I think everyone should have a pot of herbs growing even if they only have a tiny ammount of space. Herbs generally grow well in pots and many are pretty forgiving. I grow them for cooking and decoration as well. I will often put herbs in mixed garden pots because they can add great fragrance and texture.
Almost any recipe is better if you put parsley in or on it (ok, not chocolate mousse, but you get my point). Parsley is exceedingly easy to grow. You can either buy seedlings, almost anywhere that sells plants or grow it from seed. I usually buy seedlings because the seeds can take weeks to germinate and are fussy about transplanting. If you do start parsely seeds, soak them overnight before planting.
Parsley comes in two types, Italian also called flat parsley and curly parsley. Many people prefer flat parsley for cooking and curly parsely for garnishes. I’ve never been able to tell the difference in taste. Parsley prefers full sun, but can grow in partial shade. It’s very hardy and will make it through a frost. I’ve even found perfectly usable parsley under a light covering of snow. To harvest, just snip off at the base of a stem. As with most herbs, the more you harvest, the more you’ll get.
Parsely is biennial, which means that it can come back for two years, though some think the leaves are more bitter the second year.
Parsely is an herb that will thrive if you keep using it. To harvest, cut stalks on the outside of the plant, down near the soil.
Mints make perfect pot herbs. Some mints spread so fast and aggressively, that keeping them in a container is the only way to prevent them from taking over your garden. Also, many mints are beautiful and make a great addition to a decorative planter. Mint is an incredibly easy plant to grow - hence its ability to take over the world.
Mint likes full sun, but most will tolerate some shade. Some, like spearmint can be very tall and leggy and some are low spreaders, so make sure to check your plant tag.
Mint will thrive and get bush if you keep it pinched back. As a bonus, mint roots easily from cuttings.
I particularly like pineapple mint, with it’s variegated leaves or apple mint or chocolate mint. When I make iced tea, I add handfuls of mint while it is steeping. You can also make an easy tea by simply pouring water, just after it has boiled over the leaves and steeping for a few minutes. Spearmint makes a particularly delicious tea.
I love oregano in container gardens. The leaves are beautiful and it is a plant that thrives on neglect. Oregano loves sun, and not too much water or fertilizer. Pick the leaves regularly to keep the plant compact and to keep it from blooming. Oregano is a perennial that you can either over winter it in a cool place, or propagate from cuttings. Try golden oregano, or Greek oregano for culinary uses and 'Herrenhausen' or ‘Kent Beauty’ for great flowering.
I often use orgegano in mixed containers. It spreads nicely and goes with almost any other plant.
Basil can be a bit temperamental. It is easy to start from seed, but is fussy about temperature – it gets depressed if the thermometer dips below 50 °F. Don’t attempt to put basil out early, or if you are adventurous, put it in a small enough pot, or one on wheels so that you can take it inside if the weather gets cool. I also fill up wagons in the spring and haul them in and out of my garage.
Basil also doesn’t like to be crowded and needs plenty of air circulation to be happy, so give each plant plenty of space. Basil gets cranky if it’s leaves stay wet, so water carefully. Try to let the soil dry out a bit between watering, but not to the point where the plant wilts. When your plants are about six inches tall, pinch them back so they will grow full and bushy. Make sure to keep harvesting and pinching back for the best production. After you pick the leaves never refrigerate them – they will wilt and turn black and icky. Either use right away or make into pesto and freeze.
You don't want to let basil flower, because it will get bitter afterwards, so keep using it or pinching it back.
I like Genovese for pesto, 'Siam' basil for Asian recipes and lemon basil for garnishing drinks. Large leafed basil like 'Mammoth' or curly basil are great for sandwiches. Spicy Globe' has tiny leaves and is a compact bushy plant and is gorgeous and looks beautiful in a small pot. There are also several purple basils that are tasty as well as beautiful and look great with cut flowers.
Basil is very easy to root in water.
I find that rosemary is one of the more interesting and stunning herbs to put in pots. Its stiff and spiky texture is interesting and the smell just can’t be beat. I have seen hedges of rosemary grown in pots, which are beautiful and incredibly fragrant. There are two types of rosemary, upright and creeping. Both are lovely and tasty.
Rosemary needs full sun and well draining soil. Let it dry out a bit between watering, but don't let it dry out completely. If you live in area about zone 9, (where temperatures stay above 20 °F), chances are good you can grow rosemary outside year-round.