5 Herbs to Buy at The Nursery Instead of Starting From Seed

by | Apr 21, 2020

When I first started gardening, one of the most frustrating things was not knowing that some plants are really hard to start from seed. I’m not saying these herbs are impossible to start from seed, but they often pose more difficulty or expend more resources than buying a small pot at the nursery to start. I think beginner herb gardening should be really fun and rewarding! So, if you want to start an herb garden, check out this list of herbs I’d buy at the nursery and skip starting from seed.

Did you know that some seeds can take up to a month to germinate—and unsuspecting gardeners think that they failed when they aren’t seeing any growth! Some seeds need cold temperatures in order to germinate, and some even need special treatments such as soaking or scarring. This can be very frustrating for a beginner gardener. Can you imagine?

Thankfully, this list covers 5 AMAZING herbs that I think you should have in your garden, but I also recommend purchasing them from a local nursery to avoid frustration. Even better news is, these herbs are also perennials, which means that once you buy them once they will continute to come back in your garden year after year. For more information on annual versus perennial herbs, check out my FREE Herb Growing Guide which is available to all email list subscribers!

1) Lavender

Lavender is one of my favorite scents ever! It’s also an herb that flourishes here in my mediterranean climate, and requires little water once established. Lavender is notoriously difficult to germinate, but somewhat easy to propogate—so you have the potential to make more plants off your original later by taking cuttings. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry, I teach you how to propagate plants from cuttings. Propagating a plant, means to take a cutting and actually root it to create an identical plant. Some gardeners use water to root the cutting, while others use a soil medium.

Lavender is a perennial herb that will return to your garden year after year. You can dry lavender for culinary uses, use it in potourri satchets, or simply let it be a pollinator plant. Bees love it! Sometimes I’ll rub my fingers on the lavender while walking through the garden just to benefit from the calming scent.

Choose the right type of lavender. Lavandula is a huge genus that encompasses all types of lavender (such as english, french, spanish, lavandin,  and more). Different varieties are better suited for different purposes. In my garden, I prefer to grow lavender for culinary purposes. Therefore, I purposely chose ‘munstead’ lavender (a type of English lavender) to grow because using it is said to have the best flavor for cooking.  Therefore, if you are looking to use lavender for a specific purpose, make sure to research what type to purchase. *This year I have also added ‘grosso’ lavender to my garden because it is a variety that is commonly used for oils and for its scent.

Read How to Grow & Harvest Lavender for Culinary Use

gardener holding rosemary sprig before harvest

If you have the climate for rosemary, grow it! Rosemary bushes grow very large here, although you can also keep rosemary in a pot. One plant will provide you with more rosemary than you’ll ever need and you’ll save money!

2) Rosemary

Rosemary is so rewarding for beginner herb gardeners. Actually, it is still rewarding for me after many years of gardening. You will save so much money growing your own rosemary! For example, one bundle at the grocery store can cost you up to $4.00, but if you purchase this plant once, you can have it for years. We have three rosemary bushes in our front yard that have already been there for the last five years.

Rosemary is another example of a drought tolerant, perennial herb—although mine acts like an evergreen here in Southern California. Rosemary will tolerate more clay-like soil or poorer quality soil.  It can be dried and made into barbecue rubs, seasonings, crackers, foccacia, and more!

Rosemary is also easy to propagate from cuttings so that you can create free plants from your original plant!

example of singular culinary bay leaf

This is culinary bay. Yes, the same herb that we see as dried leaves in the grocery store. If you’re looking to grow bay in a container, I highly recommend the variety ‘little ragu’.

3) Bay (laurus nobilus)

Yes, you can grow your own bay leaves! These aromatic leaves are dried and used in pasta sauces, soups, and stews. The leaves are then typically removed from the dish before serving. One little jar at the store can be pricey, but did you know that those leaves come from a tree that can grow over 15 feet tall? I keep my bay tree in a large pot and have been training it as a patio tree.

Word of caution: there are bay imposters out there that are not edible! This is because bay is also sold as a ornamental and hedge plant, so a lot of retailers who focus on landscaping stock “bay trees” which might not be the edible laurus nobilus. Only purchase from reliable vendors that specifically state the bay they sell is for culinary use and is “laurus nobilus.”

Not only would bay make a pretty addition to a beginner herb garden or patio oasis, but it also is simply a beautiful landscape plant. Bay trees are evergreen! Thus, they are the perfect addition to an edible landscape where it can be difficult to maintain visual interest year-round. Bay would be very beautiful combined with some of the other evergreen herbs mentioned here (like rosemary) in the garden.

thyme herb flowering in the garden

We use a lot of thyme in our kitchen. I use thyme fresh from the garden, but I also dry thyme to store in our pantry. There are many different varieties of thyme, and I like to avoid consuming the groundcover varieties.

4) Thyme

Thyme is another wonderful, perennial herb for your garden or edible landscape and I highly recommend it for beginner herb gardening! There are many different varieties of thyme to choose from, and some gardeners even use thyme as a more drought tolerant groundcover in the garden (I personally avoid eating those). Some of my favorite uses for this herb is in chicken soup, roast chicken, as a unique ice cream infusion, roasted vegetables, anything potato and more. If you head to your local nursery, you’ll probably find different thyme scents like orange, lemon, and lime. While I like to include different scents in the garden, be sure to pickup a thyme that you would like for cooking—I like French thyme.

Like many of the beginner friendly herbs discussed here, thyme serves many functions. For example, I wrote about thyme as a companion plant for roses. Plant thyme along garden borders or edges to confuse pests with its strong scent but also to attract beneficial insects like hover flies, ladybugs, and bees.

lemon verbena plant

Lemon verbena is one of my favorite plants to grow for fragrance. I just love rubbing my hand over the leaves for a refreshing burst of lemon scent! It’s also one of the most challenging herbs for me to grow here!

5) Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena has been the hardest herb for me to grow. In fact, if you’re a beginner gardener that doesn’t use lemon verbena much anyway, you might want to skip it. Lemon verbena seems very finicky about its placement—and I’ve found it does not like full sun in my garden. Even if you wanted to start lemon verbena from seed, I don’t know that you could find the seeds anyway. That might be because lemon verbena is difficult to germinate and the whole industry knows it (I honestly don’t know) haha.

Lemon verbena is pure lemony goodness. To me, it smells like a strong lemon cleaner….super bright and refreshing! I like it dried for hot tea or floating in a glass of iced tea on a hot day. It also is delicious chopped into a fruit salad or infused into a sorbet. I honestly wish I was better at growing it!

Lemon verbena is a perennial in my climate, and I am carefully nursing my plant out of dormancy for the first time. So far, it has liked growing in a pot on my patio with partial sun. Wish me luck!

Head to the Nursery

Not only is shopping at your local nursery fun, but there are sometimes advantages to picking up a  plant or two versus trying to grow it yourself. For beginners, visiting a local nursery can also offer insight into what is “in season” currently. Most reputable nurseries change out their inventory based on our local seasons/climate, so this is also a helpful tool for anyone looking to start a garden. If you’re about to embark on your beginning herb gardening journey, welcome! I have lots of resources for starting seeds, how to start an herb garden, and a free herb guide for all email subscribers! If you found this article helpful, please share it with a friend, leave a comment, or pin this blogpost for reference later.

♦Herb reminder: Always do your research before consuming any herb. Pregnant women should always discuss which herbs are safe with their doctors. Remember, just like foods, certain people can have allergies to herbs. 

Other Herb Related articles:

Preserving Basil in a Dehydrator

Basic Guide to Growing Herbs

Dehydrated Lemon Peel Powder

Herb Inspired Centerpiece Ideas

Grow Your Own Garlic

A Classic Basil Pesto

Meet Randi

Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

For Growers & Gardeners from High Mowing Organic Seeds