My herbs this winter

This summer I planted several different types of herbs in pots–basil, a couple of different types of oregno, lavender, peppermint, spearmint and rosemary. With winter coming, I’m not sure what to do with the herbs. If I have sunny spot in my house, will they stay alive during the winter? If not, what do I do with the plants I have now? (I really do not have the space for them to dry.) Can I just stick the leaves in the freezer to use during the winter?

My ideal situation would be to keep them alive during the winter if at all possible…so if that isn’t possible, I guess I need a Plan B.

The only one on your list I have indoor experience with is rosemary. I had it overwinter beautifully in a sunny window in a cool room. (This was a spare bedroom with the heat vents partially closed, so it was about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the house at night.)

I’m not much of a gardener, just speaking from my own experience. I live in NC, where it does get down to freezing during the winter, but it’s not brutal by any means. I think the basil and mint are toast. Make a big bowl of pesto, that should take care of the basil. Maybe if it’s just the mint you could find somewhere to hang up some bunches? Because it makes great tea. Or, you could through a mojito/mint julep party!

Here’s the cool thing: the rosemary might be just fine, and the oregano and lavender might be too. I’ve got a rosemary bush out back, planted in the ground, and it is unkillable and ever-expanding. Underneath I’ve got oregano and thyme that come back every year. I had lavender in pots that did very well until I forgot to water it.

A friend gave me this advice about herbs: don’t worry about them. You can’t kill them. They’re Mediterranean weeds! They’ll live! I have a lavender bush that is about five years old. My mint also cannot be killed, but everyone knows that about mint.

That said, I bought several rosemary ‘trees’ to give as Christmas gifts a couple years ago — and they all dropped all their leaves and DIED weeks before Christmas even came. :mad:

All your herbs could be grown indoors, but except for the basil, most won’t adapt well. They’re used to more sun, more humidity, far, far greater air circulation, etc. They’d probably survive, but they’re liable to look very unhappy. They will also invariably have bugs on them you don’t notice when they’re outdoors, but under indoor conditions those bugs will go crazy. I’d thoroughly spray them a couple times with a vegetable safe insecticide when you bring them in.

This really depends on where you live (or, more accurately, where your plants live). I’m not that far north of NYC, but rosemary doesn’t survive outside for me. Oregano sometimes does. Basil is an annual. And mint regrows every year, spreading farther each time until violently restrained.

For basil, freezing is better than drying.

Where do you live? The answer will depend a lot on that.

Don’t worry about the mint. Yes, the mint plants you have now will die, but mint will come back next year (although I don’t know if it comes back from the root or if it self seeds.)

Rosemary will be happiest indoors over the winter unless you live in the south. The fun thing about this is you can trim it into a cone and hang mini Christmas lights from it if you like! :smiley: To avoid shocking the poor thing, bring it in for an hour or two today and then put it back out, and do it again a little longer tomorrow, until it’s inside for the whole day. Like “hardening”, only in reverse. It may drop a bunch of leaves, but don’t give up on it - they’ve got a lifespan of about 5 years in a pot (outdoors in the Mediterranean, they can live 20 years!), and sometimes go to sleep over the winter, even indoors.

The lavender - it depends on where you live and how big it is and how big the pot is. A well-established shrub in the ground can over winter in most places, but a baby plant or one in a small pot might not make it. I would at least move it to a well sheltered spot near a house wall - if you have a dryer vent on a wall that doesn’t get a lot of wind, it might be ideal.

Pesto’s your best plan for the basil. Basil leaves don’t freeze well, but prepared pesto does.

WhyNot, if you have your mint plants in the ground, or in a sufficiently large container, it is coming back from the roots. Spearmint and peppermint are hardy perennials, and they have the root systems from hell. I had a variety of spearmint come up for two years straight after I thought I had eliminated all the roots. And I certainly hadn’t let any flower in that period!

I’m pretty sure peppermint is a hybrid that doesn’t seed.

I think you’re right. So the plant won’t “die”, but all the green leafy stuff will. It’s still alive at the root, and will send up new green leafy stuff next spring. What looks like a dead mint plant is just a plant pining for the fjords.

Wow, thanks for all the responses. I live outside of Harrisburg, PA, just north of the Mason-Dixon line.

All of the pots are plastic, with drainage holes. The lavender is actually in a kitty litter container (filled with potting soil, of course)–25 lb. container, I think. I would have a spot in the yard I could plant it though if it would do better in the ground. The mint–I knew better–is also in a large pot. Do I just leave that alone, leave the pot outside, and it will regrow in the spring?

I have a lemon oregano that I never even used :eek: but is nice and full (and smells devine). Will the oregano come back? Should I leave the pots outside, or bring them (with dead plant? cut back the dead plant?) into the basement for the winter?

The basil won’t survive the winter outside, in the ground or not. It’s not so much an annual, as it is a tropical that is treated like an annual where it gets too cold.

The others, if you want to keep them, but not use them during the winter, should go in the ground. All of them could survive a winter in the ground and come back the next year. Leaving them in pots won’t work where it freezes, because the roots will freeze.

Problem is, it’s a bit late in the year to set them in the ground and let them settle in and establish themselves. Might be better off putting them in the basement, letting them die back and go dormant, keep them from completely drying out, and putting them in the ground in the spring.

Basil is an annual. It’s something to plant seed next year for.
Rosemary is semi hardy in the USA. Unless you live is the south it will likely freeze off. Oregano is another iffy plant. Lavender will likely be OK. The mints are very hard to kill and spread by the shallow root system. Do not let them ever establish themselves in open soil. Only plant them in a continuous ring that is 8 or more inches deep. You could keep the mints, rosemary and oregano alive indoors if you have lots of sun, otherwise they will get lanky.

I recommend you bury the pot of plants in the soil or remove them from the pot and plant them in the soil. Remember the special instructions for mint.

Basil is a tender perennial. I’ve kept them alive as houseplants for years, in the past. They are treated as annuals, and at their best during their first season. They do not complete their life-cycle in one season or year, nor do they need to be prevented from going to seed to live longer.

What do you mean it doesn’t complete a life cycle in one year? I grow it from seed and get seed for next year from that plant. That makes for a cycle that continues the species.

For geographical reference, I live in St. Louis. I grow herbs in an “herb window” and have managed to overwinter rosemary pretty easily, as well as a Thai pepper plant I’ve had for years now, sage, an aromatic “curry” plant (similar to rosemary or lavendar, I think), but my basil plants die every year when the daylight begins to shorten. I’ve done everything I can think to keep them alive, but after flourishing insanely all summer, they start to look sickly around October and gradually get worse until I end up throwing out its pale wilted carcass in December or so.

I mean sure it flowers and produces seed, but it doesn’t then die unless it’s cold. A true annual will die when it’s done that year or season, no matter how nice the weather is.

Basil is too often referred to as an annual because it’s grown as an annual, but “grown as a annual” isn’t the same thing as a true annual.


Along the lines of seeds…my basil and a couple of my oreganos have little flower bud type things at the tops. Do these contain seeds? How do I get the seeds for next years plantings?

When the seeds are ready you will be able to extricate them from the brown remnants of the flower merely by gently twisting it between your fingers and capturing the spillage. If frost is imminent, you can harvest living stems and keep them in water inside until the seeds are ready. Store the seeds in a paper envelope in your refrigerator and they will last for many years.