Herbs in Containers
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Jen Downing
Posted on: December 5, 2000

I’m very interested in growing herbs for culinary as well as medicinal purposes. This past summer I started with basil, thai basil, rosemary, sage and thyme...all in separate containers. Since the beginning, I lost both rosemary and thyme to over fertilization.

I live in Massachusetts but don’t have access to planting a garden in the ground. The house gets sun on the east in the morning and south/west in the afternoon. Can you recommend herbs that would do well in containers given the zone of Massachusetts? Also, I am planning on leaving the sage plant outside during the winter months but I’m not sure about how to prepare it for the cold conditions, any suggestions?

If you wish to leave plants outside to winter in containers, their roots will experience temperatures equivalent to what in-ground plants experience two zones further north than your location. To see what your zone is please consult the zone map shown on our web-site under Richters Info Center. Our catalogue lists the zones to which the plants are hardy to, to the right of the botanical name. Choose plants that can tolerate zones that are two zones lower than your zone. Your light levels should be fine for most herbs.

One thing I think I should mention is that rosemary must never dry out, since that kills the roots and about a months later this causes the plant to dry out and look dead even though it really already died when the roots dried out. This is the reason so many rosemaries die when they are taken into the house to pass the winter, because the root system is not big enough to cope with the more rapid drying in an interior environment. All too often the root system dries out very quickly and causes the whole plant to die.

Thyme is less fussy, but a complete drying out will kill it too.

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