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
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.
|Name||Type||Light Needs||Growing Conditions|
|Angelica (Angelica archangelica)||Biennial||Sun/Part shade||Moist soil|
|Anise (Pimpinella anisum)||Annual||Sun||Slightly moist soil|
|Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)||Perennial (zone 4)||Sun/Part shade||Moist soil|
|Basil (Ocimum basilicum and others)||Annual||Sun||Slightly moist soil|
|Bay leaf (Laurus nobilis)||Tree (zone 8)||Sun/Part shade||Slightly moist soil|
|Borage (Borago officinalis)||Annual||Sun||Slightly moist soil|
|Caraway (Carum carvi)||Annual||Sun/Part shade||Dry soil|
|Catnip (Nepeta cataria)||Perennial (zone 3)||Sun/Part shade||Slightly moist to dry soil|
|Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)||Annual||Sun/Part shade||Slightly moist soil|
|Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)||Perennial (zone 2)||Sun/Part shade||Slightly moist soil|
|Coriander/cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)||Annual||Sun/Part shade||Slightly moist soil|
|Curry plant (Helichrysum angustifolium)||Shrub (zone 8)||Sun||Dry to slightly moist soil|
|Dill (Anethum graveolens)||Annual||Sun||Slightly moist soil|
|Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)||Perennial (zone 7)||Sun||Slightly moist soil|
|French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus sativa)||Perennial (zone 5)||Sun||Slightly moist soil|
|Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum)||Perennial (zone 3)||Sun/Part shade||Slightly moist soil|
|Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)||Perennial (zone 3)||Sun/Part shade||Dry soil|
|Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)||Shrub (zone 5, 4 with protection)||Sun||Dry soil|
|Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)||Perennial (zone 4)||Sun/Part shade||Slightly moist soil|
|Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)||Perennial (zone 10)||Sun||Moderately moist soil|
|Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla)||Shrub (zone 8)||Sun||Slightly moist soil|
|Lovage (Levisticum officinale)||Perennial (zone 3)||Sun/Part shade||Slightly moist soil|
|Marjoram (Origanum majorana)||Perennial (zone 7)||Sun||Dry to slightly moist soil|
|Mint (Mentha spp.)||Perennial (zone 2 à 4)||Sun/Shade||Moist soil|
|Oregano (Origanum vulgare)||Perennial (zone 3)||Sun||Dry soil|
|Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)||Biennial||Sun/Part shade||Slightly moist soil|
|Perilla (Perilla frutescens)||Annual||Sun/Part shade||Slightly moist soil|
|Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans)||Perennial (zone 8)||Sun/Part shade||Slightly moist soil|
|Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)||Shrub (zone 7)||Sun||Slightly moist soil|
|Sage (Salvia officinalis)||Perennial (zone 5)||Sun||Dry soil|
|Scented geranium (Pelargonium graveolens and others)||Shrub (zone 10)||Sun||Slightly moist soil|
|Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)||Perennial (zone 3)||Sun/Part shade||Slightly moist soil|
|Summer savory (Satureja hortensis)||Annual||Sun||Dry soil|
|Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata)||Perennial (zone 4)||Part shade||Moist soil|
|Thyme (Thymus spp.)||Perennial (zone 3)||Sun||Dry soil|
|Winter savory (Satureja montana)||Perennial (zone 3)||Sun||Dry soil|
Article derived from one originally appearing in this blog on April 27, 2016.
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.
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!
What a great idea! That would make a great story!
Well, I certainly hope you’ll consider writing a story about spiral herb gardens. Cheers!
Oops! I’ll fix that!
Very useful reference. Marjoram is misspelled, just in case someone was wondering what “Majorum” is.
All these years I grouped rosemary with oregano and sage and thyme! I will plant it by itself this year! Thanks!
Thanks for a very useful chart. I’m going to rethink the way I plant my herbs.