Cooking & Living in Small Spaces with Style

15 Popular Herbs To Grow On Your Apartment Balcony

Plants, Balcony-Porch-Verandahshirley byrdComment
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So you have a gorgeous sun-filled apartment balcony for gardening!  And you want to grown a small herb garden.  Yes, you can do it and it's easier than you think.

Knowing the basics of container gardening, plant watering needs and the type of potting soil you will need is critical.  Equally important is knowing the growth habits and environmental needs of the herb you select.  

Care of most herbs are similar.  Look for more details at the end, as well as a list for additional reading.  Source for nutritional information comes primarily from an excellent site:  Nutrition And You.  

Selecting your herbs according to your culinary and nutritional needs is the fun part.  Below are 15 herbs suitable for small space herb gardens.  Herb names, a short list of culinary and nutritional benefits are given.  Herbs listed include the following:  Basil, Bay tree and leaves tree, Chives, Cilantro (coriander leaves), Dill, Fennel, French Tarragon, Lavender, Mint, Nasturtium, Parsley, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme.  

Herbs for a balcony garden



*Try the Ocimum basilcum "Genovese" for its "sweet clover flavor." Other varieties available.
*sweet basic is spicy, sweet, anise (licorice) and clove-like.
*Annual, zones 4-10 Grows 12 to 18 inches.
*Culinary uses: pesto, vegetable & meat dishes, & eggs
*Nutrition: anti-oxidant, high in Vitamin A & beta carotine
Image: Urban Farmer

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Bay (tree and leaves)

*Lauraceae laurus (bay leaf)
*Small tree but can be cut into a bush form, zones 8-11
*Flavor: Pungent and bitter leaves (if eaten but is not recommended; dried leaves give a herbal fragrance, slightly floral & is similar to oregano.
*Culinary uses short list: bouquet garni, sauces, spice blends, seafoods, poultry, meet & vegetable
*Nutrition: Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Folic Acid & more
*Image: Minnesota Herb Society



* Allium schoenoprasum
*Perennial, zone 3-9 Grows 12 to 18 inches
*Flavor: one variety taste like a mild onion, the other like garlic.
*Culinary uses: prized for its subtle onion flavor; added to soups, stews & salads. Also used as a garnish in many French and Mediterranean dishes.
*Nutrition: Rich in essential vitamins, such as A, C and K.
*Image: You Grow Girl blog


Coriander (Cilantro)

*Coriandrum sativum (also known as Cilantro)
*Perennial but grown as an Annual, zone 3-11. Grows up to 2 feet.
*Flavor: multifacted see Serious
*Culinary uses: Popular in Asia & east European dishes; Enhances the flavor of soups, sauces & salads, including chicken, meat and fish.
Health Benefits: Low in calories & cholesterol; rich source of essential vitamins, as well as folic acid and anti-oxidants.



*Anethum graveolens.
*Annual, zones 3-11 Grows 2 to 3 feet.
*Flavor: seeds are similar caraway
*Culinary uses: dill (pickled) cucumbers, soups, salads, cottage cheese & roasted potatoes.
*Nutrition: good source for anti-oxidant, vitamins A & C & beta carotene
*Image: Blue Bonnet Herb Farms



*Foeniculum vulgare
*Perennial, zones 5-11. Grows 18 to 24 inches
*Flavor: Stalks and seeds have a mild "anise-flavored celery." The bulb, used as vegetable, has a stronger anise flavor and is crunchy.
*Culinary uses: soups, stews and salads. Leaves often used as garnishes.
*Image: Best Juicer Spot


*Perennial zones 5a-9b Grows 12 to 18 inches *Flavor: floral, slightly sweet
*Other uses: lavender is widely known and used for fragrant and medicinal purposes from scent oils to sachets to soothing and calming headaches.
*Culinary uses: condiment in salads & dressings; flavors baked goods; and flowers can be candied for cake decorating. High quality honey is produced from bees collecting nectar from lavender flowers.

Mint (Mentha)

* Mentha (genus) There are 20+ species & varieties in a wide range of color, frangrance & flavor, such as the variegated pineapple
*Perennial, zones 5-11. Grows 12 to 18 inches
*Culinary uses: herbal tea, flavoring for ice cream, soups, sauces & salads, as well as a garnish.
*Nutrition: anti-oxidant, essential oils & vitamins, and dietary fiber.



*Nasturtium tropaeolum majus
Every part of nasturtium is edible, even the flowers are prized for garnishing.
*Annual, zones 9-11. Grows upright or as a hanging plant. Dwarf sizes are available. Flowers come in yellow, orange, white or red. Many varieties.
*Flavor: leaves have a peppery taste.
*Culinary uses: Seven of them are listed on Wiki-How-Nasturtiums-use-in-foods. Some of the uses include adding leaves to salads, in condiments and salad dressings. Flowers are edible and used garnishes.
*Caution: if used for medicinal purposes, should not be given to small children.
*Image: Nichols Garden Center



*Origanum vulgare
*Perennial, zones 5-9. Grows over 2 feet
*Flavor: Pungent "balsaimic"
*Culinary uses: pizza, spahetti & many Italian dishes. Complements beef or lamb stews, gravies, salads, soups and even tomato juice.
*Nutritonal value: Anti-oxidants, vitamin A; and minerals, such as potassium, calcium and iron.

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*Petroselinum crispmum (curly leaf; Petroselinum neapolitanum (flat leaf)
*Biennial but grown as an annual, zones 3-9. Grows 12 to 18 inches.
*Flavor: Mildly "bitter" taste. Adds balance or rather brightens savory dishes. (reading suggestion: Simply
*Culinary uses: meat dishes, soups, and salads. Curly parsley is also used as a garnish.
*Nutritional value: source for minerals (potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, etc.); and is rich antioxidant vitamins (A, beta-carotene, C and E).
*Image: Mystical Magical

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* Rosmarinus officinalis
*Evergreen upright or trailing sub-shrub (Also grown as a topiary), zones 9-10
*Flavor: Pungent with a pine-like fragrance
*Culinary uses: Lamb, pork, chicken & rabbit dishes, as well as vegetables. (Excellent seasoning for oven-fried potatoes!)
*Nutritional value: Rich in the vitamin B-group, such as folic acid; good source for anti-oxidants & vitamins A and C.
*Image: Bergamot (check out this site for an excellent rosemary oi!) and anns-liee food photography

thyme herbs-pantry garden


*Thymus vulgaris
*Perennial zones 5-9, Grows 12 to 18 inches.
*Flavor: Slightly minty flavor
*Culinary uses: "seasoning blends for poultry and stuffing and also commonly used in fish in fish sauces, chowders, and soups. It goes well with lamb and veal as well as in eggs, custards, and croquettes. Thyme often is paired with tomatoes." -Spice
*Nutrition: Packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including rich in potassium, iron and manganese.


Choose the Right Container

Choosing the right container for your herb gardening planning will depend upon considerations such as the following:

  • the herbs you select and how many;
  • the size of the plant (Containers that are too large will encourage increased root growth production; too small and the plant quickly becomes root bound. Both conditions reduces top growth.)
  • how much space you can or wish to allocate;
  • your design preference (a casual look versus a modern, formal look); 
  • your level of experience with apartment gardening; and
  • whether or not you will bring some or all of your herbs indoors for the winter.   

Almost any type of container may be used.  Still, you will need be aware of how much sun you get and is your sight windy? Both conditions will quickly dry out your plant pots.  Self-watering planters are by far ideal for water issues.  Pot planter designs are almost endless.  But the basic shapes are for vertical gardening, planter boxes,  clay and plastic pots, and large single containers, such as extra large pots or wheel barrel.  

See the next image collage for some examples of garden containers.  Also, check out Do It Yourself sites for ideas and saving money. The vertical herb garden below is actually a shipping pallet. Instructions for such a re-purpose project can be found at Life On A Balcony, "How To Turn A Pallet Into A Garden."  Of course, you can purchase plant pots at local garden centers, hardware and department stores, as well as online.

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Collage of planter pot types: vertical pallet, planter box, clay pots, clay strawberry pot and plastic rail plant container.
 PALLET for vertical gardenin originially from Life On The Balcony; Rail planter, see Gardening with disabilities on Mother Earth; Strawberry image FROM BLACKBV.HUBPAGES.COM  

Purchasing or making your own potting soil mix

Ordinary potting soil, especially that from the ground, can be too heavy.  Herbs like a very loose, quick draining  soil. You can purchase a good pre-mixed potting soil and modify it. Or if you decide to make your own soil, you can follow this advice from Fine Gardening:

Potted herbs do well in compost and a sterile medium of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite, with quick- and slow-release fertilizer (compost is slow release). For all pots, throw enough compost in each pot to allow room for adding a depth of 6 more inches of sterile medium. Sparingly mix in water-absorbing polymers; they lessen the need for watering by making the best use of available moisture.

Nasturtium and thyme need special mixes:
For nasturtium, omit compost, and add extra vermiculite. Nasturtium needs light and lean soil to produce an abundance of flowers. Thyme requires sharp drainage, so you need to add grit (fine gravel or coarse sand).
— Fine Gardening

Incredible Sources Used To Write This Post

The one take away I got from writing this post was just how important herbs are not just in making foods taste delightful and look beautiful but its role in providing valuable nutrition.  I learned this at, and had heavily relied upon, Nutrition And You.  It gives excellent detailed profiles for herb nutrition.   

Other sites that were extremely helpful, and I hope you can visit them, are as follows:                                    

Herb Gardening - All they do is herb and that's really a good thing!
Planet Natural - You'll love their detailed, expert advice on growing herbs. 
Fine Gardening - an excellent garden magazine
Cure Joy - Interesting tips on healthier eating using herbs

Finally, growing herbs on your apartment balcony has a theraputic effect, as well as the wonderful feeling of accomplishment.  Harvesting "your herb crop" always gives great pleasure when cooking.

I had been a volunteer master gardener for 5-1/2 and in 3 different states. I quickly learned that there is always something new, fun and challenging to learn about gardening.  I so hope if you havn't taken the path for apartment gardening, you will.  Starting with herbs is a great beginning.  If you already grow herbs on your balcony, I would love to hear from you--your experiences and challenges, even a correction to this post.

Most Important:  Have Fun

This post was moved and updated from annsliees blog dated June 20, 2015.