Home > Herb Gardening > Growing Herbs in Containers

Growing Herbs in Containers

By: Kate Bradbury - Updated: 31 Mar 2020 | comments*Discuss
Herbs In Containers Growing Basil

The fantastic thing about growing herbs is they require little maintenance and you can pretty much grow them anywhere. Most herbs will thrive in containers and will provide you with plenty of fresh leaves to use in cooking.

Ideal herbs to grow in containers include:

  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Coriander
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
Never plant invasive herbs such as mint and lemon balm in a container with other herbs. They will swamp the other plants and take over. It’s better to grow them in separate pots instead.

Preparing Your Container
A container can be anything from an old bucket or olive tin to a window box, hanging basket, or wooden trough. It doesn’t matter what form it takes, as long as it can hold enough compost to support the herbs and has drainage holes for water to escape out of.

First you will need to check there are adequate drainage holes. It’s better to have a few small ones rather than one large one, as less soil will escape from the pot. If there aren’t any holes, carefully drill some in or hammer a nail through the base several times. Then line the base with old crocks, stones or grit. This mimics the natural conditions the herbs would grow in; it also ensures that if the pot is sitting in water (such as a dish), the water will still drain from the soil.

If you are planting your herbs in terracotta pots, line them with plastic bags (but make sure there is a large hole at the bottom of it). An old compost bag is ideal. This will prevent water evaporating from the sides of the pot and prevent the plants from drying out.

Choosing Your Compost
The best compost to use is a soil-based one. This is the best match for the herbs’ natural growing conditions, and it retains water better than peat-based composts. Fill the pot two-thirds full with compost. Gently tap each herb out of its original pot and sit them in the larger container so that the top of the root ball comes 2-3cm short of the rim of the container. It’s important not to over-fill the pot with herbs; this can stress the plants and can impair their growth. Make sure each root ball sits comfortably in the pot, and place larger plants such as rosemary and lavender in the centre, with smaller herbs such as chives and basil around the edge. Once you are happy with the arrangement, gently fill the pot with compost (leaving about 2cm at the top) and firm gently. Give the herbs a good drink of water and top up with compost if necessary.

Caring For Your Herbs
Your herbs will need a little more care if you grow them in containers. They are more likely to dry out as there is less soil to hold water (pots made from terracotta can dry out very quickly). Make sure you regularly check to ensure the soil hasn’t dried out or become waterlogged. In the hot summer months you may need to water your container every day; do so in the morning or evening to avoid shocking the plants.

Take care to ensure your container isn’t in full sun all day. Herbs enjoy plenty of light, but too much direct sunlight can cause them to wilt, or run to seed (this is where the plant quickly produces seed rather than tasty leaves). If any flowers appear, remove them as soon as possible. This prevents them from developing into seed and concentrates the plant’s energy on leaf production.

You will probably need to feed your herbs on a weekly basis. This is because the nutrients present in compost diminish quickly in pots. Choose an organic feed such as seaweed. Artificial fertilisers can cause the plant to grow to quickly; this can deplete the herbs’ flavours.

All perennial plants (such as rosemary, sage and thyme) will keep growing and will need pruning back in autumn. Simply use scissors or shears to cut off any flowers or long stems. Perennial herbs will also need dividing in spring. Remove them from the pot and tear or cut a section of the plant and root ball from the main plant and place the smaller section back in the pot with fresh compost.

Annual herbs (such as basil and coriander) will need replacing every year with new plants. You can either buy new plants, fresh seed or try saving seed from your old plants in autumn. Growing herbs in containers is fun and rewarding. Once you’ve got the hand of regular watering, pruning and re-potting, you should have years of fun and tasty meals from your own home-grown herbs.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • SarahBeau
    Re: Growing Coriander
    I’ve not been successful growing coriander. Successful when from seed them potted them in a bigger container. Unfortunately one by one they have…
    2 September 2020
  • Hoque
    Re: Growing Coriander
    I tried growing coriander from split seeds . Germinated after 10 days . Stem is very thin and can’t stand being 2 to 3 inches . After few days…
    31 August 2020
  • GreenThumbMom
    Re: Growing Coriander
    Hi, the coriander seeds germinated quite well and the seedlings are now about 4 inches tall. However the plants now seem to have stopped…
    28 August 2020
  • Titus
    Re: Growing Mint
    I've had a mint plant on my kitchen window sill for several years now. In addition to being a lovely addition to my Sunday potatoes, it adds a pleasant…
    14 August 2020
  • Matt
    Re: Has My Rosemary Plant Died?
    Small areas of my Rosemary plants are brown & dead looking. They are in ground & in my patio area. They are quite large a bushy but…
    13 August 2020
  • Pot answer
    Re: Growing Bay Leaves
    Hello I have been growing a bay tree in a pot (a succession of pots) for about 35 years, from about a foot high. It’s been moved from shade to…
    28 July 2020
  • Karen Mitchell
    Re: Growing Bay Leaves
    I'm thinking of purchasing the Bay Laurel Tree - Laurus nobilis. Can this be grown in a pot?
    10 July 2020
  • Steve
    Re: How to Cook and Recipes For Borage
    Eleven thirty a.m. on a Sunday I had a woman knock on my front door. She asked, "Do you mind if I take a few of your…
    5 July 2020
  • Eddie
    Re: Growing Fennel: Bulbed and Seed Varieties
    Hi, I recently watched a gardening programme where a lady showed that you can prolong the life of your shop…
    27 June 2020
  • Megaclear
    Re: Growing Bay Leaves
    Hi I have a bay tree that’s 10ft away from my house the tree is approximately 20ft high will this cause a problem to the foundations Regards…
    26 June 2020