How to Grow Herbs in Pots


Most herbs grow well in pots. In fact, some must be placed within the confines of pots to keep their growth in check so they will not take over an entire garden. Herbs can even be grown in pots on apartment balconies. Some herbs require a great deal of water; plant water-loving varieties in plastic or plastic-lined pots to retain water. Examples would be basil, mint, tarragon and parsley. Herbs such as chives, rosemary, lavender, marjoram, oregano and thyme prefer dry soil; plant these herbs in terra cotta pots that dry quickly.

Step 1

Fill the pot 3/4 full of commercial potting soil. Do not use soil from the yard as it will contain weeds and possible pests. Move the soil aside and place the roots of an herb in the indentation, then fill in with more soil. Secure by pressing down into the soil. Plant one to four herbs per 8-to-10 inch pot.

Step 2

Place a layer of bark mulch over the top of the pots. A 1-inch thick layer is best, but if it will not fit, 1/2 inch will do. This will keep the moisture in the pot.

Step 3

Place pots in a sunny area that receives at least eight hours of sun per day. Check moisture levels on the pot every day by sticking a bamboo skewer into the soil and pulling it out. If it is damp, do not water.

Step 4

Mix up a water-soluble fertilizer and use it twice during the summer: in early June and in late July. If the potting soil you used contains fertilizer skip this step.

Step 5

Pick off any blooms that may appear to encourage bushier growth. Many flowers are edible, such as those on chives.

Step 6

Harvest herbs at any time after they have been in the pots for two weeks. It will not hurt the plant to be snipped back frequently. Cut the herbs down to half their size in late June. Take another harvest in the middle of August so the plant will have time to stabilize before winter comes.

Step 7

Move the pots to a protected area if a frost is forecast. Place pots in the garage or on a porch or use burlap to wrap them up for extra protection. A frost will kill annual herbs and will make perennials die back and go dormant. Move them back out into the sun while the weather is still warm.

Tips and Warnings

  • Many herbs do not grow from seed. They have to be propagated by taking cuttings or divisions. It is easier to start with a transplant. Plant transplants within two days or they will dry out and die. Never plant two types of the same herb in one pot. An example would be peppermint and lemon mint. They tend to cross pollinate and will taste alike after awhile.

Things You'll Need

  • Pots
  • Gravel
  • Potting soil
  • Herb transplants
  • Bark mulch
  • Hose
  • Bamboo skewer
  • Nitrogen-rich, water-soluble fertilizer
  • Grow lamps (optional)
  • Burlap


  • Pennsylvania Horticulture Society: Growing Herbs in Containers
  • Gardening Know How: Why Grow Herbs in Containers?

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: Growing Herbs in Containers
Keywords: herbs in pots, herbs in containers, growing potted herbs