4 Essential herbs that grow well in pots

Fresh herbs can weave an extra dimension into our sensory experience with food unsustainable by meat and veggies alone.

But fresh herbs are expensive and often wither in the fridge too fast despite your intentions when you buy them.

If you’d like to try growing your own, this post is about four herbs that grow well in pots. I’ve grown them myself. They’re easy to care for and fill your kitchen with seductive aromas. You can also use them to infuse cooking oils or make salad dressings and homemade cleaning products.

Maybe you’ll even feel inspired to try cooking new dishes.

4 herbs that grow well in pots, indoors and out

Basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary thrive in at least eight hours of full sunlight. They have similar watering and pruning requirements. And they go great together, especially if you love Italian food.

1. Basil

Basil plant
Photo by Tone Høines on Unsplash

There are too many varieties of basil to choose from. Thai basil has gorgeous purple leaves and smells spicy and sweet. Boxwood basil grows compactly with small leaves that grow so fast you’ll be able to use it for a lot more than just cooking.

2. Oregano

Oregano plants with sign
Photo by Dayana Brooke on Unsplash

Oregano will punch you in the mouth if you overuse it. Pair it well with spices that complement its bite. By the way, its antimicrobial properties make it an excellent ingredient in a homemade all-purpose cleaner.

3. Thyme

Thyme sprigs with lemons
Photo by Nadi Lindsay from Pexels

Thyme is a little sour and perfect for enhancing flavor in chicken, fish, and veggies. Be careful not to cook it for too long, or it’ll lose its potency. This post from Foodal explains how best to cook with thyme.

4. Rosemary

Close up of rosemary plant
Photo by Babette Landmesser on Unsplash

Rosemary leaves are thick and velvety but sticky with resin. It’s hard to strip the leaves off the stems if they’re sticking to your fingers. So rub a little olive oil on your fingertips first.

Keep rosemary plants at the perimeter of your favorite outdoor space to keep mosquitos away.

What you’ll need before you plant your herbs:

  • Four 12” (about 30cm) pots with drainage holes
  • Potting soil
  • Plant food to encourage leaf growth
  • Bone meal (optional)

I was taught to put bone meal and plant food in the hole first. Bone meal promotes root and leaf growth. Plant food will give the sprout an initial growth spurt.

These plants all thrive in at least eight hours of full sunlight. So if you’re growing them inside, be mindful of their location. Test the soil moisture by poking your finger into the dirt. If the top inch or so is dry, your plants need water.

If you use fertilizer, take care to get it in the soil but not on the leaves. Regular watering and pruning are sufficient aftercare. You don’t even need to pull weeds. Gardeners who enlist beneficial insects to fight pests say a few weeds help.

So … now what?

When you start harvesting homegrown herbs, let the kitchen experiments begin. Do it for science. Do it because it’s cheaper and makes your food more delicious. Do it because you can. Here’s a bonus recipe to kick off with.

Roasted veggies to top your favorite pasta

I made this recently, and the best way to describe the flavor is that it smells and tastes like summer. Buon appetito.

Ingredients

  • 1 bulb of garlic, separated into cloves and skinned
  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced into 1/2” pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, halved and sliced into 1/2” pieces
  • 1 medium-sized zucchini, sliced in half length-wise and cut into 1/2” pieces
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, stripped
  • 1 t of chopped fresh oregano
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 1 lemon, zested and quartered
  • grated parmesan, romano, pecorino, or your favorite vegan alternative
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • your favorite pasta

Cooking directions

  1. Place your top oven rack in the highest position. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. Toss cut onion, peeled garlic cloves, tomato, and zucchini with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread in a single layer over the baking sheet.
  3. Bake on the top rack for 18 minutes, turning halfway through.
  4. Melt butter in the saucepan over low heat and squeeze the lemon quarters into it. Add a generous splash (or two) of your favorite white wine or cooking sherry and stir in herbs. Leave half of the basil to sprinkle on top.
  5. Toss sauce with cooked pasta, drizzling with olive oil if you like. Top with roasted veggies, remaining basil, lemon zest, and shredded cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

Learn more

How to use bone meal fertilizer for plants, Love the Garden.

Potted rosemary herbs: Caring for rosemary grown in containers, Gardening Know-How.

Growing thyme, Bonnie Plants.

Everything you need to know about growing oregano, Kitchn.