UCCE Orange County Master Gardeners
University of California
UCCE Orange County Master Gardeners

Edible Plants


Herbs, growing

Herbs fresh from your garden add flavor and aroma to foods. Culinary herbs are plants, or parts of a plant, that are used to season foods. Many culinary herbs are very easy to grow and pretty to look at. Just a few different plants add color and fragrance to the garden and taste and aroma to foods. There are many to choose from, and it’s fun to try something new to spice up a favorite dish or try out in a new dish.

Herbs are divided into three groups: annuals, perennials and biennials. Annuals complete their life cycle from seed to flowers to seed in one year and then die.  Perennials continue growing for several years, and may go through repeated annual flowering and seed-producing cycles before they die. Some perennials grow for several years before setting seed and then die. Biennials require 2 years – they grow leaves and shoots the first year, then flower and seed the second year.

Spring is the best time to plant herbs in California. Herbs are very versatile. They can be planted in pots, in an herb garden, a vegetable garden, or spread throughout the landscape. A few small pots of herbs in a sunny kitchen window or on a sunny shelf just outside the kitchen door makes it very easy to use fresh herbs every day. Some of the best to try in pots are: basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme.

In the garden, group them according to their cultural needs – full sun or part shade, and water needs. Most herbs prefer a rich, well-draining soil. Once established, many perennial herbs become quite drought-tolerant.

Herbs are generally pest and disease free. It’s important to limit the use of pesticides to protect the beneficial insects and hummingbirds that are attracted to the herbs. A strong spray of water will generally knock off any pests.

Herbs can be grown from seeds or from transplants. Perennial herbs can also be grown from cuttings or divisions, depending on the plants.

Read more about the uses and growing requirements of culinary herbs.

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