Choosing a Pot Size for Herbs: a Guide

growing container lemon balm

By Jennifer Poindexter

Finding the right pot size for indoor or outdoor herbs can feel tricky. What a plant needs can vary depending upon the type of plant, the root system of the plant, and its growing environment.

If you’re feeling uncertain about the size pot your herb needs, you’re in the right place. I’m going to walk you through the growing conditions for herbs (both indoors and outdoors), what to look for in a container, and the right size for your herbs.

Selecting the right size pot is vital to the success of your herbs because if you go too small, you may hinder the growth of the plant. Should you go too large, you could give up valuable growing space for no reason.

Here’s what you should know about growing herbs and selecting the right pot size for herbs:

Growing Conditions for Outdoor Potted Herbs

When growing herbs in a container outdoors, it’s important to look at the specific needs of the plant. Any herb which enjoys well-draining soil is a good fit for growing in a container.

It’s important that you choose a growing container with adequate drainage, quality soil that drains well, and a place with plenty of morning sunlight.

Should you live in an area with hot afternoons, it may serve your herbs well to provide some shade during this time of day. This is true even for sun-loving plants, like basil.

If you supply adequate drainage, nutrients, and lighting, your outdoor herb container garden should thrive under your care.

basil growing indoors in container

Growing Conditions for Indoor Potted Herbs

Some herbs are grown indoors year-round while other herbs are moved indoors to overwinter. If you’re moving an herb indoors for the colder season, be sure you move it gradually.

Should you move the plant too quickly, it could shock it. Therefore, you should spend approximately one week moving the plant into more shaded areas for a few hours each day before moving it inside for the winter.

Once the plant is moved indoors, pick the sunniest location you have available. If your house is darker, consider adding a growing light to provide approximately eight hours of bright light to the plant each day.

You must also provide a well-draining planter and quality soil which drains well. Select a growing location free of drafts.

The plants don’t need to be too near a fireplace or woodstove as this could dry them out. Yet, you don’t want the plants growing in front of a fan or an exterior doorway as this could also cause issues.

Trying to keep the plants at a stable room temperature should serve them best. You now have a few ideas on how to best grow herbs indoors.

Let’s discuss how you can select the right pot for your herbs to grow in as this can make a true impact on the outcome of your plants.

Selecting the Right Pot for Indoor and Outdoor Herbs

When selecting the right growing container for your herbs, you must first start with the material the container is made from.

Plastic containers are frequently used because they’re more cost-effective. This type of container is best for herbs which enjoy consistently damp soil as plastic doesn’t dry out as quickly. Metal pots are a good option for the same reason.

Terra cotta pots are used for herbs which need drier soil. This type of pot is known for drying much faster which is important to the overall health of some plants. Ceramic pots are also a good option for herbs for the same reason.

If you’re growing a plant with a shallow root system, you may use a shorter pot. The plant won’t need as much depth as the roots won’t stretch down as far.

However, you should choose a deeper pot if you’re growing an herb with a longer taproot. These plants will require room to stretch out.

It’s important to note that when we talk about the size of a pot, we’re referencing the diameter in inches, unless otherwise specified.

In general, you shouldn’t go smaller than a 4-inch pot for indoor herbs. For most outdoor herbs, it’s recommended to use a pot that’s 6-inches or larger.

6-inch pots are good for dwarf varieties or plants with shallow root systems. 10-inch containers are good for most herbs. It allows the plants to fill out as they reach maturity and take-up most of the space in the pot.

Should you go with a pot that’s 12-inches or larger, you should be able to grow a variety of herbs in one pot. This is also a good selection if you’re growing an herb with a longer taproot.

Now that you know the general rules of thumb about selecting an adequate container for your herbs, let’s talk specifics for some of the most common herbs grown in outdoor and indoor container gardens.

Selecting the Right Pot for Common Herbs

You may be surprised to learn of the specific needs of some of the most common herbs. However, it’s vital to understand the needs of each plant to ensure you’re supplying ideal growing conditions.

Here are the ideal conditions for some herbs grown in pots:

1. Basil

Basil is where many minds automatically go when the word herb is spoken. This plant needs a pot that’s at least 12-inches wide and 9- or more inches deep.

2. Cilantro

Cilantro is a favorite herb of mine because you can harvest the foliage of the plant and receive cilantro. Then you may harvest the seeds to receive coriander. Should you grow this plant in a pot, it needs a growing space that’s 18-inches wide and 10-inches deep.

3. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a beautiful herb that’s grown in many herb gardens around the globe. If you’d like to grow this plant, be sure to supply a container that’s 15- or more inches wide and 8-inches deep.

container oregano

4. Oregano

Oregano is another well-recognized herb. This plant can become larger if cared for properly. With this in mind, be sure to supply a growing container that’s 12-inches wide and equally as deep.

growing rosemary in container

5. Rosemary

Rosemary is an herb that does best in terra cotta pots as it doesn’t like being left in consistently damp situations. It also needs a pot that’s 12-inches wide and equally as deep.

6. Parsley

Parsley is a great herb to use to add a little extra flavor to your meals. If you’d like to keep it on-hand in a kitchen window or in a nearby herb garden, be sure to provide a pot that’s around 12-inches wide and equally as deep.

7. Chives

Chives is another favorite of mine. It’s beautiful, easy to care for, simple to harvest, and it tastes great as well. When supplying this herb with a growing container, be sure it’s 6-inches or greater in width and equally as deep.

8. Dill

Dill is an herb which has a longer taproot. Though it’s skinnier on top, in comparison to some other herbs, its roots run deep. Therefore, this plant needs a container that’s 12-inches wide and equally as deep.

thyme in container

9. Thyme

Thyme is a beautiful herb with a strong flavor. Many people enjoy its use around the kitchen. If you’d like to add thyme to your herb garden, supply a container that’s 6-inches wide and 4-inches (or more) deep.

10. Spreading Herbs

Some herbs are known as being heavy spreaders. The first one which pops into my mind is mint. The great thing about these herbs is they won’t take over a container garden as the planters help contain them.

Plus, no matter the size of the pot you plant them in, the herbs will fill it. You can grow herbs, (such as mint) in a 6-inch or 18-inch pot, and the plants will fill it. These herbs provide a greater amount of flexibility which makes them a nice addition to your container-grown herb garden.

You now have an idea of what herbs need from you whether grown indoors or outdoors. You should also have an idea of the correct pots to use for herbs in general.

Hopefully, this information can help you make an informed decision on the size of pots to use when growing a container herb garden around your home.

More About Growing Herbs,%2C%20well%2Ddrained%20potting%20mix.

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