5 Herbs You’ll Never Want to Start From Seed

Posted on Jan 30 2012 - 1:17am by Mike Lieberman

Which herbs should you start from seeds?

You can experiment and find out on your own…

…or you can read the rest of this post and save yourself the hassle.

If you want to save time and energy, continue reading.

Some herbs require too much of your time

There definitely is something fun about starting from seed. You get to take care of the seedling and watch it grow until you finally use. Like a child of yours.

No doubt on that.

But there are some herbs that are too much work and require too much of your precious time to start from seed and you’re better off buying transplants.

This is especially true because we are urban gardening in small spaces like our apartments and in containers. We have to maximize our space.

The herbs that experts say you shouldn’t start from seed

Bay Leaf
“Bay is extremely difficult to germinate because they must be fresh and viable, and must be stratified and kept moist,” said Briscoe White, the owner of an herb company. “That’s one of the reasons bays are in such high demand- they’re hard to find because they’re hard to germinate, have a low germination rate and grow extremely slowly.”

“Lavender can be a little tricky because they’re both very slow growing from seed, which can lead to problems with disease or fungus, since the young plants are so susceptible,” said the White. “Lavender also is very finicky with moisture and because of its slow growth can be difficult to keep healthy.”

Flavored Mints
“Many kinds of flavored mints, like chocolate mint or orange mint, can’t be started from seed, only from cuttings,” said Fern from Life on the Balcony. “This is because they’re hybrid varieties that don’t come true to form when grown from seed.”

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Rosemary is much like lavender and, “It can be frustrating to grow from seed because there are so many varieties,” said the White. “To ensure that you get a true variety, you’re best to take a cutting and propagate from that, rather than seed.”

“Rosemary is so much easier to start from a cutting or from a plant bought at the nursery,” added Fern.

White Sage
“White Sage is also difficult to germinate as it has a 10-15% germination rate and on top of that, just takes a lot of time to get growing,” said the owner. “The viability is so low, that we end up placing 10-12 seeds per cell to try to get enough plants to sprout.”

Where you can buy these herbs

You can get these herbs from

  • Your local nursery
  • A cutting from a friend

Sound off

What herbs are you growing or want to start growing?

24 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Georgianne January 30, 2012 at 8:23 am -

    I’ve tried growing rosemary from seed 3 times, and each was a flop. I’ve also learned that I can’t keep it alive in pots- I always over or under water regardless of how careful I am.  Lemon verbena and eucalyptus are two others I haven’t been able to keep alive in containers. 
    I LOVE basil! We have it in pots, in the ground and harvest frequently year-round. This year we’re also doing lavender, lemon balm, sage, chives, mint and thyme. Gotta love warm Texan seasons 🙂

  2. Cheryl January 30, 2012 at 9:35 am -

    Bought a rosemary from nursery, but our climate is too cold to winter outside, so we keep it in a very large pot, sitting next to the south facing patio doors. Moderate water and it thrives (even with the greyhound tail whacking it all the time)! When warm spring arrives, it sits outside on the north side of the house (to keep it away from the male greyhound) and in the almost three years we’ve had it, no problems.  I can grow basil and cilantro from seed easily, but everything else comes as a starter for me …

  3. Cindy - Home Grown Fun January 30, 2012 at 9:42 am -

    I read somewhere that parsley is slow to germinate and slow to harvest so it’s more efficient to buy starters. I have parsley growing inside right now and it took 10 days to germinate. Not sure how long it will take to start clipping. This year started borage inside and it took 7 days to germinate. I’m using plantable tall pots 7″ high 4″ wide to make enough room for the taproot. Thanks for the tips! 

  4. Mike Lieberman January 30, 2012 at 9:56 am -

    Stick with it. Do something different than what you were previously doing and something will work. 

  5. Mike Lieberman January 30, 2012 at 9:56 am -

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Mike Lieberman January 30, 2012 at 9:56 am -

    Keep me updated!

  7. Dani January 31, 2012 at 1:04 am -

    I recently heard a podcast called “Cooking with the Five Horseman of the Herb Garden” (www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/5-horseman-of-the-herb-garden), so I’m going to start with them (parsley, oregano, dill, basil, rosemary) and chives.

    Your article will save me the trouble of trying to start the rosemary from seed; thanks!

  8. Mike Lieberman January 31, 2012 at 7:51 am -

    Thanks for the link. Glad I could help out.

  9. Phil (Smiling Gardener) January 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm -

    This year I grew about 20 varieties of herbs. I tend to value them over vegetables because they’re so medicinal and useful in small quantities. 

    What are your favorites Mike? Are you able to grow basil in your lower light conditions?

  10. Mike Lieberman January 31, 2012 at 2:48 pm -

    I was able to grow basil on my fire escape in NYC. Now in LA I’m successfully growing mint. I really to start growing more herbs for the medicinal reasons that you mentioned.

  11. Spec February 5, 2012 at 10:39 am -

    I  use to have trouble with rosemary my self until I decided to leave it alone. I have it in a large pot on the patio year round in Tn. I do not water much except maybe in Aug. in spring I pull it back out of the rain a little and the rest of the time I just leave it alone. But if you are in Tx stick it in the ground. I have a friend in hill country who’s rosemary is about 6 ft. high and about 5ft. wide it is beautiful and seems to be weathering the drought with out to much trouble. Good Luck!

  12. Mike Lieberman February 5, 2012 at 3:58 pm -


  13. Anonymous February 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm -

    In our hot, dry, sunny climate, we have a lot of trouble keeping basil happy.  I planted some in a bed under a tree and some taller tomato plants, and it did very well.

  14. Mike Lieberman February 9, 2012 at 8:41 am -

    Glad you found a home for it.

  15. heatherpascarelli July 22, 2013 at 6:58 am -

    aawww. Boo! I’m new to gardening and wanted to grow some mints. No wonder I wasn’t able to find seeds in my searches! Growing from cuttings sounds like advanced gardening – not something a beginner can do. Guess that’ll have to wait.

  16. cicada69 July 23, 2013 at 2:27 pm -

    ^ re: growing mint from cuttings: next time you’re at a farmer’s market (best bet for organics or varieties) buy a few bunches, strip the lower 5″-7″ leaves -gently- so as not to peel off the stem. put in a tall glass of water in the window (leaving a few sprigs at the top) it -will- root if the sun is not -too- harsh.. also: pinch the very last 2 leaves & you’ll get a split; once rooted, you’ll have 2 stems already branched! I’ve done this several times as a novice. good luck!

  17. J J January 14, 2016 at 6:32 am -

    Nonsense. I grew over 20 lavender plants from seed, and mints as well.

  18. sami63565 April 16, 2016 at 4:02 am -

    Cuttings are easy. Cut it and put it in water until it roots. When roots form put it in dirt. If you want to get fancy or are spending money on the cuttings, buy a rooting hormone to add to the water.

  19. sami63565 April 16, 2016 at 4:05 am -

    I had trouble with starting rosemary my first time too. I discovered that if you just plant the entire packet. you get a good yield of rosemary plants.

  20. Rotary Rocket April 18, 2016 at 7:41 am -

    Some types of mint will grow from seeds just fine but the exotic flavors like Chocolate Mint will not at all.

  21. VT June 22, 2016 at 4:49 pm -

    If you can keep plants alive you can grow from cuttings. For most mints it’s as simple as keeping the cuttings in a glass of water until roots form and then planting them in a soil with enough organic material I it that the soil stays moist between watering without being constantly soggy.

  22. Laren Ganer January 17, 2017 at 9:44 pm -

    And if you don’t want to spend money on rooting hormone, use ground cinnamon! 🙂

  23. summer43224 January 19, 2017 at 7:24 pm -

    Mint are as easy as as weeds to grow.

  24. summer43224 January 19, 2017 at 7:28 pm -

    I know one year I DID start rosemary from seed. You think it was just a stroke of luck?

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