We’ve come up with some creative ideas for making herb planter boxes but what herbs are best to grow in them?
Here’s our guide to the best herbs to grow in a planter box and how to get the best results.
What herbs can I grow in a planter box?
Some herbs are really easy to grow, and others, like basil, require a little extra TLC to get them started. Herbs will grow well in almost any container, from terracotta to wood, as long as it has good drainage and plenty of sunlight.
Some herbs are perennial, meaning they come back each year, some are evergreen and others will need to be sown from seed each year. As long as they’re in a sunny spot most herbs will grow happily in an indoor or outdoor planter box.
Some herbs grow fast and spread by putting out underground runners. Because once they invade the soil, they’re very tricky to get rid of, keep herbs like mint confined to a pot. Other invasive herbs that are really only suitable for growing in pots include bee balm, comfrey, horseradish and lemon balm.
Before you buy your herb seeds or young plants, make sure you choose varieties that you’ll use in cooking and avoid anything you don’t like.
10 of the best herbs to grow in a herb planter box
Popular and tasty, mint is extremely easy to grow. It’s invasive if planted in the ground so is best suited to container growing. Mint’s happiest in full sun to partial shade and can be grown from seed, bought as a young plant or propagated from a runner. Enjoy mint added to salads, mixed with new potatoes or crushed in a refreshing Pimms.
One of the most delicious herbs, basil needs a warm, sunny spot and can be grown indoors and outdoors. It’s easy to grow basil from seed. Place a few seeds into seed trays, water well and cover to keep the moisture in. The little seeds should germinate within 3-5 days and basil seedlings grow fast! You’ll need to prune your basil by carefully pinching out the leaves to get bushy plants.
Add basil to salads, pasta dishes and mozzarella and pesto sandwiches for a delicious, herby kick.
Like the other herbs, Salvia officinalis or kitchen sage needs to be grown in well-drained soil in full sun. Sage is a perennial so it’ll come back each year and is a great low-maintenance choice for planter boxes. You can grow sage from seed but it’s easiest to begin with a small plant. Sage is happy to grow alongside rosemary and it’s delicious with sausages and added to stuffing.
Thyme is easy to grow from seed and its pretty flowers are great for attracting insects. In spring, fill small pots with seeds, cover with a fine layer of compost, water and cover with a lid or place in a propagator until they germinate. You can then pot the little seedlings. Thyme loves a sunny spot and doesn’t like to be overwatered. Thyme is an evergreen plant so worth adding to your planter box for year-round interest. Enjoy thyme fresh or dried in soups, on pizza and with roasted vegetables.
Another perennial herb, chives are easy to grow and produce beautiful purple flowers, a magnet for bees and butterflies. Part of the allium family, chives will be happy in full sun or partial shade. Sow chive seeds in small pots inside or start them outside in spring by sowing directly into the planter box. Thin the seedlings out so they have 9 inches between them. Chives are very easy to care for and their delicate oniony flavour makes them a delicious addition to salads, soups and omelettes.
Parsley is an easy to grow annual herb. Sow parsley seeds outside from spring into summer. They can take up to 6 weeks to germinate so don’t lose patience! Once germinated, thin the seedlings out to 6 inches apart. Parsley plants can tolerate a little shade but need around 5 hours of sun a day. Flat leaved parsley has a stronger flavour than the curly leafed variety. Both are delicious in pretty much everything! Add to salads, vegetables, pasta and couscous dishes.
Coriander is best sown directly into the soil from April onwards as it doesn’t like to be transplanted. Sow the seeds into well drained-fertile soil. You can sow batches every 3-4 weeks for a good supply throughout the summer months. Coriander likes lots of sun and moist soil, the leaves, flowers and seeds are all edible. Snails also like to nibble on coriander so try these natural remedies to keep them away. Add coriander to spice up Indian, Spanish and Mexican dishes.
Like coriander, dill doesn’t like to be moved so is best sown where it will grow. Sow the seeds in slightly acidic soil, from mid-spring to mid-summer. Keep well-watered and in a sunny spot. The bright green, feathery leaves of dill look beautiful in containers but it can grow a little leggy so may need to be supported to stop it from blowing over. The flowers of dill are edible as well as the leaves and the fresh, citrussy-tasting dill is delicious eaten with fish, potatoes and garlic.
Oregano is an easy to grow and care for herb. It’s native to Greece so is quite tolerant of dry conditions. Oregano is a perennial herb that spreads easily so it’ll need to be cut back each spring to around ⅓ of its size. Sow seeds indoors from February to May, placing them in a propagator until they germinate. Oregano will grow happily indoors or move young plants outside in early summer. Oregano is fantastic added to tomato-based sauces and dishes.
Bay is a popular evergreen container plant. It can be grown from seed, as a cutting or bought as a young plant. Although bay trees can be clipped into any shape, they will grow tall so are really only suitable for large planter boxes. As bay bushes or trees are native to the Mediterranean, they’re sun-loving plants. Bay is used as a seasoning and adds flavour to soups and stews, as well as risottos and pasta dishes.
Herbs for an indoor planter box
As indoor herb boxes need to be positioned in sunlight, they are best placed on a windowsill. Although you won’t be able to grow the larger varieties of herb, basil, mint, oregano, sage, parsley and chives will all grow happily indoors. Read our full guide on indoor herb gardening if you’d like to learn more.
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Herbs for an outdoor herb planter box
Because you can have a larger herb box outside, you’ll have a little more choice in what you can grow and can mix herbs of different sizes together. You can also plant a herb window box or plant herbs alongside other plants and vegetables. Make sure that your herb box is positioned where it can get plenty of sun.
Don’t forget that herbs are hungry plants and if they’re planted in containers, will need to be fed throughout the year. Try a slow-release organic fertiliser and they also love an occasional dose of liquid seaweed.
Did you know?
- Basil can repel mosquitos. Volatile compounds in the basil’s leaves interrupt the mosquito’s heat and carbon dioxide sensors, confusing and irritating them and forcing them to fly away.
- Rich in anti-oxidants, dill is believed to have a wide range of health benefits including alleviating stomach pain and protecting against heart disease.
- Mint is the world’s most popular herb, it’s also one of the most rampant and best kept confined to a pot or planter box.