How to grow herbs

Martyn Cox

Growing your own herbs is doddle. Either plant in beds, borders or a dedicated herb garden, or grow in pots and display on a patio.



Although some of these can be grown by seed, it's easier to buy ready grown plants. Not only will they establish quickly, but most will be ready to start using straight away.

Growing thyme

How to start: Plants

Where to grow: Plant into well-drained soil in a sunny spot, or grow in pots filled with John Innes 2 compost.

Aftercare: Allow compost to almost dry out in between watering. Keep plants compact by lightly trimming over the top after flowering. If you want to pick leaves over winter, prune back in early September to force new growth. Protect the vulnerable fresh foliage by covering with horticultural fleece.

Growing mint

How to start: Plants

Where to grow: Mint is a rampant thug that will spread all over the place if planted straight into the ground. Restrain it by growing in a large pot (30cm is ideal), which can then be plunged into the soil – ensure the lip of the container remains above the surface to prevent shoots from escaping over the top.

Aftercare: Water well and keep the plant bushy by pruning lightly in summer.

Growing milk thistle

How to start: Seeds

Aftercare: Either sow seed in March or April for flowering in the summer, or from May to August for flowering next year. Sow directly into well drained, fertile soil in full sun.

Aftercare: Young plants will need protecting from slugs and snails.

Growing valerian

How to start: Seeds or plants.

Where to grow: Sow seeds in spring and plant the rooted seedlings, or young plants, into well drained soil in a sunny or partly shade part of the garden.

Aftercare: To prevent plants from self seeding, cut back stems as the flowers fade. You can make more plants by dividing well-established clumps in spring.

Growing lemon balm

How to start: Seeds or plants.

Where to grow: Rich, moisture retentive soil in sun, or in pots. Sow seeds into trays in March and plant out when large enough to handle.

Aftercare: Trim shoots often to keep plants bushy and produce the tastiest leaves. You can make more plants by dividing in the spring. If growing in pots, water whenever the compost has almost dried out.

Growing sage

How to start: Plants

Where to grow: Very tolerant of drought, sage hates having wet roots, so find it a sunny position in well-drained soil.

Aftercare: To encourage bushy growth, prune lightly in spring and again after flowering in summer. After four years or so plants will become woody and need replacing.

Growing aloe vera

How to start: Plants

Where to grow: Plant this succulent into pots using well-drained John Innes 2 compost. Although it is perfect on a sunny patio over summer, it is tender so will need moving indoors to protect from frost over winter.

Aftercare: From late spring to early autumn allow the compost to almost dry out between watering. In winter, water infrequently, only to prevent leaves from shrivelling.

Growing lavender

How to start: Plants

Where to grow: Grow in pots filled with gritty compost, or in a sunny spot with well-drained soil.

Aftercare: If un-pruned lavender will quickly grow lanky and woody. Keep plants compact by lightly trimming after flowering to remove spent heads, usually in late August. In March, trim over plants removing about 2.5cm of previous season’s growth – do not cut into woody stems. In pots, allow the compost to almost dry between watering and keep on the dry side in winter.

Read more about growing Mediterranean herbs such as lavender, rosemary and sage.

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.