Want to grow medicinal and culinary herbs in your garden? These lists share dozens of annual and perennial herb plants, helpful growing tips, and their plant hardiness zones. Herbs are used for cooking as well as fragrance, color, and medicinal purposes.
If you want to grow indoors, see How to Grow Herbs Indoors (Beginner’s Guide).
Herbs 101: Growing Tips
What are herbs?
Herbs come from the leafy and green parts of plants. Spices come from roots, bulbs, stems, bark, or seeds.
A plant deemed a herb can be used for food (culinary), flavor, scent, color, or medicinal purposes. Some are potent and can be harmful. This article is for information only and is not (in any way) a recommendation to use any of these herbs.
We tend to include some spices (derived from plants) under the herb umbrella, and I have included some here.
- Herbaceous plants (by definition) are flowering perennials that do not develop woody stems. Many herbs are herbaceous plants, but not all. Rosemary and lavender both develop woody stems, so, by this definition, they are not herbaceous, but they are herbs.
Herbs can be annuals, biennials, or perennials.
- Annuals are plants that germinate, bloom, produce, seed, and die, within one year. These include many flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Basil is an example of an annual herb.
- Biennials have a two-year biological cycle. They grow leaves the first year, and flower, seed, and die in the second year. Parsley is an example, although we grow it as an annual.
- Perennials are plants that live on for several years. They can flower or fruit year after year.
We can grow herbs from seeds, cuttings, or existing plants.
- Some herbs are easy to grow from seeds, others, such as basil, are unreliable.
- Some herbs are easy to propagate from cuttings, like rosemary and lavender.
To propagate from cuttings: Cut off a 4-inch stem. Remove the bottom 1-inch of leaves. Plant in light potting mix, placing stems against inner sides of pots, and keep moist.
- Established plants are often harvest-ready, allowing us to cut some stems or leaves for use, while leaving a majority of the plant to continue growing. Established plants are also useful for taking cuttings to propagate new plants.
More About Herbs
- Grow Plants for Homemade Tea | This has an extensive list of plants to grow for their leaves, fruit, flowers, roots, and seeds and make tea!
Annual herbs germinate, bloom, produce, seed, and die within one year.
- Basil, sweet | Ocimum basilicum
- Borage | Borago offininalis – spring herb
- Caraway | Apiaceae spp.
Use: fruits and seeds
- Cardamom | Elettaria cardamomum
Use: seed pods
- Chamomile, German | Matricaria chamomilla
Use: flowers (daisy-like)
- Cilantro coriander | Coriandrum sativum – goes to seed quickly (tends to bolt)
- Cilantro – leaves and stems
- Coriander – seeds
Recommended: Vietnamese coriander is one of the easiest to grow.
- Chervil | Anthriscus cereifolium – perennial grown as annual
A relative of parsley, okay with low light.
- Cutting Celery | Apium graveolens – perennial grown as an annual
- Use: leaves
- Dill | Anethum graveolens
Use: leaves and seeds
- Fennel | Foeniculum vulgare – grown as an annual vegetable for the bulb, allow to flower for seeds
- Hyssop | Hyssopus officinalis
- Lemongrass | Cymbopogon citratus – zones 9-10 tropical plant
Use: leaf stalks
Start with a stalk from the grocery store. Trim top and grow in a few inches of water.
- Parsley | Petroselinum crispum, Petroselinum hortense – biennial grown as annual
- Summer savory | Satureja hortensis
Perennials are plants that live on for several years. They can flower or fruit year after year.
- Alexanders | Smyrnium olusatrum – biennial – zones 5-9
Use: leaves, shoots, roots, flowers, and seeds
- Anise hyssop | Agastache spp. – zones 4a–9b
Use: leaves (mint family)
- Bay laurel | Laurus nobilis – tender perennial– zones 8-11
- Chamomile, Roman | Chamaemelum nobile – zones 3-9
Use: essential oils
- Chives | Allium schoenoprasum– zones 3-9
Use: leaves and flowers
- Fennel | Foeniculum vulgare – zones 6-10
Use: leaves and seeds
- Garlic chives | Allium tuberosum – slow-growing, started from seed– zones 3-10
Use: leaves and flowers
- Lavender | Lavandula – prefers slightly sandy, alkaline loam soil – zones 5-9
- Lemon verbena | Alaysia triphylla – tender perennial – zones 9-10
- Lemon balm | Melissa officinalis – invasive- zones 4-9
- Lovage | Levisticum officinale – zones 4-8
Use: roots, seeds, and leaves
- Marjoram, sweet | Origanum majorana -*tender perennial – zones 9-10
- Mint | Mentha spp. – invasive – grow in containers in-ground or above-ground – zones 4-9
- Oregano | Origanum spp. – zones 4-8
- Rosemary | Rosemarinus officinalis – tender perennial– zones 6-9
- Sage | Salvia officinalis – zones 5-9
- Shepherd’s Purse | Capsella bursa pastoris – zones 4-7
- Sorrel | Rumex scutatus – zones 3-9
- Sweet Woodruff | Galium odoratum – zones 4-8
Use: flowers and green leaves for flavoring drinks
- Tarragon, French | Artemisia dracunculus – zones 4-8
- Thyme | Foeniculum vulgare, Thymus vulgaris – lots of varieties – zones 5-9
Use: leaves and seeds
- Valerian | Valerian offisinalis – zones 4-9
- Winter Savory | Satureja montana – zones 5-8
Use: stems, leaves
- Yerba Buena | Satureja douglasii – mint family – zones 7-10
Best growing conditions vary by plant. Generally, most herbs like well-drained soil, do not tolerate damp conditions, enjoy full sun (a minimum of 5 hours per day without drying out from the heat), and do fine in containers. Specific needs vary by species. I find a number of herbs will do fine in part-shade, but growth is slower.
When growing herbs in containers, use lightweight potting mix (you can add perlite for better drainage), and ensure excellent drainage. Prop pots on stones to avoid base sitting in a saucer of water. Using separate containers for each plant makes it easy to move them around as needed and bring them indoors for over-wintering.
In general, lean soil is preferable as most herbs originate in Mediterraean growing conditions and do not require extra nutrition.
Once a herb is mature, it is best to make use of it! For herbs used for their stems or leaves, regular harvesting (not more than 1/3 of the plant) encourages new growth. Removal of forming flowers delays the flower and seed production stages which mark the end of the plant’s life.
Herb Drying Methods
Herbs can be used fresh or dried, depending on the type and purpose.
- Bundle stems and hang until completely dry (may take 6 weeks).
- Microwave drying: rinse and pat dry with towel. Place in microwave on paper towel for 1 minute. Turn and check at 30-second intervals until completely dry.
Store dry herbs in air-tight containers. This shows how long household herbs and spices last.
You can also freeze some herbs on their own, or in ice cube trays with oils.
Infused Oils and Honey
Place dry herbs in a bottle, fill with olive oil. After six weeks, strain oil. The flavor of the herbs remains. You can do the same with honey but it’s not so easy to strain.
Ideally, your choices will be:
- Suitable for your plant hardiness zone (see links below).
- Suitable for your growing conditions (soil, light, water, available space, wind).
- Non-invasive and not on banned plant lists. Check with local authorities.
- Organically-grown and ready to grow in a garden like yours.
How to Find Your Frost Dates and Hardiness Zone