5 Best Herbs for Growing in Containers

herbs growing in a planter

The Spruce / Kara Riley

A container garden is an ideal environment in which to grow herbs. You can easily move a a container herb garden into a warmer, sunnier location, and then move it back to a shadier spot if temperatures become too hot. Container-grown herbs are more easily accessible when they are planted together in a container, and you will be more apt to use them when the container is located outside your kitchen door. And frankly, some herbs are so aggressive in their growth habits that it's best to confine them to a container where they can't spread throughout your garden beds.

If you are combining two or more different herb varieties into one container, make sure they share the same requirements for sunlight, moisture, and soil.

Here are our five choices for the herbs best suited for growing in containers.

  • 01 of 05

    Mint (Mentha spp.)

    mint growing in a planter

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist soil

    Many varieties of mint are notorious for being invasive and unruly when planted in a garden bed. One small mint plant can quickly spread and take over an entire garden bed. Different varieties of mint can also cross-pollinate, producing hybrids you don't want.

    Planting mint in containers solves these problems. Individual varieties can be kept far enough apart so that your pineapple mint won't suddenly start tasting like catnip/pineapple. And mint confined in a container stays there—it doesn't spread rampantly through your garden.

    When it comes to choosing the best herbs for container gardening, mint should be your first choice.

  • 02 of 05

    Sage (Salvia officinalis)

    sage growing in a container

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil

    Culinary sage is an herb best planted in a container because it's easier to care for when it is readily accessible. Sage requires pinching and pruning to prevent it from becoming too woody. Sage is a perennial herb, but you might have to replant it every three years or so. You're much more likely to properly care for your sage plants if they're planted in a container rather than tucked away in the far corner of a garden bed.

    Sage also tolerates dryer soil than most other commonly-grown herbs, so growing it in a container enables you to maintain the right growing conditions.

    Sage dries very well and if you pinch its leaves throughout the growing season, put a rubber band on them, and keep them safe after drying, by the end of the season you will have enough bundles to make an herb wreath—a lovely gift that requires very little effort.

  • 03 of 05

    Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

    rosemary growing in a planter

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11 (grown as an annual elsewhere)
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy soil

    Growing rosemary is a favorite of many gardeners. It dries perfectly, holds its strong taste all winter, grows well indoors in a sunny window, and it is rarely bothered by insects. You can use rosemary to create herb standards or topiaries, and the woody stems are perfect for crafting. The stems can also be used as skewers—keep the stems in the freezer and use them as grilling skewers.

    Rosemary prefers sandy soil; it doesn't like to sit in water and prefers the soil to dry out between waterings. Growing rosemary in a container enables you to address its specific growing conditions.

  • 04 of 05

    Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

    basil growing in a container

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11 (grown as an annual elsewhere)
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil

    Basil is one of the most rewarding herbs to grow in a container because most varieties have a lovely fragrance and you can move the container where you can best enjoy it. Basil likes to be located in full sun and requires plenty of moisture to hydrate and plump-up its fleshy stems and tender leaves. However, basil is susceptible to mildew and more specifically basil downy mildew.

    Containers provide flexibility: you can position the container so that the plants receive plenty of sunlight and sufficient air-flow; air-flow is essential to prevent mildew. Basil also likes a somewhat richer soil than most other herbs, which you can provide through soil amendments. Basil is often used in recipes calling for tomatoes, so it's convenient to grow basil near your container-grown patio tomato plants.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

    thyme growing in a container

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Dry to medium-moisture soil

    Thyme tends to be an undervalued herb that is rarely harvested and used. It actually deserves a much higher standing on the list of culinary herbs, and growing it a container is one way to keep it front and center. Thyme will thrive in a container environment, needing only minimal watering. Some varieties grow into small shrub-like plants with tiny purple flowers, ideal for enhancing an entrance. It is a very low-maintenance herb, but some varieties can become woody after a few years. Growing thyme in a container makes it easier to replace if it becomes too woody.

Article Sources
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  1. Basil Downy Mildew. University of Minnesota Extension