9 best herbs

A container kitchen garden should always include culinary herbs, the ones you use most often in cooking. By growing them yourself, you will add freshness and flavor to your meals, as well as saving money. Herbs in containers, an essential feature for cooking aficionados, can be placed in a sunny corner near the house or kitchen so fresh herbs are quickly available.

Perhaps you’re in an apartment. Make use of your balcony for growing herbs in pots. If you are short on space on your balcony, one solution is to plant your smaller herbs in a tower pot. These planters are made of 5 stackable pots that can hold up to 15 different plants.

My choices for the 9 best herbs to grow in pots are oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley, chives, cilantro, mint, and sage.

Ready to find out more about how to add them to your balcony or patio?

Chives Grow Well in Pots

Chives are small, dainty plants of the onion family that grow in clumps about 12 inches in height and will thrive as container plants. They are a hardy perennial with decorative, light purple flowers. One of the first plants to show green in the spring, chives take little care other than dividing when they become overcrowded.

Cut fresh leaves for use as they grow. The purple flower heads add color and flavor in salads. For winter use, chives can be dried, but retain a better flavor if frozen.

If you have a sunny window, a pot of chives will give a fresh supply all year long. Chives impart a delicious, subtle, onion-like flavor to foods. Use them in omelets, potato salads, and as a garnish cottage cheese.

Parsley – a Kitchen Favorite

Parsley is a hardy biennial that is usually treated as an annual. The curly leaves have a characteristic flavor and smell. Italian parsley is similar, with flat leaves and a more distinctive taste.

Parsley grows easily from seed, but is difficult to transplant because of its long taproot. Sprinkle a few seeds in a fairly deep and wide pot, and you’ll soon have an endless supply.

The leaves are best used fresh, but can be dried. It is a good addition to tomato salads, potato salad, and leafy green salads. In cooking, add it just before serving.

It is relatively high in vitamins A and C and iron, and chewing on a fresh leaf or two is a great breath freshener.

Basil – Can’t Do Without it

Of the 9 best herbs to grow in pots, basil is the favorite of many gardeners.

Basil is an attractive and tender annual, about 18 inches tall with light-green, fairly broad leaves. There are several species of cultivated basil, so grow a few types.

Set the plants outside after all danger of frost has passed. As the plants grow, pinch the stems to promote bushy, compact growth. Avoid using much fertilizer, as lush growth will reduce the flavor.

Spicy-scented basil leaves are one of the most popular of all herbs used in cooking, adding flavor to tomato and pasta dishes in either fresh or dried form. Chop up fresh leaves and add them to salads.

For winter use, dry or freeze basil. It is best to cut leaves for drying just before flowers open. I prefer to freeze it, as the flavor retention is much greater. Another way to keep it for winter use is to make basil pesto, and freeze the pesto in small quantities.

Oregano For Mediterranean Pizazz

Oregano is a hardy perennial that has sprawling stems which can grow to 2 feet tall. It has small pink, purple or white flowers, depending on the variety.

Plant it in a pot at least 16 inches wide and deep. The stems will often root where they lie on the soil, so it will soon fill the container’s surface area.

Oregano grows well in ordinary soil. Stimulate foliage growth by cutting back any flowers. When the plants become woody in 3 to 4 years, it’s time to replant.

The fresh leaves can be used in many recipes. Oregano leaves are used extensively as a flavoring on pizza and in many Italian foods. Sprinkle leaves over lamb or steak rubbed with lemon juice. Add to other Italian-type sauces. Chop a few fresh leaves into potato salad or a green salad.

Preserve oregano leaves by hanging a bunch to dry, and when they’re dried, crumble just the leaves and store them in a cool place, out of direct light.

Aromatic Rosemary

Rosemary is an evergreen shrub in areas where winter temperatures stay above 5F (-15C). It will grow well in a container that’s placed in a sunny location. In colder climates, however, this perennial should be taken indoors and kept as a pot plant during winter.

The narrow leaves look like fir needles, and have a spicy, resinous fragrance. Pinch the tips to direct the plant’s growth. Rosemary grows best in sunny locations in lime-rich soil. You can propagate it by cuttings.

Rosemary can be dried, but is much more flavorful fresh or frozen. Rosemary is a popular flavoring for meats and dressings, in stews or as a garnish on large roasts. The leaves can finely chopped and added to biscuit or bread dough for tasty bread.

Sage for Health

Sage is a woody, hardy perennial plant with oblong, woolly, gray-green leaves that are lighter underneath and darker on top.

This herb grows 2 to 3 feet or more in height and has a tendency to sprawl, so plant it in a larger container. Set your sage where it will receive full sun. Plants eventually become woody and should be renewed every 3 to 4 years.

Several varieties are available, with purple leaves, variegated leaves or green leaves. Some varieties have attractive deep blue flowers.

Pick sage leaves for use before or at blooming. Cut back the stems after blooming.

Sage leaves can be dried or used fresh. This aromatic and slightly bitter herb is commonly used in stuffings for poultry, rabbit, pork, and baked fish. It also can be used in sausage or meat loaves.

Thyme – the Bee Magnet

Thyme is a low-growing, wiry-stemmed perennial that reaches about 6 to 10 inches in height. The stems are stiff and woody and the aromatic leaves are small, oval, and gray-green in color. The lilac flowers are borne in small clusters and attractive to bees.

This plant grows best in light, well-drained soil and thrives in a container.

Renew the plants every few years, as they will get woody and leggy. Propagate thyme with cuttings, divisions, or by direct seeding.

Cut the leafy tops and flower clusters when first blossoms open and hang them to dry, or use the fresh leaves.

Thyme retains its flavor well when dried. It goes well in gumbos, bouillabaisse, clam chowder, poultry stuffing, and slow-cooking beef dishes.

Cilantro – Love it or Hate it

Cilantro is a highly aromatic herb, and not to everyone’s taste. However, it enhances the flavor of Mexican and Asian cuisine.

Because this herb has a long taproot, sow its seeds in a deep and wide container filled with a rich organic soil. Wait to seed until all danger of frost has passed.

Cilantro needs sun, but it will go to seed quickly in summer or in a hot spell. Place it in an area where it will get afternoon shade, and keep it evenly moist. If you see flowers appear, dead-head the plants to keep it producing foliage.

Re-sow cilantro seeds every couple of weeks so you get a continuous harvest of the foliage.

Mint for Tea

Mint is always best grown in containers, since it will soon take over any space it is planted in. It is a vigorous perennial, so use a pot that’s 10 inches in diameter and 12 inches deep and fill it with quality potting soil.

Place the potted mint where it will get a little shade during the hottest part of the day. The soil should never be allowed to dry out, so check it daily and water if the top of the soil feels dry.

Mint foliage can grow up to 12 inches tall. Pinch the tips to promote bushy growth, and remove any blooms to improve the flavor of the foliage.

There are many varieties of mint, from spearmint and peppermint to chocolate mint and pineapple mint. Plant more than one kind for a variety of teas!

What are Your 9 Best Herbs to Grow in Pots?

These nine herbs are my favorites for container growing, but there are many others that will thrive in pots on your balcony or patio. Herbs will enhance your meals, can be invigorating or calming teas, or simply enjoyed as fragrant greenery.

What are your favorite herbs to grow for cooking or for teas?

About the Author

Nicki is a dedicated gardener, a creative artist and a published author. Passionate about what she does, her gardening articles, books and paintings reveal her love of nature and the western Canadian scene. She loves sharing her container garden success with others to inspire their creativity.

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