Best Herbs for Your Edible Garden

Herb Garden - Potted Herb Plants

For culinary enthusiasts and gardeners alike, herbs are a fantastic way to add beauty, fragrance, and function to your backyard. Our guide will help you choose the best herbs for your edible landscape and learn how to take care of them. 

Our picks for the 11 best herbs for an edible garden are:

1. Oregano

You can identify oregano by its small, oval, dark green leaves that grow in a rosette shape. Oregano is the perfect addition to eggs, vinaigrettes, and tomato dishes like pizza and pasta sauce. It also contains antibacterial and anti-fungal properties to add a boost to your cleaning products.

Plant oregano in an area of your yard with poor to average soil or add a handful of sand or perlite to regular potting soil. Pinch back the tips of growing stems when it reaches 4 inches tall to keep it bushy and healthy. Weekly pruning helps prevent woody stems and encourages new growth. 

Hardiness zones: 5-10
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water needs: Low; prefers dry to medium soil conditions
Soil: Well-draining; can thrive in poor soil that’s lighter and dryer (rich soil can actually dilute oregano’s pungent flavor) 
Mature height: 2 feet
Duration: Perennial

Basil | Avi | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

2. Basil

Rub one of basil’s vibrant green leaves between your fingers and you’ll smell the perfume of lemony-mint, cinnamon, and licorice. Like oregano, basil goes perfectly on pizza and pasta. You also can add it to a salad, pesto, or summer soup. 

Basil loves heat, so wait until nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees Farenheit before planting. Outside of zones 10 and 11, basil is usually grown as an annual, so be prepared to replant this herb next year. To extend its life, cover plants with row covers before a frost. 

Hardiness zones: 10-11
Sun: Prefers full, direct sunlight
Water needs: Likes regular, deep watering
Soil: Rich, moist soil; amend with compost
Mature height: 18-24 inches 
Duration: Annual

Potted Parsley
Parsley | divotomezove | Pixabay

3. Parsley

Parsley is a great plant to begin with if you’re still developing your green thumb. It’s attractive, bright green leaves add visual interest and a pop of color. Parsley’s fresh taste lightens up grilled vegetables, potatoes, stews, and grain dishes. 

Follow the typical herb instructions for parsley. It likes a sunny location and loamy soil. Good-quality potting soil will do just fine, or you can amend your current soil with a light layer of compost. Place it in an area where curious pets aren’t likely to munch on it, as parsley is toxic to animals in large amounts. 

Hardiness zones: 2-11
Sun: Full sun
Water needs: Moderate; keep the soil moist
Soil: Rich,loamy, well-drained
Mature height: 9-12 inches
Duration: Biennial

Mint Leaves
Mint | | Pexels

4. Mint

One of the most famous flavors, mint is a must-have in any edible garden. Mint is a true multitasker in the kitchen for sweet and savory recipes. Use it in drinks, desserts, pasta, and meat dishes. Not only is it a versatile ingredient, it’s resilient and fast-growing, which means it will bounce back from any beginner gardener missteps. 

In fact, mint sometimes grows too well. It’s a good idea to put mint in its own container to avoid it taking over a less aggressive herb. Feel free to plant mint alongside tomatoes, radishes, or kale, though, to deter pests from your vegetables. Keep mint moist all the time; the leaves will yellow and shrivel if it gets too dry. 

Hardiness zones: 3-11
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
Water needs: Mint likes to stay slightly moist; it’s time to water if the soil is dry at 1 inch deep 
Soil: Moist, loamy
Mature height: 12-18 inches
Duration: Perennial

Chive Plant Growing
Chives | Kate Ter Haar | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

5. Chives

This grass-like herb is in the allium family along with onion and garlic. It has a milder taste than its underground cousins so it’s perfect on top of soups, seafood, omelets, and vegetables. Not only does it add flavor to a dish, its beautiful purple flowers add a splash of color to your window box. 

Like the rest of the family, its strong smell wards off pests like aphids, mites, Japanese beetles, and even rabbits. Plant chives as a border around vulnerable fruits and vegetables to protect them from hungry invaders. 

Hardiness zones: 3-9
Sun: Full sun
Water needs: Prefers regular watering but can tolerate drought
Soil: Rich, well-draining
Mature height: 10-15 inches
Duration: Perennial

Field of Lavender
Lavender | Pixabay | Pexels

6. Lavender

From sachets to sprays to soaps, lavender is a multipurpose herb at its finest. This plant is known for its soothing scent, but its silvery green needles and purple buds are just as stunning. There are a few different types of lavender, but English lavender is the most common.

Lavender is a Mediterranean herb accustomed to growing on rocky shores. As such, it actually does worse in soil that’s too “good,” meaning soil that’s too rich in nutrients. Poor soil concentrates lavender’s oils and results in a better plant. Add a handful of sand to your potting soil to make this plant thrive.

Hardiness zones: 5-9 
Sun: Full sun
Water needs: Low; lavender can handle a lot of drought, but water it regularly during its first growing season
Soil: Average to poor soil concentrates lavender’s fragrance and taste 
Mature height: 2-3 feet
Duration: Perennial

Sage Growing - herb for an edible garden
Sage | Amanda Wray | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

7. Sage

You’ll know sage by its oval leaves covered with a silvery down with a softness often compared to a rabbit’s ear (a texture perfect for a sensory garden). But did you know it blooms, too? Spikes of blue-purple flowers can be spotted in the summertime. Add it to robust dishes like cured meats, creamy pasta, sausage, and winter squash dishes.

Sage likes sun, but if you’re in Zone 8 or higher, plant sage somewhere it will get a little afternoon shade. Drainage is important. Growing sage in an unglazed clay pot will help prevent overly wet soil because water can evaporate through the container’s walls. 

Hardiness zones: 4-8
Sun: Full sun
Water needs: Moderate; keep the soil moist but never soggy
Soil: Sandy, loamy, well-drained
Mature height: 2-2.5 feet
Duration: Perennial

Potted Rosemary
Rosemary | waferboard | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

8. Rosemary 

Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen shrub with needle-like, silvery leaves. Small blue and white flowers appear when temperatures rise in the spring and summer, which is also when you’ll see the most growth. Rosemary can tolerate some cold but is at risk when temps get below 30 degrees, so it’s a good idea to bring it inside if you live in a chillier climate. 

Rosemary is fairly drought tolerant, so wait until the top few inches of soil are dry before you water again. If your soil contains a lot of clay, amend it with loam and some sand before planting (even better, use a container where you can control the soil conditions instead).

Add this herb to focaccia, lamb, root vegetables, and goat cheese. For some extra pizazz, infuse your oil and butter with it. 

Hardiness zones: 8-10
Sun: Full sun
Water needs: Low; better to underwater than overwater
Soil: Well-drained, sandy, loamy 
Mature height: 2-6 feet
Duration: Perennial

French tarragon growing in outdoor bed | Unique herbs for edible garden
French tarragon | Megan Hansen | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

9. French tarragon

Tarragon, known in France as “the king of herbs,” is a less common herb that will definitely impress your dinner guests. Light green leaves produce a unique flavor with notes of anise, mint, pepper, and vanilla that goes well with chicken, salmon, eggs, and baby vegetables. 

Unlike most herbs, this plant will wilt under too much sun. Unless you live in a cold climate, plant tarragon in an area that gets morning sun but is shielded from the harsh afternoon rays. It also prefers dry soil. Young tarragon needs more regular watering, but once it’s well established it should never sit in moist soil for too long. 

Hardiness zones: 4-12
Sun: Part sun to part shade
Water needs: Dependent on your conditions; a light watering every few days is usually sufficient
Soil: Well-drained, sandy, loamy 
Mature height: 2 feet
Duration: Perennial

Fennel growing in an outdoor bed - Edible Garden Herb
Fennel | Jorge Luis Zapico | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

10. Fennel

This perennial herb makes a great border plant or addition to butterfly or cottage gardens. It can thrive as long as it gets enough sun and the soil is kept moist. Fennel is sensitive to frost and will grow as an annual if planted outside the recommended zones. 

Fennel makes a lovely salad or addition to chicken, salmon, or even dessert. Its feathery leaves are great for soups, pasta salads, and risotto.

Fennel gets significantly larger than most other herbs, so plan accordingly. It also shouldn’t be planted alongside dill or coriander because they can cross-pollinate and alter each other’s flavors in an unsavory way. Additionally, fennel can stunt the growth of beans and tomatoes if planted nearby. 

Hardiness zones: 4-9
Sun: Full sun
Water needs: Moderate (moist but not soggy)
Soil: Fertile, well-drained, slightly acidic
Mature height: 4-6 feet tall
Duration: Perennial

Chamomile Flowers | Edible Herb for Your Garden
Chamomile | MabelAmber | Pixabay

11. Chamomile

If you enjoy a cozy cup of chamomile tea, this might be perfect for your garden. Chamomile has more benefits than tea, though: It gives off a light apple fragrance, repels mosquitoes, and serves as an excellent ground cover to replace traditional, high-maintenance turfgrass.

Chamomile can tolerate dappled shade but prefers full sun. Light, well-draining soil rich in organic material will make chamomile happy. If you’re using it as a ground cover, clear out any weeds before planting and avoid using a broad-spectrum herbicide. 

Hardiness zones: 2a-9a
Sun: Full sun
Water needs: Low to moderate
Soil: Rich, organic
Mature height: 8-24 inches
Duration: Perennial

Tips for growing herbs

Although each herb has its particular needs, they all benefit from a few good practices:

  • Ensure good air circulation by giving plants ample space based on their estimated mature size.
  • Keep pests at bay with soap spray, neem oil, and beneficial nematodes.
  • Start herbs in containers so you can control soil and light conditions.
  • Plant in the spring a few weeks after the last frost to set them up for successful growth in the summer.

Follow these tips and you’ll be off to a great start. Before you know it, you’ll have a whole array of flavors and fragrances right at your fingertips. 

If you’re more of a chef than a gardener, hire a local landscaping team to do the growing for you. They’ll help install and maintain your landscape so all you have to do is snip some basil for Friday night dinner. 

Main Photo Credit: Markus Spiske | Pexels

Rachel Abrams

Born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, Rachel Abrams studied creative writing at the University of Virginia. She enjoys volunteering at her neighborhood community garden and growing herbs in her New York City apartment.