How to Grow French or Garden Sorrel (2023)

Sorrel is a leafy green vegetable grown for its pleasantly tart, lemony flavor. The plants have smooth to crinkled, arrow-shaped leaves that grow from a center rosette. The plantwill send up a tall flower stalk as the temperature warms, but it's best to remove this to promote leaf growth for a better harvest. The red flowers are rather insignificant whorled spikes, like rhubarb.

2:14

Click Play to Learn How to Grow Sorrel

It's typically planted in spring and has a moderate growth rate. The young leaves are ready to harvest in a little over a month. Sorrel only grows 12 to 18 inches tall, although the flower stalks (if left on the plant) will grow taller. It does spread outthough, easily taking up 2 feet in width. Sorrel is toxic to animals.

Common NameSorrel, garden sorrel, French sorrel, sorrel dock, sour dock, sour leek, spinach dock
Botanical NameRumex acestosa (Garden sorrel), Rumex scutatus (French sorrel)
FamilyPolygonaceae
Plant TypeHerbaceous perennial
Mature Size12-18 in. tall, 18-24 in. wide
Sun ExposureFull sun
Soil TypeRich, well-drained
Soil pHAcidic (5.5 to 6.8)
Bloom TimeSummer
Flower ColorGreen, turning to red
Hardiness Zones5-7 (USDA)
Native AreaEurope, Asia
ToxicityToxic to dogs and cats

How to Plant Sorrel

When to Plant

Sorrel plants prefer the cool seasons of spring and fall. The plant will quickly bolt to seed as the weather heats up.

Selecting a Planting Site

Choose a sunny spot with good drainage and tilled soil. Only till the top 12 inches of soil with organic matter to loosen up the site for planting. The tilled bed will also cut down on weeds and help long tap roots adjust comfortably.

Spacing, Depth, and Support

Sow sorrel seeds 1/2inch deep, spaced about 3 inches apart. When the plants are 1 to 2 inches tall,thinto a spacing of 12 to 15 inches. Typically, two or three plants meet the needs of the average family. Sorrel does not need any supports to grow.

Sorrel Care

How to Grow French or Garden Sorrel (1)

(Video) Sorrel - a humble and valuable garden perennial

How to Grow French or Garden Sorrel (2)

How to Grow French or Garden Sorrel (4)

Light

Sorrel will grow best infull sun, although some partial shade will keep them growing into summer.

Soil

Sorrel grows best in aslightly acidic soil pH; somewhere in the range of 5.5 to 6.8. Because sorrel is grown for its leaves, a soil rich inorganic matterwill produce abundant leafy, green growth.

Water

Give your sorrel plants regular water; at least 1 inch per week.Mulchingwill help conserve moisture and prevent soil from splashing up onto the leaves.

Temperature and Humidity

Sorrel plants are reliablyperennialinUSDA hardiness zones5 and higher, but they are commonly grown as annuals in zones 3 through 7, starting with new plants each spring. Older plants can become tough and less flavorful. Established plants can handle a light frost.

Fertilizer

Sorrel is happiest when started in a rich soil, but you shouldamend the soileach year with organic matter and possibly side-dress withcompostor granular fertilizer applied mid-season.

Types of Sorrel

There aren't many seeds or sorrel plants with named varieties. The two most commonly grown species are garden sorrel (Rumex acestosa) and French sorrel (Rumex scutatus). Seeds and transplants are usually identified as sorrel, garden sorrel, or French sorrel. French sorrel has smaller leaves and a more subtle flavor than garden sorrel.

(Video) Sorrel - growing, care and harvest ( Rumex acetosa )

Here are four edible relatives in theRumexgenus:

  • Common or sheep sorrel(Rumex acetosella) is often considered a weed; Its small leaves taste best when they are young and tender.
  • Red-veined sorrel(Rumex sanguineus) has leaves with red veins; It's more ornamental than flavorful with little of the tartness you'd expect from a sorrel and it's a good salad green.
  • Spinach dock (Rumex patientia), also called patience dock, garden patience, or herb patience, is much taller (4 to 5 feet tall) than garden sorrel, but with a similar flavor.
  • Spinach rhubarb(Rumex abyssinicus) is a giant 8-foot plant with leaves that can substitute for spinach and ribs like rhubarb.

Sorrel vs. Profusion Sorrel

Over a decade ago, Richters Herbs introduced its exclusive'Profusion' sorrel. It does not set seed and is only grown from divisions, so you will have to purchase or be gifted with your first plant. But it has a distinct advantage over standard types of sorrel, namely wider leaves, that remain tender and non-bitter longer into the season.

Harvesting Sorrell

Harvesting sorrel typically takes place from late spring through fall. Newly seeded plants take 35 to 40 days to reach baby size and two months to fully mature. Sorrel is ready to harvest when the leaves are about 4 inches long. Tender leaves are best for eating, and if you harvest as cut-and-come-again, you will have a steady supply of young, tender leaves.

Sorrel is widely used in French cuisine for its citrusy touch. You can use sorrel fresh in salads or on sandwiches, and youcan also cook with it. The leaves tend to dissolve with long cooking times, imparting their lemony flavor.

Fresh sorrel does not store well. It will keep in the refrigerator for a week or so, but the flavor and texture will decline. You can freeze or dry the leaves, as you would for any other herb, but the flavor will not match that of fresh leaves.

How to Grow Sorrel in Pots

Sorrel is an excellent choice for growing in containers; It's easy to grow and perfect for first-time gardeners. Another advantage of growing in pots is that you can often keep the sorrel growing longer than plants in the ground because you can move the containers to a shady location on warm days. The minimum container size is a 6-inch pot, but 8 to 12 inches is ideal. Make sure the pots have plenty of drainage holes. Water pots with 1 inch of water weekly.

Pruning

Unless you want tosave seed, cut off the flower stalks to the ground and remove any declining leaves. The plant should re-sprout with more tender leaves. Sorrel will self-seedif you leave the seed heads on the plants.

Propagating Sorrel

Root division in the spring or fall is the most popular way to propagate sorrel. To keep your plants healthy and vigorous,dividethem in spring or early summerevery three to five years. Here's how to propagate sorrel by root division.

  1. With a sharp spade or shovel, dig a circle around a clump of sorrel.
  2. Divide the plant by either digging the plant up and dividing roots by hand or digging directly through the plant to create separate clumps. Make sure there is at least a healthy leaf on each divided clump.
  3. Replant each clump in a spot with well-draining, tilled soil and add no more than 1 inch of mulch on top of the backfilled soil. You can also put a clump in a pot, if preferred.
  4. Water regularly (1 inch per week) until established.

How to Grow Sorrel From Seed

Seed can be started indoorsor outdoors. But because you candirect sowas early as two to three weeks before the last spring frost date, it is easiest to directly sow seeds in the garden. When starting seeds in pots, space seeds 3 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep in the soil. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Transplant the sorrel plants when they grow to have at least two sets of true leaves.

Overwintering

Sorrel is a hardy perennial that tolerates temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Foliage, especially at the top of the plant, will begin to die back in the winter. It's best to rejuvenate your sorrel garden by dividing them in the spring and replacing the plants every few years.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Sorrel is not often bothered by pests, butaphidsmight settle in. Blast them off with water and thin the plants to make them less attractive as places to hide. Sorrel typically is not bothered by diseases.

FAQ

(Video) Tasty Perennial Greens!! French Sorrel for Late Winter/Early Spring Food Forests & Veg Patches

Article Sources

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

FAQs

How do you grow French sorrel? ›

Sow seeds in pots 1cm (1/2 in) deep and place in a light position to germinate. When large enough to handle, divide the rootball up and give individual seedlings their own 5cm (2in) container. Plants can be placed outdoors in late spring and will eventually need a 30cm (12in) wide pot filled with soil-based compost.

Does sorrel come back every year? ›

Two perennial herbs that I wouldn't be without are lovage and sorrel. They come up every year, survive on little attention, and are among the first plants to provide fresh green leaves in spring. They also pack powerful flavors. Lovage is tangy and pungent, like celery but richer and stronger.

What is the best time of year to plant sorrel? ›

Start sorrel seed indoors three weeks before last frost, or direct seed in early spring. Choose a spot in full sun with good drainage. Space mature plants at least a foot apart. If the plant thrives and spreads outside its space, divide it in spring.

Which month is the best month to plant sorrel? ›

Time of planting: Traditional Red: May -August.

Is sorrel easy to grow? ›

They can be grown as a cut-and-come-again salad leaf, or left to mature and added to soups and sauces. Sorrel is easy to grow, with plants producing an abundance of pale green leaves.

Where does sorrel grow best? ›

Soil. Sorrel grows best in a slightly acidic soil pH; somewhere in the range of 5.5 to 6.8. Because sorrel is grown for its leaves, a soil rich in organic matter will produce abundant leafy, green growth.

Does sorrel like sun or shade? ›

Sorrel's growing season runs from early spring into mid-summer. In USDA hardiness zones four and above, sorrel is among the many perennial herbs that can annually self-seed. 1. Choose a site: Sorrel plants prefer full sun, so choose a spot in your garden that receives at least six hours of daylight.

What can you not plant with sorrel? ›

Many people choose to grow it as part of a vegetable or herb garden, as the plant does particularly well with thyme, sage and rosemary. Sorrel also does well with low-growing crops such as strawberries. Avoid planting sorrel with tall plants such as beans, peas, or corn.

Can I grow sorrel in pots? ›

Growing sorrel in pots is a great first-time gardening project because it is so easy. Give the plants 1 inch (2.5 cm.) of water weekly. If the soil has plenty of organic matter in it, there is no need to fertilize, but mulching over the top of the root zone will help prevent weeds and keep moisture in the soil.

Is sorrel cut and come again? ›

Sorrel. Sorrel is a perennial green that pokes its head up in early spring. Those first few leaves are about as tender as they come—and the most delicious to use in sandwiches or salads. It will send up a seed stalk eventually, but you can put that off by treating the plant as a cut-and-come-again.

How often should I water my sorrel? ›

Keep the bed moderately moist until germination and then thin the plants when they reach 2 inches (5 cm.) high. Sorrel will not need a lot of supplemental care, but the bed does need to be kept weeded and the plants should receive at least 1 inch (2.5 cm.) of water per week.

Is sorrel toxic to dogs? ›

The leaves come in a variety of colors, such as white, lavender, and light yellow. Sorrel poisoning in dogs is a result of dogs ingesting all or part of the sorrel plant, which contains soluble calcium oxalates. These compounds are toxic to dogs.

What does sorrel do for the body? ›

Sorrel is a great source of antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that protect your cells from damage by neutralizing harmful free radicals. Antioxidants may help prevent many chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes ( 6 ).

Are sorrel leaves edible? ›

Yellow wood sorrel is also known as sour grass because its leaves have a mildly sour taste. In fact, every part o this flower, including the leaves, flowers, and seed pods, are edible. Sorrel is a common addition to salads, soups, and sauces and can be used to make tea.

Are sorrel and hibiscus the same thing? ›

In the Caribbean, the popular terms are hibiscus or sorrel, as it is made from the hibiscus sabdariffa flower. The plant is native to India, but can grow as an annual in all climates. The fleshy, red calyxes that surround the base of the flowers are what we brew to make sorrel, the drink.

Is sorrel deep rooted? ›

Description. Sorrel is a slender herbaceous perennial plant about 60 centimetres (24 inches) high, with roots that run deep into the ground, as well as juicy stems and arrow-shaped (sagittate) leaves.

How long does sorrel last? ›

Make-Ahead and Storage. The strained sorrel can be kept refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Is sorrel a heavy feeder? ›

It is one of those plants that you can plant, do very little to and still see reasonable production. And with a little feeding and watering you will be able to produce enough to feed you family and most of the neighbours.

How cold can sorrel tolerate? ›

Frost tolerant

When established, this hardy perennial can tolerate winter temperatures to -20F (-29C).

Are there different types of sorrel? ›

There are three major varieties to know: broad leaf, French, and red-veined sorrel. Broad leaf sorrel has slender, arrow-shaped leaves. French or Buckler leaf sorrel has small, bell-shaped leaves, while red-veined sorrel has a slender, tapered leaf with the namesake screaming red veins throughout.

Will deer eat sorrel? ›

The leaves and stems of wood sorrel are readily eaten by all classes of livestock, deer and antelope.

Does sorrel plant spread? ›

Rumex acetosa is a perennial and is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 7. The majority of Rumex species are invasive to some or another degree and many, particularly Rumex acetosella or Sheep Sorrel, are considered weeds in North America. These plants spread rapidly and can be hard to control.

Do slugs eat sorrel? ›

Pests and Bugs That Eat Sorrel

Sorrel pest problems are limited mostly to aphids, snails, and slugs. You may also find that some species of butterfly or moth larvae will feed on the leaves.

How tall does sorrel get? ›

It grows 18 to 24 inches tall, but the leaves are edible only until they're about eight inches long. It's the most acidic variety of this herb. French sorrel, R. scutatus, is distinguished by its fiddle-shaped leaves.

Can you plant sorrel with tomatoes? ›

Both thrive in acidic soil, and the strawberry plants won't shade out the low-growing greens. If you're companion planting with other acidic-loving fruits (like tomatoes), then sow your sorrel so it's at the front of the bed, facing south. This way, the tall tomatoes won't block the sun from the greens during the day.

Is sorrel a herb or vegetable? ›

Sorrel is really an herb, and its spade-shape leaves, which closely resemble young spinach, are often sold in small bunches in the herb section of markets. In France, sorrel is a familiar sign of spring. Chefs use it to make pureed soups or tart sauces for rich fish like salmon.

How do you harvest sorrel? ›

After about 4 weeks of growth, when the plants are at least 6" tall, identify the largest, outer leaves. Using a pair of scissors, snip off about a quarter to a third of the leaves. This will allow new growth to develop for continuous harvests.

How long does it take for sorrel to grow? ›

Harvesting Sorrel

Newly seeded plants take 35 to 40 days to reach “baby” size and two months to fully mature. Sorrel is ready to harvest when the leaves are about 4 inches long. Tender leaves are best for eating.

Can I grow sorrel indoors? ›

Sorrel grows very easily indoors, as it tolerates partial shade. A south-facing window getting a few hours of direct sun is more than enough to grow sorrel.

How do you take care of red sorrel? ›

The key to growing a bumper crop of red veined sorrel is to plant it in the right spot. Look for a site with full sun to partial shade and soil rich in organic matter. As a hardy perennial, it requires little ongoing care but I like to water deeply every few weeks when the weather is hot and dry.

How long does it take for sorrel to grow? ›

Harvesting Sorrel

Newly seeded plants take 35 to 40 days to reach “baby” size and two months to fully mature. Sorrel is ready to harvest when the leaves are about 4 inches long. Tender leaves are best for eating.

Is sorrel cut and come again? ›

Sorrel. Sorrel is a perennial green that pokes its head up in early spring. Those first few leaves are about as tender as they come—and the most delicious to use in sandwiches or salads. It will send up a seed stalk eventually, but you can put that off by treating the plant as a cut-and-come-again.

Does sorrel like sun or shade? ›

Sorrel's growing season runs from early spring into mid-summer. In USDA hardiness zones four and above, sorrel is among the many perennial herbs that can annually self-seed. 1. Choose a site: Sorrel plants prefer full sun, so choose a spot in your garden that receives at least six hours of daylight.

Can you grow sorrel from cuttings? ›

Sorrel makes a nice change from spinach and works well fresh or sautéed. You can grow it from seed, division, or root cuttings. No matter how you start your plants, growing sorrel in pots is ideal.

What can you not plant with sorrel? ›

Many people choose to grow it as part of a vegetable or herb garden, as the plant does particularly well with thyme, sage and rosemary. Sorrel also does well with low-growing crops such as strawberries. Avoid planting sorrel with tall plants such as beans, peas, or corn.

Can you eat raw sorrel? ›

If you've never tried sorrel, be prepared to pucker up. This spring green is packed with potent astringency and a lemony, citrus-like flavor. It bump up the acidic quality of salads (just use less vinegar or lemon juice), and is great eaten raw.

Is sorrel toxic to dogs? ›

The leaves come in a variety of colors, such as white, lavender, and light yellow. Sorrel poisoning in dogs is a result of dogs ingesting all or part of the sorrel plant, which contains soluble calcium oxalates. These compounds are toxic to dogs.

Can sorrel survive winter? ›

Part herb part green, sorrel is a great choice for a winter garden. There are several types but the most common ones are garden sorrel, French sorrel, and red-veined sorrel. This is a hardy perennial plant often used to add a lemony tang to salads. The leaves persist well into winter but even longer with protection.

Why is my sorrel bitter? ›

Oxalic acid is responsible for giving red veined sorrel a bitter lemon flavor and in large quantities can cause mineral deficiencies, specifically calcium. Oxalic acid is minimized when cooked. It is suggested that people with pre-existing conditions avoid ingesting.

What is the benefit of sorrel? ›

Sorrel is a great source of antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that protect your cells from damage by neutralizing harmful free radicals. Antioxidants may help prevent many chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes ( 6 ).

How often should I water my sorrel? ›

Keep the bed moderately moist until germination and then thin the plants when they reach 2 inches (5 cm.) high. Sorrel will not need a lot of supplemental care, but the bed does need to be kept weeded and the plants should receive at least 1 inch (2.5 cm.) of water per week.

Does sorrel plant spread? ›

Rumex acetosa is a perennial and is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 7. The majority of Rumex species are invasive to some or another degree and many, particularly Rumex acetosella or Sheep Sorrel, are considered weeds in North America. These plants spread rapidly and can be hard to control.

Do slugs eat sorrel? ›

Pests and Bugs That Eat Sorrel

Sorrel pest problems are limited mostly to aphids, snails, and slugs. You may also find that some species of butterfly or moth larvae will feed on the leaves.

Can I grow sorrel indoors? ›

Sorrel grows very easily indoors, as it tolerates partial shade. A south-facing window getting a few hours of direct sun is more than enough to grow sorrel.

How do you stem sorrel? ›

To keep sorrel fresh, do not wash the leaves until just before eating. Immerse the leaves in water and shake them delicately but do not soak them. Cook sorrel with the stems removed. To remove the stems, simply fold the leaves in half lengthwise and pull off the stem.

Are sorrel and Hibiscus the same thing? ›

In the Caribbean, the popular terms are hibiscus or sorrel, as it is made from the hibiscus sabdariffa flower. The plant is native to India, but can grow as an annual in all climates. The fleshy, red calyxes that surround the base of the flowers are what we brew to make sorrel, the drink.

Videos

1. How to grow Sorrel – from seed to pot
(Paulo the Urban Farmer)
2. Growing French Sorrel
(The Frenchie Gardener)
3. Perennial Sorrel
(Stubborn Old Gardeners)
4. Perennial Greens: French Sorell
(The Forest Gardener)
5. Let's Talk Gardening! Growing Sorrel - Episode 16
(Let's Talk Gardening By UF-IFAS Extension Sumter)
6. Why French Sorrel?
(Gail's Garden Herbs & More)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Foster Heidenreich CPA

Last Updated: 02/07/2023

Views: 5701

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (76 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Foster Heidenreich CPA

Birthday: 1995-01-14

Address: 55021 Usha Garden, North Larisa, DE 19209

Phone: +6812240846623

Job: Corporate Healthcare Strategist

Hobby: Singing, Listening to music, Rafting, LARPing, Gardening, Quilting, Rappelling

Introduction: My name is Foster Heidenreich CPA, I am a delightful, quaint, glorious, quaint, faithful, enchanting, fine person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.