9 Tips for Growing Happy Potted Herbs

clay pots are great for growing herbs

Clay pots come in all shapes and sizes and are great for growing herbs.

Growing herbs in pots is amazingly easy and productive. Most herbs do exceptionally well in pots. You just need to get a few basics right.  Simply apply the nine essential below and I can almost guarantee that you’ll get good results.

1. Don’t overdo it. Keep your initial attempt manageable by opting for a few useful herbs. The “Magnificent Seven” are all easy to grow and make good beginner subjects. What’s more, they can be used in a variety of dishes and remedies. They are: basil, chives, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme. And if you like fragrant herbs, consider lavender or lemon balm as well.

2. Choose a nice sunny spot for your potted herbs.  This will improve their flavour and nutritional value. In addition, they will be able to resist pests and diseases better. It doesn’t need to be full sun. Herbs in pots do better when they get a little shade. Try to find a spot that will get at least two hours of direct sunlight a day.

3. Make sure that the containers you choose are deep enough (at least 30cm), and that there are sufficient drainage holes. Don’t line the bottom of the containers with small stones or gravel. This can hinder rather than help drainage. If you are concerned that the pots may ‘leak’, rather line the bottom with an old stocking or newspaper.

4. A high quality organic potting medium is a must. Ask your local garden centre for a recommendation.

5. To grow your own herbs from seed, or to start with seedlings, can be quite a lengthy and time consuming process. It is much easier to purchase potted herb plants directly from your garden centre, and to transplant them into bigger pots.

6. Try to resist the temptation to grow more than one herb in a small container. Just like humans, herbs don’t like overcrowding and they prefer familiar company.

7. Water your herbs regularly, but do not over water! Herbs hate having wet feet. Don’t let them wilt, or suffer regular dry spells either. You must try to maintain a balance. Press your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, water the herb. If the soil is moist, wait until the next day to water.

8. Use a good quality organic fertiliser and feed your herbs on a regular basis. Herbs grown in pots prefer a lower dose – about half the recommended strength – once a week. The nutrients in a water soluble fertilizer are easier for plants to ‘digest’, and it saves time as you can feed your plants whilst watering them.

9. Use your herbs as much as possible and prune them regularly. This will encourage bushy growth.

Having problems with your potted herb garden? Feel welcome to share them below.

This article is also available in Afrikaans.


  1. Scarlett Mustafa says:

    Great Tips!~ 😀

  2. Solid advice Didi, I wonder how the habit of putting a layer of stones in the bottom of pots developed. Maybe it started from using stones to stop sand or soil falling out as I (used) to? I put one stone per hole in some of my pots, then only if the hole is big and the stone stops soil or potting medium from falling through and the stone does not allow the water to dam up. Newspaper or stocking as you mentioned is even better as one thing I’ve noticed is that ants find the stones an attractive entrance for their breeding nests, a problem stocking might prevent or at least curtail. From now on I’ll be a ‘stocking’ man.

    I’ve noticed that potted plants do very well with constant harvesting and it seems to my untrained eye that their root system also prefer this and are less prone to becoming potbound than those herbs left untouched. I’ve not grown herbs, potted or not, for long enough to be sure of this. Didi, have you ever noticed that the root system also benefits from constant harvesting or should I change my smoking mixture?

    Another thing I learned from you was about clay pots. Soaking them under water for a day before using them is a good idea. Plants in clay pots need watering more often than plants in plastic pots. This is as a result of the clay being porous and the plastic not.


  1. […] Nearly all herbs can be grown in pots and containers. Here are a few golden rules from Di-Di of the SA Herb Academy. […]

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