Growing herbs in Florida

When to plant herbs in Florida

Let’s talk about one of my favorite things to grow besides veggies, herbs! Beyond making any food taste better, herbs can have many medicinal uses and provide shelter for wildlife! Let’s talk about some herbs that can be easily grown in Florida!

As most of you probably noticed, Florida doesn’t follow the same rules as the rest of the United States when it comes to gardening. Not only because it rarely ever snows (when it happens, only north Florida gets a couple of inches of snow) but also because summer here is brutal! A lot of plants struggle to survive through the heat of summertime. Let’s talk about some of the herbs you can grow here and when is the best time to grow them!

Best herbs to grow in Florida

Basil

This is easily one of my favorite herbs to have in the garden. It is easy to grow, it handles the summer heat well, and some varieties are pollinators’ best friends! You won’t have to do much to keep this plant alive! It can be grown in pots, in the ground, in raised beds, and by your window. I recommend planting basil close to your tomatoes (and no, it’s not because it makes it easier to harvest the ingredients for margarita pizza). Basil is an excellent companion plant for many vegetables helping attract benefits and deter pests.

You can grow basil from seeds, transplants, or cuttings. If you decide to grow from seed, press lightly in the soil and keep moist until germination. I recommend choosing local nurseries when purchasing seedlings, as most big box stores sell plants from sellers that do not use organic practices. One of my basil plants I started from an organic cutting I purchased in the supermarket. It is very easy to propagate from cutting; just place a small cutting in the water allowing the leaves to stay well above the water line and after 2-3 weeks it should root.

Oregano

Did anyone say pizza? This perennial herb doesn’t require a lot to grow but prefers to be placed in a location that receives full sun. If receiving everything that it needs, this plant can be grown for many years! Cuttings or seeds can be used to start a new plant; however, it will take a little longer for the plant to establish if using seeds.

When it comes to spacing, give 1-2 feet between oregano and other plants. This plant can be planted in the ground, in pots, and in raised beds. If you are in an area that receives many frost days, you may want to look into planting in a pot and moving the pot inside when there is a risk of frost.

Rosemary

This woody perennial can grow up to 5 ft given the right conditions! Rosemary can be grown in pots, raised beds, and even on landscape edges. It is important to transplant after the danger of frost has passed. When it comes to watering, it is preferred to wait until the soil is dry to water. In the majority part of the state of Florida, this plant will grow year-round. However, in north Florida, plants may die back with frost. I recommend buying the grown planted as it starting this plant from seed may be a little difficult.

Thyme

Originally from the Mediterranean area, this plant doesn’t require a lot of watering, making it a perfect choice for those that have the tendency to forget to water their plants! I am not going to lie; thyme is a herb that I don’t use a lot. However, I love the way it looks in the garden! This small shrub with silvery leaves produces small purple flowers that many pollinators love!

This plant loves the heat, making it a perfect candidate for Florida! Space plants between 1-2 feet apart to allow full growth. If the right conditions are given, thyme can grow for many years in the garden!

Parsley

This plant and I have a lot in common, we struggle in the heat! Although this is a biennial plant, it won’t survive for two consecutive years outdoor in Florida, making it an annual for most the gardeners.

Mint

One of my favorite things about having a huge vegetable/herb garden is walking outside and snacking on my veggies and plants. I love to grab a leaf or two of mint and just chew on it. Mint has so many uses and is easily one of my favorite herbs to grow! You can use it in dishes, drinks, teas, make essential oils, cleaning products, and others!

All mints are quite simple to grow and fast growers. However, I would not recommend planting in areas that are not contained. This plant grows through seeds but also through underground runners; this means that it can take over areas of a garden fast and can be very hard to kill once it is established. When it comes to soil, rich, well-drained soil is preferred, and this plant can be grown in partial or full sun.

Chives

Another herb that requires very little input is chives. The leaves of this plant have many uses, and it can be used as a garlic/onion substitute. I recommend growing chives from division rather than seeds, as it’s easier. Choose a location that receives partial-full sun in rich well-draining soil.

Fennel

My favorite part about this herb is what insects it attracts. Fennel is one of the host plants for the swallowtail butterfly. The two ways I use this plant are adding to my cut flowers bouquet and feeding the larval stage of swallowtails. Other pollinators such as wasps, bees, and ladybugs love the flowering stage. This tender perennial is sensitive to frost, but in central Florida, I have grown all year round with very little input after sowing. It takes 3-4 months for the plant to bulb up, and it can live for 3-4 years.

Fennel prefers rich, moist soil and can grow in a location that gets partial to full sun. I recommend all gardeners to have a few plants in their backyard even when they don’t intend to use the herb just because of its use for beneficial insects.

Cuban Oregano

Although not true oregano, this plant taste and smells the oregano we know; however, it is much stronger, so when using it to season dishes is important to moderate the amount. This perennial plant is very easy to care for and can be grown indoors and outdoors. When choosing a site, a location that receives partial sun is preferred. It is also important to have a location with well-drained soil, and if your area is susceptible to frost, the plant may die. In my personal experience, this is one of those plants that are hard to kill and very happy with little input.

Culantro

Native to central and south America this herb may be new to you but is vastly used in other countries in many different dishes. The name is very similar to a well-known herb loved by many (also hated), cilantro. Beyond the similar name, this herb also tastes similar to cilantro but stronger. It is preferred to choose a partially shaded area with a well drained rich soil.

Harvesting and processing

I recommend harvesting early in the morning after the leaves are dry (if it was raining recently I recommend waiting until the next day). Many herbs becomes bitter when they flower so its preferred to harvest before that happens. Both air drying or dehydrators can be used.

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