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Herbs That Grow Well Together

Herbs That Grow Well Together

Regardless of the herb variety, herbs tend to provide the same benefits as companion plants. They are great at repelling pests, suppressing diseases, and attracting pollinators, which make them perfect fillers for vegetable gardens (source). These characteristics also make them great independent plants. 

But herb plots are a popular choice for gardeners, especially those with small yards. Since herbs don’t need companion plants, there are other strategies for pairing groups of them together. 

Generally, herbs in similar categories grow well together. Categories include moisture-loving Mediterranean herbs, dry-climate Mediterranean herbs, lemon herbs, and medicinal herbs. 

Each group harbors exceptions. Some herbs have specific friends or enemies, but most herb gardens that group similar herbs together will be successful. 

Pairing Herbs With Other Herbs

The strategy behind planting herbs with other herbs is to make the gardener’s life a bit easier and to enhance the effect of surrounding herbs. Gardeners plant herbs together for a few specific reasons:

  • It makes the most of small spaces
  • Certain herbs will enhance each other’s flavors
  • It consolidates maintenance (if you plant herbs with similar needs together)

Herb Pairing Methods

You can grow herbs together in containers or in a garden plot; whatever you choose is up to you. However, each option has pros and cons to consider. 

When we talk about planting herbs “with” each other, we mean the herbs will complement or tolerate each other in both containers and garden plots. 

The space between herbs is what matters, regardless of whether you plant them in containers or plots. Mint is an exception; it likes being close to certain herbs because their aromas enhance each other, but it usually needs to be in a separate container because it spreads quickly. 

Growing herbs in containers has four main benefits:

  • It saves space
  • You can move the plants to a convenient location during unfavorable weather
  • You can grow herbs inside during the off-season
  • Containers usually use potting soil, which reduces the chances of soil-borne pests and diseases 

The biggest hurdle of container growing is planning for the space herbs will take up when they reach maturity. However, you can manage the small space if you control the plant’s size by harvesting consistently. 

Before selecting your containers, check the size of the herbs you want to pair together. You can usually cut the recommended amount of space between herbs in half if you’re using pots, but maintain a distance of at least 6” inches between plants. 

Growing herbs in garden plots allow for:

  • Extra space for bigger/creeping herbs
  • The opportunity for herbs to benefit other surrounding plants

However, planting herbs in garden plots means you cannot control the sunlight and weather exposure for your herbs. Also, natural soil could carry more pests and diseases. While herbs do have a strong resistance to pests and diseases, they are not completely immune to them. 

Harvest Tip

You can (and should) harvest most herbs before they reach maturity and you should continue harvesting them throughout the growing season. This helps keep plants small and encourages in-season regrowth. 

Not All Herbs Work Together

Some herbs will work against each other. Herbs with particular aromas or chemical compounds – like fennel – may negatively influence the flavor of surrounding herbs. Others – like sage and basil – have different watering requirements. 

Planting them together might dry out the basil or waterlog the sage. Knowing your herbs’ enemies is just as important as knowing their friends. 

General Herb Pairing Tips

When planting herbs with herbs, keep a few things in mind: 

  • When in doubt, make sure your herbs require the same water/sunlight needs
  • Check spacing requirements, especially with large herbs like mints and turmeric
  • Some herbs enhance other herbs’ essential oils, while others detract (ex: fennel’s aromas tend to infiltrate the aromas of surrounding herbs); this is a common reason why some herbs don’t pair well together 
  • Mint varieties can become invasive; whether you plant them in containers or plots, harvest and prune them regularly 
  • As long as your desired herbs pair well together, consider planting “themed” herb gardens (ex: Italian culinary herbs, Asian culinary herbs, herbs for tea, etc.) 

Herb Groups

The best way to pair your herbs together is to put them with herbs in the same category.  Similar herbs usually require similar maintenance techniques and temperature/sunlight conditions. They also tend to enhance each other’s flavors.

Three common herb groups are: 

  • Mediterranean herbs
  • Lemon varieties
  • Medicinal herbs

You will find that the lists of herbs below cover the most common garden herbs. Several herbs live on multiple lists (ex: lemon balm is a Mediterranean and lemon variety herb), but you will only see them on one list. 

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Mediterranean Herbs

Most common culinary herbs will fall in this category. Mediterranean herbs come from southern European, Middle Eastern, and northern African countries that border the Mediterranean sea. 

Common Mediterranean herbs are oregano, sage, thyme, cilantro, dill, rosemary, parsley, common mint (spearmint), marjoram, lavender, and basil.  Their main variance is whether they like moist or dry conditions. 

Some dry herbs pair well with moisture-loving herbs, and vice versa. This is mostly because they enhance each other’s aromas or essential oils (like oregano and basil). If you choose to plant them in the same container, they need to be at least 12” inches apart so you can keep their watering needs separate. 

Moisture-loving Mediterranean Herbs

Mediterranean herbs that require moist soil are cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, and common mint. These herbs need consistent, even moisture. 

Cilantro

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 1.5’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

You can plant cilantro in the same containers as parsley, dill, and basil.  You can also plant it with mint, but mint is a creeper. If you do plant cilantro with mint, allow for 1.5’ of space in a container or use a garden plot. 

Parsley 

Mature Size: up to 1’L x 1’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Parsley is a versatile companion plant. You can plant it with any Mediterranean herb with the exception of thyme, mint, and oregano. 

Basil

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 2’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Plant basil with cilantro, parsley, chamomile, and dill. While some gardeners find that basil’s companion herbs stop there, we find that it pairs well with some dry-climate Mediterranean herbs, such as oregano and thyme. These herbs will enhance each other’s flavors, but they will need enough space to keep the watering conditions separate. 

Common Mint (Spearmint)

Mature Size: up to 1.5’L x 2’W

Grows Well in Containers: Mint is a creeper, so it’s usually too big for a container unless it’s on its own. However, you can manage its size with diligent harvesting. 

Plant mint with oregano, cilantro, basil, and dill to enhance their flavors. These herbs can handle mint’s sprawling tendencies in a joint container, as long as the mint is at least 1.5’ away and you prune/harvest regularly. You can plant mint near other herbs, as long as it’s in its own container. 

Dill

Mature Size: up to 5’L x 3’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Plant dill with cilantro, basil, mint, and parsley. Dill can grow tall, but it does not creep like mint, so it is easier to pair it with companion herbs in containers. 

A special characteristic of dill is that it is one of the very few plants that tolerate fennel. It is only a tolerant relationship and the two herbs could cross-pollinate, so do not put them in the same container. However, in a space-saving pinch, you can plant dill in between fennel and the rest of your garden.

Dry-Environment Mediterranean Herbs 

Mediterranean herbs that thrive in dry conditions are thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, marjoram, and lavender. These herbs only need to be watered when the soil is completely dry, but the watering should soak the plant. 

Thyme

Mature Size: up to 1’L x 1’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Thyme works well with just about anything, but specifically sage, rosemary, and marjoram. 

Oregano

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 1.5’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Plant oregano with marjoram, sage, and rosemary. It also accentuates the flavor of a few moist-loving herbs, like basil, mint, and parsley. Generally, oregano is a safe companion plant for any herb. 

Rosemary

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 3’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Rosemary is a versatile herb and does well with most herbs, but specifically oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage, and lavender. You can also pair it with a few moist-loving herbs, like basil and parsley.

Sage 

Mature Size: up to 6’L x 4’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Plant sage with thyme, rosemary, and marjoram. These herbs will enhance sage’s flavor. 

Marjoram 

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 2’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Plant marjoram with sage, thyme, oregano, and lavender. It also pairs well with a few moisture-loving herbs, like parsley and basil. Generally, marjoram is a good companion herb. 

Lavender

Mature Size: up to 3’L x 4’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Plant lavender with marjoram, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano. You can also plant it with the moisture-loving herbs basil and parsley. 

Lemon Varieties

Lemon herbs serve multiple purposes. They are common additions to tea and desserts, soaps and fragrances, and essential oils. Since they all produce similar aromas, lemon herbs work well with each other, although there are plenty of other herb pairings that work.

Lemon herbs are great at repelling pests, which makes them good companions for herbs with milder aromas like parsley. However, the lemon aroma can influence these herbs’ scents, so keep lemon herbs the recommended distance away from non-lemon herbs. 

Lemon varieties include lemon balm (lemon mint), lemon verbena, lemon thyme, and lemongrass.

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

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 3’W

Grows Well in Containers: Yes, but it does spread easily so harvest consistently 

Plant lemon balm with lemon verbena and lemongrass, as the lemon aromas will enhance each other. Lemon balm will also work with dill, parsley, and sage to keep pests away. 

Lemon Verbena 

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

Grows Well in Containers: Yes, but it can get tall so harvest consistently to control the size

Lemon verbena grows particularly well with lemon thyme, but it works with any lemon herb. 

Lemon Thyme

Mature Size: up to 1’L x 1.5’W 

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Plant lemon thyme with dill, sage, and other lemon 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.

Plant lemongrass with other lemon herbs and moisture-loving Mediterranean herbs. It also does well with turmeric and ginger. 

Medicinal Herbs

The FDA classifies herbs as ‘dietary supplements,’ not as medicine (source). The term “medicinal herbs’ is a common term used to describe herbs that are associated with health benefits, like weight loss, reduced anxiety, and digestive issues. However, you should always consult with your doctor before using herbs as a supplement. 

You can use medicinal herbs on their own in teas and in essential oils, but many are also great culinary herbs. They tend to originate from South Asia and the Mediterranean and will have similar maintenance needs as other herbs on our lists. 

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 you don’t prune and harvest turmeric throughout the season, so it needs adequate space. Allow 18” of space between turmeric and other herbs. 

Plant turmeric with lemongrass, cilantro, and ginger. Turmeric does need shade, plenty of space, and consistent moisture. However, its companion herbs make a nice selection of Asian culinary herbs if you want themed herb plots.  

Chamomile 

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 1’W 

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Plant chamomile with basil and dill. Chamomile enhances the essential oils of each of these herbs. 

Ginger 

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 3’W, but it does not need to grow this large as you will be using the roots

Grows Well in Containers: Yes

Plant ginger with cilantro, turmeric, and lemongrass. Like turmeric, ginger pairs best with other common Asian culinary herbs, which all enjoy consistent moisture. 

Peppermint

Mature Size: up to 2’L x 2’W, but it spreads easily

Grows Well in Containers: Yes; container growing keeps the plant from becoming invasive

Plant peppermint with oregano. Peppermint will overtake delicate plants – which includes many herbs – so it isn’t a great companion herb. Oregano can handle peppermint’s aggressive nature. 

Optional “Themed” Herb Pairings for Containers

If you need herb pairing inspiration, here are some themed herb pairings that would work well together.

Large-Container Pairings

  • “Italian Cooking”: Parsley, basil, oregano, and rosemary 
    • Parsley and basil are moisture-loving Mediterranean herbs, while oregano and rosemary are dry. Use a container large enough to plant each pairing on separate sides and about 12” inches apart. 
  • “Asian Cuisine”: Ginger, cilantro, lemongrass, and turmeric 
    • Turmeric is a large plant that needs at least 18” of space. 

Small-Container Pairings 

  • Thyme, rosemary, and marjoram 
  • Lemon thyme and lemongrass
  • Chamomile, basil, and dill
  • Parsley, basil, and cilantro

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Herbs that do NOT grow well together

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