The first thing you need for growing herbs in containers is a container. . .any container will do! As long as it allows for drainage, you can grow an herb garden. Most herbs will grow with as little as 4 to 6 hours of filtered sunlight and will thrive in a fully sunny window, once they are past the seedling stage. Make sure you turn your herb plants regularly to encourage even growth; they will all reach for the sun. It’s also wise to only water when the top of the soil is dry, and then water thoroughly. Many more plants die from over-watering than do from under-watering. Also, water sitting in the drainage pan is not a good thing; always empty it as soon as the water has finished draining. Each herb has specific harvesting and pruning needs, but generally, you harvest from the outside first.
These 10 herbs are the top choices for container gardens. They will all grow according to the size of container they’re in, so you can grow them as big or as small as you want. Grow enough to freeze or dry, if you wish. Fresh herbs, already potted or cut and tied with a bit of ribbon, make great, thoughtful gifts.
Basil: Use it fresh in salads or pesto, add it to your favorite Italian dishes and try Lime or Opal basil to flavor ice cream. Genovese Basil is closest to the ‘classic’ basil you’re familiar with, while Greek Columnar looks like a small, ornamental, fully branched tree. Basil can be difficult to germinate, so we recommend you start with seedlings.
Chives: Chives can be added to practically anything you would add onions to, but are most often used in salads. They will impart a more subtle flavor than onions and will provide a bit of color that yellow and white onions are lacking. Try our Garlic Chives; they have flat, skinny leaves and lavender blossoms. Garlic chives can be snipped to the ground and still keep on growing. Most gardeners are successful when starting chives from seed.
Cilantro: Cilantro-Santo is prized for its pungent, sharp aroma and flavor, a favorite in Mexican cuisine, and does not produce many seeds. Cilantro seeds germinate easily right in the garden or pot. Harvest the outside leaves first. Cilantro tends to lose strength when dried, so use it fresh or freeze it.
Dill: For container growing, we recommend Fernleaf Dill. It grows to a maximum height of 18 inches. Its leaves are used in salads and vinegars, while its seeds flavor breads, pickles, stews and rice. A dill garnish, complete with yellow blossoms, can make even your simplest meal more attractive. Dill is best grown from seeds, with multiple sowings providing a continual supply. Dill does not grow back once harvested, but it can re-seed if seed heads are left to mature.
Mint: This prolific grower is the ultimate container herb, even if growing it outdoors. As anyone who has grown mint can tell you, it will take over any pot or garden spot it’s grown in, in relatively short order. Some herbs can share containers; not so with mint. It does, however, make a fantastically prolific and aromatic ground cover for a shady, moist place outside. You have choices, too: Apple, Chocolate, Orange, Peppermint and Spearmint are just a few.
Oregano: One of the most decorative is Dittany of Crete. This very fragrant oregano is used to make poultices and teas for treating arthritis and wounds and for digestive problems, respectively. For culinary use, we recommend Golden Oregano, a milder variety, or Variegated Oregano, a colorful addition to Mediterranean cuisine. It will trail over the sides of its container but will only reach about 12 inches in height.
Parsley: Flat leaf Parsley varieties are said to have more intense flavor for cooking, but our Triple Curled Parsley plant is especially comfortable when grown in containers, even if grown indoors. You can combine the two in one planter for a more dramatic and much fuller look. Parsley is at its best when used fresh and it can add color as a garnish to almost every dish. It freshens breath when chewed, too! Parsley seeds start fairly easily.
Sage: Most often used with poultry, we suggest you try pairing sage with white beans, apples or green vegetables. Berggarten Sage does not flower and adapts very well to container gardening. Additionally, its thick, textured and uniquely colored leaves add variety to the collection in your herb garden. If you have an exceptionally sunny window or balcony, we highly recommend our Pineapple Sage plant. It smells like fresh-cut pineapple, produces gorgeous red flowers and will even attract hummingbirds. Sage can be started easily from seeds.
Tarragon: This perennial herb doesn’t start well from seeds, so we recommend you start with seedlings. Both Russian and French Tarragon are very adaptable to container growth. Both have a licorice-like flavor, though the Russian variety is a little milder. Tarragon will grow well in partially shady areas, but do best with midday sunlight.
Thyme: You have choices when growing thyme, and we recommend you grow these three: English Thyme, French Thyme and Lemon Variegated Thyme. They all have a slightly different flavor, can be trimmed to keep a compact shape and are drought-tolerant. Well-drained soil and lots of sun will produce the best results, even in salty environs. We recommend, however, you purchase seedlings; thyme seeds tend to germinate slowly, if at all.
Now, go container hunting! Group your herbs, arrange and rearrange them, imagine your enhanced recipes, and get planting!