How to Grow Herbs
The following questions and answers will help you learn about herbs and their requirements for growing. Click the link below for our Herb encyclopedia which gives more specific information for each culinary herb.
1. How long is this plant going to live? What is the normal lifespan of this plant?
Most herbs are perennial except for some that are annual. Perennial means that they will either stay green all winter or go dormant over the winter season and come back again in the spring. Annual herbs will only live over one season and are expected to live from only 1-4 months, depending upon the plant before they will stop leaf production, make flowers, and go to seed. An exception to the rule is Parsley which is biennial and lives for about 1 year before going to seed. See the chart below for specific life spans.
2. How large is this plant going to be when fully mature? How big will it get?
Many herbs can get very large, some as big as 6 feet across! In order to know how and where to plant them it is a good idea to know the expected size of the plant 3 months after you plant or 3 years after. See the chart below for specific herb sizes.
3. How much water and sun does my herb plant need?
Most herbs need about 4 hours of sunlight per day and on average watering should be done when the soil feels dry to the touch. Some herbs can be kept more moist such as Basil, others need to have soil dry completely between watering such as Lavender. If you plant them together in a large container or planter, you can water when the soil feels dry and keep them in a half day of sun. Check the chart below for “dry” herbs and “moist” herbs and allow more sunshine for dry, and slightly less for moist.
4. How do I harvest this herb for cooking and what kind of pruning does it need?
Generally harvesting herbs is like giving them a hair cut. Cutting off the tips, down to a intersection of leaves, makes them branch out and regrow as a fuller plant. Cut them regularly so they do not grow leggy and never cut off more than a third of their growth at any one time. Perennial herbs should be pruned back every fall, about a third to keep them from getting too woody over the winter months and to encourage new growth in Spring.
For more growing and cooking information on herbs, view our: Growing Encyclopedia for Herbs
Basil & Cilantro (very short lived)
Herb Plant Sizes
Small: under 1 foot in diameter
Parsley, Dill, Chives, Cilantro, Arugula
Medium: 1-2 feet in diameter
Thyme, Tarragon, Basils, Marjoram, Chocolate Mint and Peppermint
Large: 3 feet or more in diameter or over 4 feet high
Rosemary, Oregano, Lemon Verbena, Sages, Spearmint, Orange mint
Sun Requirements and Moisture
“Dry” Herbs: (better suited to dry, sunny, Mediterranean conditions) Rosemary, Oregano, Marjoram, Sages, Lavender, Thyme and Tarragon
“Moist” Herbs: (better suited to moist, cooler, and afternoon shaded locations) Basils, Mints, Cilantro, Dill, Arugula, and Chives