How to grow evergreen herbs

Martyn Cox / 10 July 2012

Evergreen herbs are valuable plants to grow in the garden. They not only provide colour, structure and beauty all year round, but during autumn and winter months they’re a mainstay when there’s little else around.

Although they can be grown in the ground or as part of a traditional herb garden, thyme, bay, rosemary and sage are ideal for combining in a large planter, ensuring that even those with tiny plots can enjoy the sight and taste of these fabulous plants.

What to grow

When it comes to choosing what herbs to include in your everlasting herb container, there is no shortage of varieties to try. 


For instance, there about 200 different thymes available to grow in the UK, which vary in size, colour of foliage and even flavour of the leaves. 

Thymus ‘Fragrantissimus’ has narrow grey leaves that will add a spicy orange kick to meals, while Thymus vulgaris ‘Silver Posie’ has white variegated leaves and pretty pink flowers. My favourite for flavour is Thymus x citriodorus ‘Golden King’, its green and gold two-tone leaves pack a distinctive hint of lemon.


Large, clipped specimens of bay look smart in solitary pots, but smaller plants are better suited to container arrangements. Apart from common sweet bay (Laurus nobilis), look out for yellow leaved Laurus nobilis ‘Aurea’ and ‘Sunspot’, which has green and gold splashed foliage.


There are well over 100 different varieties of rosemary to choose from. Some are far too big for pots, but ‘Blue Boy’ reaches just 60cm and R.officinalis Prostratus Group is sprawling plant that is unlikely to exceed 15cm in height.


The flavour of common sage is instantly recognisable, but there are others that are better looking. Try cream, green and pink leaved sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’) and ‘Kew Gold’, a 30cm tall plant with yellow leaves.

Find out how to grow Mediterranean herbs

Choosing pots and compost

Large pots or rectangular planters are ideal and will allow you to grow a good selection of plants – make sure they are at least 30cm deep to give roots room to spread. 

Pick pots with drainage holes in the base and fill with gritty, well-drained compost, such as John Innes No.2 – this is much better for long-term planting than multi-purpose mixes.  

If you’re really strapped for space you could grow a few low-growing or compact herbs in a window box.

Read our guide to uses for old potting compost

How to plant it up

Add a layer of compost to your container, then arrange plants in their pots on the surface. If it’s going to be placed against a wall, put taller growing specimens behind more compact plants, and any trailers at the edge. 

When you’re happy with the arrangement, remove the plastic pots and reposition plants, packing compost around their rootballs.

Leave a 5cm gap between the compost’s surface and the lip of the container.

Caring for your container

These herbs hail from Mediterranean regions and are happiest in a warm, sunny spot. Keep plants compact by pruning and water regularly over the summer. 

All of these plants hate having soggy feet so take extra care in winter – move the container into a rain shadow against a house or fence, or put in a cool greenhouse. 

Raise onto pot feet to allow excess moisture to drain away.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.