How to Plant an Herb Garden by Size


When you plant your herb garden by size, you ensure that each plant will receive enough light and have enough space to grow without crowding other plants. Larger, taller plants can provide partial shade to shorter ones. Planting by height maximizes the use of available garden space and makes harvesting easier, since more plants are in a smaller space.

Step 1

Write down the herbs you use most often in your kitchen. Some common kitchen herbs include basil, chive, cilantro/coriander, marjoram, rosemary and dill. Select additional medicinal herbs, such as mullein, horehound and chamomile, that you can use in teas and home remedies.

Step 2

Verify the maximum height and diameter for each plant. If it is not listed on the plant identification pick in your seedling flat, you will have to look it up or ask the manager or staff at your local garden center. Ask for plant information using the scientific name, not the common name.

Step 3

Decide how large your garden bed will need to be to accommodate all your chosen herbs. Purchase seedlings rather than planting seeds, so that you can remove any unsuccessful plants and replace them with new ones. This also prevents faster-growing plants from crowding out those slower to sprout.

Step 4

Water all seedlings before transplanting. Allen Bednar Jr. and Gordon Brown of Simply Hydroponics state, "Your starting mix should be just dry enough to crumble easily in your hands, but not too dry, before you attempt to remove seedlings or cuttings from the flat."

Step 5

Plant seedlings in their pots if they are made from biodegradable substances such as paperboard. Remove them from non-biodegradable pots or flats by gripping the stem as close to the soil as possible while turning the plant upside down. Tap lightly on the bottom of the pot or flat to loosen, and pull the seedlings away with a slow, smooth, gentle motion.

Step 6

Lay seedlings in their intended positions on top of the soil. This allows you to reposition plants according to their spacing needs and confirm that the tallest plants will be in the center of the flower bed, with plants decreasing in height with each outer ring.

Step 7

Use your hand, a hand trowel or tablespoon to dig a hole as deep and wide as the original pot or flat. Place the seedling in the hole by its root ball while gently pulling the soil around it to fill the remaining space. Use as much of the original soil from the flat or pot as possible.

Step 8

Plant Rosemarinus officinalis, or rosemary, a perennial shrub which grows between 3 and 6 feet tall with flowers ranging from dark or pale blue to white, in the center of your herb garden bed. This will provide a backdrop for other herbs with contrasting-color flowers. Use a single plant as a focal point, or plant in groups of three, spaced 2 feet apart. Odd numbers of plants give your flower bed a more naturalized appearance. Surround it with a full or partial ring of Verbascum olympicum, or Olympic mullein. Its bright yellow flowers grow up to 5 feet tall and provide contrast with the blue petals of your rosemary.

Step 9

Plant Verbascum phoenicium, known as purple mullein, in the next ring. Its purple-flowered stalks grow between 2- and 4-feet tall and stand out against the yellow flowers of the Olympic mullein, while coordinating with the bluish color of the rosemary.

Step 10

Plant Peucedanum graveolens, or dill, which reaches between 24 and 32 inches tall, in groups of three in the next ring out. "Modern Herbal" author Maud Grieve states that if dill is not planted as a seedling, it, "may be sown in drills 10 inches apart, in March or April, and thinned out to leave 8 to 10 inches room each way." You can also include Coriandrum sativum, whose leaves are known as cilantro and whose seeds are coriander. It grows between 12 and 24 inches tall. Marrubium vulgare, or horehound, reaches 18 to 24 inches.

Step 11

Plant Verbascum dumulsum, know as dwarf mullein, in the outermost circle. Its yellow flowers with purple eyes grow on stalks 12 inches high. Include Allium schoenoprasum, or chive, and Ocimum basilicum, known as Cuban basil, in this ring as well. As the shortest herbs with the smallest-diameter spread, these finish drawing the eye from the top of the central plants to the ground.

Things You'll Need

  • Herb seedlings of your choice
  • Composted soil
  • Hand garden tools


  • Simply Hydroponics: Parenting Your Plants
  • Garden Action: How to Grow Rosemary
  • Stason TULARC: Mullein
  • Botanical: Dill

Who Can Help

  • Culinary Herb Guide: Herb Gardens
  • Iowa State University Extension: Growing Herbs in Containers
  • Health Learning Info: Horehound
  • Britannica: Chive
Keywords: herb garden tips, plant by height, concentric gardening, naturalized herb garden, kitchen gardens

About this Author

Jane Smith received her Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995. She provided educational supports for 11 years, served people with multiple challenges for 26 years, rescued animals for five years, designed and repaired household items for 31 years and is currently an apprentice metalworker. Her e-book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in March 2008.