Sorrel is an underrated vegetable in the garden. It’s fairly hardy, tolerates tough growing conditions and poor soils, and has a unique, sour, almost lemony flavor. It’s great for salads, soups, and used in traditional recipes in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
It’s easy to get started growing sorrel in a pot, and growing just a few plants can be enough to give a tangy kick to your dishes.
When to Plant Sorrel
Sorrel is best planted any time in early spring through early summer. Still, sorrel is also very quick to mature, often yielding full-sized leaves in under 60 days, so you can get a harvest even if you sow into late summer.
Furthermore, since sorrel is hardy to Zones 4-6 and also self sows, it will naturally grow back the following spring.
How Long Does It Take to Grow Sorrel?
Sorrel takes anywhere from 45 to 60 days to reach maturity, but you can harvest tender baby sorrel greens in as little as 30 days.
Does Sorrel Come Back Every Year?
Sorrel is a perennial vegetable that is fairly frost tolerant. As long as you can avoid a deep freeze below -20°F (-29°C) for the hardiest narrow-leafed sorrel varieties, you can expect it to grow back the following year. Broad-leafed sorrel is less frost hardy and can die when exposed to 15°F (-9.5°C) without protection.
Pro-Tip: Container-grown sorrel (especially in a small container) is more vulnerable to frost, as it is less insulated than the ground, so it may need more protection from the frost.
Spacing and Container Size for Sorrel
Sorrel can be sown in containers as small as 6 inches wide and deep. To maximize plant size, thin seedlings to at least 3 inches apart.
Mature sorrel plants grown in the ground or in large containers or raised beds can get large enough that they require even more spacing, typically 12 inches apart. But for regular containers, at least 3 inches of spacing will suffice.
Sorrel is very tolerant of overcrowding, although you will end up with smaller leaves and overall plant size. And while sorrel does have deep roots, it can also tolerate shorter pots. Case in point, three sorrel plants in a 1-gallon pot will produce a good yield of sorrel leaves for occasional use.
Pro-Tip: Ensure your pot has enough drainage holes on the bottom.
How Deep Should You Sow Sorrel Seeds?
Sorrel seeds are very small, and therefore should be sown no deeper than 1/2 inch deep.
Pro-Tip: Oversow, and thin out the sprouts later.
Does Sorrel Need Full Sun?
Sorrel grows best in full sun but can thrive in partial or dappled shade.
Full sun is defined as at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. While sorrel will grow faster and fuller in full sun, it tolerates partial shade very well. Dappled shade describes partial shade that includes patches of sunlight, such as underneath a trellis or behind taller vegetables.
Best Soil for Sorrel
Sorrel tolerates poor soil, but grows best in rich, well-drained soil or potting mix.
Sorrel grows wild across the grasslands of Eurasia, and has been introduced to North America, Australia, and Africa. It grows naturally as a weed, so it’s adapted to poor growing conditions and overcrowding from competing grasses.
If making your own potting mix, a basic recipe is equal parts compost, peat moss or coco coir, and perlite. You can also mix garden soil, compost, and perlite in equal amounts.
Best Fertilizers for Sorrel
Like most leafy green vegetables, sorrel grows best with a well-balanced or high-nitrogen fertilizer.
But sorrel also grows wild like a weed, and can grow in poor soils, so sorrel doesn’t require more than a light feeding, and will thrive in soil or potting mix amended with compost, without additional fertilizer. You might also not need to fertilize your sorrel for months if using fresh potting mix with fertilizer already included.
Still, you have many options for sorrel. Going the organic route, look for blood meal (the highest natural source of nitrogen), blood and bone meal mixes, fish emulsion (if you don’t mind the smell), and alfalfa meal.
You can also find a balanced slow-release granular fertilizer, or a liquid feed. If using liquid fertilizer, feed your sorrel every 2 to 4 weeks.
Note: Organic fertilizers work best when used with compost or soil, or potting mix also mixed with compost or soil. Soil bacteria break down organic fertilizers so your plants can take up the nutrients.
Can You 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.
Alternatively, if you have access to a grow light, even a low-wattage, full-spectrum LED grow light running for only 8 to 12 hours, you can grow large, lush sorrel plants indoors. For sorrel plants already next to a sunny window, you can supplement with just a few hours of artificial light.
One key thing to note is that generally, plants grown indoors require less watering, since less water is lost through leaf transpiration. So if you’re bringing potted sorrel plants indoors, dial down the watering schedule.