Herbs

Herbs of a Feather Grow Best Together!

Herb Garden at Huntington Botanical Garden

By Larry Hodgson

A single herb garden where all your herbs grow happily together may seem like a great idea … but isn’t always possible.

If you plan to create a beautiful herb garden with all your favorite herbs growing happily side by side, think again. Culinary and medicinal herbs are very much a mixed bag: they don’t all share the same needs when it comes to growing conditions. 

Some like blazing heat, full sun and soil that dries out thoroughly between waterings; others prefer partial shade, cool temperatures and soil that is always moist; some do best in rich soil, many offer a more intense taste if the soil is actually rather poor; some are perennials, others are annuals, biennials, even shrubs or trees. Some can live outdoors all year even in the coldest climates, others are tropical or subtropical plants and need to be carefully coddled indoors over the winter … or simply replaced with new purchases each spring.

How can you possibly satisfy the needs of the plants that so different in one single garden bed? The solution is actually simple: only plant together those that share the same needs.

A Herb Garden… With Offshoots

You can easily grow herbs in containers… as long as you plant ones with similar needs together. Photo: gardeners.com

If you’re planning a herb garden that would suit the majority of herbs, aim for full sun and soil that is very well drained and not too rich: perhaps a raised bed. That will correspond to the needs of many herbs, as so many come from the Mediterranean region where intense sun and prolonged drought are the norms. Then plant the numerous “exceptions” elsewhere on your property, according to their needs.

When you give all your herb plants the conditions they want, you can be sure you’ll truly be getting a bumper crop!

What Do Herbs Like?

It is not easy to put all the growing needs of a group of plants as variable as herbs in a single chart, but here at least are some guidelines that may help put you on the right track.

NameTypeLight NeedsGrowing Conditions
Angelica (Angelica archangelica)BiennialSun/Part shade Moist soil
Anise (Pimpinella anisum)Annual SunSlightly moist soil
Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)Perennial (zone 4)Sun/Part shadeMoist soil
Basil (Ocimum basilicum and others)      AnnualSunSlightly moist soil
Bay leaf (Laurus nobilis)Tree (zone 8)Sun/Part shadeSlightly moist soil
Borage (Borago officinalis)AnnualSunSlightly moist soil
Caraway (Carum carvi)AnnualSun/Part shadeDry soil
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)Perennial (zone 3)Sun/Part shadeSlightly moist to dry soil
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)AnnualSun/Part shadeSlightly moist soil
Chives (Allium schoenoprasumPerennial (zone 2)Sun/Part shadeSlightly moist soil
Coriander/cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)AnnualSun/Part shadeSlightly moist soil
Curry plant (Helichrysum angustifolium)Shrub (zone 8)SunDry to slightly moist soil
Dill (Anethum graveolens)AnnualSunSlightly moist soil
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)Perennial (zone 7)SunSlightly moist soil
French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus sativa)Perennial (zone 5)SunSlightly moist soil
Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum)Perennial (zone 3)Sun/Part shadeSlightly moist soil
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)Perennial (zone 3)Sun/Part shadeDry soil
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)Shrub (zone 5, 4 with protection)SunDry soil
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)Perennial (zone 4)Sun/Part shadeSlightly moist soil
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)Perennial (zone 10)SunModerately moist soil
Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla)Shrub (zone 8)SunSlightly moist soil
Lovage (Levisticum officinale)Perennial (zone 3)Sun/Part shadeSlightly moist soil
Marjoram (Origanum majorana)Perennial (zone 7)SunDry to slightly moist soil
Mint (Mentha spp.)Perennial (zone 2 à 4)Sun/ShadeMoist soil
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)Perennial (zone 3)SunDry soil
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)BiennialSun/Part shadeSlightly moist soil
Perilla (Perilla frutescens)AnnualSun/Part shadeSlightly moist soil
Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans)Perennial (zone 8)Sun/Part shadeSlightly moist soil
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)Shrub (zone 7)SunSlightly moist soil
Sage (Salvia officinalis)Perennial (zone 5)SunDry soil
Scented geranium (Pelargonium graveolens and others)Shrub (zone 10)SunSlightly moist soil
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)Perennial (zone 3)Sun/Part shadeSlightly moist soil
Summer savory (Satureja hortensis)AnnualSunDry soil
Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata)Perennial (zone 4)Part shadeMoist soil
Thyme (Thymus spp.)Perennial (zone 3)SunDry soil
Winter savory (Satureja montana)Perennial (zone 3)SunDry soil
*Zone refers to hardiness zone: the degree to which the plant can adapt to cold winters.

Article derived from one originally appearing in this blog on April 27, 2016.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

8 comments on “Herbs of a Feather Grow Best Together!

  1. Margaret

    Thanks for a very useful chart. I’m going to rethink the way I plant my herbs.

  2. Christine Lemieux

    All these years I grouped rosemary with oregano and sage and thyme! I will plant it by itself this year! Thanks!

  3. Very useful reference. Marjoram is misspelled, just in case someone was wondering what “Majorum” is.

  4. Oops! I’ll fix that!

  5. hamilou

    Thanks Larry. Your useful post is timely as I’m designing a spiral herb garden. The idea is that some parts of the herb spiral get more sunlight, others more shade. Some areas will hold moisture better while the more raised parts are better drained, drier soil. If you have any thoughts about this spiral herb garden method, please share. Thanks, today and every day!

  6. Bay leaf used to be rare here. I can remember only a single tree of it when I was a kid. It has become more popular as a small shade tree since then. Anyway, people use the native California bay, which is nothing like the real thing. It can be quite . . . objectionable.

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