What Are Hardy Herbs? (4 Easy To Grow)


If you are starting out on the indoor gardening adventure, I always suggest an easy start. Choose only a few potted herbs and go for the most resilient. Hardy herbs are the best for this. But do you know which herbs are hardy?

Hence, what are the most common indoor hardy herbs? Plant hardiness is the ability of a plant to withstand extreme temperature and water conditions making them very resistant and easy to maintain. The following is a list of several hardy herbs

Herb Name

Is Drought Tolerant? Source

Is Heat Tolerant? Source

Is Cold Tolerant? Source

Oregano

YES

YES

Rosemary

YES

YES

YES

Sage

YES

Thyme

YES

YES

YES

Lavender

YES

YES

Mint

YES

Parsley

YES

Chives

YES

List of Hard Herb Based on Heat-Cold-Droght

What is a Hardy Plant?

Hardiness describes the ability of a plant to survive through difficult conditions such as cold, drought, and heat. Some herbs can be tolerant to all (like thyme) while others might be more cold-resistant than eat heat resistant.

Here a little secret

As explained by Vermont, different parts of the herb are hardy to different temperatures. Hence, if you see your hardy perennial herbs die off above the surface during winter do not throw it! It might be still alive. Indeed, the roots stay intact and grow foliage back next spring.

This is for instance the case of one of the mint plants I am growing outside. It was extremely flourishing during summer and spring but is not a bare plant. Nonetheless, the roots are alive and I can see from countless dots on the soil that is going to be back to life even stronger next year when the winter is gone. This is the power of a hardy herb.

Hardiness is a must if you live in relatively hot, cold, or dry climates. It is definitely a plus if you want an easy start with growing herbs indoors as they will be quite forgiving for your inexperienced at first.

Hardy herbs are also a good alternative for those of you that are unable to pay too much attention to your plants due to travel reasons, and may not be able to regulate the indoor temperature or moisture level.

The Easiest Herb To Grow

Rosemary, lavender, oregano, and thyme are the easiest herb to grow due to their hardiness that gives allows them to survive in a wider range of temperature and watering conditions compared to other culinary herbs

There are four hardy herbs that I recommend growing at home. As you can notice from the reading, such herbs are woody. This means that, differently from cilantro or basil, they tend to develop hard and dry stems (here the name woody) and are generally (a bit like true wood I would say) more resistant.

Rosemary

Rosemary is a perennial herb that needs full light and really good air circulation. It is drought tolerant and dislikes overwatering. This is normal for an herb that is native or the rocky sea short of the Mediterranean. The ideal temperature range for Rosemary is 65-70°F (18-21°C), good news for indoor applications.

It grows as a woody shrub and depending on the variety can grow from 8-48 inches (20-120 cm). For this reason, Rosemary is best kept well pruned to keep it a suitable size for indoor gardens. Different cultivars have different colored blooms, either pink, lavender, or blue flowers in winter and spring.

Thyme

Thyme is also a perennial that enjoys either full sun or light shade. Like Rosemary, it is a woody herb, but is much smaller, growing from 6-18 inches (15-45 cm). Thyme has a slightly wider range of ideal temperatures, being 60-75°F (15-24°C). It also requires good circulation and drainage. Thyme blooms in spring and fall adding some extra color to your indoor garden.

Lavender

Lavender is an evergreen shrub that grows best in full sun, moderate water, and well-drained soil. Like Rosemary, Lavender can grow tall, ranging from 8 inches to 2 feet (20-60 cm), and is best pruned regularly to grow indoors.

Lavender is well suited to hot climates, very aerated and well-draining soil (I grow in a rocky mixture very similar to cacti soil) with a much higher ideal temperature range of 70-85°F (21-29°C). While most people think of Lavender for use in aromatics and toiletries, it is also well suited to culinary purposes. Lavender can be used in cookies and other baked goods, or because it is available in hot weather, it can be put fresh into salads or as a flavoring for ice cream.

Honey Lavender Ice Cream

Oregano

Oregano is a perennial that grows 12-24 inches (30-60 cm) and can be pruned aggressively to form smaller, bushier plants for indoor applications.

It has a lower ideal temperature range of 65-70°F (18-21°C) that hence suits many houses. Similar to Thyme there are several different varieties, which makes for great experiments to find the flavors that work best for your culinary needs.

Those Two Herbs Are Not Hardy at All

With the proper care and attention, most herbs can be grown successfully indoors. However, there are two that you will find quite hard to make them thrive indoor: cilantro and chamomile

Cilantro is a problematic herb as it needs to be grown from seed[5]. If you try to move Cilantro indoors from an outside garden it will deteriorate because of the lack of direct sunlight. It is also very sensitive to temperature variation If it is slightly too warm (very often inside your house) it will wilt and die.

Chamomile is another herb that might struggle inside as it is difficult to get the plant to flower without full sun. However, give it a try if you feel you can take care of it (with a proper sunny location or with growing lights) it is totally worth it.

It is a beautiful flowering herb that is both ornamental and widely used for herbal teas. There are two types. Roman Chamomile is perennial and grows as a ground cover. German Chamomile is a reseeding annual and grows upright to a height of 1-2 feet (30-60 cm). . It is truly the flowers that make the Chamomile plant special, and without the direct sun, your plant will find it hard to live up to its full potential.

Growing Hardy Herbs: The 2 Things To Watch Out

Water and fertilizer are the two aspects that you should be careful with.

The hardiest plants are drought tolerant, so it can be easy to overwater them. This is the case for Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, and Lavender which are best left to dry out between waterings. Here a tip for you: remember that Rosemary and Lavender also need to be pruned regularly to keep them at a suitable size for your indoor pots.

Fertilize can be another enemy for such strong herbs as very little or even no fertilizer is required. During winter, oregano actually goes dormant so requires very little care during this season and no fertilizer. If you fertilize it you might risk to kill it as discussed in this fertilizer guide

Hardy Herbs Per Country: USA & UK

To decide if a plant is hardy in your area, you can refer to the so-called plant Hardiness Zone Maps. This indicates which plants are suitable for each area you live in. These are colored maps that separate each of the 11 zones on the lowest temperatures during winter.

Each zone has (an average) temperature difference of 10F. Over the years the zone has been further refined by introducing subzones identified with the letter a and b (e.g., you might find zone 6a or 7b).

This kind of information is used in seed packets to let you know if the seed you are planting will grow into a plant that can survive the outdoor condition of your region.

These zone maps are only a very broad guide and of course do not take into consideration other factors such as wind, rain, and the number of sunny days. Moreover, if you are planning to develop an indoor herb garden, the plant hardiness map is not useful because the temperature in your house is going to be (hopefully!) higher than the lowest winter temperature.

Below you can find some of the herbs that are hardy for each area. Do not be surprised if you do not find plants in the lower (zone 1 and zone 2) and highest (zone 8 to 11). Indeed, herbs are not able to survive such extreme conditions.

United States (USDA) ZonesUnited Kingdom (RHS Rating)Hard Herbs
Zone 3Basil
Chervil
Chives
Fennel
Mint
Summer Savoury
Chamomile
Zone 4Basil
Chervil
Chives
Fennel
Mint
Summer Savoury
Tarragon
Thyme
Zone 5Mint
Basil
Anise
Chives
Dill
Oregano
Tarragon
Zone 6H6Lavender
Basil
Tarragon
Parsely
Rosemary
Cilantro
Lemon Balm
Mint
Chives
Oregano
Thyme
Sage
Zone 7H7Chives
Lavender
Mint
Rosemary

Note: Australia does have a plant hardiness system, however does not have any zones below Zone 9 USDA.

Takeaways

Rosemary, thyme, and mint (either spearmint or peppermint) are herbs that are hardy and I do recommend especially for beginners. Considering also the large variety of dishes you can do with mint, this is my personal favorite.

Cilantro and camomile are too sensitive and it is not recommended to grow them indoors, especially if new to herb gardening. You do not want to be demoralized at your first attempt.

Hardiness maps are great to identify if a plant is hard enough to survive in your area, but this does not apply if you grow it indoors.

Further Questions

What are the cold hardy herbs? Oregano, rosemary and thyme are amomng the most common culinary herbs.

What herbs can back year after year? Lavender, thyme and mint go back every year in spring after going dormant during the winter

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Andrea

A young Italian guy with a passion for growing edible herbs. After moving to the UK 6 years ago in a tiny flat, it was impossible to grow herbs outside. So I start my journey in growing indoor and so I decided to share my knowledge.

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