Growing cooking herbs in containers is easy and delicious.
Why Grow Cooking Herbs in Containers?
Many cooking herbs do very well in containers. It is also a great way to keep them close to the kitchen or even in the kitchen. Growing in containers makes the herbs portable. The containers can come inside at the end of the season if needed or move to a sunny or shady location as needed as well. We put most of our herbs in raised beds and pots in and around our deck (handy to the grill).
Choosing Which Go Where
Herbs can share a container even if they aren’t the same kind of plant. In our raised bed, basil is very happy next to rosemary while cilantro grows abundantly under dill’s umbrella. One of the advantages to growing cooking herbs in containers is that the herbs can grow in the location best suited to their needs. That means that grouping plants according to their water and sun needs is a good way to choose which plants to put together.
Knowing which herbs grow upright and which trail helps in planning a pot. Many times herbs are paired with flowers (edible and non-edible) for the unique texture that the leaves provide.
Herbs paired with fragrant flowers provide a “bouquet for the nose” as their fragrances blend in a harmonious symphony. When planning a pot for the deck, don’t forget the amazing colors of leaves that different herbs have. All of these choices make planting herbs in pots an enjoyable experience.
There are hundreds of herbs used in cooking around the world. We have grown so many we couldn’t even name them all when I sat down to write this post. Here are some of our favorites grouped according to their habits:
Herbs that grow tall Herbs that trail
Rosemary some Mints
Herbs that like sun Herbs that need some shade
Thyme Red Basil
Dill Lemon Balm
General Tips for Growing Cooking Herbs in Containers
- Herbs like well drained soil. Except for watercress and mint, they don’t like their roots to stay wet. Watercress and mint don’t like to be left in standing water. When they grow in the wild they grow next to moving streams.
- Don’t let the soil get dry and hard either. It is a bit of a balancing act but it’s easy to learn. Early on in my gardening journey, I read some really great advice; if a plant is wilted first thing in the morning, it needs water right away. Of course the goal is to keep the plant from wilting but steady watering allows each plant to thrive.
- Harvest often! Once herbs begin flowering, they stop growing leaves. If you are growing the herb for the leaves, getting the blossoms off will increase production.
- As long as sun/shade requirements are met, herbs are happy to share their living space. A variety of herbs, or herbs and flowers, or herbs and vegetables look very nice in one container.
- When bringing any potted plants indoors at the end of the season, quarantine the plant for a while so the bugs and eggs in the soil don’t attack other indoor plants. It is also a good idea to rinse the plant’s leaves and the rims of the pots well before bringing them inside.
Herb Specific Tips
- When cilantro goes to seed, it makes coriander-once it blossoms, there is no way to get the plant to produce leaves again.
- Parsley is a biennial. It’s job in the first year is to produce leaves. It’s job in the second year is to produce seeds and so there are no leaves in the second year. If parsley is overwintered in a protected area, it should start self-seeding in the third year.
- Red basil turns green in full sun. The way to grow red basil that stays red is to grow it in partial shade such as under another plant or in the container that sits in the shade part of the day.
- Harvest basil at a set of leaves for a bushier plant. There is a description here.
- In our zone 3 climate, many culinary herbs are annuals unless brought inside. That makes them perfect for containers!
Grow Cooking Herbs in Containers
As greenhouses wind down their season, they often put plants on clearance. There is still time to find some cooking herbs to complete a container symphony of color, texture and fragrance. It is so handy to have those fresh herbs at hand when putting together delicious summer meals.