Everyone should grow a pot of herbs. Even if you only have a tiny speck of outdoor space, if you have some sun, you can grow herbs. Most herbs grow well in containers and some (like mint and lemon balm) should be grown in pots because if you grow them in your garden, they become invasive. Also, many herbs are easy for beginners to grow.
Herbs are grown for culinary use as well as for decorative enjoyment. You can interplant herbs in flowering containers because they add great fragrance and texture to the overall appeal of the container.
The following list contains some favorite herbs to grow in pots.
01 of 05
Almost any recipe is better if you use parsley (okay, perhaps not chocolate mousse, but you get the point). Parsley is exceedingly easy to grow. You can either buy seedlings, almost anywhere that sells plants, or grow it from seed. Seedlings are easier because the seeds can take weeks to germinate and are fussy about transplanting. If you do start with parsley seeds, soak them overnight before planting.
Parsley comes in two types: Italian, also called flat leaf parsley, and curly parsley, which is the more common variety used by restaurants as a plate garnish. Many people prefer flat parsley for cooking and curly parsley for garnishes because flat parsley is said to be more flavorful.
Parsley prefers full sun but can grow in partial shade. It’s very hardy and will make it through a frost. I’ve even found perfectly usable parsley under a few inches of snow. To harvest, just snip off at the base of a stem. As with most herbs, the more you harvest, the more the plant grows.
Parsley is biennial, which means that it can come back for two years, though some think the leaves are more bitter the second year.
02 of 05
Mint makes a perfect container herb. Some mints spread so fast and aggressively, that keeping them in a container is the only way to prevent them from taking over your garden. Also, many varieties of mint are beautiful and make a great addition to a decorative planter. Mint is an incredibly easy plant to grow—hence its ability to take over the world.
Mint likes full sun, but most will tolerate some shade. Some, like spearmint, can be very tall and leggy and some are low spreaders, so make sure to read the plant tag.
Mint will thrive and become bushy if you keep it pinched back. As a bonus, mint roots easily from cuttings.
Especially tasty are pineapple mint with its variegated leaves, apple mint, or chocolate mint. When making fresh brewed iced tea, add handfuls of mint while it is steeping. You can also make an easy tea (also called a tisane) by simply pouring water, just after it has boiled, over the mint leaves and steeping for a few minutes. Spearmint makes a particularly delicious tea.
03 of 05
Oregano leaves are beautiful and it is a plant that thrives on neglect. Oregano loves full sun and not too much water or fertilizer. Pinch it back regularly to keep the plant compact and to keep it from blooming. Oregano is a perennial herb that you can grow overwinter in a cool place or propagate from cuttings. Try golden oregano or Greek oregano for culinary uses and 'Herrenhausen' or ‘Kent Beauty’ for great flowering.
Oregano spreads nicely in a container and goes with almost any other plant.
04 of 05
Basil can be a bit temperamental. It is easy to start from seed, but is fussy about temperature; it stops growing if the thermometer dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a cold climate, don’t attempt to put basil outdoors too early. You can plant it in a small enough pot and bring it outside during the day and inside in the evening
Basil also doesn’t like to be crowded and needs plenty of air circulation to be happy, so give each plant plenty of space. Basil gets cranky if its leaves stay wet, so water carefully. Try to let the soil dry out a bit between watering, but not to the point where the plant wilts. When your plants are about six inches tall, pinch them back so they will grow full and bushy. Make sure to keep harvesting and pinching back for the best production.
After you pick basil, never refrigerate it because it turns black. Either use it right away or use it to make pesto and freeze. Basil is very easy to root in water.
You don't want to let basil plants flower, because it will become bitter, so keep harvesting it or pinching it back.
Genovese basil is good for pesto, 'Siam' basil for Asian recipes, and lemon basil for garnishing drinks. Large-leafed basil like 'Mammoth' or curly basil are great for sandwiches. 'Spicy Globe' has tiny leaves and is a compact bushy plant and is gorgeous and looks beautiful in a small pot. There are also several purple basils that are tasty as well as beautiful and look great with cut flowers.
Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Rosemary is one of the most interesting and stunning herbs to grow in a pot. Its stiff and spiky texture is gorgeous and the smell just can’t be beat. There are two types of rosemary—upright and creeping. Both are lovely and tasty.
Rosemary needs full sun and well-drained soil. Let it dry out a bit between watering, but don't let it dry out completely. If you live in USDA hardiness zone 9 or higher, (where temperatures stay above 20 degrees Fahrenheit), chances are good you can grow rosemary outside year-round.