to help keep the plant and soil cool.

  8. Hi, Does anyone know how to treat blight ob celery plants? I have my celery in pots on a table (to keep away from slugs/snails) and so probably water them too much. Do I need to get rid of all my plants? Can I still juice the stems? I’d really prefer a natural organic treatment but am unable to find a product to fit my problem. And thank you for all the other information on this site, very helpful.

    • Too much water (as you note) is likely the cause of the blight. Blight, once it gets a foothold in the soil and in the plant, will spread to all part of the plant; this will happen in relatively short order. It would be best to pull the plants and place them in the trash (not the compost) and to dispose of the infected soil. If some of the plants and stalks are not infected and still appear healthy you can juice the stems. Blight and other fungal infections spread through the plant’s water-conducting capillaries–if you see any sing of those vessels turning brown or black–put the stems in the trash.

  9. I am a first time grower of celery and they are in containers. I do not know which variety it is as it was not marked. I wonder if I have done a few things wrong. First, I watered over the plant and now the center leaves are black. Second, did I over water or underwater as the stalks and leaves are going yellow? Also, I believe my plants have whitefly so I have been spraying with soapy water as I do not want to use chemicals. My plants are gangly and I think this is their first year of growth. I want to harvest next year. I have brought my plants indoors to the cool air as I live near the Pacific Northwest. Any suggestions to help me keep my plants happy? I do have straw which I could put around the plants but I do not want to harvest. I have added Seasoil around the plants as it has a lot of compost.

    • Celery grows best when daytime temperatures are between 60 and 70F and nighttime temperatures are in the 50sF. If the temperatures are too warm or too cool, the celery will grow gangly. Celery can also grow gangly if there too much nitrogen in the soil. Use an organic fertilizer that is even, 5-5-5 or 10-10-10. The black center or heart is the result or spots on leaves can be either a bacterial disease (no cure) or a fungal disease; the best course is to water at the base of the plant, not overhead. Keep the soil just moist, not wet. Avoid wetting the leaves or center of the plant. Remove any leaves or tissue that is black to avoid the spread of the disease. Yellowing stalks can be a sign of too little or too much water; perhaps too much in this case. Plants outdoors during winter should be protected from rain and cold by a plastic hoop tunnel. Indoors, you will want to keep the temperature in the 60s and low 70sF and give the plant a lot of light (yellowing can also occur when there is not enough light).

  10. Hi there — first time celery grower! I’ve planted our celery indoors in little peat pots about 7 weeks ago. The biggest sprouts are still only about 2″ tall, with 2-3 tiny leaves, very thin stalks (basically flopping over from the weight of the leaves!). Is this pace of growth normal… ? Should I fertilize, or do something else, to encourage them a bit? I do have them under a grow light 17 hours a day, but was planning to transplant them out into our greenhouse, to an in-ground bed, by the end of March (in 3-4 weeks), and am worried they won’t be mature enough by then. Any input would be most welcome!

    • Place a fan near the seedlings so that a very gentle breeze blows across them, or two or three times each day gently brush a ruler across the tops of the plants–these are ways to help the stalks grow stronger. All seedlings need some stimulation for stem cells to grow stronger–soon the plants will not flop over. You can feed the seedlings with a dilute solution of fish emulsion; check the label for recommended amount then dilute it by half. If the seedlings are still growing in a seed starting mix transfer them to a potting soil.

  11. Hello, I am growing celery in India. It did really well during the winter when temperatures are about 15 degrees Celsius. Now we’re getting to summer where the temperature goes to 45 degrees Celsius. I’m wondering how to help out survive the summer. Your advice will be appreciated!

    • Celery is not a hot weather plant; you can place shade cloth over the planting bed and keep the soil moist. The best course is to plant again when the weather begins to cool.

  12. I planted my celery from scraps and it was growing really well, had nice firm stalks, then all of a sudden began to wilt and then the stalks became soft and today they pulled straight out of the soil and had yellow/brownish ends (where they may have been connected to the original scrap piece. What happened? It was in a cooler area, well watered, i’m at a loss.

    • There are a few possible reasons the celery failed: (1) the soil was too moist and root rot set in; the soil could have gone dry and then wet as well; (2) hot summer temperatures could have stressed the plant; chilly temperatures would do the same; (3) soil or insect-borne disease; these diseases commonly attack the water-conducting capillaries. Try again when temperatures are the high 60s/low 70sF; use sterilized or pasteurized soil mix.

  13. Please Help! I planted mine in the ground last Fall from Organic store bought stem in zone 9-10. They were growing well in ideal temperatures, but when I picked one lately it was full of brown holes and the leaves had a lot of green little insects, before when they were younger had no insects and I just cut a few of the brown off of it and it was pretty good. Now it’s really infested. What can I do at this point? As far as any treatments that can save it? It is becoming a lot more stringy? Thank you

    • Depending on where you are in Zone 9-10, the average daily temperature may now be too warm for celery to thrive. The brown spots may be a fungal disease Rhizoctonia which will cause rot in the stalks; there is no cure, but you can harvest and eat the unaffected stalks. The green insects may be aphids; you can wash them away with a stream of water or spray with insecticidal soap.

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