Creating a container herb garden is a very flexible way to grow fresh herbs in the home garden. Most herbs are well suited to growing in containers.
Growing herbs in pots also allows you to move them around as needed to new areas of your garden or bring them closer to your kitchen. You can change the arrangement according to the season and create focal points in your garden depending on which herbs are blooming.
Always review the growing requirements of the specific herb you decide to include in your potted herb garden before selecting pot.
Here are some great tips to choosing the right herb pot for your plants.
1. Select Herb Pots That Have Good Drainage Holes.
Outdoor pots should good sized drainage holes to allow for easy draining. When it rains, the water will need to be able to drain thoroughly or your herbs will be swimming. Most herbs do not appreciate having “wet feet”.
2. Choose The Right Size Pot For Your Herb Plants.
The size of the pot you choose will contribute to the overall size of the herb plant. If you want your potted herbs to reach their full potential, select a container for your herbs that will accommodate the mature size of the plants. See the chart below to check the mature size of the most common culinary herbs. Here are a few basic tips to keep in mind when planning your container herb garden.
- Herb Pots should be a minimum of 6 inches in diameter. Only the dwarf or creeping varieties of culinary herbs should be placed in a small pot, such as thyme or spicy globe basil.
- Herbs that are heavy spreaders can be contained by the size of the pot. A mint will fill either a 6 inch or 20 inch pot in time. You can control your potted herbs size by limiting the size of the pot.
- Some herbs do better in deeper pots, such as Parsley & Basil. Parsley has a long taproot & basil has an extensive root system. When selecting a pot for parsley or basil, make sure the pot is at least 18 inches deep.
- When you are purchase herb plants in nursery pots from a garden center, you will want to re-pot them into new pots which are at least double the size of the nursery container.
3. Choose The Right Materials For Your Herb Pots.
Herb Pots are made from several different types of materials. Choose the types of material used in your container herb garden based on the following factors:
- The durability for holding up to the outdoor elements.
- The weight of the pot and your ability to move it once it is filled with soil and your plants.
- The moisture retaining ability of the material.
Here are some common materials used for herb containers and the pros & cons of each.
Clay or Terracotta Pots. Clay pots are an affordable pot material which looks nice in many landscapes. They are also not terribly heavy. However, you may need to bring clay pots inside over the winter since they may crack when exposed to fluctuating outdoor temperatures. Their porous nature may also require more frequent watering since they tend to dry out quicker.
Cement or Stone Pots. Stone pots can be absolutely beautiful and there are many pretty treatments, such as glazing or hand painted pots. However, stone pots will be very heavy. These are good choices when the pot will become part of the landscape like large stone pots on either side of an entry way. But they will be very hard to lift once filled with soil and herbs. Don’t choose this type of herb pot when you know you will want to move them around your potted herb garden.
Plastic, Fiberglass and Resin Pots. These can be an attractive solution while remaining affordable. These are also much lighter & easier to move, so are good choices when you need to re-position them in your container herb garden. The downside is they are not as durable and the color may fade or chip over time.
4. Design a Container Herb Garden with Shapes, Sizes, And Colors.
Give some thought to the overall impact you want to create with your container herb garden and its role in your landscape. Do you want to make a statement or do you prefer a more natural look? Ask yourself these questions when deciding on your choice of herb containers.
• How Will You Use Color?
Do you want the pots to blend in with the rest of your garden? Then choose neutral colors and let the herbs be the focal point instead of the containers.
Do you have a formal landscape? Having too many colors could be distracting. In this case, you can stick to one or two complimentary colors.
Do you want a playful, eclectic garden? Then choosing a few bright colored pots may be just right.
• What Sizes Do You Need?
Always choose larger pots over smaller pots when given the choice. Fifteen small pots will end up looking very messy. You may consider a few large planters where you can combine several herbs that have similar growing requirements. Then place a few medium or small pots in front to create a small grouping. Spend some time in the garden center or planning it out on paper first, so you can consider the overall effect of your container herb garden before you make the purchase.
• What Shapes Do You Prefer?
Herb pots come in a variety of shapes and sizes. We typically think of rounded pots, but square pots can fit into some areas much easier such as on either side of a doorway. A long rectangle trough or window box may look nice framing the sides of your patio or deck.
Recommended Outdoor Pots and Planters For Growing Herbs
Most garden centers or home decor stores will have a wide selection of outdoor pots available for purchase. But here are a few more ideas from our favorite online retailers where you can find more specific or unique outdoor containers that are suitable for growing culinary herbs.
Wooden Herb Planter Boxes
Available in varying lengths from 12 to 26 inches. Size shown is 18 inches.
These beautifully handmade wooden planters are just the thing for a rustic or modern look. Each box is sealed to preserve the finish and has drainage holes drilled in the bottom.
The attached sign has a metal background and chalkboard center area ready for you to write in your favorite herbs. And for the longer boxes, you can surely include more than one!
Faux Terra Cotta Nesting Planters
Set of 3 lightweight planters
- Large: 17″ dia. x 16½”H
- Medium: 15″ dia. x 14″H
- Small: 12½” dia. x 11½”H
Enjoy the look of a terra cotta pot without the weight or risk of breakage during a freeze. This set of 3 pots have a drainage hole in the bottom (with a removable plug) and are made from a durable magnesium and fiberglass composite.
This set is perfect to plant each herb in a separate pot, but still create a cohesive grouping. Use the larger, deeper pot for bigger herbs such as Rosemary or a mature sage plant, the medium size for basil, parsley or cilantro, and the smallest pot for thyme or mint.
Solar Truck Planter
- Size: 17½” L x 7″ W x 8¼” H
- Colors: Red, Black, or Blue
These little truck planters were too cute not to have earned a place on our list. The planting area is in the bed of the truck measures 7 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ and includes a drainage hole in the bottom. Suitable for smaller herbs, a creeping thyme or mint variety would work very well.
The fun part of this planter is the solar panel on the top of the truck. When the sun goes down the headlights of the truck light up! Imagine sitting these on a small outdoor table for extra lighting or near a walkway.
These planters would make a great unique gardening gift, especially if you fill it ahead of time.
Buddha Bust Planters
Available in 2 sizes.
- Small: 10″L x 9.5″W x 10″H; Weight: 13 pounds.
- Medium: 11″L x 10.5″W x 11.5″H; Weight: 14 lbs.
If you want to bring a peaceful feeling to your herb garden, these Buddha bust planters are a great choice. Handcrafted on the island of Bali, they are made from a glass-reinforced concrete and will hold up to the outdoor elements. Drainage holes are included in the bottom of both planters.
Lexington Self-Watering Planters
- Sizes: 14″ Squre, 20″ Square; Window Box – 36″ Long
- Colors: Red, White, Blue, Grey or Black
For a more traditional home, these Lexington self-watering planters are an easy way to keep your plants well-watered and healthy. All use a self-contained irrigation system that promotes strong root development and eases the worry of watering too much or too little.
The square planters are suitable for growing individual herbs or a small grouping of compatible herb plants. The longer windowbox planter would be terrific outside filled with an aromatic selection of thyme or mint. Just imagine opening your window in the summer months to these delightful fragrances!
Designing your potted herb garden is a fun exercise and when done with some planning can be a beautiful addition to your home & garden’s appeal. Once you have chosen the pots for your container herb garden, make sure to read the article on growing herbs in pots to ensure your herbs are as healthy as possible.