Hort Q&A: Best herbs to grow at home

Carla Smith, horticulture educator
Pottawatomie County Extension Service

What are the best herbs to grow at home? 

Here are the Top Five Herbs according to Casey Hentges, host, Oklahoma Gardening and Laura Payne, assistant producer, Oklahoma Gardening. Both of these ladies work very hard to provide programs on our OSU Gardening show and they provide great content. 

Basil

#1 – Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow from plant or seed. It is perfect for patio gardens and small container gardens. Comes in many varieties from large leaves to mini, from tall plants to short, and from small white flowers to large reddish maroon flowers. With so many basil varieties on the market, it is hard to choose. Basil is an annual in Oklahoma, but seeds are easy to save from year to year. However, basil varieties can cross pollinate if planted within a couple of hundred feet of one another.  Consider planting basil in your garden as it is an excellent culinary herb used in Italian cuisine for making pesto or a caprese salad. 

#2 – Rosemary is a Mediterranean type of herb. Mediterranean herbs need a sandy, well-drained soil. If the Oklahoma clay is an issue in your garden, growing rosemary in a container or raised bed will give the best results. Rosemary can overwinter in Oklahoma if the temperatures aren’t too cold for a long period of time and the cultivar ‘Arp’ is known to be one of the most cold-tolerant cultivars in the market.

#3 – Thyme is another Mediterranean herb that needs good drainage. Although thyme is mostly grown for its culinary use, varieties of this plant make beautiful ground covers adding a touch of softness to the landscape. Trimming thyme will help the plant produce tender new growth, however trimming should stop as fall approaches so the plant tissue can harden off.  Most thymes are hardy to zone 5.

#4 – Cilantro is an early season annual herb used mostly as a garnish. Warmer temperatures will cause cilantro to bolt and set seed producing yet another herb, coriander. The coriander seed can be harvested and used in culinary dishes or saved to plant in fall for another crop of cilantro.

Mint

#5 – Mint is a very happy herb and there are literally hundreds of varieties.  It makes a nice compliment to many summertime drinks.  Mint needs little care to grow, in fact it can take over if not harvested regularly or planted in a container.  Mint can cross pollinate so give some distance if planting different varieties.  

For more information on Top 5 Herbs watch - https://youtu.be/PDbyp5O9RaM

Many people shy away from growing mints, as they do tend to be fast spreading. It can be a love/hate relationship. In the right location or in a container, they are still useful if you are a fan! One of my personal favorites for herbs is lemon thyme. I just love the scent in the garden and enjoy cooking with it, also. Many herbs do very well in our Oklahoma climate. Don’t overwater them, and they will thrive in our heat. If you have questions about growing herbs, please feel free to contact me at carlasm@okstate.edu or 405-273-7683, just ask for Carla.

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