How to Grow Sorrel Seeds

Grow Guide #2319
Family: Polygonaceae
Binomial name: Rumex sp.
Life Cycle: Perennial

This 'How to Grow' guide details everything a home gardener needs to know to plant, grow and care for Sorrel (Rumex sp.).

When to Sow Sorrel Seeds

Sorrel can be grown year-round in most climates. Avoid planting in extremely hot or cold weather which can affect germination and growth. Use the table below to identify the best time of year to sow sorrel in your climate.

  JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Cool
Temperate
Sub-Tropical
Tropical
Arid

Preparation

Sorrel plants can be difficult to eradicate once they are established in the garden. Choose a permanent position in a garden bed or grow them in containers to prevent them spreading into unwanted areas.

Sorrel plants are best grown in full sun or part shade. Choose a location that will receive at least 3 hours of full sun each day.

Sorrel plants need a well drained soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. Prepare soil by weeding it thoroughly, digging it over to loosen it and adding aged animal manure or compost. Keep the area free of weeds until planting. Learn more about preparing soil for planting here.

Sorrel plants can be grown in containers. If possible choose a variety that’s recommended for container growing. Use a good quality potting mix and make sure your container is large enough for mature plants; a minimum of 20 litres is recommended for sorrel. During the growing season, keep in mind that container grown plants may need additional fertiliser to encourage healthy growth.

How to Sow Sorrel Seeds

Sorrel seeds do not require any treatment (eg soaking, stratification) before sowing.

Sorrel seeds can be sown directly into the garden OR seedlings can be raised in trays or other containers and transplanted to the garden once established.

Sow Direct

  1. Sow seeds directly in the garden 5mm deep and 30cm apart.
  2. Keep soil moist but never wet or dry.
  3. Seeds should germinate in around 7-14 days at a soil temperature of 22-22°C.
  4. Young seedlings will need protection from pests, pets and weather until they are established.

Raise Seedlings

  1. Fill trays, punnets or jiffy pots with a good quality seed-raising mix, or use soil starter pellets.
  2. Sow seeds 5mm deep.
  3. Keep soil moist but never wet or dry.
  4. Seeds should germinate in around 7-14 days at a soil temperature of 22-22°C.
  5. Transplant seedlings to the garden once they have their first true leaves and are large enough to handle (usually 5-10cm tall).
  6. Plant out, spacing plants 30cm apart.

Sorrel is a cool season crop that will bolt in very hot weather. Do not transplant seedlings or sow seeds outside in very warm temperatures.

How to Grow Sorrel

Sorrel plants may need watering during the growing season. Water when the soil is dry about 5cm below the surface (test this by scratching away a little soil with your finger). Water deeply in the early morning or late afternoon. Avoid watering the leaves of plants to avoid fungal diseases. Learn more about watering here.

If soil was well prepared no extra fertiliser should be necessary. In poor soil or to give your plants an extra boost, application of a high-nitrogen fertiliser or one formulated for leafy greens or herbs can be beneficial:

  • Apply slow release fertiliser at the recommended rate when transplanting or when seedlings are 5-10cm tall.
  • Apply liquid fertiliser at the recommended rate and frequency during the growing season.

Optional: To give plants room to grow, thin seedlings when they are large enough to handle. Pull out any weak or small seedlings so plants are spaced about 30cm apart.

Tip: To prolong the life of the plant, remove flower stalks as soon as they appear.

Sorrel may die back in winter in cold climates, reshooting from the rhizomes in spring.

Plants can be rejuvenated by lifting and dividing the rhizomes in spring every 2-3 years.

How to Harvest Sorrel

Sorrel should be ready to harvest in approximately 60 days.

Leaves are ready to harvest when they are large enough to eat, and can be harvested as needed. Harvest leaves by cutting off the outer ones at the base, leaving some on the plant for future growth. Sorrel leaves are best eaten soon after harvest. Store leaves short term in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge. For longer term storage sorrel leaves can be frozen in ice cubes.

Common Problems when Growing Sorrel

Like all plants, sorrel is susceptible to some pests, diseases and other problems. Below is a list of the most common problems gardeners encounter when growing sorrel plants:

  • Aphids
    Aphids are small (2-4mm long) sap-sucking insects that congregate on the new shoots or the undersides of leaves. They can cause leaves to wilt or become discoloured, and also excrete honeydew which can attract ants and other insect pests. To manage aphids, remove them by spraying with a garden hose, apply a soap or alcohol spray, or encourage predatory insects to your garden. Read more about aphids here.
  • Bitter Leaves
    Bitter taste can be caused by plants growing too slowly, suffering a setback in growth or being harvested too late. Enrich soil with aged manure before planting, ensure plants are watered deeply and regularly, and harvest when they are young and tender.
  • Bolting is when a plant prematurely flowers and goes to seed. Bolting can be caused by a period of extreme weather. Avoid sowing seed until after the danger of frosts has passed or in very hot weather. Water plants regularly and deeply in hot weather to prevent them suffering heat stress.
  • Slugs and Snails
    Slugs and snails are molluscs that feed on tender leaves and shoots, mostly at night, leaving slimy trails behind them. Control them by removing their hiding places, keeping free range poultry, collecting them by torchlight or by placing traps. Read more about slugs and snails here.

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