Walk into any Italian restaurant and you’re immediately assaulted by the most wonderful smells. Italian herbs make Italian cuisine among the best in the world because these special herbs are a unique blend that not only adds flavor to food, but makes a wonderful addition to landscape designs.
Some of the most popular herb garden plants for Italian food lovers are basil, fennel, rosemary, oregano, parsley, and garlic.
Basil is an annual warm-season herb which is sensitive to cold weather. It is relatively easy to grow, and has the interesting characteristic — that many gardeners are unaware of– of adding flavor to vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and certain other plants, that it grows next to. If you’re planting basil seeds indoors, make sure the soil stays warm to encourage sprouting. When the plants are about two inches tall, move them outdoors to an area that gets plenty of sun.
Fennel is a perennial and has a wide range of uses including that wonderful accompaniment to spaghetti, as an herb used in Italian sausage. It can also be used in herbal teas and tinctures, and is said to aid digestion. Fennel is propagated from seed, and like basil, needs plenty of heat to stay healthy.
Rosemary is a hardy, perennial plant. It does well in virtually any climate, but is sensitive to frost. You can grow rosemary in pots or in the ground, and it will sprout little blue flowers that can be used in salads and as a garnish.
Parsley takes its own time to germinate, sometimes several weeks. If you want to tackle parsley, soak the seeds overnight before planting. Sow outdoors in early spring and choose an area that gets plenty of sun, or at the very least, only partial shade.
Oregano is easy to start from a cutting. Its little blue flowers are not only decorative, but also an indication that the plant can be harvested. Oregano likes plenty of sun and hot weather, and will spread all over the place. So take this into consideration as you decide whether to constrain the plant in pots, or allow it to run loose in your garden.
Garlic is a must in any herb Italian garden. After you’ve planted the cloves, the plants will thrive with little attention. Unlike some herbs, this is a “low maintenance” plant.
There are many other herbs that can be included in an Italian herb garden, but these are the most common. Start here and expand based on what your favorite Italian dishes call for and on the growing conditions that each plant requires.