Many herbs can be grown from seed, but that's not always a good idea. Here's an example: It's easy to obtain lavender seed, but most lavender species are spotty and unreliable when it comes to germination. The plants are fragile when they're small, too. Below I have a list of popular herbs and some suggestions (yea or nay) about starting them from seed.
Here are a few general tips first:
New plant cultivars are coming out all the time, so making a blanket statement about any plant is risky. A few years ago, I'd have shouted from the rooftops that growing rosemary where they're a risk of frost is a lousy idea. Now there are frost tolerant varieties that can survive in areas as cold as zone-5. The recommendations below have worked for me. If you want to have a fun, successful experience in the garden, stick with seeds that are easy to propagate and buy small plants of other varieties you may want to try.
If you want extra information, take a look at the plant profiles in the left pane of this blog. When in doubt about what will grow in your area, check for zone recommendations on seed packet and in online plant descriptions.
Another excellent resource is your local nursery. Landscape experts in your area know what types of plants grow best in your microclimate. Take a look at what they're selling, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
You can also check with your local USDA Cooperative Extension Office for plant or planting recommendations. This free regional service provides lots of information useful to gardeners. For more comprehensive information about regional growing zones and to find the phone number for your Cooperative Extension office, follow these links:
Herbs That Are Easy to Grow from Seed
Basil - Separate plants if you plan on planting more than one variety; they hybridize easily
Borage (Borago officinalis) - direct seed in the garden)
Calendula - start indoors in early spring. Calendula is pot marigold.
Camomile (Chamaemelum nobile) - start indoors in early spring
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) - start indoors in early spring
Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum ) - direct seed after the threat of frost. (also known as coriander)
Dill (Anethum graveolens) - direct seed after the threat of frost
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - direct seed after the threat of frost
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) - start indoors or propagate from root cuttings
Mint (most varieties) - start indoors from seed or direct sow in late spring after the threat of frost
Sage (most varieties) - start seed indoors or direct seed in the garden
Relatively Easy Herbs to Grow from Seed
Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) - direct seed in areas with a long growing season
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) - start from seed indoors in spring
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) - start from seed indoors in late winter
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) - start from seed indoors early in spring or sow directly in the garden after the threat of frost
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)- start from seed indoors in spring
Soapwort (Saponaria -) - start from seed indoors in spring
Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) - start from seed indoors in spring
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) - start seeds indoors in spring
Thyme (multiple) - start seeds of German or French thyme varieties indoors in spring.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) - start from seed indoors in spring
|St. John's wort|
Special Needs and Challenging Herbs to Grow from Seed
Lavender (multiple) - Seeds germinate slowly and seedlings can be hard to cultivate. It's easier and less disappointing to start lavender from cuttings taken in spring or to buy seedlings.
Lovage (Levisticum officinale) - seeds germinate and grow slowly. It may take four years or so for plants to reach maturity. Buy plants if possible.
Marjoram (Origanum majorana) - slow grower. Buy plants if possible.
Parsley (Petroselinum - multiple) - Soak seeds in hot water (not boiling) overnight before planting indoors in spring.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - seeds germinate slowly and seedlings can be hard to raise. Plants may take up to three years to reach a useful size. Buy plants or start new plants from tip cuttings.
Other Propagation Methods
Bay (Laurus nobilis) - propagate from stem cuttings
Bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) also known as bergamot - propagate from root cuttings
Garlic (Allium sativum) - grown from a bulb (or clove), garlic is easy to start outdoors in spring, but it will take two seasons to mature.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) - grown from a rhizome in spring
Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) - propagate from root cuttings in spring or purchase plants
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) - propagate by division in spring or purchase plants
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) - propagate from cuttings or division
Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) - purchase plants and divide them in the fall
Tarragon, French (Artemisia dracunculus) - propagate by division or cuttings, or purchase plants
Thyme, English - propagate from cuttings or purchase plants.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) - propagate by division in spring or fall, or buy plants