How to create a balcony herb garden – for a floral and fragrant outside space

Herbal container displays can help you to make the most of your balcony, patio or terrace

Balcony garen with planters and pots
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Creating a balcony herb garden is a great way to cultivate delicious, beautiful and aromatic herbs this year. Whether you are an experienced gardener or a beginner, there are many balcony garden ideas available to try, regardless of plot size or gardening expertise. 

There are thousands of aromatic herbs suitable for a range of growing conditions, with some preferring full sun while others will grow happily in shade. Herbs are defined as plants that have medicinal or culinary applications that are enjoyed for their fragrance, taste or healing properties. 

So, if you have a balcony, why not consider herb planter ideas this year? Here, we share advice from herb gardening experts to help you transform your balcony into a thriving herb haven. 

Herb planters with green foliage

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How to create a balcony herb garden

Growing herbs is possible in any outside space regardless of your gardening skills. There are many herbs to choose from, with both popular household favorites and more unusual herbs for those gardeners seeking something unique to grow. 

Advice on planning a balcony herb garden

Plants in pots on a balcony

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Before buying any plants, take the time to plan your balcony herb garden. Doing a small amount of work now, selecting the right pots, herbs and edible plants for your space will prevent problems further down the line. 

'As an urban gardener, I try to find ways to be creative when growing food,' says Alexis Bumpers, an urban gardener from Washington, DC. 'I utilize a lot of pots and containers to grow different types of herbs and edible plants.'

Gardening with pots and containers can allow you to get creative, as Alexis says, growing crops with different heights, foliage, floral colors and tastes. Gardening in this way will help you make the most of your outside space. 

'The key to growing food in small spaces is finding seeds and plants that are bushy, compact and dwarf, as these varieties are most manageable in a small garden or balcony,' Alexis says. 

'I like to grow thyme, basil, oregano, cilantro, sage and dill in pots, combined with edible plants that are great to grow such as strawberries, peppers, lettuce and tomatoes,' Alexis adds. Companion planting is certainly recommended, and growing herbs alongside edible crops and flowering plants, as Alexis does, will yield the best results and deter pests. 

Finally, consider how you can maximize your growing space, which could involve adding more planters, using window boxes, or even utilizing vertical garden ideas to grow more produce. Vertical and living wall planters suitable for balconies are available from Walmart.

Alexis Bumpers headshot
Alexis Bumpers

Alexis Bumpers is a DC resident, Master Gardener in training with a passion for growing food in her urban backyard. Alexis has grown all sorts of fruits, veggies, herbs, and flowers in her small backyard, and continues to find ways to grow new foods each year.

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Planting ideas for a balcony herb garden

Chives in bloom with purple flowers

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The herbs you select for your balcony herb garden will be decided by the growing conditions relevant to your location determined by US hardiness zones, but also by your personal planting preferences. 

As a general rule, group herbs together that require similar conditions. For example, some of the best drought-tolerant herbs such as rosemary, sage and oregano all prefer a sunny spot and require minimal watering, so they work well when grown in a planter. 

It is also a good idea to include evergreen crops, such as rosemary or sage, combined with deciduous plants, such as basil or chives. Providing year-round interest on a balcony is important, particularly when space is limited. In addition, it is best to include a mixture of foliage and flowering plants, such as evergreen bay combined with some of the best lavender varieties

One herb that can provide height in a balcony herb garden is lemon verbena, Aloysia citrodora, an aromatic plant with lime green foliage. 'Lemon verbena is the only verbena I know with scented leaves,' says Ali McEnhill, plant expert and owner of the Old Dairy Nursery in the Hudson Valley. 'Plus, it makes the best tea. I grow it as an annual in pots outside my kitchen and cannot get enough.' 

For a herbaceous middle layer, Ali recommends chamomile, with beautiful daisy-like flowers blooming for much of the spring and summer. 'The annual chamomile is best for tea, with a delicious taste, plus it self-seeds prolifically and you may never know that it’s not a perennial,' Ali adds. 

'My favorite herb for taste is the classic chive, Allium schoenoprasum,' Ali says. 'The adorable pompom lilac-pink flowers have a delicate onion-garlic flavor, perfect for any balcony herb garden.' Fortunately, for gardeners asking how to grow chives, this herb is considered one of the easiest and low-maintenance crops to plant and would thrive as part of your balcony herb garden. 

 Ali McEnhill headshot
Ali McEnhill

Ali is a self confessed plant geek, gardener, and propagator, owning and operating a plant nursery on an old dairy farm in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley. Ali focuses on growing hardy perennials, trees, and shrubs that thrive outdoors in the cold climate.

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Container herb gardening advice

A range of vegetable plants in pots on a balcony

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When planting your balcony herb garden, ensuring that you use the best potting soil for herbs is important. Use a high-quality potting mix with plenty of drainage, incorporating sand, grit or perlite if necessary. 

During the heat of summer, you may need to pay a little more attention to your balcony herb garden. Monitor watering closely, ensuring that your containers do not dry out. If you are due to go on holiday, ensure that a neighbor or friend can water your herbs. The general best practice is to water your herbs when the top inch of soil feels dry, which will vary from month to month.

Fertilizing your plants is crucial when growing in containers. In such a small and controlled environment your herbs will be reliant on you for feeding which is recommended through the growing season. 

In the winter months, protect your herbs from snow or frost by placing them against the exterior wall of your apartment or next to the windows of your property whereby the heat that your apartment emits will create a microclimate and afford some protection from the harsh winter weather. 


What herbs are best for a balcony in shade?

Mint and chives are two herbs that grow well in shade. While the flavor might be less intense and the plant may produce fewer blooms, both will grow just fine and add fragrance to your balcony herb garden. One mint variety that grows well in part shade is the delicious mojito mint, available from Burpee.

Cultivating a balcony herb garden in containers is an ideal option for those with limited outside space, adding fragrance and flowers to your balcony. 

Many herbs can be easily propagated, by cuttings or division, which can help to grow your herb collection without breaking the bank. So, if you have a friend with a large mint plant or sizeable clump of chives, perhaps they might gift a small cutting or two for your balcony collection. 

Thomas Rutter
Content Editor

Thomas is a Content Editor within the Gardens Team at Homes and Gardens. He has worked as a professional gardener in gardens across the UK and in Italy, specialising in productive gardening, growing food and flowers. Trained in Horticulture at the Garden Museum, London, he has written on gardening and garden history for various publications in the UK.