15 of the Easiest Herbs to Grow for Beginners

Golden sage
Photo: Marty Baldwin

Fresh-from-the-garden herbs add tons of flavor, fragrance, and color to your favorite dishes. Many of these aromatic plants are a snap to grow, even for beginners. Add these easy-to-grow herbs to beds and containers in sunny spots, and you'll soon be enjoying your own herbal harvest.

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Basil

Basil Ocimum basilicum
Peter Krumhardt

With dozens of varieties to choose from, basil (Osimum basilicum) satisfies almost any palate. It's well-known as the main ingredient in pesto, but some varieties impart anise, lemon, mint, cinnamon, or clove flavors to foods. Selections that have purple foliage or attractive blooms make pretty additions to beds and containers. Pinch stems back regularly to encourage a fuller plant and delay flowering so that the leaves remain flavorful. Basil cuttings are easy to root in water to start new plants.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1-2 feet tall

Zones: Annual

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Chives

Chives
Marty Baldwin

Related to onions and garlic, chives (Allium schoenoprasum) lend a delicate onion flavor to recipes. Both the slender, tubular leaves and pinkish-purple flowers are edible. This easy-to-grow perennial herb grows quickly from seeds or small bulbs in beds and containers. Deadhead faded flowers to prevent them from self-seeding.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1 foot tall

Zones: 3-10

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Cilantro

Cilantro
Peter Krumhardt

The bright green, fine-textured leaves of cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) are often used to flavor and garnish Mexican and Asian dishes. Although this plant is a common culinary herb, some people find the taste very unappealing. The plants grow best in cool weather, bolting and blooming when temperatures rise. The spice coriander is the seeds of this herb.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1-2 feet

Zones: Annual

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Dill

dill Anethum graveolens 'Bouquet'
Rob Cardillo

The scent and flavor of dill (Anethum graveolens) is practically synonymous with pungent pickles. However, the seeds, flowers, and ferny foliage can be used to season plenty of other foods. Harvest leaves as needed, the flowers as they open, and the seeds just as they ripen. If some seeds are allowed to ripen on the plant, volunteer seedlings will appear in the garden the next year.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 3-5 feet tall

Zones: Annual

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Fennel

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare
Layne Kennedy

The green or bronze foliage of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) has a fine texture that resembles dill leaves. This easy-to-grow herb provides a soft, nutty version of anise in the kitchen. You can also use fennel in your perennial garden where it will look particularly good among ornamental grasses. Make sure to deadhead the flowers to keep this plant from spreading where you don't want it.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 4-6 feet tall

Zones: 6-10

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Lavender

Lavender
Laurie Black

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the most widely grown form of this shrubby herb. However, there are several other types of lavender to try in your garden, meals, and crafts. Purple, pink, or white edible blooms usually appear in summer and last until frost. Use the flowers and foliage fresh or dried. Lavender is easy to grow in flower beds, an herbal knot garden, or containers.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and dry to medium-moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1-3 feet

Zones: 5-10

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Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm
Scott Little

You might describe lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) as having a strong citrus scent (and flavor) with a hint of mint. This easy-to-grow herb is in fact related to mint. Like its relative, lemon balm can spread aggressively but can be kept under control by removing the flowers so it doesn't self-seed everywhere. The fragrant and flavorful leaves are especially good for making herbal tea and potpourri.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 2-3 feet tall

Zones: 3-7

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Mint

Hillary's Sweet Lemon' mint
Peter Krumhardt

Spearmint, peppermint, and chocolate mint are just a few of the many mint (Mentha) varieties available. All are almost too easy to grow, because these herbs will rapidly spread and can be hard to get rid of once they've taken over a spot. Use them as groundcovers in confined areas, such as a parking strip or an area bounded by a foundation and sidewalk. Or plant in a container to keep this herb in bounds.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1-3 feet tall

Zones: 3-10

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Oregano

Hot and Spicy Greek oregano Origanum vulgare
Denny Schrock

A popular flavoring for pizza and spaghetti sauce, oregano (Origanum vulgare) is often used in Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine. Varieties vary in flavor; Greek oregano is one of the most intense. Tiny white or mauve flowers appear in summer; some varieties have more showy flowers. The leaves have the strongest flavor before the plant blooms, so harvest stems from your oregano frequently to delay flowering.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and dry to medium-moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1-2 feet tall

Zones: 5-10

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Parsley

Petroselinum neapolitanum Italian flat-leaf parsley
Dean Schoeppner

Garnish, breath freshener, and food flavoring, parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is available in curled and flat-leaf forms. The flat-leaf type, shown here, is preferred for cooking. The curled version makes a pretty garnish. Both are easy-to-grow herbs. Parsley is a favorite food source of the swallowtail butterfly, so you may want to plant enough for both you and the caterpillars.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1 foot tall

Zones: 3-10

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Rosemary

Rosemary
Denny Schrock

The distinctive flavor and scent of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has a clean, pine-like quality. This shrubby evergreen herb can be trained to grow upright as a treelike standard or a large shrub. There are also trailing forms that will grow down a wall or as a groundcover. Rosemary grows well in containers, and you can bring it indoors over winter in cold climates. Avoid overwatering this easy-to-grow herb because its roots may rot.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and dry to medium-moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1-2 feet tall

Zones: 7-10

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Sage

Golden sage
Marty Baldwin

The coarse, gray-green leaves of garden sage (Salvia officinalis) add a rich flavor to savory recipes. The tubular blue flowers are also edible. Hundreds of sage varieties are available, and many have variegated foliage that also makes an attractive addition to flower beds or container gardens. Though this plant is a perennial, the stems can become woody and sparse after a few years. Replace the plants to start fresh.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and dry to medium-moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1-3 feet tall

Zones: 5-8

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Savory

Winter savory Satureja montana
Dean Schoeppner

A peppery, thyme-like flavor defines savory (Satureja), which combines well with legumes, meats, or eggs. Winter savory, shown here, is a semi-evergreen perennial to Zone 4, bearing white to lavender blooms in summer. It has a slightly stronger flavor than summer savory, which is an annual. Grow savory in a kitchen garden or mixed border. It also grows well in containers.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1 foot tall

Zones: 4-10

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Scented Geranium

Rose-scented geranium
John Noltner

Close relatives of the common bedding geranium, scented geraniums (Pelargonium) are grown primarily for their textured, aromatic foliage. Most also produce white or pink blooms in summer. Foliage fragrances range from fruity to spicy, and even chocolate. Those most used in the kitchen have a rose or lemon scent. They also make good houseplants in a brightly lit spot.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1-3 feet tall

Zones: 10-11

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Thyme

Gold lemon thyme
Peter Krumhardt

Ground-hugging thyme (Thymus) is a versatile, easy-to-grow herb that has numerous culinary and medicinal uses. In landscapes, this plant makes a tough, drought-tolerant groundcover, lawn substitute, edging plant in a border, or filler between cracks in pavers. Its trailing habit also works well spilling over the edge of container gardens. White or pinkish lavender blooms appear in summer.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and dry to medium-moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1 foot tall

Zones: 4-9

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