What to Plant in Your Herb Garden

A comfrey plant with purple bell-shaped flowers.

How to choose the best herb varieties to grow in your garden, whether you have a dedicated herb garden or want to plant herbs here-and-there in your garden or flower beds. Here's why you should grow herbs and how to decide what herbs to grow.

The Best Herbs to Grow in Your Garden

Whether you have a tiny yard or a few acres, you can always tuck a few herbs in a corner somewhere.

Herbs will do well in their own area of the garden, or you can plant them here and there in your raised beds or flower beds. They will even grow well in a pot on your patio or balcony - or on a sunny windowsill.

Why you should grow herbs

The sky is the limit when you choose herb plants, but that makes it mighty hard to choose!

To narrow it down a bit, think about your purpose, your reason for wanting to grow herbs. This will help you decide what you should grow in your herb garden.

You could grow medicinal or culinary herbs, but there are other reasons to choose too. 

A few of the herbs in my garden are grown just because they smell wonderful when you brush against them, and another one or two because they are so pretty.

You might want to grow fragrant herbs, or pollinator-friendly herbs.

Many herbs are good companion plants for vegetables too. 

Any herb that you purchase often, whether at the grocery store, the health food store or online, is one you should consider growing yourself if it's suited to your location.

Growing herbs in containers

Herbs are well-adapted to growing in containers. You can customize the potting soil you're using so that each plant has what it likes best, and give it the right amount of water to keep it happy.

You aren't limited to containers though. No indeed! If you have the space go ahead and plant them in the ground or in your raised beds. They'll have more room to spread out and grow into large, healthy plants.

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The best type of containers for herbs

Herbs will grow in almost any container, but choosing a pot that is the right size and has good drainage will get your plants started off on the right foot.

Terra cotta pots are perfect for growing herbs, but plastic, metal and wooden containers work too. If your container doesn't have drainage holes, you'll need to poke or drill holes in the bottom. Most herbs prefer well-draining soil too. 

An 8-inch to 10-inch diameter pot is suitable for most herbs. Large, mature plants should be transplanted into larger containers 2-4 inches wider than the plant.

Rosemary growing in a pot.

Culinary herbs

Why not grow the culinary herbs that you use most often. Or grow a couple that are hard to find in the grocery store; that's the reason I grow tarragon. 

Maybe you want a "pizza garden" or a "French herb garden."

Some common culinary herbs to grow include:

  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Dill
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Sage

Basil plant with bright green leaves

A French herb garden could include thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon and marjoram.

Some common Italian culinary herbs are basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme. 

Cumin, cilantro, oregano, thyme and marjoram are staples in Mexican dishes.

A yarrow plant with white flowers growing in a field.

Medicinal herbs

If you're interested in medicinal herbs, you can grow the plants you use the most often.

The five basic herbs for any medicinal herb garden are chamomile, yarrow, lemon balm, echinacea and peppermint.

I've written quite a bit about medicinal herbs. You can learn how to infuse herbs in oil for soapmaking or for medicinal use, and how to make salves and ointments here.

One of my favorite medicinal herbs to grow is comfrey. Here are five reasons you might want to grow comfrey too. 

A catnip plant with fuzzy leaves, going to seed.

Herbs to grow in a tea garden

How about an herbal tea garden? These easy-to-grow herbs are popular in herbal teas:

  • bee balm
  • calendula
  • catnip
  • chamomile
  • lavender
  • lemon balm
  • peppermint
  • thyme

Learn more about growing and brewing herbal teas from your garden from Rural Sprout.

Fragrant herbs you'll love to grow

If you'd like to grow some fragrant herbs, try lavender, lemon balm, sage, any variety of mint including orange mint and chocolate mint as well as peppermint, and rosemary.

I love brushing my hand along the plants to release their marvelous scents.

Tiny purple flower on a rosemary plant.

Pollinator-friendly herb plants

No matter what kind of herb garden you grow, include a couple of herbs that attract pollinators to the garden. 

Bees prefer flowers with a single layer of petals because it's easier for them to get to the nectar.

Many of these herbs have small, nondescript flowers - and in fact, if you are growing these same herbs for culinary or medicinal use, you probably won't want to let them flower or go to seed. Not only will those seeds spread and sprout readily (too readily!), the flavor of the leaves usually changes once a plant flowers.

Maybe you can let one or two plants produce flowers though, for the bees and butterflies to enjoy?

These herbs are pollinator favorites:

  • anise hyssop
  • basil
  • catnip
  • chives
  • lavender
  • lemon balm
  • mint
  • monarda (bee balm)
  • sage
  • thyme

Dill, parsley and fennel are two herbs that are beloved by butterflies, who often lay their eggs on these host plants. The caterpillars eat the leaves, but if your purpose is to feed and delight pollinators, you've done your part.

These herbs are easy to grow from seed

If you want to start with herbs that are easy to grow from seed, you might consider:

  • basil
  • calendula
  • chervil
  • cilantro
  • dill
  • parsley
  • sage


You'll find a wide selection of herb seeds at Mary's Heirloom Seeds. I've always been happy with the seeds I've purchased from Mary.

Lemon balm, a fragrant herb

Have you decided what herbs you'd like to grow?

These lists aren't all-inclusive by any means, so once you define your purpose you can do some research and decide what plants you'd like to grow. 

I'm sure you noticed that many are dual-purpose. Lemon balm is medicinal, it's used in tea, is fragrant and attracts bees. Basil is fragrant, attracts pollinators, and is used in both French and Italian cooking. 

You can read more about growing theme gardens in this post from The Farm Wife.

As you consider these plants and decide which ones you'd love to add to your garden, consider what kind of soil each plant likes, the size they will be when mature, and if they are a good match for your climate.

I like to grow herbs that I use often and regularly as well as some that simply make me happy because they're pretty or smell so wonderful. 

Growing your own herbs is sustainable and money-saving. And who can resist the scent of lavender on a summer morning, or a cloud of butterflies fluttering about in a garden?

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