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Popular Herb Cultivars - Perennial Herbs


Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis)

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The bay laurel is a small evergreen tree and the source of the bay leaf. Frequently not hardy as a young plant, the bay laurel tree is an excellent choice for container growing. Container Herb Garden

Bay laurel trees require a yearly pruning to keep them from reaching their standard 40-foot height. However, generally the size of the pot helps to control the size of tree. When planted in a one-foot diameter pot, the bay laurel generally reaches only about five feet in height.

With only regular waterings, bi-monthly fertilization, and annual top dressing of compost or nutrient rich soil, the bay laurel will thrive in the same container for up to six years. Move pots indoors in winter to a cool area that provides indirect light.

Find bay laurel transplants in autumn or mid-spring at nurseries and garden centers.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Native to the Orient, chives betray their flavor with a distinctive yet subtle onion-like fragrance.

Propagated easily by seed or division, chives grow in grassy clumps from 10 to 18-inches tall and are prolific at self-seeding when allowed to go to seed. Harvest chive leaves at about two inches from the ground. As with many other herbs, it's chives are at their most flavorful before they go to bloom.

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) have a garlic scent and flavor. Their leaves are flatter and longer than those of A.schoenoprasum. After harvest, preserve either type of chives by either drying or freezing. Garlic

Fennel (Foeniculum officinalis)

Fennel is a perennial herb that looks like dill, but has a very distinctive licorice scent and flavor.

Like dill, fennel also attracts swallowtail butterflies. Fennel is best grown in a patio pot placed in full sun. The herb grows up to 4 feet tall and self-seeds to the point of being quite invasive.

Use young fennel leaves with fish and just about any Italian dish. Fennel seeds are also used in many sauces and to flavor sausage.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

Lemon grass is an aromatic tropical grass that provides the subtle taste and smell of lemon with a bright edge of ginger.

Lemon grass grows in cascading clumps that can reach up to 6-feet high and 3-feet in diameter and produces sharp blades that are ready for harvest when they reach a quarter to a half inch in diameter. Lemon grass is usually propagated by bulb planting or division of a mature clump.

Lovage (Levisticum officinale)

Sweeten up your turkey stuffing, soup, or salad with lovage. Similar to celery in taste, but sweeter and with a more robust flavor, lovage can reach to six feet in height.

The usual way to propagate lovage is through division, but it can also be grown from seed sown in late summer or very early spring. Once established, lovage readily self-seeds and is hardy in zones 4 to 8.

Mint (Mentha)

Spearmint (M. spicata) and peppermint (M.x piperita) are the two most popular mints to grow.

Almost all mints are hardy perennials, vigorous growers, and diligent reseeders. Although their fragrance is absolutely wonderful, mint really does need its own little corner of the world. Many a gardener has fallen in love with the fragrances of fresh mint cultivars, only to find that in a season or two, their garden is overrun with the stuff! One way to keep mint in check is to regularly harvest leaves before your mint cultivars blossom.

Propagate mint by division and plant transplants in sunken clay pots to keep them from spreading out of bounds.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Oregano, although known as wild marjoram, has coarser leaves and a fragrance more similar to thyme than sweet marjoram.

Plants grow to two feet in height and adapt well to containers. Although oregano is a perennial, beds need to be replanted every three to four years when stems become woody. Propagate oregano either by seed or by division.

Unlike most cooking herbs, oregano leaves are their most flavorful after they have been dried.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

The quickest way to grow rosemary is from small plants purchased at your favorite nursery. Although rosemary seed can be sown directly into the garden, seed is slow to germinate and beginning growth is slow as well.

Because rosemary is hardy in only warmer climates (zones 8 - 10), most gardeners prefer to grow it in outdoor pots and bring it indoors during the cold season. However, before bringing rosemary indoors, do remember to acclimate it in a "reverse" hardening off. Bring it in for short times and set it back out again, increasing the indoor length of time slowly for a couple of weeks.

Over-winter rosemary in a cool area of your home.

A mature rosemary plant can reach from 4 to 6-feet tall and be nearly as wide.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

The distinctive scent and flavor of sage almost spells stuffing to your senses! Sage is a popular cooking herb widely used in poultry stuffings and as a flavor for soups and stews.

Depending on cultivar, mature sage reaches from two to four feet in height. Colorful foliage ranging from gray green to deep purple makes sage an attractive addition to an herb garden as well as a flavorful one to your recipes.

Winter Savory (Satureja montana)

Although winter savory isn't as "sweet" as summer savory, it is still a favorite herb for seasoning meat dishes. Also different from its annual relative, winter savory is a woody perennial that reaches from one to two feet-tall.

Winter savory is most often propagated from cuttings, although it also grows from seed.

Nearly an evergreen, winter savory leaves can be harvested at almost any time, but best retain their pungent flavor when dried and stored for winter use.


Tarragon is an International favorite. French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculoides), and Mexican tarragon (Tagetes lucida) are used for seasoning vinegars, butters, rice, vegetables, and nearly all types of meat.

French tarragon is a woody perennial. Propagated from stem cuttings or division, French tarragon grows up to two feet high. Of the three varieties of tarragon, French tarragon is the most popular.

Russian tarragon is also a perennial but is distinguished by coarser growth and a more bitter taste than French Tarragon.

Mexican tarragon is actually the mint marigold. Because it is heat and drought resistant, Mexican tarragon is grown often in warm climates as a substitute for French or Russian cultivars.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

The woody growth of this low growing perennial adds to its charm. Thyme's wiry stems generally reach no more than 10 inches high. Both the gray-green leaves and lilac tinted flowers are very aromatic, but for cooking, it's best to cut stems when the first flowers begin to bloom.

Thyme is propagated by cuttings, division, and direct seeding. Thyme is at home as a bed edging or an addition to a rock garden and is comfortable in an indoor garden as well.

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