Best Containers and Pots For Growing Herbs (And What Size)

If you want to start growing your favorite herbs outside of the garden bed, look no further than this post. 

Since many of you will be growing Mediterranean herbs, one of the best containers you can grow your fresh herbs in are terracotta pots. They have a tremendous ability to whisk away moisture. 

But there are many other options available to you for other types of herbs with pros and cons to each – outside of the herb’s growing conditions. For instance, a fiber pot may suit your needs just fine and be a more environmentally friendly option.

Take a look below to find the best container type for your herbs. We also added some other helpful tips to this post like what size pot you should plant your herbs in as well as companion planting suggestions.

What Type of Pot To Plant Your Herbs In

Herbs can be planted in almost anything that mimics their growing conditions. Some containers do that better than others, so this comes back to you getting to know the herb you are planting. But there are other factors to consider before purchasing your pot including:

  • Price
  • Availability
  • Weight 
  • Potential Health Effects For You and Your Family

Below is a list of options with pros and cons for each. You can match the pot’s features to the conditions your plant requires and find the right one for you.

They often tell you the correct growing conditions on the tag that comes with your plant when purchasing it (or on the seed packet)

Types of Containers

1. Fabric

  • Pros
    • Light in weight.
    • Depending on the variety, they can be good for distributing water evenly.
    • Many are made from recycled materials including plastic. – While a great way to be environmentally friendly, I have hesitations with these and the potential to leach chemicals. I believe more studies need to be done on this.
    • You can find some varieties made from Jute which is a natural fiber. This is a really neat option that can be even more environmentally friendly. 
  • Cons
    • Plastics may leach chemicals.
    • Jute is often treated with an oil that can be carcinogenic, so be sure to choose one that does not contain this oil.
    • Some may degrade quickly if it is a natural fiber.

2. Fiber Pots – Coco Coir, Peat, Manure, Pulp-By Products

  • Pros
    • All natural ingredients.
    • Can be more environmentally friendly.
    • Can be budget-friendly depending on the variety.
    • Some do a good job of mimicking dry conditions.
    • Light in weight.
  • Cons
    • Short life span – many just one year.
herbs can be grown in fiber pots

3. Retired Ceramic Sinks and Tubs

  • Pros
    • Can retain a lot of moisture for water-loving herbs.
    • Environmentally friendly option.
    • Economically priced depending on where you purchase them (or pick them up for free ).
    • Durable.
  • Cons
    • Can be heavy.
    • Cast-iron tubs covered in porcelain glazes manufactured before 1995 can contain lead.
herbs can be grown in old bathtubs as containers

4. Terracotta – Type of Clay

  • Pros
    • One of the best options for most Mediterranean herbs.
    • Has a more porous nature compared to other types of clay pots.
    • Wicks away moisture easily and can mimic dry conditions with the correct soil medium.
  • Cons
    • Prone to cracking in winter if unglazed and left outside.
    • Can be heavy if the pot is too big.
    • One of the pricier options.

Other Notes: Try to choose a domestic brand if buying glazed to ensure it is lead-free.

herbs can be grown in terracotta pots

5. Base-Clay or Glazed Ceramic Pots

  • Pros
    • Retains moisture a little more than the terracotta (glazed ones even more so).
    • Often has drainage holes at the bottom.
    • Can be more environmentally friendly than other options if bought domestically.
  • Cons
    • Large pots can be heavy.
    • Can be pricier than other options.

Other Notes: Shop domestically to ensure it is lead-free if glazed.

herbs growing in ceramic pots

6. Wood 

  • Pros
    • The options for wood as an herb pot are endless. You can get anything as big as an oak barrel to a small box made for individual herbs.
    • If untreated, they can retain moisture but still provide adequate drainage. Note: They still need drainage holes in the bottom if they do not come with them.
    • Provides a beautiful, natural aesthetic to your house or garden.
  • Cons
    • Pressure-treated wood may leach toxins.
    • Big wine and whiskey barrels are heavy.
    • Will eventually rot if using untreated wood.
herbs growing in wooden box container

7. Galvanized Metal Pots:

  • Pros
    • Small pots will be lightweight.
    • Retains moisture.
    • Adds a rustic look to your house or garden. 
  • Cons
    • A pricier option.
    • May eventually rust after many seasons.
herbs growing in galvanized pots

8. Plastic Pots 

  • Pros
    • Often a more affordable option for people on a budget.
    • A great option for moisture-loving herbs as it retains water longer.
    • Keeps plastic out of landfills if reusing pots.
    • Lightweight.
  • Cons
    • Not environmentally friendly if buying new.
    • Can have a short lifespan.
    • Major Drawback: There is a potential for leaching chemicals that may affect your health. I would recommend only using these for ornamental herbs until more conclusive findings are made.
herbs growing in plastic pots

As you scour the planet for your perfect pot, you have the opportunity to choose one that keeps you and your family healthy in the long run. Unfortunately, many manufacturers aren’t thinking about the health consequences of leaching from their products, which means you have to take it into your own hands to keep your family safe.

If you are growing plants in containers for consumption, consider some of the healthier options if it is economically feasible for you. 

Proper Drainage

One of the most important aspects of taking care of plants is providing the correct drainage for your particular herb. Here are some quick tips you can apply to your pots if needed. 

  • Be sure your container has holes. Depending on the container, you can poke holes or drill them yourself. If you like the look of a container, but can’t drill a hole in it, use another pot for your plant with drainage holes, and place it in the container with space.
  • It’s a good idea to add a layer of organic materials at the bottom of your larger pots (more than 12 inches deep and wide) to help with soil compaction. Smaller pots may be okay without the additional organic materials at the bottom.

Here are some options to add to the bottom of your pot:

  • Sphagnum moss
  • Coco-coir or coconut fiber
  • Mulch (leaves, bark, straw) – be sure these have no mold
  • Pine cone
  • Small tree branches and sticks

Organic materials are chosen because other choices such as plastic and styrofoam have the potential to leach chemicals. Plus you can find many of the above materials for FREE!

Quick Tip: Regardless of the size of the pot, you will eventually have to aerate the potting soil. Many times this means repotting the plant in new potting soil that is less compacted.

What Size Container For Your Herb Plant

person not sure which container size to pick

There is flexibility in choosing the size of your container, and I’ll explain why in a minute. But if you want your plant to reach its full potential in width and height, a general rule is to have the pot be ¾ deep to the mature height of the plant and at least ¾ wide to the mature plant’s width.

Example: If the mature height of a plant is 12 inches and has a width of 8 inches, your pot size needs to be a minimum of 8 inches deep and 6 inches wide.

To leave it at such a general statement would be a disservice to you, though. 

Look into the growing conditions of the plant and see what it likes. For example, if you plant lavender in a plastic pot that has a lot of extra room, it may stay too moist and not thrive. Lavender is susceptible to root rot and prefers an environment that limits moisture.

Knowing this, if you planted lavender in a terracotta pot that whisks moisture away, it will likely grow better. 

Here is a reference that gives you the breakdown of the average height and spacing of common herbs, in addition to the conditions they enjoy. Pay attention to those herbs that have large root systems. They will need extra depth.

Other Quick Tips

  • Most times herbs will need to be potted up when you buy them from the nursery and can be root bound when you bring them home.
  • Something you may not have considered is cutting back the roots and foliage of you your herb to maintain its current size. You would not have to increase the size of your pot by doing this. Follow a guide for your particular herb to do this properly.

Herbs To Plant In Containers or Pots

Annuals or perennials are both wonderful to grow as container herbs. In fact, that means you can have them year-round if you make room in your house or greenhouse for them to reside during cooler months.

In the next section, we provide a list of herbs that are good options for growing in pots and grouped them based on similar growing conditions.

Should You Plant Different Herbs in One Pot?

which herbs can you plant in the same pot

Ask yourself these questions if you are trying to decide whether or not to plant different herbs in the same pot.

  • Will they grow to different sizes (taller, wider?) – If yes, be sure not to let one shade the other out. Unless, of course, the plant would benefit from the shade.
  • Do they have the same growing requirements (Warm and well-drained soil? Cool and moist environment?) – If not, the best choice may be to plant them separately.
  • Do they require the same number of hours of sunlight? – A plant requiring full sun will not thrive with one needing shade (Note: Again, you could potentially use one plant to shade the other).
  • Is it a small space? –Too little room may not be enough for each plant to thrive.

Grow Different Varieties of the Same Plant in the Same Pot

Cool idea right? This could work because they may have similar growing conditions. It also gives you the luxury of adding variations of classic flavors to your food. 

Most people only go with what is most well-known, but there are tons of unique varieties of herbs. Take Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) for example. Here are some culinary varieties and cultivars that derive from this species:

  • Basil, Genovese – Classic Italian basil variety for pesto (A lot of species are in this variety).
  • Basil, Sweet Thai – Spicy anise/clove flavor.
  • Basil, Cinnamon – Sweet cinnamon aroma.
  • Basil, Mrs. Burn’s Lemon – An heirloom with an intense lemony flavor.
  • Basil, Mammoth – Large leaves that are great for rolling or stuffing.

Look at seed catalogs/websites to find these special herbs.

We listed herbs below based on some common characteristics to help you visualize what may be good for companion planting.

Herbs that Love Well-Drained Soil

  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
  • Garden sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officianalis)
  • Lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora)
  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogon spp.)
  • Oregano (Origanum spp.)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Thyme (Thymus spp.)
  • White sage (Salvia apiana)

Herbs that Tolerate or Prefer Partial Shade

  • Aloe vera (Aloe vera)
  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
  • Coriander ‘aka’ Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)
  • Dill (Anethum graveolens
  • Lovage (Levisticum officinale)
  • Mint (Mentha spp.)
  • Parsley (Petroselinum spp.
  • French Tarragon (Artemesia dracunulus)

Herbs That Are Cold Sensitive 

Bring these herbs in at the end of the season. You can extend their lives indoors with a grow light if a sunny window is unavailable.

  • Aloe vera (Aloe vera)
  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
  • Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis)
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  • Lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora)
  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogon spp.)
  • Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha)
  • Turmeric (Curcuma citratus)
  • White sage (Salvia apiana)

Where To Get Your Herb Starts

There are several ways you can get your plant starts. These are listed below from the slowest to the fastest option for receiving results.

  • Seeds – The slowest option BUT it offers the chance to try unique varieties you may not find in your local nursery.
  • Take cuttings – From early spring to late summer, you can ask a neighbor or friend for some cuttings from their herbs. This is an economical option, but it typically takes 1-2 months for the herbs to establish themselves. 
  • Buy Plants From a Nursery – This is the quickest option available to have fully grown plants. It costs you more but saves you time in the long run. It does limit you to only those varieties available at the store.

Creative Ideas

Here are some fun container-planting ideas.

We also have a great article on hanging container plants in your house or apartment without drilling holes if you need a solution to that obstacle.

terracotta planter with strawberries
Terracotta planter with multiple holes. Herbs could do well in this setup.
plants in terracotta pots hanging off a pallet
Hanging your pots up on some old pallets for extra room.
blue buckets with plants growing in them
Refurbishing some old buckets and hanging them up.
a container made with pieces of wood to grow plants in
A container made from random scraps of wood. A cheap and eco-friendly way to grow your herbs with a fun aesthetic.

Final Thoughts

I can’t wait for you to get started on your own herb container garden!  With this post, you should be all set to pick the best pot for your plants.

We’d love to hear all about your successes and any creative container ideas! Please send us an email and share your wins.

All the best dear plant lovers!

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