How to Decide Which Herbs to Grow

Are you ready to stop buying overpriced herbs from the grocery store?

Then it’s time to learn how to grow your own herbs at home! Get excited for an [almost] endless supply of fresh herbs for your meals.

First, there are a few steps you will need to take to decide which herbs to grow…

This is a part of the Eco-Challenge. If you would like to join our free monthly “eco-challenge” to learn a new eco-friendly skill each month, sign up here!

various cut herbs against white backdrop

Decide where you will grow your herbs:

You have several options. Assess your space and decide which will work best for you.

You can grow herbs…

  • Indoors in pots with grow lights or near a window
  • Indoors hydroponically (in water) with grow lights
  • Outdoors in pots
  • Outdoors in a garden bed

Let’s begin with the steps you should take…

If growing herbs OUTSIDE…

Step #1. First you need to know what “plant hardiness zone” you are in. This will help you learn which herbs you can grow and when to plant them.

Go to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Type in your zip code or city.

Step #2. Click on the color on the map that your zip code is in, and it will pop up with your exact hardiness zone (8b, for example).

Step #3. Now that you know your hardiness zone…
Below are two resources for you to determine which herbs will grow well in each zone:

Resource #1:

Perennial herbs and their zones: this article lists perennial herb options and lists which zones they grow well in. A “perennial herb” means that it will not die after one season, like an “annual herb” would do.

If, according to that article, your zone falls in the range of acceptable zones for an herb, it’s a match! Get ready to buy the seeds or the herb seedling plant from a local plant nursery!

That article also gives tips if you are not quite in the right zone so that your herb can still survive. You may need to do something like keep your plant in a pot and move it to the garage when the temperature gets too low.

Resource #2:

Plant what when: On this site, you should first select your hardiness zone and then choose April as your “planting month” (if you are taking part in my monthly Eco-Challenge). Scroll through the list of edible plants you can grow in your zone in this month and take note which of them are herbs. Simply choose which ones sound most delicious to you. 😉

Another option for choosing which herbs to grow is to go to look at the back of the seed packets. It will tell you which zone you can grow that plant in and when to plant it outside. Keep in mind, this method will be a little bit more time consuming.

aerial view of herbs growing in pots

Growing herbs in POTS versus a GARDEN BED…

Some herbs should not go in a garden bed:

Warning! There are several herbs you never want to grow in the ground (AKA a “garden bed”). This is because they can easily spread and take over your whole garden or backyard.

Some herbs spread aggressively through underground “runners”, while others spread by going to seed and basically replanting themselves.

You should not grow these herbs in the ground:

  • mint
  • chamomile
  • chives
  • dill
  • lemon balm
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • thyme

Some herbs grow in SHADE:

If you are planning on placing some herbs in your garden with sun-loving plants, you may want to think twice.

Some herbs grow in shade. If they are listed as “partial shade” then they will do best with 3-6 hours of sunlight each day. If it says they are “full shade”, then they prefer less than 3 hours of sunlight daily.

Shade tolerant herbs:

  • parsley
  • lemon balm
  • chives
  • thyme
  • mint
  • dill
  • cilantro

Some herbs DON’T like each other:

It sounds silly, but some herbs should not be planted near each other. This is often because one will simply overtake and overpower the other.

Do NOT plant these herbs near each other:

  • Mint and chamomile
  • Mint and parsley
  • Rosemary and any other herb (except sage)
  • Keep fennel far from other herbs
  • Sage and dill, rue, or basil

If growing herbs INDOORS…

While outdoor-grown herbs require specific plant hardiness zones and need to be planted during certain seasons of the year, indoor herbs can be grown year-round. You can also start seeds indoors any time of year too (with grow lights).

The quick and easy method to grow herbs indoors year-round (which is what I just did a few months ago) is to buy a hydroponics system like an Aerogarden. It makes growing your own herbs fool-proof by doing almost all the work for you.

My Aerogarden hydroponics system automatically turns the grow lights on and off for the exact amount of hours required for herbs (when you set it to the “herb garden” option. It also has “veggie” and “salad” options if you want to grow something other than herbs indoors). And it reminds you when to add water and when to feed them with the liquid plant food that it provides.

You can also grow herbs indoors with indoor pots and your own grow lights. Full-spectrum LED lights are the best option because they are affordable, energy efficient, and they provide a full spectrum of light (I put one on the supplies list). Check here to determine how far you will need to put your lights from your seedlings. Your herbs will probably need about 16 to 18 hours of artificial light per day.

Some herbs cannot be PRUNED:

Most herbs will need to be pruned (AKA trimmed) back as they grow. Believe it or not, this actually helps them grow bigger and fuller. Which is awesome because that means that as you use cuttings from your herb plant, it will grow back stronger with more fresh herbs for you!

Herbs that grow back after cutting are oregano, chives, mint, thyme, and rosemary. Those herbs will keep providing a steady supply of herbs as they’re pruned, so they can go in small planters or pots if you like.

However, some herbs do NOT do well when they are pruned. Specifically, dill and cilantro do not grow back after they have been clipped. This means you will need to plant more of those herbs and they probably won’t do as well indoors in small pots. Keep that in mind when choosing which herbs to grow in pots.

Determine the supplies you will need…

Now that you better understand your options for growing herbs at home, it’s time to get started!

You’ll probably need some supplies, whether an all-inclusive aerogarden system, pots and soil, or a seed starter kit and grow lights.

Here’s an Amazon list of all the supplies I recommend for growing your own herbs at home. Check it out to make sure you don’t need any of the supplies on there. Obviously not all of those supplies are necessary for every method of growing herbs.

Happy herb growing!

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Amber

    I am just experimenting with growing herbs in my kitchen, and I really appreciate this list! So far, mint seems the easiest and cilantro seems to be the hardest–but good to know they just might not like being close together (as cute as an herb garden may sound!). Thanks for posting.

    1. Jaime

      That’s great!! I was worried about cilantro not being as easy, but I’m glad you’re giving it a try!

  2. Heather

    I love growing fresh herbs! I have not tried a hydroponic system. I’m definitely going to look into it now! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Jaime

      Oh I think you’ll love it! Hydroponics make it SO easy!

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