If you are new to growing plants, or an experienced gardener looking to expand your collection, herbs are a perfect solution in either case. When given the correct amount of sunlight, enough water, and an occasional boost of fertilizer they reward you with bountiful harvests of fresh herbs usable for both culinary and medicinal purposes. If you’re looking for recommendations to get you started, here are the twelve easiest herbs to grow.
One of the best things about opting to grow herbs is their versatility. Most can be grown either inside or outside, in containers with potting soil or planted directly in the ground. They are content basking outside in the full sun of your garden yet they are also perfectly happy hanging out in a windowsill in your kitchen.
Read on to learn about the twelve easiest herbs to grow – what they’re used for, and if they have any preferences on growing conditions.
Easy herbs to grow
Time and time again, these plants are considered some of the best herbs to grow because of their easy-going nature.
Sage is used primarily in poultry dishes and stuffing, making it a mainstay for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Common, or garden, sage is the variety primarily used in cooking; the strong flavor of the leaves means a single plant should easily meet your culinary requirements.
Plants grow well either outside or inside as long as they receive 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day. If growing indoors supplement with fluorescent grow lights if necessary.
- Parsley is a multi-functional, classical Italian herb that has proven itself worthy as both a culinary herb and for its practical purposes. This herb used to be relegated to the corner of plates but now takes center stage for its flavor. Curly leaf parsley is less flavorful and is primarily used as decoration. Italian, or flat-leaf parsley is known for its robust flavor.
Oregano accentuates many Mediterranean and Mexican dishes and is becoming a popular specimen in indoor herb gardens. When grown outside it acts as a perennial plant, coming back every spring. It likes light, well-drained soil, the chance to dry out between waterings, and little if any fertilizer. Plants benefit from frequent harvesting.
As an interesting side note, the subtly flavored oregano flowers are a great topping for salads. Check out our article on how to grow oregano indoors to learn more.
Mint has the overwhelming tendency to become a nuisance in the garden, taking over any free space it possibly can. This characteristic makes it a great herb to grow indoors in a container, forcing it to stay in a given space.
There are many different types of mint – about two dozen species, and more than seven thousand varieties that vary slightly in their flavor and characteristics. The two most commonly grown types of mint are peppermint and spearmint. All types of mint have broad, green leaves that release a particular, distinctive menthol-based scent when bruised.
- Thyme bears heady aromatic leaves on a low-growing evergreen plant. Its flavor depends on the variety chosen and is commonly used in meat dishes, soups, and stews. Plant thyme in clay pots to let the soil dry out between waterings; this plant despises having soggy roots. Prune back woody stems and regularly snip the tips of the plants to encourage new growth and bushy plants.
Dill plants are popular with gardeners who pickle their own vegetables. Bouquet is the most commonly grown type and is used extensively for pickling. Fernleaf and Dukat are compact/dwarf varieties, good for container gardening.
Harvest to Table classifies dill as a cool-season herb. Dill plants need ambient temperatures above 60℉ to grow, preferring a range between 60 - 75℉. Grow dill outdoors in the spring and fall when temps are lower, or in a cool spot in your home.
Chives are a milder member of the onion family, imparting a subtle flavor in dishes. They are common in omelets, summer salads, and potato salad.
Water plants frequently, keeping the soil moist but not water-logged. Chives can grow up to 12-inches tall and 12-inches across. Pot them in containers wide enough to accommodate their growth; harvest when stems reach at least 6-inches tall, leaving at least 2-inches of growth above the soil.
Cilantro is related to and resembles parsley, and flavors foods in place of salt to cut down on sodium intake. It’s commonly used in many Asian, South American, and Mexican recipes. Seeds from cilantro plants are known as coriander.
To get the best plants possible, do not transplant cilantro plants from outside into containers and bring them inside. If you want to grow plants indoors germinate seeds or buy starter plants from the nursery. Water the soil thoroughly and then let it dry out before watering again.
- Lemongrass is a tropical herb known for its citrusy flavor. It is used worldwide in various ways, most commonly for the delicate lemon flavor the tender shoots and leaves impart into culinary dishes. Plants thrive in full-sun conditions. When growing indoors place containers in a south-facing window if possible where they can receive a minimum of 6-8 hours of sun daily. If necessary, supplement sunlight with indoor growing lights.
- Bay laurel grows as an evergreen tree or shrub, with its leaves used in seasoning many slow-cooked dishes like casseroles and stews. Shrubs are hardy and super easy to care for. Growing them in containers outdoors restricts their overall size, keeping them smaller and more manageable.
If you choose to grow bay laurel inside, prune plants so they grow no more than 5 or 6-feet tall. Keep it in a brightly lit location so it receives a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sunlight; mist periodically to keep the humidity high.
- Tarragon is used in vegetable, egg, and fish dishes and to flavor white sauces. It is a unique herb that has little aroma while it is growing; the essential oils concentrate and emit their unique smell after the plant is harvested.
French tarragon is more flavorful than the Russian variety, but French tarragon can only be propagated through clones. Transplants do best when potted in the spring or fall. Watch plants carefully whether indoors or out for infestations of whitefly or spider mites.
- Basil plays a key role in Italian cooking. It is paired frequently with tomatoes, used in many pasta dishes, and is the main ingredient in pesto. Extra leaves preserve exceptionally well in oil or by freezing. Basil plants naturally grow well outside when planted in the late spring, to thrive during the hot summertime conditions. As temperatures drop in the fall and day lengths start to shorten, grow decreases and will halt come winter.
To grow plants indoors it’s important to mimic the conditions of summertime. Put plants in a sunny spot - supplementing with grow lights if necessary - and keep them in a warm location.
Difficult herbs to grow
On the flip side, if you’re just starting out growing herbs, rosemary and lavender are some of the most difficult ones to grow.
Rosemary grows as a highly aromatic evergreen shrub. Its strong flavoring is used sparingly in lamb, pork, and veal dishes. Choose ordinary green rosemary over the more decorative variegated types; they are less hardy. Rosemary plants don’t need much water, making them difficult to grow; most people over water their plants.
Lavender is grown as a small ornamental shrub, known for its wonderfully aromatic scent. But it is challenging to grow. Plants like hot, dry, arid conditions with the top 1 to 2-inches of growing substrate allowed to dry out before watering again. These arid conditions are hard to replicate indoors, and even outside in certain climates.
Growing herbs is an easy way to bring flavorful, useful plants into your outside or indoor herb garden. Overall, most types are easy to grow but the above twelve are the easiest herbs to grow. Some of them grow better inside, some grow better outdoors but they all grow well when given the correct amount of sunlight, water, and fertilizer.