This post was most recently updated on July 31st, 2020
The easiest way to elevate your cooking is to grow herbs in containers. Especially if you are homesteading in an apartment or small space, growing herbs in a pot is an easy way to save money and take control of what you’re eating. And, the flowers of herbs are great for pollinators!
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This post is written by Melissa Keyser, a professional organizer and ecological landscape designer dedicated to helping people simplify, live sustainably, and love their home.
Even though these are herbs suitable for beginning and advanced gardeners alike, they are still living things that need basic care. You need to have a pot large enough to hold the plant, good soil that completely surrounds the roots, water according to the plant’s needs, drainage, and, they will need light.
Ready to get started? Here are the 10 easiest herbs to grow in a pot!
Basil is easy to grow from seed but is even easier to purchase as a start from a local nursery. They like warm weather and bright sunshine. This is a good plant for a sunny front step or patio. They require a moderate amount of water, and should not dry out.
Don’t wait for your plant to grow large and lush to harvest. It will do better and actually grow MORE if pinched back regularly! Enjoy your fresh basil with other seasons of the summer. If you have extras, dry to use in sauces over winter, or freeze in water or olive oil in ice cube trays.
The common green Genovese types are great all-around basil for pesto and cooking, but also look for purple, Thai, or flavored varieties like lemon or cinnamon for more variety!
If there was ever a type of herb to grow in a pot, mint is it. With vigorous, spreading roots, it can overtake a garden if it’s happy.
However, grown in a container, you don’t have that problem! This herb is a perennial and may die back in cold weather but it will come back next year. It’s possible to keep mint inside, but it needs very bright light.
This herb is commonly used in pizzas and pasta sauces. It needs full sun to grow and is not fussy about the soil, but it does need good drainage.
To grow in a container, choose a compact variety for best results. They need little to moderate water, so a great choice for those gardeners in drought areas. They can be grown from cuttings or nursery starts, and the flowers are a favorite of bees!
New growth begins in the center of the plant, so harvest outside stems or snip off fresh leaves as needed. This plant is a perennial, but it does get woody as it ages, so it’s best to cut the previous years stems to the ground each winter or early spring. In cold climates, bring your container inside.
My favorite herb to grow in a container, leaves of thyme can be used fresh or dried. It needs full sun in mild areas but appreciates some shade in hot places. Thyme is best grown from nursery starts, but can also be propagated from cuttings.
It does well in small pots on the patio or inside on a sunny windowsill. Choose a pot 6-12” tall and wide, ensure it has good drainage. make sure it gets enough water to get established, then it can manage with infrequent water.
Like oregano, it can get woody over time, so shear it back to keep compact. They do die out after a few years. Snip branches off as needed and enjoy!
Sage needs similar conditions as it’s other Mediterranean friends rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Choose a pot at least 12” wide and 8” deep with good drainage. Place your pot in areas with full sun or afternoon shade in really hot areas. Give moderate water the first year, then a little the following.
To harvest, pick leaves as needed, and use fresh or dried. Avoid cutting into the woody stems, which causes dieback.
6. Aloe Vera
While not a common culinary herb, this is a valuable medicinal herb to have around and is a great one to grow in a container! In the succulent family, the inner part of the aloe vera leaf can be used on burns, or some people juice and take internally to soothe digestive issues. To grow, it needs very little water, great drainage, and full sun. Grow from a “pup” produced from another aloe plant, or purchase a start from a nursery.
Provided with the right conditions, rosemary is a tough and hardy plant. It needs plenty of sun but very little water, so it’s perfect to grow in a pot to prevent soggy feet.
Rosemary is usually grown from nursery started plants, but it can also be propagated from layering or root tip cuttings. Choose a large pot, at least 18” wide.
There are many different varieties. The upright varieties can act as a focal point for a mixed planting, and trailing varieties can spill over the sides.
Snip off tender tips and use them in a variety of recipes. Some varieties are more cold-hardy than others, so choose your type carefully, or bring your container inside.
Related to onions and garlic, chives are a perfect herb to grow in a pot, and often reseed themselves. Chives are easy to grow from seed or seedlings, but choose a container that is at least 6” deep and 12” wide.
Provide regular water during the growth and blooming stages. You can use both the leaves and the flowers, both fresh and cooked. Use scissors to snip the entire leaf of the outside clump, opposed to just the top of the plant.
Try also growing garlic chives, a close relative to the common culinary chives, but they have a flat stem instead of round and are more garlic flavor. They also have a white bloom, while chives have a pink flower.
There are two types of parsley- those with flat leaves and those with curly leaves.
Both can be used the same way in recipes, but the curly leaf is often smaller, so it can be grown in smaller pots, as small as 6” wide and 8” deep. For flat-leaf varieties, choose a pot that’s at least 12” wide and 10” deep.
You can grow parsley from starts or seeds, but seeds do take several weeks to germinate. Some say that soaking the seeds for 24 hours before planting will yield better results.
Parsley needs full sun in mild climates but will appreciate partial shade in hot areas. Provide regular water to keep the soil damp.
Cilantro needs full sun in mild climates, but if you live in a very hot area, growing cilantro in a container is a great solution because you can move it into the shade.
Too much sun or heat will cause this herb to bolt, focusing on producing flowers and seeds instead of the tasty leaves.
Cilantro doesn’t always transplant well, so it’s best to grow from seed. Sow seeds in a container at least 12” wide and 8” deep once the threat of frost has passed, and provide regular water.
To harvest, simply snip off leaves and use fresh. Or, you can let bolt and go to seed. When dried, these seeds are easy to harvest and can be ground or used whole as coriander.
If you want to have fresh herbs to use in the kitchen or for medicinal purposes, or even just to help feed the bees these 10 herbs are easy to grow in pots or containers and will have your patio or windowsill looking lovely!
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