Kitchen Tips

10 types of potted herbs and how to grow them

You don’t need a multitude of garden beds to sprout fresh herbs; pot those puppies in containers and they'll be good to grow.

The great thing about herbs, apart from their divine flavour and wonderful nutritional value, is that most of them are able to grow in all sorts of places – rocky slopes, coastal gardens and, of course, containers.
Indeed, people have been growing herbs in pots, baskets, troughs and other containers for centuries. Convenience plays a part – after all, what could be handier than a pot of herbs by the back door? But another reason for container cultivation is that herbs don't all necessarily like the same soil type, nutrients, sun exposure, moisture levels and so forth. Plant them in pots and you can customise their care and conditions. If you're unsure what to grow, here are our favourite container herbs.
Sophie Gray's broccoli and walnut pesto uses basil leaves for an aromatic flavour.

1. Basil

Basil is an annual herb (it only lives for one season) and is ideal for growing on a sunny deck, terrace or window sill. Sow seeds, or plant seedlings, in spring into a standard potting mix and keep in a warm spot until well established. Pots need to be deep as basil has a long taproot. Water well during dry weather, but not at night as damp leaves can be susceptible to fungal disease.
In this courgette and green bean salad, coriander adds a beautiful vibrant flavour.

2. Coriander

A frost-tender annual, coriander is best in a large, deep pot in a sunny spot with plenty of moisture in summer. It hates being transplanted but is easy to grow from seed – just sprinkle on top of potting mix and cover with a thin layer of compost. Pick leaves regularly and harvest seeds by picking the flowers as soon as they start to produce a scent. If you're a real coriander fan, keep your supply up by sowing seeds in another pot three weeks later.
A handful of fresh mint leaves makes this pineapple slushie extra fresh.

3. Mint

There are many different mints apart from the common variety, including apple, pineapple, lemon and peppermint. Most are frost-hardy perennials that spread easily, which is why they are best grown in large pots, not the garden. Keep compost moist at all times and feed with a liquid fertiliser throughout the growing season. Part-shade is best.
Parsley brightens the flavour in these scrumptious ham and pea fritters.

4. Parsley

Inside or out, parsley will thrive in pots if kept moist, harvested regularly and given a liquid feed occasionally. A little shade is best in summer and a sunny spot in winter. Remove any flowers to ensure plants produce leaves, not seed. Both common and flatleaf parsley are biennial (only live for two seasons).
Just a couple of dried bay leaves add so much fragrance to this warming beef and vegetable soup.

5. Bay

An evergreen tree that can become enormous if left unpruned, bay needs a large, deep pot and protection from frost. Feed in spring with a liquid fertiliser and water well during summer. To grow your bay tree as a standard topiary, choose a plant with a straight stem, remove the lower side shoots and trim the rest to the shape you want.
Chives give this Malaysian-style prawn noodles dish a lovely subtle onion flavour.

6. Chives

Chives are perfect for a window box or small pots on a ledge. They prefer soil to be fertile and moist so give them some shade in summer to avoid pots drying out. Liquid feed in spring, and if aphids attack, wash the leaves thoroughly. Chives are perennial (plants will live for several seasons), but die down in winter.
These prawn skewers are given a light and delicate citrus flavour from lemongrass.

7. Lemongrass

Lemongrass thrives in pots if the compost is kept moist during summer. Move pots from frosty places to shelter in winter and expect plants to become dormant; in warmer areas lemongrass will remain in leaf. Harvest fresh leaves and lower stems in summer and liquid-feed weekly during warmer months.
Rosemary gives its unique flavour to these tasty olive and rosemary scones.

8. Rosemary

You need a large pot for rosemary, as plants can reach a metre in height and spread. Good drainage is essential and rosemary needs very little water, especially during the colder months. In colder locations, position the container against the sunniest wall, mulch around the plant, and move to a sheltered spot during winter. Trim after flowering to keep it in shape.
This pork and mushroom lasagne has sweet and earthy sage leaves both inside it and sprinkled on top.

9. Sage

Common sage, the one used most often in cooking, is frost tolerant, evergreen and perennial. Plants reach 60cm in height and spread, so select a reasonably large container that is not too shallow and has good drainage. Use a mix of composted fine bark and soil-based compost. Trim back after flowering in summer and avoid over-watering.
This gorgeous baked honey ricotta desserts are enhanced by the subtle minty flavour of thyme.

10. Thyme

There are many different varieties of thyme to choose from, all frost hardy, evergreen and perennial. Some are very low-growing, others will reach about 30cm in height – and they all do well in containers, provided soil is well drained and they get plenty of sun. Avoid fertilisers and keep watering to a minimum.