5 Tips for Growing Herbs in Containers

5 simple tips for successfully growing herbs in containers. Includes a list of herbs that can be planted together, and ways to use the herbs in your everyday life.

growing herbs in containers on deck

For the past eight years, I have shared my summer herb garden with all of you, here on the blog. Some years have been a bit more elaborate than others, but every herb garden has been planted in containers. At first, the containers were on our deck at the Sutton Place house. After we replaced the deck with a small patio, I continued growing herbs in containers.

This year is different, and we’re in a new home, but I’m still growing herbs out my back door, like I’ve done so many years before.

See all previous herb gardens {HERE.}

growing herbs in containers for beginners

What is the easiest way to grow herbs?

I’ve also got some tips for growing herbs in containers…things I’ve learned over the years that will help make your herb garden a success. 

*Affiliate links included. Click HERE for my disclosure statement.

basil in galvanized container on deck

Tips for Growing Herbs in Containers

# 1: Proper drainage

This tip is number one because it’s the most important thing you must do to successfully grow anything in a container. Some pots come with pre-drilled holes, which is very convenient. If you want to use containers that aren’t meant for plants, simply drill several holes in the bottom of the pot. If your containers are large, it’s helpful to fill the bottom with plastic water bottles or any plastic recyclable container. This will save on potting soil, and the containers won’t be so heavy. 

#2: Good potting soil

With each new season, fill your containers with fresh, fertilized potting soil. It’s important to make sure you don’t purchase garden soil, which is a mistake I made once. My favorite potting soil is Miracle-Gro Potting Mix, but any good quality potting soil will work. 

#3: Ample sun exposure

Some herbs can thrive in partial sun, while others need at least six to eight hours of sun per day. Make sure to place your containers where the plants will receive the proper amount of light. Technically, our deck doesn’t get enough sun to grow tomatoes. That’s why every year, it’s a struggle. I still try though!

mint plants in galvanized container

#4: Plant “like” herbs together 

If you would like a smaller, more compact herb garden, it’s fine to plant different herbs together in the same pot. Consider the watering needs of your herbs, and place herbs with the same requirements together. The only exception to this is mint…it’s best to plant mint in its own container because the root system is very invasive. 

two rosemary plantes in container

#5 Deadhead & Pinch

Pinching back, or cutting back, your herbs will help them fill out and thicken up. I try to cut back my rosemary and mint regularly, so the plants grow out instead of up. The same goes for basil. If buds or blooms begin to appear on your basil, it’s best to pinch them off. If your basil gets away from you, and is full of blooms, just cut them all off and very soon, your plants will be back to normal. Don’t throw those blooms away! They are lovely in a cut flower arrangement, or they can be tossed in a salad, because basil blooms are edible. 

cherry tomato plant in vintage olive bucket

Companion herbs that can be planted together.

Growing herbs in the same pot is easy if you plant like herbs together.

Requires less water and likes drier soil: 

  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender

Requires moist soil, so water regularly:

  • Tarragon
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Chives

Very invasive, so plant alone:

  • Mint

Ways to Use Herbs

Growing herbs is one thing…using them is another. Here are some ideas for using fresh herbs in your everyday life.

Growing herbs in containers hardly takes any time at all, and it’s the easiest way to have fresh herbs at your fingertips. I’ll be back later in the summer to show you our new patio, and the herbs all grown up and out. 

garden bundle graphic below post 600

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35 Comments

  1. Can you tell us where you got the great assortment of bins? Thinking ahead for next summer! Thanks, a very interesting way to plant!

  2. Where can I get the metal containers,please? You do it well❣️😃

  3. I would love to know where to purchase the perforated galvanize steel round containers with the slots throughout with the leather handles? My email address is Gina.lang@ Gmail.com. Ty!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Gina…those are vintage olive buckets. You can find them on Etsy or eBay. Just go to either site and search “olive bucket.” There are reproductions available occasionally at places like Walmart, but they aren’t quite as sturdy. I hope this helps!

    2. Anne,
      Thanks for this very informative article on herbs, companion planting and the lovely printable.
      I have printed out a few already and framed them for seasonable use.
      I enjoy all your articles.

      Thanks again.

      1. Ann,
        Plase forgive my error on your name. I realized the spelling was wrong after I sent it and couldn’t find a way to correct it. If you can, please correct it. Thanks again.
        Rhonda

  4. Barbara Sullivan says:

    How do you dispose of your old soil?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Barbara…I put it in a wheelbarrow and spread it in an empty spot behind our shed. Happy gardening!

  5. I planted tomatoes, peppers and herbs (rosemary, cilantro, chives and lemon thyme) in my front garden. We did containers on the back porch of lettuce, kale and collards. We will see how we do!

  6. When do you think is the best time to water herbs — morning, noon, evening?
    Also I know that tomato leaves should not be watered (unless rained on), what about herbs?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      I water in the morning. By afternoon, it’s usually too hot, and I don’t enjoy being outside! I don’t personally worry about watering leaves on herbs. I do try to water just the soil by keeping my hose head under the plants. I hope this helps!

  7. Spring seem slow to come in NE Ohio this year. It was warm & sunny yesterday though so I went to my favorite local greenhouse during the early morning “old folks only” shopping hour! Only 2 other oldies there & it was set up well for social distancing. And it was so wonderful to see the 2 sisters who own the greenhouse! I bought my favorite herbs – which is almost every one! For now they are in our west-facing kitchen; too cold, wet & windy today & next few days :( Too chatty-sorry! I really wanted to ask where you found those square metal tubs! I think you may have told us in the past but I don’t remember. Would like to do do something different with the herbs this year & I like your herb garden. Thanks for all your great posts! Stay well!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Pamela…the galvanized tubs are vintage. I got a couple of them from a friend, and the others I got at our local antique mall. I think I may have found one or two on eBay. They can be a bit pricey, but to me, they are worth it!

  8. Vonda Gunnells says:

    I am having trouble finding the “I agree” button for your terms of service agreement. I was trying to print the “Companion Herbs” picture. Where is that located? Thanks!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Vonda! The code for the form got deleted but it’s fixed now so you can go ahead and sign up. Thank you so much for your patience!

  9. Carole Larsen says:

    Anne, first of all, I am an avid follower of you and your blog. I really love all of your practical and money saving advice.
    Last year I read this same article and tried putting packing peanuts in the bottom of my large zinc tubs like yours. What a nightmare. Every time it rained they came to the top and I had to siphon them out with a large sieve which took a lot of time. Eventually there was little drainage so my flowers did not do well. What did I do wrong and what can I do now that the only drainage is the holes drilled in the bottom of the tubs which isn’t enough. Will I have to completely empty all of the dirt now? HELP PLEASE.

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Carole…I’m sorry the packing peanuts didn’t work for you. They have never risen to the top for me and I’m honestly not sure why that would have happened. The only thing I can think of is that you had too many peanuts and not enough soil? The soil on top of the peanuts should be heavy enough to keep the peanuts down. So do your tubs have only dirt in them now with holes in the bottom?

  10. Susan DeVito says:

    Is there a reason you used metal containers rather than plastic or clay?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Susan! Not really. I love vintage galvanized containers and had collected a few. I decided to plant herbs in them and from there my collection grew. I like the fact that I can leave them out year-round because I have limited storage. As they age, they just get better.

  11. Jauquetta says:

    It goes around the base of the plant and helps reflect the sun light and the correct color spectrum light back onto the plants. It doubled my yeild. I had to carefully wash it off if it got too dusty. I checked, they still sell it. It’s not expensive and might be worth a try.
    Also, make sure no one around the plants smokes! They hate nicotine!
    Have you changed varieties? Some types do better in areas than others. Could never figure out why.

  12. Karen K from Buffalo says:

    Well you have me inspired not with herbs but with tomatoes! I never have luck with them either, but when I saw your containers, I know I have to try it! My containers are exactly like your’s & they are just sitting in my garage. On to the nursery now!

  13. Marjorie Parker says:

    This is really helpful.thank you so much. Marjorie

  14. Ann,
    Great tips on growing herbs!
    I, too, grow herbs in containers!
    Thank you for sharing!
    Pat

  15. Great tips. For your cherry tomato plant, may I suggest a sub-irrigated pot? I find my tomato plant does best with that type of watering. I made my own so I was able to use a very large container. Good luck with your plants!

  16. Dear Ann,
    As we cannot get into the new house til the beginning of July for Pete’s sake I will be doing what you are. Then I can plan better for next summer. I am going to plant flowers in tins and containers also. I need some color for when we have our wedding. I am also going to plant different types of my favorite hostas along the fence for the pool. I get such great starter ideas from you and Wendi from H2Bungalow. And Jamie is doing great with her new ideas. Thank you Ann.

  17. I love herbs and your post is full of great growing tips!

  18. Jauquetta says:

    Have you tried those red shiny sheets that go on the ground around the tomato plants. When i had a house and garden i used those. It more than doubled my yield. I can’t remember where i got them as it’s been 25 yrs! Might try White Flower Farms, i used to buy from them.
    Good luck with your herbs and toms! Have you tried Thai basil, it’s almost purple and has a wonderful flavor that’s very different ftom Italian basil.

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Are the red sheets for planting tomatoes in the ground?

  19. CarolK (cent'l NJ) says:

    I planted several tomato plants in plastic tub on our deck last season and they did very poorly. For all the work involved I got one small tomato off one plants and a few small ones off the other. So disappointing. Good luck with yours and keep use posted on progress.

  20. I’ve read a couple times that tomatoes don’t do well in zinc tubs, ie: cattle troughs. The zinc inhibits their growth.

  21. Good luck with your container garden and with your patio, can’t wait to see the completed project.

  22. Hi Ann,

    It’s laura from everyday edits (formerly not a trophy wife) ;0). Hey, two things. One I wanted you to know I am sharing your front porch (it is always at the top of Pinterest search for flower pots) on an upcoming post on porch envy. And, after reading your herb tutorial , I plan to share on next weekend’s post.. the weekend edit.

    Thank you! laura

  23. Ann – Thank you for this great article full of everything I need to make my Herb garden. I’ll try to send pictures as mine progresses. You inspire me!!
    Cheryl

  24. Laura Heywood says:

    Thank you Ann! I finally purchased my basil and mint yesterday. Now I have to get to work and you have inspired me.

  25. I love herbs whether cooking with them,using to make salves and tinctures for cosmectic or medicinal purposes,or just for their beauty in the garden. I used to have a large herb garden but now in a new home find I like to plant them in containers and keep them on my deck .Easy to care for and clip to bring inside as needed. The only ones I still have in my garden are Lemon Verbena and Lavender because the scent is lovely when I am working in the beds. Thanks Ann and have a lovely weekend.