9 of the Best Herbs to Grow in Containers

April 27, 2019
Mary Daly

Do you love fresh herbs but lack the space to grow them in a garden? That’s what container gardens are for. Several varieties of herbs can thrive in containers—even indoors on a sunny windowsill.

Here are nine herbs suitable for container gardens, as well as some helpful container gardening tips.


fresh basil herb in pot

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

If you cook up a lot of Italian dishes, a basil plant is a must. Basil prefers full sun and moist, well-draining soil, but you usually can get away with keeping it in a little shade if you must. A sunny windowsill indoors also can work.

In the summer months, you might see white flowers on your basil that ultimately will produce woody stems and less flavorful leaves. “Snip away flowering stems as soon as you spot them to promote new, tasty foliage,” according to the Better Homes & Gardens plant encyclopedia.

Harvest basil by picking as many individual leaves as you need or clipping sprigs and storing them in water at room temperature, like cut flowers.


Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

Chives are generally a low-maintenance herb ideal for beginning gardeners.

“Chives grow best in full sun and well-drained soil,” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “They tolerate part shade well and will grow and blossom when they receive at least 6 hours of bright, direct light.” They also self-seed and tolerate transplanting particularly well, making it easy to propagate your plant.

Harvest chives by snipping stems near the soil as needed to add a fresh, onion-like flavor to dishes.


Light requirements: full sun

Lavender isn’t always easy to grow indoors because of its sun requirements, but it can flourish in an outdoor container garden, as long as you use well-draining soil.

“Every part of the plant is infused with aromatic oil, making this a choice herb to place along pathways or near outdoor seating areas so you can savor the fragrance,” Better Homes & Gardens says.

You can cut entire flower stems to dry for use in recipes or aromatherapy.


Credit: Mableen/Getty Images

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

Mint seems like it can manage to grow practically anywhere and everywhere. And that’s partially why growing it in a container is ideal: It won’t spread to places where you don’t want it.

“For the most productive plants with the most flavor, plant mint in soil rich in organic matter and provide consistent moisture,” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “Although many varieties tolerate drought, they won’t grow as well or have as good a flavor.”

Harvest mint in the morning before the sun has had a chance to dry the leaves. You can either pick leaves as needed or cut back stems to promote a fuller plant.


Light requirements: full sun

Like lavender, oregano also requires a lot of light and would prefer to be in a sunny outdoor container garden. Plus, good drainage is a must.

Try to harvest oregano frequently to prevent the plant from flowering, which diminishes its flavor and produces woody stems. That might mean cutting some to dry for later use. “To dry a large amount of oregano, cut stems back to 3 inches (before flower buds open); cut again in the same way in late summer,” Better Homes & Gardens says. “Dry the stems by bundling them together and hanging them upside down in a dark place with good air circulation.”


Light requirements: full sun

Parsley also makes a great addition to outdoor container gardens, preferring sun and rich, moist soil. “Place the container gardens on a patio or deck where they receive at least eight hours of bright sunlight a day,” Better Homes & Gardens says.

When harvesting, cut outer stems about an inch above the soil. Use parsley fresh, wrap the stems in a damp paper towel and refrigerate for up to a month or dry the leaves for later use.


Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

Sage is a tough herb that can tolerate drought and likes well-draining soil. This makes the plant generally low-maintenance—though adequate watering and ample sunlight make for tastier foliage.

Pick leaves as you need them, or take stems for drying, cutting the top six to eight inches of growth. Plus, don’t hesitate to let the plant bloom if you’re not overly concerned about harvesting top-notch leaves. “Sage’s light blue flowers and gray/green foliage help it look at home in any flower border,” Better Homes & Gardens says.


Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

If French cooking is your thing, try growing your very own tarragon plant. “With a sunny window and rich soil, you can raise French tarragon indoors,” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “If light isn’t strong enough, stems will likely sprawl and leaf flavor will diminish, but you’ll still be able to savor the licorice taste.”

Cut the leaves as needed — preferably regularly to encourage more growth. And if you’re adding fresh tarragon to hot dishes, do so right before serving, as heat can lessen its flavor.


Credit: LightFieldStudios/Getty Images

Light requirements: full sun

Thyme can make a great groundcover in your garden that actually deters some pests. But it also grows effectively in containers, as long as it gets enough sun.

Because the herb is native to Mediterranean areas with poor, rocky soil, it prefers to be in a well-draining container—and doesn’t require much care from you. Just prune it to encourage new growth, taking bunches to dry if you don’t need it fresh.


Credit: grandriver/Getty Images

Growing herbs in containers is typically an easy process, as long as you get a few major components right. Here are five container gardening tips from MiracleGro.

1. Harness the sun.

“In general, choose a spot that receives six or more hours of sun, except in the very warmest regions, where herbs appreciate afternoon shade,” MiracleGro says.

Be aware of each plant’s light requirements, and place them accordingly. A perk of container gardening is it allows you to shift plants throughout the day to more (or less) sunny spots.

2. Provide proper pots and soil.

Many herbs prefer well-draining soil, which also means your pot needs plenty of drainage holes.

“Containers must be large enough to contain the herb’s root system and keep the plant itself upright,” according to MiracleGro. “A good rule of thumb is to choose a container that’s at least one-third as tall as the final height of the herb listed on the plant tag or seed packet.”

3. Water and feed as needed.

Although some herbs prefer drier conditions, you still should keep a regular watering schedule. Follow instructions for individual plant varieties, but in general water when the top inch of soil is dry.

Likewise, some herbs need feeding to continue producing quality foliage. Check the plant’s care instructions to maximize your harvest.

4. Don’t fall in love with the flowers.

The flowers that bloom on herbs are great for attracting pollinators and other animals to your garden. But a flowering plant usually means less tasty foliage for you.

To preserve your herbs’ culinary quality, pinch off blossoms as you see them—though in some cases you actually can use the flowers in your dishes.

5. Learn the best harvesting methods.

It’s important to know how to harvest your herbs to maintain healthy growth. “When you harvest leaves on herbs that grow in clumps (like chives, lemongrass, cilantro, or parsley), pick outer leaves first, working your way toward the center of the plant,” MiracleGro says. “For herbs that have an upright stem with a growing point, like mint, stevia, basil, or oregano, snip individual branches.”

With just a little gardening know-how, you’ll always have fresh herbs at your fingertips.

Main image credit: MelanieMaier/Getty Images

Source: Care2.com
9 of the Best Herbs to Grow in Containers
Article Name
9 of the Best Herbs to Grow in Containers
Do you love fresh herbs but lack the space to grow them in a garden? That’s what container gardens are for. Several varieties of herbs can thrive in containers—even indoors on a sunny windowsill.