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Aromatic plant - The pleasures of potted herbs

The culture of fine herbs in pots can be simple and does not require a lot of material.

It is not necessary to own land to cultivate fine herbs, as they grow very well in pots.

This culture, which can be done in or outdoors, requires just little space, suitable sunlight and some free time. Here's what you'll need to start.

Fine herbs in pots can survive for many years as long as adequate conditions exist and they receive appropriate care. For example, marjoram can produce from two to four years, oregano, savory and sage, one or two years and parsley, six to nine months.

Potential locations

The balcony, lawn, patio, windowsill or even the staircase are all potential growing sites. The large variety of containers and plants promote the creation of inviting, verdant decoration. Be they formal or natural decors, a balance between plants and the structural elements is desirable. Blends of fine herbs, bushes and flowers, in the same pots or planted separately, will produce stunning results.

Special conditions

Potted plants are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations than plants cultivated in the ground. It should be noted that in a pot, the soil temperature is lower than the air temperature by 2.5oC due to water evaporation.

During hot sunny days

  • Water more frequently. Pots exposed to the sun heat up, particularly dark coloured pots.
  • Plant annual flowers or fine herbs that are more resistant to drying in the smaller pots.
  • Use light coloured pots.

Windy days

  • Protect plants with a windscreen, most certainly if you live on the fifth floor or above.
  • Use pots with bases wide enough to support densely foliated plants, even on a second or third floor balcony.
  • Place stakes in the pot.

Choosing pots - The right dimensions

To reach maturity, fine herbs need pots at least 20 cm wide. It is preferable to re-pot plants in containers that have diameters that are just slightly larger.

Good to know

  • As more soil is exposed to the sun, soil in flared pots dries more rapidly than in narrow pots.
  • The containers must be large and deep enough to allow proper root growth and, from this, the exposed plant parts.
  • Too large or too small slows growth. In the first instance, the slow growth is caused by excess humidity. In the second, because cramped roots cannot provide enough water and nutritional elements.
  • Larger, shallower pots are used for plants that have superficial roots like thyme, savory and tarragon.


When roots become compressed, or grow out of the pot, or when growth slows without any apparent cause, it becomes necessary to re-pot the plant.

  • Annuals: re-potted in the spring.
  • Perennials: spring and the fall.
  • Bi-annuals: re-potted in the fall, keeping in mind that the new pots must be at least five cm larger than the soil clomp.

Soil must be of good quality.

  • Moss-based soils are light, somewhat acid and easy to use. They dry rapidly and can only be re-humidified by soaking when they become too dry.
  • Compost-based soils are relatively rich and heavy. Thus, they need less fertiliser.

Re-potting a plant already in a large pot

  1. Remove the plant from the pot
  2. Carefully remove the soil from around the roots
  3. Cut off a third of the roots with scissors or shears
  4. Re-pot in the same pot with new soil
  5. Remove one third of the leaves (optional)

Deficiencies and excesses

Learning to recognize the symptoms of deficiencies and excesses of the principal nutritional elements is a vital element in pot cultivation. Fertilising errors cannot be compensated as in ground planting.

  • Lack of nitrogen (N): pale green foliage and the browning of bottom leaves that don't fall off the branches.
  • Lack of phosphorous (P): the undersides of the leaves turn purple.
  • Lack of potassium (K): when the point of the intermediary leaves turn brown.
  • Lack of calcium: browning of the points and edges of young leaves.
  • Excess humidity: when the bottom leaves of a plant turn yellow, brown and fall off.