How to grow herbs


1st Jan 2015 Home & Garden

How to grow herbs
Herbs love growing in pots and if they receive plenty of sunlight, water, and care they will flourish in your garden.

The best position

  • Many herbs, such as fennel and thyme, prefer to grow in full sun, while others, such as catmint, chamomile and coriander, are happiest in partial shade. 
  • On the other hand, a few herbs, such as watercress and angelica, actually need the shade. So, determine how much sun your balcony, courtyard or window box will receive throughout the year, and choose your plants accordingly. 
  • Alternatively, choose the plants you want to grow and then find the most suitable spot in which to grow them. avoid positions open to strong winds; a barrier such as lattice, can diffuse the breeze.

The right pot for the job

  • Before you buy pots or containers, think about their different shapes, sizes and materials, as these will play an important part in the success of your herbs and the design of your display. 
  • Don’t use lots of little pots, particularly in different styles and colours, as these tend to make small spaces look cluttered. You can still grow a variety, but keep it simple: for example, select a single colour to pull one area together. 
  • Herbs such as parsley, peppermint and thyme enjoy being contained, and look attractive spilling exuberantly over pot rims, so consider the shape and form of what you’re growing and select containers that suit their ‘personality’.


Shapes and sizes

  • Round, square or rectangular, squat or tall, with straight or tapered sides: any of these container types is perfect for growing herbs, as they all allow for good root growth and the display of foliage and flowers. Varying sizes of the same design will give an area a uniform look. 
  • Although they look attractive, urns and ‘oil jars’ have narrow necks, making it extremely hard to remove plants without damaging them. 
  • You could also find your-self with many plant roots and very little foliage. If you favour bell-shaped pots, a cylindrical shape is best because ones that taper in sharply may not provide enough room for roots to space themselves out. 
  • Troughs are generally long and narrow, like window boxes, and are perfect for formal or narrow areas. Team them with a square pot of similar material to create a right angle, then add a round pot to create a point of difference.



  • The type of pot material will also affect both the look and the portability of your herb garden. Terracotta pots are popular with gardeners because they’re practical, affordable and look attractive in most situations. Limestone and concrete pots, with their lovely pale colourings, are also popular, while alternative materials, such as plastics, are worth exploring. 
  • In fact, the new generation of ‘plastic’ materials offers a range of good-looking, practical choices. And, because these materials are not porous, they’ll hold moisture longer than concrete or terracotta. 
  • Experiment with unusual containers, such as old colanders and wicker baskets. 
  • If your chosen pot has no drainage holes (many pots are designed for indoor use and don’t have them), just drill a few of them into the base.

Potting mix

  • One of the most important elements in growing herbs successfully is the right soil or planting mix. Potting mix is better than garden soil, as it’s specially designed for container conditions and will provide just the right balance between holding water and providing good drainage. 
  • At your local garden centre or nursery you’ll find various organic mixes that are tailored for different situations, such as hanging baskets. 
  • The best products have a ‘standards’ mark to indicate the potting mix contains extra ingredients, such as a wetting agent to stop it drying out too fast, vermiculite to keep the mix lightweight, and a slow-release fertiliser that gradually feeds the roots. 
  • The old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is true here: it is worth investing in a good quality mix as, over time, you’ll have healthier, happier plants.

Feeding tips

  • There are many fertilisers on the market. A good all-rounder that will suit most herbs is a ‘balanced’ or ‘all-purpose’ one: it will contain all the necessary nutrients to promote strong, healthy roots, flowers and leaves as well as help herbs grow into vigorous, sturdy plants. 
  • A soluble fertiliser is ideal for container-grown herbs and also for seedlings, which need to be fertilised regularly so that they will flourish. Always follow the directions on the packet.


  • While most herbs like to be kept moist, they also need to be allowed to dry out in between waterings so they’re not left standing with constantly damp roots. 
  • A good potting mix provides good drainage, while holes in the base of the pots allow the excess moisture to escape. Buy a colourful watering can that’s easy to find, fill and carry. Keep it out of direct sun so that it lasts longer.


  • About every 12 months or so, give your potted herb garden a boost by re-potting or replenishing it. 
  • Discard annual herbs and start again. Remove perennial herbs carefully, compost the old potting mix, and re-fill the base of the pot with fresh mix. Then trim the roots of the plants if they look congested, and cut off any old stems to give the plant a tidier shape and to promote new growth. Replant them in the container and backfill with fresh mix, gently firming it as you go. Finally, water the herbs thoroughly.