5 Good Container Herbs for Cooking

Thyme, Rosemary and Oregano

When Mother Nature offers her wild bounty, she doesn’t take into account we may be busy with other things, like harvesting spring produce or working to patch leaky gutters. That’s why I’m a bit late in getting this column to my editors. For the past week, along with regular chores, we’ve been outdoors, sometimes over hill and dale, foraging for wild edibles. Morels are in season but oh so elusive. Violets and red buds for jellies there for the taking. 

So it wasn’t until today that I got to sit down and read my mail. In it was a timely query. “What are some good cooking herbs to grow in containers? I don’t have much space but buying fresh herbs puts a dent in my budget, and I waste more than I use.”

Now most herbs are happy either in the ground or in a container. The bonus of container gardening? More control. 

With Mother’s Day approaching, a container kitchen herb garden is a thoughtful, practical gift. Container herbs are good outdoor accents, as well. 

Tips to get you started:

Good drainage, proper container size and good potting soil are essential. 

Plant herbs singly or in groups. 

Planting several herbs in a container is fine as long as they have the same soil, water, etc. requirements. 

Herbs planted in containers will be smaller than in-ground herbs, which is good for those aggressive spreading herbs, like mints, chives, oregano and thyme. 

You’l harvest more often, too. That keeps herbs smaller.

The herbs below are super versatile. Good choices for an essential, basic, herb garden.

They like sun but will tolerate a little shade. 


This annual herb comes in many varieties, from standards, like Genovese, to petite, dwarf varieties like Bouquet. Pinch flowers off  (flowers of culinary herbs are edible) for a longer harvest.

Basil lends a sweet/spicy note to foods. 

Add during the last 5 minutes of cooking time for an explosion of flavor.


Rosemary, that piney tasting tender perennial, usually gets as big as the pot it’s in. Once it reaches the same height as the pot, either root prune it or move to a larger pot. 

It’s a strong tasting herb, particularly when fresh. Rosemary needles are called that for a reason – they can get stuck in the throat so if you’re not using the whole sprig, mince leaves.


This perennial tends to look weedy after a couple of years in the ground yet is easily controlled in a pot. Thyme comes in bush or trailing varieties. Lemon thyme is a much loved container herb. 


A must for a culinary garden. Think pizza! An easy perennial to grow, it, too, takes to good, regular pruning to control growth. Greek oregano is the gold standard.

Both garlic and onion chives are fast growing perennials. Harvest by cutting down to soil level.

Another cut and come again herb, chives lend a mild yet distinct flavor.


Having fresh or home dried sage brings your holiday cooking to a new level. You’ll have fresh sage until a hard frost occurs. Variegated varieties are smaller than regular sage. 

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