Not only are garden-fresh herbs delicious, but they make beautiful and beneficial additions to your garden (or if you don’t have a garden, to your patio). There are so many culinary uses and even aromatherapy benefits you can enjoy when you grow your own herbs.
If you’re like me, then you want to have herbs growing in your garden for as long as possible, even during the winter months, so there’s always something you can harvest and enjoy fresh. The good news is that there are many herbs we can grow and snip some sprigs from during the winter here in Central Texas.
Thanks to our mild winter, there’s no reason we can’t have garden-fresh herbs at our fingertips all winter long!
Which Herbs Grow Best Over Winter in Central Texas
- parsley (flat leaf/Italian or curled)
Parsley and chervil are biennials that should continue producing in your garden through the winter. Cilantro is an annual that thrives in cool weather. The others are perennials that should stay evergreen during the winter. If we happen to get several days of severe frost and snow, some of the perennial herbs might die back, but they should return from their roots in the spring.
Let’s look at each of these herbs in turn so you can narrow down which ones you want to grow this winter.
This one’s a delicate herb known for its use in French cuisine. It’s related to cilantro and parsley but adds more of a liquorice or anise flavor. Its delicate leaves might make you think of another relative: the carrot! If you grow chervil, choose a pot at least 12 inches deep and make sure to bring it inside during wintry weather. Harvest some leaves on a cold day and make your own Béarnaise sauce.
Chives are hardy enough to make it through a Texas winter. Choose between onion chives and garlic chives—or grow both! Onion chives have a slight onion flavor, rounded but hollow leaves like a green onion, and beautiful purple flowers that are edible. Garlic chives have a mild garlic flavor, flat leaves, and white flowers that are also edible. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by herb choices, chives are a great starter herb. Major bonus: their scent repels pests from your garden! Toss chopped chives on baked potatoes and warm winter soups.
Cilantro grows best in Texas from fall to spring. You’ll get an exciting bonus once the weather warms and this annual herb goes to seed: coriander (aka cilantro seeds)! If you plan to grow cilantro in a pot or container, choose something at least 12 inches deep to give the roots plenty of room. The leaves of cilantro add such a citrusy tang to dishes. We love adding cilantro to tacos and queso.
There’s a reason you can buy lavender-scented everything, and growing your own means you can enjoy this herb for its lovely fragrance and for culinary uses. Its gray-green foliage adds perennial beauty to your garden. Make sure your lavender has good drainage (it hates wet soil) and plenty of air flow to prevent fungus issues. English lavender is particularly hardy and can tolerate temps down to 23° F.
Mint is another easy perennial. Perhaps the most difficult part of growing mint is making sure it doesn’t spread to the rest of your garden and take over. It’s best to grow mint in its own container. Experiment with growing spearmint, sweet mint, and peppermint—just grow them a little bit apart if you have several varieties to help them maintain their distinct flavors. If we do get a good frost, your mint might die back but return later from the roots. Toss your fresh mint leaves in cold teas or dry your leaves and make your own tea blends.
Parsley can grow for up to 2 years in your garden space. Parsley is easy to grow from seed and can tolerate partial shade. Choose between curly parsley or flat-leaf, aka Italian, parsley—or grow both! If you plan to grow parsley in a pot or container, choose something at least 12 inches deep to give the roots plenty of room. I love tossing parsley leaves into salads or soups.
This is a super low-maintenance perennial. Even if you think your oregano is dying off, give it some time, and it will likely come back from the roots. Oregano is drought-tolerant, and established plants can survive a few frosts. This is one of my favorite herbs for cooking. I love oregano on fish and, of course, homemade pizzas.
This perennial herb is in the same family as mint, oregano, lavender, sage, and thyme. It’s easy to grow as long as you plant it in a well-drained soil, and it can survive frost. If you’re ever feeling a little down over the short winter days, rub a sprig of rosemary between your fingers for some instant mood-boosting fragrance. Harvest from your rosemary herb frequently to prevent the plant from growing too woody. Fresh leaves are excellent on chicken with some lemon.
Sage is a great herb for the fall and winter here in Central Texas. This frost-hardy perennial grows slowly, so I recommend starting with an organically grown transplant. Once your plant is established, you shouldn’t need to water very frequently. Sage is great in sauces and stuffings and pairs well with rich foods. The leaves can be sautéed to release the flavor.
This frost-hardy plant is part herb, part leafy green. Choose between garden sorrel, French sorrel, and red-veined sorrel. If you grow sorrel outside of a container, be ready to keep its growth in check. Sorrel adds a lemony tang and beautiful color to salads.
Thyme is an aromatic herb commonly used in Bouquet Garni and Herbes de Provence. German thyme has small and particularly fragrant leaves, and it’s the most cold-hardy variety for winter. You could also try lemon thyme, another favorite. Thyme brings richness to meat dishes, cheese plates, soups, and sauces.
Can You Grow Herbs Indoors over Winter?
Herbs are perfectly happy growing indoors as long as you give them enough sunlight and follow good watering habits. This goes for any of the herbs mentioned in this post.
If you’re moving in herbs that were established outdoors, don’t freak out if they drop some leaves while they’re getting adjusted to their new situation.
The Best Container for Indoor Herbs
Grab a natural container that’s at least 6 inches deep and as wide as the foliage of your herb. Terra cotta pots are a great choice for container gardening since they absorb extra water, which can prevent overwatering (the number one way to kill indoor plants).
Make sure the pot or container you choose has good drainage holes at the bottom.
You can pot up each of your herbs in a separate growing container, or you can grab a larger container and plant several herbs together.
Light for Indoor Herbs
Your herbs still need at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day even when they’re growing inside. South-facing windows will expose herbs to the most light, but you can still grow in west-, east-, and north-facing windows—just make sure sunlight isn’t being blocked by a tree or another structure.
You could also grow herbs under artificial grow lights left on for at least 12 hours a day.
Basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage are herbs that need the most light, while mint, cilantro, and parsley will make do with more shade.
Rotate your herbs each time you water them to even out their growth. If you notice herbs are still growing tall and leggy, that’s your sign that you need to up the light situation. Consider supplementing with a grow light.
It’s unlikely that indoor herbs will get too much sun during the short days of winter, but move herbs away from the window or to a different spot if you notice browning leaves.
Water for Indoor Herbs
Water basil, mint, and parsley when the top layer of soil is no longer moist. Water rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage when the soil has dried out down to your knuckle when you stick your finger in the soil.
As with outdoor herbs, make sure to aim your water on the roots, not the leaves.
Tips for Growing Over Winter
We’re so lucky to live in an area where our perennial herbs can not just survive but actually keep producing throughout the winter months. You can help your herbs out though by following these tips:
- Plant herbs in an area of the garden where they will get at least 4 hours of sun during the short days of winter.
- Plant herbs in rich, organic, well-draining soil with compost. Good soil ensures they won’t sit in water or feel stressed about a lack of nutrients.
- You can continue to plant herbs by seed up to a month before our first frost date (early November). Once you pass the beginning of October, it’s best to buy herbs as seedlings from a local nursery. That way, they’ll be more likely to handle colder temps.
- Consider planting some of your herbs in pots or containers that can be moved inside during Texas cold snaps.
How to Care for Outdoor Winter Herbs
If your herbs are in raised beds and will be remaining outdoors for freezes, follow these tips to care for them:
- Harvest herbs often to encourage more new growth.
- Prune established herbs a few weeks before the first frost. Remove any woody or dead stems and give your herb a haircut of the upper leaves.
- Monitor the moisture level in the soil. Less watering is needed over the winter due to cooler temps and the increased rainfall we generally see in winter. Your goal is to keep the soil slightly moist but not overly wet. Moist soil stays warm longer during a freeze than dry soil.
- Cover your garden with frost cloth on nights when we’re expecting a freeze. Even though hardier herbs like oregano, thyme, and sage can survive some frost, they’ll appreciate a little protection from the worst of the wintry weather. I recommend these frost cloths, but if you’re in a pinch, old sheets or towels or even a tarp draped over hoops, a frame made from PVC pipes, or a large tomato cage will work. Make sure to remove the cover in the daytime if temps are expected to climb back up to the 50s or higher.
Will Herbs Survive in Pots Over Winter?
Herbs grown in pots tend to be a little less robust than herbs in raised beds because they don’t have as much room to reach for extra water and resources. That doesn’t mean they won’t survive the winter.
Just bring your potted herbs inside or give them some protection against the cold whenever temps dip below 26 degrees. Even moving potted herbs to a more sheltered location next to your home, like on a patio or front stoop, can help them feel a bit warmer and survive the night. Frost cloth can be draped over potted herbs, or in a pinch, you could cover your containers with upside-down cardboard boxes or plastic containers overnight. Weight your makeshift cover down with something heavy.
Some herbs, like cilantro and chervil, are more sensitive to the cold than others.
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