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Growing Herb

January through April

See monthly archives in Garden Tips for those months.


Direct seed dill, cilantro, and parsley in the garden.  They seed readily and resent transplanting, so we don't bother seeding them inside.

Begin hardening off basil and other annual herbs in a cold frame.


Begin harvesting perennial herbs -- oregano, thyme, tarragon, lemon balm.  Cut top 3" off, but leave some to flower for the bees and other pollinating insects.



The top 2"-3" of  Oregano, lemon balm, and tarragon, all perennial herbs, can be stored and used fresh, or they can be dried or frozen for later use.

Next month, a second harvest will provide enough for the table, for  herbal vinegar, or more freezing and drying. 

Basil is also pinched back to enourage a second growth.  We have about 4 plants in the ground and a bunch still in pots for the farmer's market -- enough to provide about a cup for fresh use.

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa; Bugbane) takes several years to germinate outdoors, so we broke down and bought one to plant in our shady spot on a very steep, woodland slope.  In its third year, it is doing well.  We will try seeding in some clay pots this fall and bury them in the same garden where they will receive adequate moisture.  The roots are used as an expectorant and to control tinnitus (ringing in the ears).


 Table 1. Selected Herbs for Alabama

Common Name
Scientific Name
Family Plant Type Height Spacing Form Light Req. Bloom Time Foliage Color Flower Color Uses Maintenance Notes
Aloe spp.
Liliaceae tender perennial up to 2' container rosette full sun to light shade mid-
green yellow to orange to red medicinal Cut out dead or yellowed leaves. Grow in a container.
Ocimum basilicum
Labiatae tender annual 2' to 3' 2' to 3' bush full sun July and August varies white culinary, aesthetic Cut off flower stalks for better foliage. Many cultivars are available.
Laurus nobilus
Lauraceae tender perennial up to 10' 6' or more tree full sun to part shade spring dark green insignificant culinary Remove leaves from food before eating. May reach 15' to 30' in South.
Monarda didyma
Labiatae perennial 3' to 4' 3' to 4' bush full sun to part shade July to August dark green pink, red, white ornamental, culinary Divide as necessary. Flowers are edible.
 Calendula (pot marigold)
Calendula officinalis
Compositae hardy annual 18" 1' to 2' erect, branch-
full sun spring to fall green pale yellow to deep orange ornamental, medicinal Deadhead for better flowering.  
Nepeta cataria
Labiatae perennial 1' to 3' 3' to 4' spreading full sun to part shade July to September gray to green white with lavender cat toys, medicinal   Cats may damage foliage.
 Cayenne Pepper
Capsicum annum
Solanaceae tropical up to 2' container bush requires full sun summer bright green white with red, orange, or green fruits culinary, ornamental Keep well watered and well drained. Edible fruits range from mild to hot.
Roman chamomile
Chamaemelum nobilis

German chamomile
Matricaria recutita
Marshall chamomile
Chamaemelum marschalliana

hardy annual
2" to 6" flowers on 1' stems
up to 2'

12" to 18"
6" to 12"

1' to 2'



full sun to part shade summer bright green yellow and white, daisylike ornamental, medicinal Weed well. Take care not to overfertilize.
Common chives
Garlic chives
Allium tuberosum
Liliaceae perennial  
1' to 2'

2' to 3'
1' grasslike full sun June green
culinary   Flowers are edible.
Echinacea purpurea
Asteraceae perennial 2' to 4' 1' to 1.5' stem with basal rosette full sun midsummr to frost dark green purple to pink ornamental, medicinal Deadhead old flowers for better blooming. 'Bright Star' is a good choice; white cultivars are available.
 Cilantro/Coriander Coriandrum sativum Umbelliferae hardy annual 1.5' to 2.5' seed, thin to 4" erect with lacy foliage sun to part shade spring or mid to late summer bright green white or mauve culinary Weeding and mulching are necessary. This plant self-seeds; young leaves are cilantro; seeds are coriander.
Tanacetum balsamita (formerly Chrysanthemum balsamita)
Compositae perennial 2' to 3.5' 1' to 2' leggy, upright with staking sun to part shade late summer bright green daisylike, white rays culinary Prune to prevent flowering. Divide rhizome to propagate.
Anethum graveolens
Umbelliferae annual 3' to 5' or less seed, thin to 6 to 18" lacy with erect stems full sun early summer blue to green yellow umbels culinary Prune flowers for better foliage. Sow seed in spring and fall.
Foeniculum vulgare
Umbelliferae perennial or annual 3' to 5' 2' to 3' upright with feathery foliage full sun June to August green or bronze or purple compound yellow umbels culinary "Bulb" may be harvested for salads, etc. This is the preferred host of swallowtail butterflies.
Digitalis purpurea
biennial  3' to 4' seed indoors, transplant to 1' upright stem with staking part shade June to July deep green purple with spots of white and purple ornamental, medicinal This plant needs lots of water to bloom best. Toxic! This is the source of digitalis heart medicine.
Teucrium chamaedrys
Labiatae evergreen perennial 1' 2' bushy and clump forming full sun to light shade summer bright green pink and purple ornamental Keep moist; avoid hedge pruning. 'Variegatum' has ivory variegation.
Hyssopus officinalis
Labiatae evergreen perennial 2' to 3' 1.5' upright and shrubby light shade June to August green blue spikes ornamental, medicinal Prune, deadhead for best blooms. This is a good bee and butterfly plant.

English lavender
Lavandula angustifolia
Spanish lavender
Lavandula stoechas
Labiatae evergreen perennial  

2' to 2.5'

1' to 2'




full sun June to September grayish green purple ornamental, medicinal Watch for rot if plant gets too wet.

Prune hard in July for rebloom.
This plant is highly prized for its essential oil.

This is the best cultivar for the South.
 Lavender Cotton

Grey lavender cotton
Santolina chamaecyparissus
Green lavender cotton
Santolina virens
Compositae evergreen perennial 1' to 2' 2' to 4' shrubby full sun June and July  


bright yellow ornamental Plant in light, dry soil. Harvest before flowering for best aroma.
 Lemon Balm
Melissa officinalis
Labiatae perennial 2' to 3' 3' to 4' low and bushy full sun to shade July to September green to coppery white or yellow culinary, ornamental Divide every 3 to 4 years. Use this for its lemony taste.
 Lemon Verbena
Aloysia triphylla
Verbenaceae tropical perennial up to 6' 3' to 4' shrubby and leggy full sun late summer to fall lime green lavender ornamental, culinary Overwinter this herb in a container inside. This herb is susceptible to spider mites and whiteflies.
Origanum majorana
Labiatae tender perennial up to 3' 4' rounded, spreading full sun August to September grayish green tiny, pink or white culinary Pinch back before flowering to keep shape. This herb keeps well dried.
 Marsh Mallow
Althaea officinalis
Malvaceae perennial 4' to 5' 2' erect with spreading branches shade July to September grayish green pink or white ornamental Divide as needed in the spring. Moist soil is a must!
 Mint Mentha spp. Labiatae perennial 1' to 2' 2' low, bushy, spreading full sun to part shade July and August bright green purple, pink, or white culinary, ornamental, medicinal Grow this herb in a container to control root growth. Mints are very invasive and will take over if allowed.
Tropaeolum majus
Tropaeolaceae perennial 1' to 2.5' (or 6' vine) seed to 6" to 9" bushy to viney full sun to part shade until first frost dark grayish green red, orange, or yellow ornamental, culinary Sun is necessary for plant to bloom. Flowers are edible and are beautiful in salads.
Origanum vulgare
Labiatae perennial 1' to 2' 2' bushy, spreading full sun July to September green purple or white culinary Prune in order to maintain shape. Variegated is available.
Petroselinum crispum
Umbelliferae biennial 1' to 1.5' 1' rosette full sun July to September dark green greenish yellow culinary Prune old, outside leaves or harvest these first. Replace every year to avoid bolting.
Rosmarinus officinalis
Labiatae perennial 4' to 6' 3' to 4' upright and shrubby full sun early summer dark green lilac culinary Prune to desired shape. Try a hedge or topiary. This herb will not transplant well.
Ruta graveolens
Rutaceae evergreen perennial 1' to 3' 18" bushy full sun June to August bluish gray yellow ornamental Keep soil well drained. Rue causes contact dermatitis in some people.
Garden sage
Salvia officinalis
Mealy cup sage
Salvia farinacea
Mexican bush sage
Salvia leucantha

Pineapple sage
Salvia elegans

Russian sage
Perovskia atriplicifolia
Labiatae perennial  
1' to 3'

up to 4'

4' to 5'

3' to 4'

3' to 4'

2' to 3'


3' to 4'

2' to 3'




full sun to part shade  

June to September
August to September

August to October

June to August
cultivar dependent
grayish green
dark green


grayish green
white to purple
light blue






culinary, ornamental

Keep soil dry.

Prune to keep good shape.
Prune in June so stalks can hold flowers upright.
'Berggarten' is a good choice.

Butterflies love this plant!
This is a gorgeous plant worth growing!
 Texas Tarragon or
Sweet-Scented Marigold
Tagetes lucida
Asteraceae perennial 3' to 4' 2' to 3' erect and bushy full sun fall, just before frost bright green yellow culinary Prune if desired. Foliage has a terrific anise flavor.

Common thyme
Thymus vulgaris
Creeping thyme or mother-of-thyme
Thymus praecox
Lemon thyme
Thymus x citriodorus
Woolly thyme
Thymus pseudolanuginosus
Labiatae evergreen perennial  


2" to 3"

4" to 12"



6" to 8"


6" to 10"

upright and shrubby

upright and shrubby
full sun June to July  


dark green
golden edged
grayish green




culinary Divide or replace when center dies. Silver foliage may rot if overwatered.

"Woolly" refers to the herb's fuzzy leaves.
Artemisia spp.
Compositae  perennial 3' to 4' 2' to 3' bushy full sun to part shade July to August silvery green greenish yellow ornamental Silver varieties will rot if too wet. A. x 'Powis Castle' and x 'Silver King' are great choices.
Achillea millefolium
Asteraceae perennial 6" to 10" 3' to 4' spreading rosette full sun June to September grayish green white, pink, yellow ornamental, medicinal Divide after 3 to 5 years. Many cultivars are available.

        Source of Table:  Alabama Extension Service, Publications, # ANR 1164