The Best Herbs for Growing Outdoors
Herbs provide gardeners with easy access to cooking and tea ingredients and medicinal aids. They are also an inexpensive source for fragrant crafts and home decor. Another reason gardeners choose herbs is because the flowers, foliage and scent are an appealing, easy-to-grow addition to any outdoor garden. Herbs simply require well-drained soil and sunlight, and many will thrive where other plants fail.
Oregano, Origanum vulgare, is sometimes called wild marigold. The seeds can be sown directly into the soil in any spot of the garden that receives partial shade. The perennial plants will grow up to 2 1/2 feet tall, so give oregano plenty of room. Pinch back new growth if the plant gets too leggy and it will bush out.
An annual herb that grows as well outdoors as inside, sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) can grow to a height of 24 inches. Purple or green leaves smell like cloves, and the plant will flower with spikes of purple, pink or white flowers.
A natural plant as a backdrop for an outdoor flower or herb garden, dill (Anethus graveolens) flowers in mid-spring with tiny yellow flowers in flattened clusters. An annual herb growing 2 to 3 feet tall, the light green leaves of the dill herb are finely divided, adding texture to the garden during the growing season as well as a harvest of seeds that are used for pickling and flavoring.
Thyme (Thymus) is often used as a ground cover. Tiny violet to blue flowers appear in the spring or summer, but the tiny grayish-green leaves make it an attractive garden addition through the growing season. The winter thyme variety is taller and shrubbier, and the blooms are rosier.
Salvia officinalis, or sage, is a perennial that grows into a semi-shrub type of garden herb. The aromatic leaves are woolly, and the flowers grow in spikes of violet blue. If the sage plant gets too leggy, cut it back a bit to make it bushier. Hang sage cuttings to dry for future use.
Any of the hundreds of varieties of mint are easy to grow outdoors. Many gardeners find that mint is too easy to grow, quickly taking over the entire garden and even the lawn area. Plant mint in a container to keep the spreader roots confined to the desired area.
While rosemary may not survive the winter in a cold-climate garden, you can bring pots of the herb indoors for the season. It is a hardy outdoor plant in warmer areas. Growing up to 3 feet tall, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has aromatic, needle-like foliage of grayish green. In early spring, the herb will bloom with small, pale blue flowers.