Choosing the right herbs for your garden can seem like a daunting task. Some require shade, some sun. Some are short-lived, while others return year after year. While this might seem overwhelming, there are herbs versatile enough to thrive in gardens large and small and even in decorative pots. Here are five adaptable, easy-to-grow herbs you can enjoy in your garden, no matter it’s size or location.
Rosemary is a decorative, drought-tolerant plant that can be grown in the ground or in containers. Look for trailing varieties to grow for ground-cover or for a spilling-over-the-wall effect. Upright cultivars come in pale lilac, bright blue and even pink. Prune and shape them or let them grow naturally. They grow from two to five feet tall. All varieties are edible. Give rosemary plants full sun and well-drained soil.
Edible sage is a medium-small, well-behaved member of the Salvia family with showy purple flowers. It happily grows in containers or along the border of a garden. Offer it very good drainage, soil that isn’t too rich, and full sun. You can find varieties with foliage ranging from green to splashed with yellow, purple and white hues.
Modern hybrids include shrubby plants that range in height from one to five feet tall. Stick with smaller varieties for container gardening. Lavender looks great in English- and Mediterranean-style gardens. Give this herb full sun, moderate amounts of water and poor soil and it will grow cheerfully.
These little clumps of tiny bulbs will seemingly die in the winter and come back to life in the spring. The common chive has cylindrical grass-like foliage that stays neat and small — about 10 inches high — and blooms with decorative spherical clusters of tiny pink flowers. Garlic chives grow a bit taller, have flattened leaves and send up larger, white, pinwheel-like flowers. Both are easy to grow in a wide range of soils with regular to slight amounts of water. As members of the onion family, they like as much sun as they can get.
Unlike the previous four herbs, basil is an annual, meaning that it lives for only one season. But it grows quickly and can be put to good use in the kitchen (fresh pesto, anyone?). Choose a variety with tiny, medium or large leaves in either green or deep purple to line a flower border or plant in containers. Give basil sun and water it regularly.
There are many other versatile herbs that are decorative for gardens large and small. Try dill for its feathery leaves, borage for its shockingly blue flowers, thyme for a cheerful ground-hugger and oregano for handsome mounds of green or chartreuse foliage.
Photo credits: Jane Gates