Melody's Gardening In Central Texas

Herbs for Texas

herb gardenHerbs are some of the best plants for Texas. Most herbs like it hot and dry, so they are a natural for Texas. Herbs are a pleasure to care for; as you trim them, they fill the air with their delightful fragrance. The cuttings can often be used in cooking. You need to understand the requirements for the particular type of herb you are growing. The following list will give you the culture facts for some of the best herbs we can grow here. Try adding herbs to any ornamental or vegetable bed. Since most herbs are quite pretty, they belong in flower beds, often adding extra appeal, color, and fragrance.

You will see that on my site I have often listed herbs in the category of landscape plants, such as shrubs and groundcovers. Herbs are often overlooked as landscape plants, but in truth, they make some of the very best, easiest to care for, and cheapest plants you can use for shrubs and groundcovers. Artemisa is a fine border shrub, and thyme a great small border shrub as well. Try using Salad burnet wherever you might want a plant that looks much like a fern. It is very pretty, and it can take much more heat and sun than ferns can. You will not be disappointed!

Rosemary is my favorite herb. It is very easy to grow and care for. Plant in full sun in a location that gets good drainage. It needs moderate watering. This plant should be used where it can be seen. It releases a wonderful fragrance when rubbed. You can trim the upright varieties into shapes, like the little Christmas tree shape in this photo. It also comes in a trailing variety. Both can be used in cooking. Use some snipped rosemary when baking chicken and the whole house will be filled with its wonderful aroma.

Lavender is another great herb that is ornamental. It is, of course, famous for its aroma, but it also has pretty flower spikes in the summer. Lavender needs the same horticultural requirements as rosemary. Be sure that it has good drainage. The best variety we have found for this area is Provence.

Lemon Balm is a lesser-known herb that is great for Texas gardens. Lemon balm smells like lemon cough drops. It is related to the mint family. Though it does best in full sun, it can take a little afternoon shade.

Basil is a somewhat delicate herb. You must be sure to wait to plant it until all danger of frost is ended. It can get mildew if its leaves stay wet too long. Try to plant it so that it gets adequate ventilation. To keep the plant bushy, frequently trim back the top growth, and do not let it flower. The trimmings should be frozen or dried for use in Italian foods. There are several different "flavors" of basil. However, we do not like the non-traditional Italian basil flavors. If you are going to experiment with the unusual ones, be sure to keep the regular basil around, or you will miss it. Basil also comes in a small leaf variety, Globe basil, and a purple-leafed type. Both are good. Most herbs are perennials, coming back year after year, but consider basil to be an annual, though occasionally new plants will return on their own the next spring.

Comfrey is a large-leafed herb with drooping lavendar flowers in the spring. Comfrey has some medicinal uses, but please consult an herb book before using it; it can be dangerous if used in the wrong way. It is a nice addition to the herb bed, but be sure and give it enough room--three feet minimum.

Culinary Sage is a beautiful large herb with lavender flower spikes. You can see it in bloom in the picture at the top of the page. It smells wonderful. You may want to move your sage after a few years; sometimes if it stays too long in the same place it dies--the sage in the top picture bit the dust a year ago. Still, it is well worth having. Dry some of its leaves for use in your Thanksgiving turkey.

Oregano is used in Italian food, but the plant itself also makes a good landscape plant. It comes in several leaf colors and sizes that make it good for a knot garden or border. It takes full sun and is fairly drought tolerant, though you must water when the leaves wilt.

Mint can be used as a small shrub. It spreads very easily, so you will have to watch it or it will take over. It also comes in several leaf colors and flavors. If you keep it trimmed, it makes a nice little hedge.

Salad Burnett is a lesser-known herb that should be used more in the landscape. It has pretty fern-like leaves. It can be added to salads, with a slight cucumber-like taste. We like it mostly for its ornamental value, as it is a good substitute for ferns, which have a hard time in our environment.

Thyme is another good herb, both for culinary and ornamental uses. Since it is low-growing, it makes a nice groundcover. It likes afternoon shade to protect it from the strong sun and heat of our summers. Look for the many varieties of this interesting herb.

Go to top of page