Herbs in pots: tips for planting & care

Kati
Kati
Kati
Kati

I am a qualified gardener and horticulturalist and love everything that grows! Whether it's a shrub, a tree, a useful plant or a supposed weed: for me, every plant is a little miracle.
In the garden I look after my 13 chickens, grow fruit & vegetables and otherwise observe how nature manages and shapes itself.

Favourite fruit: Blueberry, apple
Favourite vegetables: Braised cucumber, kale, green pepper

Many kitchen herbs are quite easy to cultivate in pots. We show which herbs are suitable for growing in pots and how best to go about planting and caring for them.

Several potted herbs outdoors on table
Growing herbs in pots on your balcony not only provides you with fresh, tasty herbs, but can also be part of your balcony decor [Photo: Tatjana Michaljova/ Shutterstock.com]

Even in the city or a small apartment, you do not have to go without fresh kitchen herbs since many can be planted in pots. These are then best placed on the balcony or outside on the windowsill. You can even keep your herbs in the kitchen itself. However, herb pots also look great outside on the terrace or balcony.

Herbs in pots: these varieties are suitable

In principle, most varieties are suitable for planting in pots. Of course, the size of the pot is the key here. Some species such as dill (Anethum graveolens), tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus), southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) and lovage (Levisticum officinale), however, have quite a wide and deep root system. These types of herbs do not feel comfortable in a confined container because they cannot develop their roots properly.

These herbs, however, are perfect for pots on the windowsill, terrace or balcony:

  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum ssp. crispum): Parsley is biennial. If it is overwintered in a cool, frost-free place, it can also be harvested over the winter and will produce seeds in the second year that can then be sown for new parsley plants.
  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum): Basil belongs to the Mediterranean herbs. It needs sun and plenty of heat to thrive. You can grow it early in the year in a pot.
Basil and parsley in metal pots
Basil and parsley are great herbs for planting into pots [Photo: Natasha Breen/ Shutterstock.com]
  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): Perennial chives love loose soils as a bulbous plant and are overwintered in a cool place to sprout fresh and new in spring. They thrive in most locations. Chives enjoy both sun, shade and partial shade.
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): Maintaining the hardy lemon balm is extremely straightforward. Even in a pot, it develops into a vigorous plant every year after forming new shoots.
  • Mint (Mentha): The different species and varieties of mint look wonderful in a pot. In addition, this herb reliably reappears the following year. They have few demands when it comes to location and so the mint thrives both in rather sunny and shady locations if it is only watered and fertilised occasionally.

Tip: See our special article for more tips on growing herbs on the windowsill.

Lemon balm and mint in pots
Lemon balm and mint are also happy to be planted into pots [Photo: Hellame/ Shutterstock.com]

For nutrient-hungry herbs like those mentioned above, a nutrient-rich soil is suitable. such as our Plantura Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost is suitable. With a high compost content, it provides a more generous supply of nutrients and water-holding capacity, since not all herbs thrive optimally in nutrient-poor herb compost.

Mediterranean woody species can also be kept in a pot without any problems. These include, for example:

  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Savory (Satureja spec.)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Potted savory herbs
Savory is also an ideal herb for growing in pots [Photo: Serhii Ivashchuk/ Shutterstock.com]

The above and other frugal herbs love permeable, even stony soils, and develop a lot of essential oils, and thus aroma, only with suitable water and nutrient scarcity. They are therefore best planted in pots in permeable herb soil such as our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost. For more nutrient-sensitive herbs, see the associated article on fertilising herbs.

Planting herbs in a pot

Many herbs can also be combined in a larger pot. However, keep in mind the different requirements of these herbs. The frugal, Mediterranean species should not be placed in a pot with nutrient-hungry and moisture-loving herbs, otherwise there will inevitably be problems with appropriate fertilisation and water supply.
It is better to fill one pot with permeable herb compost and one with nutrient-rich vegetable compost and combine plants that match each other in it.

Tip: Mediterranean herbs can also be arranged decoratively in a pot with large and small stones. For very large planters, it is even possible to make the herb compost even more permeable with additional stones or expanded clay.

You can buy many herbs already in a pot in shops. However, in this case, you should repot the herbs and give them more space and a higher quality substrate. Our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost is perfect for these herbs. With its slightly acidic to neutral pH and high compost content, it provides optimal conditions for most herbs. In addition, it is organic and particularly climate-friendly due to the absence of peat. Our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost is also ideal for reseeding herbs.

If you bought your herbs at the supermarket, you should repot them at home [Photo: Maren Winter/ Shutterstock.com]

Woody Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary or sage, on the other hand, prefer substrate that is lower in nutrients and has an alkaline pH. These herbs are better put in a mixture of garden soil and sand, adding a little lime if necessary. For this purpose, you can mix in a few limestones or finely grated eggshells, for example.

The pot for your herbs is better to be too big than too small. Since you will certainly want to harvest abundantly, it is advisable to provide your herbs with enough space for their roots. Only in this way can they develop an efficient root system and form a lot of leaf mass. Aside from that, a larger pot volume dries out less quickly, so you won’t have to rush over with the watering can as often.

How to care for potted herbs

Potted plants depend on you and need a little more care than their counterparts in beds.

Watering potted herbs:
Since their roots are restricted by the container, they only have what is in their pot in terms of water and nutrients. Therefore, herbs in pots need regular watering. Even if they are outdoors, in dry summers the rain is usually not enough. Chives, parsley and others should therefore be watered frequently, especially in sunny places. However, do not overdo it so as not to dilute the taste. Mediterranean herbs like rosemary and thyme can also handle less water. These plants should be watered only after the soil has dried on the surface.

Several herbs in pots indoors
Potted herbs need to be watered regularly [Photo: Olga Miltsova/ Shutterstock.com]

Fertilising potted herbs:
As for fertilisation, one application in spring and another in early summer is usually enough, even for nutrient-loving plants like basil and chives. Compost or primarily organic slow-release fertilisers are suitable here, especially if repotting is also done in the spring. Alternatively, a liquid fertiliser such as our Plantura Liquid Tomato Food can be used every two to three weeks to avoid the hassle of working fertiliser granules into small pots. You can also use coffee grounds for fertilisation here. If you have only just sown or repotted your herbs in the spring, you can forgo nutrient application in the spring.

Tip: Liquid fertilisers never contain all the essential nutrient elements, as these would precipitate in the liquid into insoluble compounds. Therefore, it makes sense to repot herbs regularly or occasionally fertilise them with a natural complete fertiliser such as our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food.

Plantura All Purpose Plant Food
Plantura All Purpose Plant Food

With a long-lasting effect, for healthy soil, child & pet friendly

Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary, marjoram, sage and thyme, on the other hand, require fewer nutrients and should be fertilised no more than once a year. A slow-acting, solid fertiliser granulate is best here.

Pruning potted herbs:
Where space is limited, compact growth of herbs is especially important. Annual pruning in the spring causes woody perennial herbs to branch more deeply and grow more bushy.

Overwintering herbs in pots:
Like all plants in pots, herbs are very susceptible to frost, as it is easy for the entire pot to freeze through, causing irreversible root damage to the plant. On the other hand, virtually all herbs come from climates where they are allowed a cool and dark winter break. They need this resting period, otherwise they will continue to exhaust themselves and ultimately die. Therefore, herbs in pots should overwinter in a cool and moderately bright place with little water and without fertilisation. Overwintering in warm living quarters almost never succeeds or entails problems with diseases and pests. Some herbs, such as chives and parsley, die above ground in winter and resprout in spring.

Rosemary in a planter being pruned
Regular pruning keeps potted herbs nice and compact [Photo: Graceful Digital/ Shutterstock.com]

Repotting herbs:
Like all potted plants, regular repotting is important for herbs to replenish the existing supply of trace nutrients. Also, any substrate will slump a bit over time, which will inhibit root growth and nutrient uptake. Herbs should be repotted at the latest when the entire pot volume is rooted or when only restrained growth is observed despite regular fertilisation.

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