You are here

Easy-To-Grow Herbs for the Landscape

Filed Under:
Publication Number: IS1562
Updated: December 16, 2015
View as PDF: IS1562.pdf

The value of herbs has been known for centuries. They have been used as flavorings in foods and as medicines for ailments. In addition, herbs are being used as ornamental plants in the landscape.

Herb gardens add interest to any landscape with a wide array of characteristics such as form, aroma, and unusual foliage. Herbs are used as borders, accent plants, and hedges. Further selection is based on whether the growing site is sunny or shady, wet or dry.

Starting an Herb Garden

Most garden centers offer a broad selection of herbs for immediate planting in the landscape. Select healthy, vigorously growing plants. The roots should be white to greenishwhite. Be sure not to plant the herb any deeper than it was growing in the container. Planting too deep may cause the roots to rot.

Choosing a Planting Site

Most herbs thrive best in well-drained soil, with a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8. The growing area should be tilled to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Although herbs are somewhat drought-tolerant, adequate soil moisture is required for vigorous growth. Annual herbs require higher available soil moisture than perennial herbs.

Increase the water-holding capacity of sandy soils by adding a 2-inch layer of organic matter such as compost, sphagnum peat moss, or pine bark. Till the organic matter thoroughly into the soil. Heavy clay soils should be amended with compost or pine bark; otherwise, beds should be constructed to provide internal drainage.

Fertilizing

A proper nutritional balance is important for proper growth. Get a soil test before fertilizing. Overfertilization causes succulent, or weak, growth. Succulent growth dilutes the concentration of essential oils, thus limiting the flavor and aroma of the herbs. On the other hand, inadequate fertilization will limit growth, resulting in stunted and weak plants.

Base your fertilizer on the soil test recommendations. If you did not do a soil test, apply a complete, slow-release fertilizer with a 1-2-2 or 1-2-1 ratio of N, P, and K in the spring and again in mid- to late summer.

Mulching

Mulch with pine bark, straw, or wood chips, being careful not to pile the mulch around the stem base.

Pruning

Tender herbs should be pruned to remove dead tissue in early spring before growth begins. Herbs valued for their young foliage should be pruned regularly during the growing season to encourage fresh, young growth.

Harvesting

To obtain foliage with the maximum amount of oil, harvest in the early morning, after the dew has dried. If this is not convenient, harvesting may be done anytime. To allow adequate time for regrowth of perennial herbs, do not harvest rigorously after late summer.

Herb Height (Inches) Description Culture
Anise (Pimpinella anisum) 20-24 Serrated leaves; small white flowers. Low, spreading, slow-growing annual. Likes moderately rich soil and full sun. Space 6-8 inches in rows 12-14 inches apart.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) 20-24 Leafy, light-green foliage; white or lavender flowers. Fast-growing annual. Start seeds indoors in early April or seed in early spring. Space 12 inches. Prefers protected, sunny location.
Borage (Borago officinalis) 24-36 Coarse, rough, hairy leaves. Produces light-blue flowers in drooping clusters. Cool-season annual. Seed directly in early spring. Space 12 inches. May germinate slowly.
Caraway (Carum carvi) 10-24 Carrot-like leaf with small creamy-white flowers. Biennial. Seed directly in spring; locate in full sun. Space 6 inches.
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) 10-28 Similar to parsley; light-green, lacy leaves. Flowers are small white clusters. Annual. Sow seeds in moist, partially shaded location. Space 6 inches.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) 12-18 Dark-green clumps of tubular, grasslike leaves, forming a fluffy lavender pom-pom flower in mid-to-late spring. Tough, easy perennial. Thrives in rich, well-drained soil. Easily propagated from division. Divide every 3 years.
Cilantro, Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) 12-14 Large, coarse plant with white flowers. Cool-season annual. Sow seeds in full-sun area; thin to 10 inches.
Dill (Anethum graveolens) 24-36 Tall plant with feathery green leaves. Open, umbrella-shaped flower heads. Cool-season annual. Seed directly; thin to 12 inches. If seeds mature and fall, they may come up again next year.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) 36 Fine, feathery leaves with licorice flavor. Perennial. Sow in early spring; thin to 12 inches.

 

Lavender (Lavandula spp.) 12-36 Shrubby plant with silver-gray foliage and fragrant lavender flowers during midsummer. Perennial. Very fragrant aroma from leaves and flowers. Prefers slightly alkaline, well-drained soil.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) 24 Spreading plant with yellowish-green, heart-shaped leaves. The leaves give off a lemony aroma when bruised. Spikes of small white, yellow, or pinkish flowers bloom from summer until fall. Perennial. Easily propagated from root cuttings in spring or fall; requires sandy, moist soil. Pinch tops to maintain a full, compact plant. Prolific re-seeder.
Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagotes lucida) 24-36 Good substitute for French taragon in Southern gardens. Tough perennial with light green leaves and yellow flowers in late summer. Grow in full sun. Easily propagated by seed or cuttings.
Mint (Mentha spp.) 12-24 Spreading, bushy perennial with highly fragrant leaves; oval-shaped, light green leaves. Purple or white flowers are borne in clusters on long spikes. Easily propagated by division. Can be a nuisance unless spreading roots and stems are confined.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) 24 Very aromatic perennial with mainly pink flowers. Grow in full sun. Easily propagated by division or cuttings.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) 10-24 Several varieties, including curled, Italian, or French parsley, are available. Even though parsley is a biennial, treat it as an annual. It produces a rather compact plant, forming long, bright-green leaves. Curled parsley makes an excellent seasonal border. Sow seeds each spring; slow to germinate. Favors well-drained soil.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) 24-36 Narrow, gray-green, hairy leaves; lighter green stems. Flowers are in various shades of white to deep blue.

 

Propagate from cuttings. Requires well-drained soil in sunny location. Tolerates drought after established.

 

Sage (Salvia officinalis) 18-24 Coarse, aromatic, grayish-green leaves with purple to white flowers. Perennial. Grow in well-drained soil in sunny location. Propagate by cuttings.
Savory, Summer (Satureja hortensis) 18 Small gray-green leaves with purple and white flowers. Plant this tender annual after danger of frost. Space 6-9 inches.
Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana) 12 Fine-textured plant with white flowers. Perennial. Grow in full sun. Space 8-10 inches. Can be propagated by division or cuttings.
Thyme, Lemon (Thymus x citriodorus) 6 Trailing growth habit; golden green, highly fragrant leaves. Excellent for rock gardens. Sow seeds and thin; easily propagated by cuttings.

 



Information Sheet 1562

Revised by Dr. Lelia Kelly, Extension professor, North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, from an earlier edition by Dr. David Tatum and Norman Winter, former Extension horticulturists.
 

Contact Your County Office

Related Publications

Publication Number: P1091
Publication Number: M1221