A Guide to Herbs

Use this simple guide to herbs, like oregano, basil and sage, to help you select the best crops for your garden and containers.

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited


The sweet, aniseed-flavored leaves grow well from seed in a warm spot or on a windowsill. Try ‘Sweet Genovese’ for the classic Italian herb, ‘Purple Delight’ for dark leaves or ‘Siam Queen’ for a stronger taste.


Easy to grow from seed or by splitting existing clumps in spring, this perennial herb produces grassy leaves with a mild onion flavor. Its pretty purple pompom flowers are a decorative bonus, and are also edible.


Essential for Asian cooking, cilantro is easy to grow from seed. Sow in succession for a continuous supply, since it is prone to bolting. Choose a cultivar, such as ‘Calypso,’ bred for the leaves rather than seeds.


Graceful and airy, fennel comes in green and bronze forms and may reach six feet tall. A handsome perennial, its aniseed-flavored, feathery leaves combine well with both flower and vegetable plantings.


A refreshing perennial with a crisp, clean flavor, mint thrives in moist, shady conditions, which do not suit many other herbs, so keep pots well watered. It is also invasive and best planted on its own.

Marjoram (syn. Oregano)

This herb will thrive in well-drained compost, and appears year after year. Easy to grow and to use in the kitchen, its rounded, yellow-green leaves and low, bushy habit make it ideal for pots or as a border edging.

Curly-Leaved Parsley

Masses of tightly curled, bright green, tasty leaves form handsome plants that stay green until winter weather sets in; plants then reappear in spring. Parsley dies after flowering in the second season, so sow every year.

Flat-Leaved Parsley

The Italian form of this classic herb is often preferred because it is easier to clean and chop. Easy to grow from seed, place it outside in summer and then bring inside to grow on a windowsill for leaves in winter.


A narrow-leaved evergreen shrub, rosemary is at home in containers and provides welcome structure and winter interest. Its tough, highly aromatic leaves can be picked all year and it has pale blue spring flowers.


Evergreen in all but the hardest winters, both the green and purple forms of this low-growing shrub have strongly scented, downy leaves. Easy to grow in pots, pinch out the shoot tips to keep plants bushy.

Russian Tarragon

Hardy and easy to grow from seed, Russian tarragon has a milder, less refined aniseed flavor than the French type, but is more widely available. Plants grow quickly, so cut back regularly to keep them in check.


There are many types of thyme, with habits ranging from creeping to bushy, with various scents and flavors. They all grow well in free-draining compost and are clothed in small flowers in early summer.

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