The Best Types of Herbs to Grow at Home

Fresh herbs in a pot on a windowsill.

When it comes to choosing which types of herbs to grow, you might find yourself thinking, "So many herbs, so little time!" But once you've grown your own herbs, you'll understand the allure. There's nothing quite as satisfying as the fresh scent of mint wafting from your garden on a warm summer evening or just-picked basil atop your favorite Italian dish. This guide takes the guesswork out of deciding which types of herbs deserve a spot in your garden (or on your patio or windowsill). Learn more about 13 herbs and whether they're the right picks for your plot and palate.

1. Basil

When you picture basil, chances are you're thinking of 'Genovese', the Italian favorite that makes the perfect pesto. However, there are many other basils to try, including 'Lemon', 'Thai' and even basil that resembles boxwood.

Easy-to-please basil is a sure bet for beginners and experienced gardeners alike. Grow basil in full sun. Plant it in the ground or in containers after the threat of frost has passed based on your garden growing zone. It will even work in a windowsill garden — just note your variety's full size and be prepared to repot if necessary.

2. Borage

A lesser-known herb, borage should get more love. Borage's leaves feature a mild cucumber taste that makes an excellent addition to tea or lemonade. It's commonly referred to as starflower for the beautiful blue blooms that appear midsummer, making it not only a functional herb but also a stunner in the landscape. What's more, borage makes a great companion to other plants as it tends to repel insects and diseases, while attracting beneficial pollinators. Plant borage alongside strawberries, cucumbers, gourds, tomatoes and cabbage for an extra line of defense.

Borage is an excellent option for beginners on up, provided you have enough space. Mature plants can reach up to 3 feet wide and develop a deep taproot, so only plant in the ground or in a 3-foot or wider container outdoors.

3. Chamomile

A tea-time and fragrance ingredient favorite, chamomile features tiny, white daisy-like flowers. The most common varieties are 'German' and 'Roman'. Both offer excellent fragrance and flavor, and you can grow either in a container. However, 'German' chamomile is an annual that multiplies quickly, while 'Roman' chamomile is a perennial groundcover. If you're a newer gardener, 'German' chamomile is a good choice that you can easily start from seed. Grow it indoors or out as a potted plant, or plant it in the ground.

4. Chives

How do we love chives? Let us count the ways. A member of the allium family, which includes similarly flavored favorites like garlic, leeks and onions, both the flowers and stems of chives add an unparalleled zing to a variety of dishes. They're easy to grow, too. Simply give plants full sun, whether indoors, on a patio or in the landscape.

5. Dill

As you may have guessed, dill is commonly grown for pickling purposes, but you can also use it to add a kick to blander dishes such as potatoes. Dill is technically a biennial (meaning individual plants only live for two growing seasons), but it self-seeds quickly such that once you grow dill, you're likely to always have a patch. This plant needs room to roam, so only plant it in the ground. No matter your skill level, dill is easy to direct sow after the danger of frost has passed.

6. Lavender

It looks pretty, smells fantastic and has a variety of uses — there's a lot to love about lavender. 'English' lavender is a favorite, whose distinctive strong fragrance makes it ideal for tea, potpourri, sachets and more. It can take several months for seeds to germinate indoors, so seed-starting might be better suited to more experienced gardeners. If you're a newer gardener, you can get a jumpstart by ordering a lavender plant online. While lavender prefers a warm, relatively dry environment (it hails from the Mediterranean, after all), you can grow it in indoor gardens or containers, provided you give it good drainage, plenty of sun and not too much H2O.

7. Mint

If you want to make sure at least one plant survives in your garden this year, pick mint. In fact, be careful where you plant it — this practically can't-kill spreader can quickly take over a plot if not regularly cut back. Instead, opt for an indoor herb garden or outdoor container, where its rhizomes (underground runners) can only stretch so far.

Think beyond the classic candy-cane variety and try a fun twist such as 'Peppermint Chocolate' or even 'Pineapple' mint. Because it spreads through rhizomes, plan to purchase a starter plant. And if you end up with a bumper crop, you can always store your fresh herbs for a mid-winter julep.

8. Oregano

Oregano is an unfussy herb ideal for all experience levels that will grow indoors, in outdoor containers or in the ground (just be sure to look at your plant's mature size and give it enough space to spread). You can either start seeds indoors six to 10 weeks before your average last frost date and transplant seedlings or direct sow once the weather warms. Whichever method you choose, oregano spreads into a fragrant silver-green carpet. Its leaves add next-level flavor to Italian and Mediterranean dishes or as a seasoning for your favorite protein.

9. Parsley

Parsley comes in two main categories: curly and flat. Curly parsley is often relegated to garnish status, although its milder flavor has plenty to offer. Flat parsley tends to boast a bolder taste, making it an essential part of many salad dressings, marinades and more.

Parsley is a staple for gardeners of all skill levels and can be grown indoors, in containers or in the ground. Start it from seed indoors eight to 10 weeks before your average last frost date, or direct sow or transplant seedlings after there's no chance of frost. As a bonus, it attracts a host of beneficial insects that can help repel pests from your other crops.

10. Rosemary

When you grow rosemary, you're setting yourself up for a winter full of cozy, richly flavored soups, stews and meat dishes. Give this Mediterranean native warm growing conditions either in a container or in the ground. In pots, ensure it has well-drained soil — you can even go as far as a succulent mix for these sun-lovers. Aside from its soil requirements, rosemary is a hardworking herb that any gardener can grow successfully.

11. Pineapple Sage

While there's much to love about traditional sage's soft, velvety leaves, consider making space for 'Pineapple' sage. Its bright-red blooms and fruity-scented leaves will add a pop of interest and surprise to your landscape, and it will attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators. This easy-to-grow herb can be started indoors eight to 10 weeks before your average last frost date, direct sown or transplanted outside once the chance of frost has passed. Use it to infuse water, lemonade or your favorite cocktail.

12. Thyme

Perfect for beginners and those with limited space, thyme is right at home indoors or in a pot on your patio. Start it from seed six to eight weeks before your average last frost date, or transplant a seedling outside once the weather warms. Give thyme full sun and well-drained soil, and it will reward you with a classic, earthy taste that will make you feel like a culinary pro.

13. Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena is a must-grow for any outdoor herb garden. Interplant it with shrubs, as a border or in a large container and let it shine. This tropical plant is a perennial in Zones 8 or higher. If you live in colder climates, you should bring it inside for the winter. Start it from seed indoors, or transplant a starter plant. If you direct sow, it won't have enough time to reach its full size by the end of the growing season. Use this pollinator magnet's lemony-flavored leaves in marinades or to make a zingy tea.

Whether you're looking to fill a windowsill or an entire outdoor plot, there are a plethora of herbs that will add texture, color, fragrance, companion planting benefits — and of course, flavor — you just can't find with dried herbs. Now that you've narrowed down your list, you can start planning your very own herb gardening adventure.

If you're looking for the perfect combination of herbs to try, Burpee's Culinary Herb Seed Starter Kit includes everything you need to get started, including seeds packets for parsley, cilantro, dill, sweet basil and chives, as well as five biodegradable pots, expanding coir pellets and plant markers to easily get started on your seeds indoors.

Written by Kelly Reilly, www.kelly-reilly.com

Kelly's passion is empowering new gardeners to achieve their goals through accessible, easy-to-understand digital content.

December 21, 2021
©2020 W.Atlee Burpee & Co