Fall is a good time to plant herbs

Fall is a good time to plant herbs

As with many of our perennials, fall is the ideal time of year to plant most herbs as well (with the exception of summer annuals, like basil and summer savory). If you’ve never tried growing herbs, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fun and easy it is to grow these sensory, yet useful, plants. Herbs are links to our ancient past, having been cultivated almost since the beginning of time.

Basically, herbs need good garden soil with proper drainage and at least six hours of sunlight per day. If they don’t get enough sun, most herbs will not be able to adequately develop essential oils in their leaves. Some herbs grown without adequate sunlight may appear to thrive but will not have the right flavor or fragrance (remember that most herbs are native to the Mediterranean region). Most herbs also benefit from regular light pruning, so cut and use them often.

I grow my herbs in raised beds right outside my back door so they are easily accessible for quick collection for meal prep. This location also offers the ability to enjoy the wonderful scents of hanging herbs (especially my favorite rosemary) that are released when passing on the walkway. But herbs can also be incorporated into your vegetable garden, ornamental landscape or containers.


As mentioned above, one of my favorites is rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), not only for its wonderful scent but also for its culinary uses. Rosemary is divided into two types, standing or prostrate, and has many different varieties.

The upright varieties can grow into a shrub three to four feet tall in our area, and can sometimes reach five or six feet. Prostrate varieties have a trailing habit that makes them suitable for hanging baskets or containers. Once established under the right conditions, rosemary will provide for your needs for many years. My upright rosemary is over 20 years old and still going strong.

Sweet bay

Sweet bay (Laurus nobilis), also known as sweet laurel or sweet laurel, is an evergreen shrub or tree. Bay leaves can be used to season soups, stews, sauces, marinades or stuffing, and are one of the main ingredients of the classic French cuisine bouquet garni. The leaves can be used fresh or dried but be sure to remove them before serving as they are very rough.

Once mature, sweet bay reaches temperatures up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit and can grow up to 25 feet tall. Plant it in a sunny south or east location near your home or building for protection. I have grown my bay on the east side of the house as well for over 20 years and it grows about 20 to 25 feet tall. Note that new plants grow slowly for the first two years, but once established they grow very quickly. The only problematic lesions can be widespread.

Delicious winter

Winter sage (Satureja montana) is a winter-hardy evergreen, unlike summer sage (Satureja hortensis), which is an annual herb that blooms during the summer. The winter relish is commonly used in poultry and vegetable dishes, especially with various types of beans. Although it is said to be easy to grow from seed, I cannot personally attest to this, as I purchased a young plant. In addition, it is usually resistant to pests and diseases and often appears in knot gardens.


Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a popular culinary herb for seasoning poultry and pork. Unfortunately, it is difficult to grow here because it does not like summer heat and humidity. Although they are classified as perennials, they often die back even when planted in a high, dry location in full sun. I have found that it works best in a clay pot covered with small rocks or pebbles. However, I only had one person left alive for two or three years at most.


Comfrey (Symphytum peregrinum) is another hardy perennial that tolerates cold winters. It grows best in partial sun, but with some afternoon shade from the hot summer sun. Comfrey has a rich history of medicinal use for topical and internal infections, but it is no longer considered safe for human consumption.

It can be applied externally to treat conditions such as sprains, swelling, and bruising. However, I must stress the importance of consulting a trained medical professional before using it for any medical purposes. Personally, I have not tried these applications. I just enjoy the beautiful drooping bluebells when they bloom in the spring and summer and pollinators are attracted to them too.


Rue (Ruta Graveolens) is another medicinal herb that I grow solely for its beautiful bluish-green leaves and small yellow flowers. They are evergreen perennials, but most of all they are a host plant for black swallowtail and giant swallowtail butterflies. Just be careful when handling or working around rue, as the leaves can cause dermatitis in sensitive people.


Dill (Anethum graveolens) is a cool weather annual that grows well from seeds planted in the fall. Besides its obvious culinary uses, dill’s attractive ferny leaves and umbrella-like yellow flowers enhance the beauty of the garden and it is a host plant for the swallowtail butterfly.


Fennel is similar to dill, but there are two different types. Common fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is grown for its shoots, leaves and seeds, while Florentine or sweet fennel (Foeniculum bulgare) is grown for its bulbous, leafy base, which is eaten as a cooked vegetable but can be more difficult to grow at this time. region. I have bronze fennel, a reliable perennial, growing in my herb garden because I love its beautiful leaves. In addition, it serves as a host plant for swallowtail butterflies.

As you can see there are many different varieties, qualities and uses of herbs. If you haven’t tried growing herbs, I hope I’ve inspired you to give them a place in your garden.

Cindy Horning is a master gardener volunteer for UF/IFAS Leon County Extension, an equal opportunity organization. For gardening-related questions, email AskAMasterGardener@ifas.ufl.edu.

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