Herbs You Can Grow in Containers

Herb marker sticks in a terra cotta pot

text-box-multiplePart 7 in our Herbs Series link

Our series on herbs, including both culinary and medicinal herbs!

Gardens come in many different sizes, and you don’t need a lot of land to tend to one. As long as you have some space for a pot or two (or twenty!), you can grow a whole range of things. Herbs, both culinary and medicinal, can be grown in pots, in the same way you can grow ornamental flowers.

Benefits of Growing Herbs in Containers:

  • You don’t need a ton of gardening space.  You can grow herbs right on your patio.  You can grow herbs indoors, too, but they will thrive outside with fresh air and natural light. 
  • You can easily control the growing conditions, like soil type and light requirements.
  • For those with mobility challenges, container gardening can make accessibility easier.
  • If you ever decide to move to a new location, your plants are ready for the move, too!
  • Having your culinary herbs close by means you will use them more—no trudging to the garden in the summer heat for a sprig of rosemary.
  • It makes your porch or patio look amazing.

Things to Consider: 

  • When growing in containers, it’s good to remember that most plants need good drainage to thrive. Of course, some plants love moisture and can handle “wet feet,” but plants generally like drainage. So many times, I’ve gotten excited about a beautiful pot only to see it didn’t have a drainage hole at the bottom. In those cases, sometimes you can drill a drainage hole in the bottom. It’s also a good idea to elevate pots to keep them off the ground so they can drain properly.
  • Before filling your pot, covering the drainage hole is helpful so the soil doesn’t spill out of the bottom. You can use landscaping fabric, pieces of mesh bird netting, a stack of coffee filters, or “crocks,” which are broken pieces of terra cotta pots. 
  • When the weather is hot, you must monitor your container-grown plants to ensure they don’t dry out too much.
  • If you plan on growing shrubs or small trees in pots, make sure you use a container that can handle some wind and not tip over easily. 
  • Don’t plant your herbs in any pot that has the potential to leach toxins into the soil. For example, some pressure-treated woods may have chemicals that can be taken up by plants. Plastic is generally recognized as safe, although some people choose to stay away from it. 
  • Strawberry pots are suitable for herbs that don’t mind too much confinement, like mint or basil. Trailing herbs like nasturtium also do well in strawberry pots. 


Basil does very well in pots and is easy to grow inside on a sunny window sill. Outside, basil does well in a location with full sun. Basil is a staple in Italian cuisine and a beloved medicinal herb in the Ayurvedic tradition. Holy basil, also known as Tulsi, makes a wonderful tea for the nervous system. The most frost-hardy variety of Tulsi is reported to be Ocimum africanum. Give your basil well-draining soil and keep it moist. Harvest all varieties of basil before the flowers bloom to keep the plant leafy and bushy. 


Many cat owners grow catnip strictly for entertainment purposes.  A lot of cats get loopy after some whiffs of this mint family member. According to PetMd, when cats sniff catnip, they inhale a substance called nepetalactone, which triggers a release of natural opioids. But catnip isn’t just for cats; it’s also a great herbal companion for humans without the opioid interaction. It’s a gentle herb used to soothe digestion, calm fevers, and ease congestion. Catnip can be a vigorous spreader, but you can stop this by growing it in pots. Catnip prefers full sun and well-draining soil; do not overwater it. If you have cats (if you don’t, you’ll probably attract some neighborhood cats), you might need to protect the plant from being munched down to stubs and knocked over. Don’t overlook your dog, too.  My dog is famous for taking down a plant in one bite (it’s not recommended to allow this happen though)! You can put a little cage over catnip if it’s getting too much attention. Sometimes a cage isn’t enough though. If anyone has a pet-proofing plan for catnip, please let the Planter team know below!

A dog looking at a delicious catnip leaf ready to take a bite
Not just for cats! Unlike cats, dogs can feel sleepy after a nibble of catnip

Chamomile (German)

If you want to add chamomile to your garden but don’t want a lot of chamomile babies popping up next year, try growing it in a container. A 12-inch pot is a good size for one plant.  German chamomile isn’t very picky about soil or light, and it can take some shade, but I believe it blooms better in a sunny location.  You don’t need to worry about fertilizing chamomile either. No wonder this fuss-free flower has a reputation for relaxation. 

A patch of chamomile flowers in bloom
Unless you’d like a big patch of chamomile next year, contain your chamomile in a pot


Chives are a familiar favorite in the kitchen garden. They can have a warming effect on digestion, so they are a great food herb to add to dishes. The beautiful blossoms can be picked and infused in vinegar for a yummy salad dressing or marinade. Chives love rich, moist soil. Make sure to add some all-purpose fertilizer to your container before planting.


Ginger is a fun herb to grow at home. Try starting ginger from roots you get at the grocery store. Ginger grows outward. You can use a shallow pot, but it needs to be wide. The absolute must for container-grown ginger is good drainage! Ginger is very susceptible to rotting if there isn’t sufficient drainage. Ginger loves consistently moist and fertile soil, so keep an eye on this plant all summer. Keep it out of direct sunlight too.

Ginger growing in a pot


Lavender is a Mediterranean native, so it loves free-draining, gravelly, sandy soil, meaning it can thrive in a container.  Their root system can be pretty big, so choose a pot that will be large enough as it grows.  Mix equal parts of regular potting soil and perlite to ensure good drainage.  To avoid root rot, elevate your pot with an elevator on wheels or the “pot feet” that lift the pot off of the ground. Lavender needs full sun, so give it a spot with prime sun access. There are so many varieties and sizes of lavender.  The “dwarf” varieties are compact and perfect for a small patio garden. 


Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has a distinct flavor that not everyone enjoys, but humans have used licorice for a long time. Originally used for brewing beer and for use in medieval apothecaries, licorice root began to flavor sweets in Yorkshire, England, hundreds of years ago, and it is still used in some brands of black licorice candy. Many teas contain licorice root because it has so many uses in herbal remedies. Licorice is a very slow-growing plant, and it can take a long time until you get enough roots to make it worthwhile to dry and use, but it’s still fun to grow some in a pot.  Licorice seems to prefer a pot that allows ample room to grow.  It likes full sun and very well-draining soil conditions(keep it watered but don’t overdo it).  Move your pot to a sheltered place if it’s very wet during your winters.  Licorice is slow to return in the spring and sometimes looks dead before it gets buds in later spring (at least, this has been my experience). Harvest licorice root in its third year. You can propagate it by root division in the spring.


Buzz buttons. Electric daisies. Toothache plant. Eyeball plant. Spilanthes (Acmella oleracea) has many unique names and is a fun herb to grow! One tiny taste of this unusual flower will tingle up your tongue and mouth. It’s hard to fully describe the feeling, but one try, and you’ll understand why “buzz” buttons and “electric” daisies are nicknames.  Toothache plant isn’t a substitute for a trip to the dentist, but a swish of the tinctured plant can offer some relief for toothaches, due to the numbing sensation it gives. If you can’t find spilanthes in your area, it is pretty easy to grow from seed and it can thrive in containers. Grow it in full sun and very rich soil, and ensure it gets watered regularly. 

Close-up of a spilanthes flower
Eyeball plant


Another Mediterranean native, thyme, does exceptionally well in pots!  There are so many varieties and flavors to choose from, such as orange thyme, lemon thyme, French thyme, oregano thyme, and more.  Whatever variety you decide on, make sure to give it good drainage and not-so-fertile gravelly soil. Thyme likes full sun.


Sometimes called nature’s aspirin because of its high salicin content, willow bark has a long history of use in folk medicine. Willow trees can grow very big and very quickly. They love to grow along streams and wet places.  There is a dwarf variety that doesn’t mind growing in pots (as long as you upsize the pot as needed), which is the purple willow.  You can grow this willow in regular potting soil.  Purple willow can handle part shade or full sun, just keep its roots as cool and moist as possible. I have been growing purple willow in a pot for a few years, and my pot does not have a drainage hole. Even when the container gets full of rainwater, the shrub does not seem to mind. The inner bark of willow is usually harvested in the spring and then dried. Use pruned willow branches for basket weaving or making plant trellises. Propagating willow is easy, and if you put a clipping directly in the ground and keep it watered, it should root! Willow is good for making living fences by propagation.

A purple willow plant growing in a pot
Salix purpurea happily growing in a pot

Experiment with Other Herbs

Many other herbs, such as sage, rosemary, lemongrass, aloe, green tea, and violets, also do well in pots. If you don’t have space for a garden bed, but there’s an herb you want to grow, there’s no harm in testing it out to see if it can thrive in a pot. Taking chances and experimenting is what gardening is all about!

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