, Port Arthur, Texas

September 19, 2012

Maintaining herbs in the heat

Melissa Starr
The Port Arthur News

— Hot weather can stress many plants.  Most herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and many other herbs love this weather.  However, if you are trying to grow parsley, cilantro, or onion chives, you should give them afternoon shade because they do not like the summer heat.  They will grow better in cooler weather.  If you have not already purchased them, wait until the fall to plant these cool season herbs.  

If your herbs are looking spindly, prune them to about half their size, and they will begin to put on new growth.  Also trim off any dead branches, dead leaves, and flowers.  Herbs will grow better and more vigorously when the flowers are cut off.  If you let the flowers make seeds, more energy is taken from the plant, and many annuals, such as basil, will think their growing season is finished.  Continue to prune and harvest your herbs regularly to promote new growth.  

In addition, make sure the soil is well-drained.  Herbs don’t like to grow in soggy soil, but you do still need to water them regularly.  It is best to water the soil in the morning.  This helps the water soak further into the soil before it evaporates.  However, do not water the leaves.  This encourages mildew and disease.  Put mulch around your herbs to keep moisture in the soil longer, but do not let the mulch touch the stems since this is an invitation for insects.  

If you feel you need to use an insecticide on your herbs, make sure you use one that says it is safe for edible plants.  Some insecticides are toxic to people and animals.

It is also good to give your herbs a light dose of an all-purpose fertilizer, such as compost tea, once a week.  Since your herbs are continually producing leaves when you harvest, they need some extra energy.  However, do not put fertilizer on the leaves.  You will be eating the leaves, so you don’t want to eat fertilizer too.  

For more information, go to  (click on “links”), e-mail me at  or call the Texas Agrilife Extension office at 409-835-8461. I’m Melissa Starr, Jefferson County Master Gardener.