In this post, I will share with you 10 tips for growing herbs in containers. We will go over why I think that it’s better to grow herbs in containers instead of in the garden and I‘ll share my experience and personal tips for growing better herbs.
Honestly, I’ve struggled with growing herbs in the past. I am a minimalist, so growing them in pots on the porch never appealed to me. It was just another thing in the way when I really like a clear space.
I already had a garden so it made sense to plant them in the garden. I did, and the mint took over half of the garden. I had to wrestle with it for months.
Then the oregano did the same, although it was much easier to remove it.
So I figured I’d grow herbs in containers but still leave the containers in the garden. That didn’t work either because the roots crawled out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the containers and spread in the garden.
There was also the issue of the herbs in the garden being far away from the kitchen. I kept forgetting to pick them and I’d remember when I was at the stove cooking something. Sometimes I’d run outside to get some herbs but sometimes I wouldn’t.
Finally, I realized that it would be better to get over my issues and plant some herbs in containers and place them on the porch right outside the kitchen.
10 Tips for Growing Herbs in Containers
A few months ago I found clay pots at the local thrift store for a dollar each and decided it was the perfect opportunity to plant some herbs.
I planted oregano, thyme, and rosemary. I still plan on planting mint, lemon balm, and a few others herbs for tea, but for cooking, I usually just use oregano, thyme, and rosemary.
Basil, I grow on a larger scale in the garden because I make a yearly supply of pesto every summer (check out my Homemade Basil Pesto With Almonds). Parsley and cilantro I also grow in the garden because they don’t spread and I’ll just pull them out at the end of the season but these herbs can also grow successfully in containers.
Ok, so if you are going to plant any of these herbs, here are my 10 tips for growing them in containers…
Before we go into more details, here is a short video overview…
1. Purchase Seedlings –
My first tip is to start with seedlings. I’ve tried a few times in the past to start herbs from seed but it’s not an easy task. It can be done, but for the home gardener who only needs a couple of plants, I think that it’s worth the money to purchase little plants at the nursery.
Parsley and cilantro are an exception. It’s easy to start them from seed but for the rest of the herbs we are talking about I think it would be easier to purchase plants.
Also remember that a lot of herbs can be propagated. So if you know someone who has a mint plant, for example, it’s super easy to cut a stem, root it, and start your own plant. You can learn more about how to grow a mint plant from cutting here.
2. Choose the Right Container for You –
The plant will grow according to the amount of room it has. If you want large containers that will allow your plants a lot of room to spread, that’s great. Just realize that it will be challenging to move the container around once it is full of soil.
If you want little pots that you can move around and maybe bring indoors for the winter, that’s good too.
Make sure that the container has a little bit of depth to it so the roots have some room to spread. Also, make sure the container has a drainage hole or a few holes at its bottom.
I choose these small clay pots and I like them a lot. They are easy to move around so I can bring them indoors in the winter (here are 8 Herbs You Can Grow in Your Indoor Herb Garden) and the plants stay small and manageable. I cut fresh stems for cooking but I also have enough to dry.
The only thing I have to pay very close attention to is watering. Since the containers are small the soil dries up pretty quickly.
3. Plant Each Herb in Its Own Container –
Since most herbs spread, I prefer planting each herb in its own individual container so they don’t compete with each other.
If your container is large enough, you might be able to plant two herbs or more in it but then you have to make sure one doesn’t start dominating the other.
For example, oregano is pretty aggressive. It spreads super fast and can make it hard for another plant to grow. Mint is another example.
I personally prefer just planting one herb per container so it can happily fill the whole space.
4. Choose the Right Soil –
Garden soil is not going to work for containers. It’s just too dense and heavy. Instead, make sure to choose potting soil. It’s very light and fluffy and is made especially for growing plants in containers.
If keeping your plants organic is important to you then make sure you choose organic potting soil. The regular potting soil usually has slow-release chemical fertilizer mixed in it.
5. Place Your Herbs Close to the Kitchen –
My herbs are on the porch right outside the kitchen. My porch is covered so they don’t get direct sun but they have plenty of light. They seem to be doing very well this way.
You can place herbs in full sun but you will have to make sure to water them more frequently. The soil in the container, especially in a small container, dries up very quickly and since the roots of your plants don’t have anywhere to go to look for moisture the plant can dry pretty quickly.
For this reason, I prefer to place my herbs away from direct sun but in a place where they have plenty of natural light.
I also like that they are close to the kitchen. This way if I’m in the middle of cooking something and realize I need herbs they are close by to pick from.
6. Water Regularly –
Like I said before, the roots of your plant doesn’t have anywhere to go to look for water, they completely rely on you. So make sure you water your plants regularly.
Since my pots are pretty small and it’s summer I water twice or sometimes even three times a week.
You want to saturate the soil so the water pools in the plate under the pot like in the picture above. The roots will pull this water back into the pot as they need it through the drainage holes in the container.
7. Feed Your Plants Regularly –
Just like the roots of your plant can’t go looking for moisture they also can’t go looking for food.
Whatever nutrients are in the potting soil are used by the plant rather quickly and it’s important to make sure we keep providing it with plant food so it keeps growing and stays healthy.
There are many kinds of plant food you can use. My favorite is worm castings. I buy a bag of it on Amazon at the beginning of the season and use it during the season.
**You can see all my favorite gardening supplies HERE.
I simply use a spoon to sprinkle some castings on top of the soil every couple of months. Once you water the plant, all the nutrients seep into the soil and they are immediately available for the plant to use.
8. Check for Blooms Regularly –
You don’t want the energy of your plant to go into its flowers since this is not the part of the plant we use (at least not with most culinary herbs).
So every time you water your plant look around and check for blooms. If you see any just clip it off.
9. Prune Regularly –
This is the best thing about herbs! The more you prune them the more they grow so make sure to prune them regularly.
Since my pots are so small I try to make sure my plants stay small too…
So every few weeks I come by and prune my plants. You can see the difference in the oregano before and after pruning in the pictures above.
Of course, I don’t prune it all the way to the soil, but I cut back the stems pretty aggressively.
10. Dry Your Harvest –
If you don’t have a use for all your fresh herbs after pruning your plants you can also dry them. Some people use a dehydrator, some people tie a handful of herbs and tie them from somewhere so they can hang in the air… I just leave them on a paper towel on the counter for a few days. I might turn them a couple of times if I remember but anyway, after a few days they will be dry.
I remove the leaves from the stems and store in a jar next to all my spices or I simply stick the whole thing (stems and all) in the jar and use the herbs with the stems when cooking.
I love drying herbs in the summer for winter use. So I will use the herbs fresh in the summer, feed my plants and water well. This will make them produce more than I need so I can simply dry some for the winter.
So there you have it! Overall, growing herbs in containers is an easy thing to do. And it’s super convenient if you can place them close to the kitchen so when you cook you don’t have to go far away.
I would love to know where you grow your herbs. Are they in your main garden? Do they have their own space? Like a separate herb garden? Or do you grow them in containers? Comment below to let me know and also add any additional tips you have!
If you want to learn more about growing herbs in containers here is a good post on how to start.