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Herbs That Don’t Grow Well Together

Herbs That Don’t Grow Well Together

Many herbs negatively influence each other if they are too close. 

The most common reason herbs do not grow well together is if they have conflicting maintenance/environmental needs. Other reasons include:

  • Strong, competing aromas or essential oils overpower one or both herbs
  • Big, creeping herbs overtake delicate herbs 
  • Competing chemical compounds stunt growth

Many herb pairings will at least tolerate each other, but knowing your desired herbs’ enemies will help you plant efficient herb gardens that are easy to maintain. 

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Herb Pairings 

The main method for pairing herbs is to put them with other herbs in the same category. Common categories are:

  • Mediterranean herbs
    • Moisture-loving
    • Dry-climate 
  • Lemon herbs
  • Medicinal herbs

These categories include the most common garden herbs. Some herbs appear on multiple lists (for example, mint is a Mediterranean and a medicinal herb), which gives many herbs more options for pairings. However, just because herbs appear on the same list does not mean they work well together.

How to Decide Which Herbs Not to Plant Together

When planning your herb garden, compare the list of similar herbs with the list of reasons some herbs are enemies. You will find, for example, that spearmint and parsley are both moisture-loving Mediterranean herbs. However, you will also find that mint is a creeper with a prominent aroma, and parsley is a delicate, mild herb. Mint easily overpowers parsley in both areas, so these two need to stay separate. 

Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Keep moist-loving herbs together
  • Keep dry-climate herbs together
  • Keep parsley away from mint and lemon herbs
  • Don’t plant mints together
  • Keep mint in its own container most of the time
  • Keep fennel away from everything
  • Keep chamomile away from mint and herbs with mild scents (like parsley)

A Few Quick Notes

Before diving into the list, there are a few points to cover.

What Does “Work Well Together” Mean?

When herbs “work well together,” we mean that you can plant them close together either in the same container or the same garden plot. Each herb will need adequate space for its root system, but you can plant herbs that “work well together” just outside of that area.

When herbs don’t work well together, this means they need to be spaced farther apart than that. In garden plots, plant these herbs several feet apart or with a plant in between them. Follow this same guidance with herbs in containers if their aromas/essential oils clash. 

Common Offenders: Fennel and Mint

Do not plant fennel with any herb (except dill as a last resort). Do not plant mint in the same container with any herb except oregano, cilantro, basil, chamomile, and dill. 

Fennel is just a bad herb to pair with others. It harbors chemicals in its roots that can harm surrounding plants, it is competitive, and its deep taproot can disturb the soil. It also has an overpowering aroma that influences surrounding herbs. 

The only herb that tolerates fennel is dill, and even these two herbs tend to cross-pollinate. You can plant dill as a buffer between fennel and other herbs, but generally, fennel is an enemy to herbs. 

Mint isn’t as much of an offender, but it is a creeper. Mint invades its given space if you don’t prune and harvest regularly, so it overtakes most herbs. 

However, unlike fennel, mint can enhance the flavor of certain herbs (link to herb companion article). If you place those herbs in the same container, just give mint at least 1.5’ of space. You can place mint in its own container near other herbs (except rosemary, parsley, and other mint varieties), but not in the same pot. 

Herb Pairings to Avoid

The herbs on this list are common garden herbs. Some have specific enemies while others should generally avoid herbs with contrasting maintenance requirements. Some are versatile and only need to avoid the common offenders.

Moisture-loving Mediterranean Herbs

Moisture-loving Mediterranean herbs include cilantro, parsley, basil, spearmint, and dill. These herbs need consistent, damp conditions to thrive. While some will do fine paired with dry-climate herbs, others will not adapt well to alternate conditions. 

Cilantro

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 1.5’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Do not plant cilantro with dry-climate Mediterranean herbs, like rosemary and thyme. 

Parsley 

Mature Size: up to 1’L x 1’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Do not plant parsley with thyme, oregano, and lemon herbs. Thyme and oregano are dry-climate herbs, and lemon herb aromas will influence parsley’s milder scents. 

Basil

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 2’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Do not plant basil with sage. Some gardeners advise against planting basil with a few other herbs (like dry-climate Mediterranean herbs), but we find that sage is basil’s only definitive “bad” dry-climate companion. 

Common Mint (Spearmint)

Mature Size: up to 1.5’L x 2’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes, if it’s on its own or you keep it pruned and harvest regularly

Do not plant mint in the same container with anything except oregano, cilantro, basil, and dill. Do not plant it near other mint varieties, chamomile, rosemary, or parsley. These herbs’ aromas do not interact well. 

Dill

Mature Size: up to 5’L x 3’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Do not plant dill with sage or lavender.

Thyme plant

Dry-Environment Mediterranean Herbs 

Common dry-climate Mediterranean herbs are thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, marjoram, and lavender. These herbs do best when the soil dries out before being thoroughly soaked. Some will adapt to moist conditions, but others are more particular. 

Thyme

Mature Size: up to 1’L x 1’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Try not to plant thyme with parsley or cilantro, but in a pinch, it will work as long as you monitor their different maintenance needs. Thyme is a friendly herb that will work with almost anything. 

Oregano

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 1.5’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Oregano doesn’t have any specific herb enemies except the common offenders.

Rosemary

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 3’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Like oregano, rosemary is a great companion plant for anything except the common offenders. 

Sage 

Mature Size: up to 6’L x 4’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Do not plant sage with basil or dill. Sage is a dry-climate herb that will not adapt well to moisture.

Marjoram 

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 2’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Marjoram is another great herb in the garden because of its versatility. Other than the common offenders, plant marjoram with any herb. 

Lavender

Mature Size: up to 3’L x 4’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Do not plant lavender with dill or cilantro. Some gardeners like that dill repels pests for lavender, but this benefit is lost because the herbs do not grow well together.  

Lemon Balm plant

Lemon Varieties

Lemon varieties include lemon balm (lemon mint), lemon verbena, lemon thyme, and lemongrass. The only herb that lemon herbs’ essential oils clash with is parsley. Beyond that, it depends on their maintenance needs. 

Lemon Balm (A.K.A. Lemon Mint)

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 3’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes, but it is a mint variety, so keep it pruned and harvest regularly

Since lemon balm is a mint variety, do not plant it with other mints. Other than this, lemon balm works well with other herbs. If you need some direction, it doesn’t work as well with dry-climate herbs. 

Lemon Verbena 

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 3’W in containers, up to 8’ tall in a garden plot

Grows Well in Containers: Yes, but trim and harvest consistently to keep it shorter 

Do not plant lemon verbena with the common offenders, but beyond that, lemon verbena is a great herb to pair with others. 

Lemon Thyme

Mature Size: up to 1’L x 1.5’W 

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Lemon thyme does not have specific enemies. However, it prefers a dry environment, so it may not do well with moisture-loving herbs. 

Lemongrass 

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 4’W in containers, but pruning/harvesting keeps them smaller

Grows Well in Containers: Yes, but it needs at least 12” of space to accommodate its roots.

Lemongrass prefers moisture, so try to avoid planting it with dry-climate herbs. However, there are no specific enemies and it does work well with dry-climate lemon herbs. 

Medicinal Herbs

The term “medicinal herbs” does not mean you can use these herbs as medicine. The FDA refers to herbs as “dietary supplements,” like vitamins (source). However, these herbs do have some health benefits, like weight loss, reduced anxiety, and digestive issues. Do not use them to replace any medication, and consult with a doctor before considering herbs as supplements. 

Most medicinal herbs come from South Asia or the Mediterranean and work great in essential oils or as tea. They are also common in Asain cuisine. 

Common medicinal herbs include turmeric, chamomile, ginger, and peppermint. 

Turmeric

Mature Size: up to 3’L x 4’W 

Grows Well in Containers: Yes, but unlike most herbs, you harvest turmeric once at the end of the season so it will grow tall. Allow 18” of space between turmeric and other herbs. 

Turmeric is another herb that does not have specific enemies. However, it is a moisture-loving herb, so try to avoid planting it with dry-climate herbs. 

Chamomile 

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 1’W 

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Do not plant chamomile with mint or herbs with mild scents. Chamomile negatively influences mint and mild herbs’ aromas, and mint will overcrowd the chamomile. 

Ginger 

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 3’W, but since you use the roots you can trim back the plant

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Ginger needs a moist environment, so don’t plant it with dry-environment herbs. There are no specific poor herb pairings for ginger. 

Peppermint

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 2’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes, but it is a mint, so control its growth with pruning and harvesting 

Do not plant mint with other mint varieties, parsley, and chamomile. Mint herb varieties tend to have the same friends and enemies, so as a general guide, peppermint will have the same friends and enemies as spearmint and lemon balm. 

Herbs That Pair Well Together 

While there are clearly some herbs that don’t pair well with others, there are plenty of pairings that gardeners love. If you follow the general guidelines, you can experiment with mixing and matching herb pairings. 

Some specific herbs that are great for pairing are basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and marjoram. They have little to no enemies and are flexible with their maintenance needs. Lemon herbs are fairly versatile with each other, and the medicinal herbs all pair with at least one herb outside their group. 

Herb Pairing Examples

If you need a little inspiration to get your herb garden going, here are some groups that will work well together. 

Mediterranean Herb Groups

Some of these groups combine moisture-loving Mediterranean herbs (cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, and common mint) with dry-climate herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, marjoram, and lavender). These are the herbs that are adaptable, but it is best if you have a container big enough to keep the roots separate from each other. 

  • Parsley, basil, dill, and cilantro
  • Mint, with basil, dill, or cilantro
  • Parsley, sage, and rosemary
  • Sage, marjoram, and parsley
  • Oregano, rosemary, and basil 
  • Lavender, marjoram, and basil

Lemon Herb Groups

Lemon herbs all tolerate each other, but these groups reflect the herbs’ preferred environments. 

  • Moist environment: lemon balm, lemon verbena, and lemongrass
  • Dry environment: lemon thyme and lemon verbena

Medicinal Herb Groups

Of the four medicinal herbs listed (ginger, chamomile, turmeric, and peppermint), it is most important to keep chamomile and turmeric away from peppermint. 

  • Turmeric, chamomile, and ginger
  • Peppermint and ginger 

Other Herb Groups

Some herbs pair well with herbs on different lists. 

  • Ginger, cilantro, and lemongrass
  • Chamomile and basil
  • Lemongrass and basil
  • Lemon thyme, dill, and sage 
  • Turmeric and cilantro 

For a more detailed list, see our complete guide on Herbs That Grow Well Together.

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