Growing Herbs in Containers: Light, Life Cycles, & Planting

Combining herbs is easy if you know the light, life cycle and propagation method

Herbs are popular for growing in containers thanks to their ease of care, lovely fragrance, and usefulness. Plants that are grown as herbs are a diverse group. Although you could buy a pot of anything at a nursery and hope for the best - it helps to know the light requirements, life cycles, and propagation methods for the plants in order to help them thrive.

Light Requirements
Although most of the common herbs used for cooking prefer full sun, there are many that can tolerate, or even thrive in shadier environments. So if your only spot for your container garden is on the north side of your house, or some other shady location you still have many choices for growing herbs.

Herbs Grown In Containers That Can Tolerate Light Shade:
Aloe, Beebalm, Caraway, Catnip, Chamomile, Chervil, Comfrey, Coriander/Cilantro, Echinacea, Garlic, Hyssop, Lemon Balm, Lovage, Mint, Nasturtium, Parsley, Soapwort, Sweet Cicely, Sweet Woodruff, Tansy, Tarragon, Thyme, Violet, and Wintergreen

Herbs Grown In Containers That Need Full Sun:
Anise, Arnica, Basil, Borage, Calendula, Chicory, Chives, Dill, Fennel, Lavender, Lemon Verbena, Marjoram, Mustard, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Summer Savory, Scented Geraniums, Yarrow

Life Cycles
Plants that are used as herbs run the entire range of life cycles, including annuals, biennials, tender perennials, and hardy perennials. Container gardening is a great way to grow and keep tender perennials that might not survive through the winter outside in your area. Bringing herbs indoors during the cold months not only lets you grow a wider variety of plants, it also brings a little life inside to brighten up your home.

Annuals That Can Be Grown In Containers:
Anise, Basil, Borage, Calendula, Chamomile, Chervil, Coriander/Cilantro, Dill, Garlic, Mustard, Nasturtium, Summer Savory

Biennials That Can Be Grown In Containers:
Caraway, Parsley

Hardy Perennials That Can Survive In Containers Outside In Most Of The US (to USDA Zone 4):
Arnica, Beebalm, Catnip, Chicory, Chives, Comfrey, Echinacea, Hyssop, Lemon Balm, Lovage, Sage, Soapwort, Sweet Cicely, Sweet Woodruff, Tansy, Tarragon, Wintergreen, Yarrow

Perennials That Can Survive In Containers Outside In Warmer Parts Of The US (to USDA Zone 5):
Fennel , Lavender, Mint, Oregano, Thyme, Violet

Tender Perennials That Should Be Brought Indoors In Winter Or Grown As Annuals In Containers:
Aloe, Lemon Verbena, Marjoram, Rosemary, Scented Geraniums

Propagation Methods
One of the biggest mysteries to beginning gardeners (and sometimes experienced gardeners, too) is understanding which plants should be grown from seed, and which plants need to be purchased already grown or taken from cuttings of friends plants. Its a careful balance of the needs of the plant, your desire for immediate results, and your budget. You can grow almost any herb from seed in a container however some plants take a very long time to sprout, have low germination rates, or require special environmental conditions for germination. Alternately, there are some herbs that must be grown from seed because they hate to be moved once theyve sprouted.

Herbs That Should Be Direct Seeded Into Containers Do Not Transplant Well:
Anise, Borage, Caraway, Chervil, Coriander/Cilantro, Dill, Parsley

Herbs That Can Be Direct Seeded Into Containers With Good Results:
Arnica, Basil, Calendula, Catnip, Chamomile, Chicory, Comfrey, Echinacea, Fennel, Garlic - clove, Hyssop, Lemon Balm, Mustard, Nasturtium, Summer Savory, Soapwort, Tansy

Herbs That Are Best Grown In Containers From Seedlings, Cuttings, or By Division:
Aloe, Beebalm, Chives, Lavender, Lemon Verbena, Lovage, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Scented Geraniums, Sweet Cicely, Sweet Woodruff, Tarragon, Thyme, Violet, Wintergreen, Yarrow