How to grow herbs in containers

Grow Your Own Perennial Herb Container Garden

Love herbs? Me too! They grow well in containers and so you can grow them anywhere! But if you want them to come back year after year, here is how to grow a perennial herb container garden using the right soil, plants, and growing conditions. Plus, you’ll learn which herbs to plant for the best results.How to grow herbs in containers

For years now I have been growing my garden herbs in containers just down the deck stairs from the kitchen. While a few changes are made each year, the foundation of this garden is perennial herbs. The garden will continue to produce for much of the year, allowing me winter harvests of sage, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, and sometimes arugula. Other herbs will pop up in their due time from chives in early spring to saffron crocuses in the fall.Container Herb Garden - growing perennial herbs

This garden has 14 different herbs growing that come back year after year: mint (variety show in Kentucky Colonel or Mojito mint), Egyptian walking onions, saffron, rosemary, chives, marjoram, oregano (Hot n’ Spicy), anise hyssop, sage, thyme,salad burnet, tarragon (French), chamomile, and arugula. Add in some annuals like basil, parsley, and cilantro and you have yourself everything you need for your kitchen.

Growing a Container Herb Garden

Pick Your Pot

In most cases, larger is better if you plan to over-winter your herb garden. Pots that are 16”-20” in diameter will allow your herbs to grow into fairly large plants while you continue to harvest them. For over-wintering, choose plastic pots. You can dress up the area with some smaller terracotta or other decorative pots, but plastic is weather safe and will help protect the roots through the cold.

Use Good Soil

Starting with a high quality container soil gives your herb garden the best start. Each year it’s a good idea to scratch in some good compost and replace the soil completely after a few years. Regular feeding throughout the gardening season will encourage healthy growth and strong production.

Site Selection

The best site for your herb garden is near the kitchen. You aren’t going to love traipsing around in the rain to find herbs at the back of your property. Knowing that your kitchen garden is close by will encourage you to snip away when your meal needs a little extra va-va-voom.

Some herbs like it sunny, hot, and dry, while others prefer a cooler, shadier location. When you choose your plants think of where you are going to place your herb garden and select accordingly.

Choose Your Plants

There are just so many herbs out there, so the best place to start is to decide what you love and will use. Next, check out your local nursery or ask neighbors to find ideas that just may inspire a new favorite.

Here is some information on just a few of the perennial herbs you can grow in your garden.


Chamomile, Anise Hyssop, and harvested herbs

Mint, Lemon Balm & Oregano: mint is a fast-growing and spreading herb that, while wonderful for teas, cooking and cocktails, can quickly take over the garden. For this reason, mint is best grown in containers. The same is true for lemon balm and oregano. Grow these three in large containers and you’ll always have enough.

Rosemary: in milder areas rosemary will overwinter but in cooler climates you should bring plants in for the cold season.

Egyptian Walking Onions: fun alliums that have a mild garlic flavor. They set bulbs up at the top of the plant which becomes heavy, flops over, and plants itself in the ground, AKA ‘walking.’

Egyptian Walking Onions

Chives: are so prolific that you’d be hard pressed to find a gardener nearby who won’t give you a chunk to plant. The pretty purple flowers freeze well and will add a mild onion flavor to soups and dressings. Chive-flower vinegar, anyone?

Tarragon (French): a sweeter herb with more of an anise flavor tastes great on chicken or, again, in vinegar. Don’t be fooled by packets of seeds sold as Russian tarragon, it doesn’t stand up in flavor to the French.

Salad Burnet: with a light cucumber flavor, salad burnet is great in (you guessed it!) salads. Leaves can be added to the bowl, or use them to make a flavored vinegar or dressing.

Salad Burnet

Thyme: a wonderful culinary herb for most, but I don’t like the taste. I do love the creeping versions growing in between pavers though. Check out great cultivars like lemon thyme and woolly thyme which are exactly what you would expect them to be from their names.

Arugula: wild arugula has a peppery flavor and hardy temperament. Given enough depth for the long taproot, arugula will produce a small shrub of leafy greens to add to salads and sandwiches.

Chamomile: This beautiful herb has just the most heavenly scent. Dry the flowers for a sleepytime tea or use them in natural bath products (like this Cold-Process All-Natural Handmade Soap).

Saffron: this expensive herb comes from the bright orange stigmas in the center of the saffron crocus. Pluck the stigmas off frugally as each flower only produces three of them. This explains why saffron is so darn expensive. You may not be able to grow more than you will use in once recipe, but that’ll be one delicious paella.

Bay: the leaves used in soups and stews come from the bay laurel which is typically trained into a large tree which is as slow growing as it is beautiful. If you have a friend with one or a spot in the garden, you will never run out of dried bay leaves as a mere few adds a lot flavor.

Lavender: I can’t say enough good things about lavender.  I have many plants in my garden so I can make things like Lavender Eye Pillows, Lavender Bath Salts, Gardener’s Herbal Foot Soak Recipe, Lavender Sachets, and a Dried Lavender Wreath.

Now, this is only a small fraction of what can be said about growing an herb garden. For a more extensive list of herbs plus more information on planning, growing and using herbs, check out Your Backyard Herb Garden: A Gardener’s Guide to Growing Over 50 Herbs Plus How to Use Them in Cooking, Crafts, Companion Planting and More. It’s an excellent resource for all things herbs with a detailed directory covering 52 herbs in detail and it even has some great recipes! I love this book.

 Your Backyard Herb Garden A Gardener's Guide to Growing Over 50 Herbs Plus How to Use Them in Cooking, Crafts, Companion Planting and More

Thanks for visiting the Weekend Project. Also check out this DIY project on making Metal-Stamped Plant Tags from Hardware Store Finds so you can label up the new garden.

Metal Stamped Plant Tags DIY Oregano


About the Author : Stephanie Rose

A city girl who learned to garden and it changed everything. Author, artist, Master Gardener. Better living through plants.

View all posts by Stephanie Rose

  1. R.
    R.July 15,12

    A friend promised me some mint, so i’ll have to go find a container to put it in. My problem is always that I forget to water my herbs =). But maybe if I put it close to the kitchen like you suggest, i’ll remember…

  2. brandi
    brandiJuly 15,12

    I have mojito mint and basil that are in small pots. i wonder if that’s why they aren’t doing so well? maybe i’ll try transplanting them into bigger pots? my rosemary is doing great, though!!

  3. Stevie
    StevieJuly 15,12

    Hi Brandi, it’s hard to say why they aren’t doing well, but certainly if you are doing everything I suggested in this post in terms of soil, location, and fertilizing, then pot size may be an issue. Your plants could be crowded depending on how large they are or how many are planted in the pot. Or they could be stressed from lack of water or too much water. The best you can do is follow the tips listed here and if they still don’t do well, let me know.

    Glad to hear the rosemary is doing well!


  4. Paige @ Little Nostalgia
    Paige @ Little NostalgiaJuly 17,12

    You have so much information here! We’re moving into a house next week and I’ll finally have space to start a garden. I feel like I have a good handle on it now. :-)

  5. Lilah J
    Lilah JJuly 17,12

    Great post thanks so much for sharing. Lavender is definitely my favorite herb to grow but I try to add a new herb every season.

  6. katie
    katieMay 4,13

    oh my! this is a SUPER guide to container herb gardening. thanks for sharing! I know I’ll for sure be referring back to this page again and again as I get my garden ready this spring.

  7. Tanya Smith
    Tanya SmithMarch 30,14

    Is there a list of companion plantings? Which herbs can be planted together in the same pot?

  8. Stephanie
    StephanieApril 3,14

    Tanya, I have not had any issues with growing different herbs together in pots as long as they have the same growing conditions. There is a great book that I would recommend that discusses everything you need to know about companion planting: Carrots Love Tomatoes

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  13. Michelle Florida
    Michelle FloridaOctober 10,14

    i would like to start an herb garden, but don’t know where or when to start. i would like to grow chives, basil, parsley, cilantro and maybe oregano. Where do you suggest I begin?

  14. search engine
    search engineOctober 24,14

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about containers. Regards

  15. Steve Jones
    Steve JonesApril 9,15

    As the title and article contains usage of containers to hrow herbs. I want to say that, containers are used not only to decorate and not only to match with your growing herbs. A good choice of containers/ pots can be beneficial to take care of your starains at the intial stage with the listed points,
    # proper aeration in soil
    # water level in pots
    # water distribution in multiple pots

    These points can be handeled by your chosen pot/s or container/s, if you are interested for the indoor growing or gardening.

  16. landscape la
    landscape laApril 14,15

    Superb kind of work by the team as on this particular topic people needs more precise information and special attention to it.Thanks a lot.

  17. Laura
    LauraOctober 10,15

    Your pots look gorgeous. I am trying to reclaim some precious raised bed garden space by transplanting my periennial herbs into pots. Yours look so tidy. How do you keep them from getting overgrown? Do you cut way back in the fall/spring? I’d appreciate any advice!

    • Stephanie
      StephanieOctober 10,15

      Hi Laura, I cut most of them back in the spring, except the oregano and rosemary which I shape in the summer. In the fall I let the it go wild! The plants flower and set seeds and it feeds the birds and bees for me. Thanks so much for your comment!

      • Laura
        LauraOctober 10,15

        Thank you for the prompt reply! Do you think that I could divide my overgrown perennial herbs now (fall, zone 6) and pot them in some decent sized plastic pots for the winter? I really appreciate the help . . .

        • Stephanie
          StephanieOctober 10,15

          Sure, I mean if you think they will survive winter OK and you won’t be too sad if you lose a few. I would do it here in zone 7b, but make sure that I had them in large plastic pots with plenty of soil.

          • Kerri
            KerriJuly 24,16

            The idea of large containers for a perennial herb garden is wonderful and yours is beautiful, but here in Zone 4-4A the pots could not be left out in winter for the herbs to winter over — the mint and chives would winter in the ground I know, but others would not survive (there is a lavender that winters) – what would you suggest for the large pots with the herbs in them? I really would like to try this…

          • Stephanie Rose
            Stephanie RoseJuly 25,16

            Hi Kerri, how about plastic pots? Or insulated fiber pots? Your local nursery may have some options that will over winter. Also, with my more tender plants I move them under cover in the winter, just near the garage under the overhang. It works like a charm!

  18. Rochelle Brett
    Rochelle BrettOctober 9,16

    I would like to know where to find all these herbs at this time of year. I am new to this . My 1st time growing in containers. I did 2 kinds of tomatoes and peppers , string beans.etc. I also did green onions which the wild life likes cause i didn’t get1.Lol . [email protected]

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