Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Growing Culinary Herbs & Seeds - A to L

Unless otherwise noted, herbal seed germination and seedling survival can be low or non-existent in Kihei during the summer months.

Anise is easy to grow and fairly heat and sun tolerant. It has good germination except during July and August. The leaves can be used as an herbal tea ingredient and should be cut from the plants before they flower. I like to harvest the seeds when they're still green and keep them in the refrigerator. But, they can be dried on the plants and then stored without refrigeration.

Basil - Italian
(Profumo di Genova)

Basil - Thai & Indian
(Siam Queen & Rama Tulsi)

Basil is easy to grow from seed and it will grow through the year. In Kihei, basil is impacted by the heat - in the summer the plants tend to produce smaller leaves and flower earlier but basil flowers attract bees into the garden.

There are many varieties of basil with unique characteristics. Genovese, is one of the more popular as it makes excellent pesto. The Thai and Tulsi basils have higher levels of eugenol which give tham a distinctive clove like flavor.

Bay Laurel

Bay Laurel is a tree that can be grown in a container. Fresh Bay leaves are much more fragrant than the dried leaves sold at the market. Bay Laurels are started by cuttings. I don't know anyone with a Bay Laurel tree so I purchased a small 4 in. plant from Kula Hardware and Nursery. I transplanted it into a 10 gallon container in August and it grew very slowly over the first year.


Chervil is a delicate plant and not at all heat tolerant. It grows best when planted in partial shade during the coolest months of the year. Seeds can be planted in a container as small as 1 gallon.

I grow chervil just for making a wonderful French goat cheese and potato salad called

The chia available at the natural food stores is known as Salvia Hispanica - Spanish Chia . The plants in the photo are Salvia Columbariae - Desert Chia. (Salvias are the sage family). Chia is wild harvested and grown by the native people of Mexico and the American southwest. Like sesame seeds they have a high oil content and will easily germinate and thrive in Kihei during the hottest summer months. Chia flowers also attract bees into the garden.

Desert Chia will grow 4 to 5 feet tall before it flowers. Spanish Chia grows 3 to 4 feet tall. Desert Chia seeds are available from Native Seeds and Spanish Chia seeds are available at the market. There is also Salvia Carduacea - Thistle Chia and these seeds can be purchased from Seedhunt. Due to the size of the chia plants, I recommend planting them in the ground.



Cilantro grows best from seed when planted in December and January and it can be planted in full sun during these months. I've been able to grow cilantro in partial shade in the warmer months of the year but the plants are smaller and bolt early in their growth cycle. I've trailed several varieties of cilantro and they've all been similar, even those noted to be slow to bolt.

Like dill, cilantro - coriander is used for both seeds and foliage. Cilantro, the leaves, should be harvested prior to the plant bolting and flowering. Coriander, the seeds, can be harvested green and refrigerated or left to dry on the plant and the flowers can be used in salads.


Dill is easy to grow from seed - the plants will grow 3 ft tall and then produce a flower head. Some varieties of dill are grown predominately for the seeds but Dukat dill produces lots of fern like leaves as well as a flower head. The dill leaves should be cut from the plant before the seed head forms. I like to harvest dill seeds when they're still green and keep them in the refrigerator. But they can be left on the plants to dry.


If you're a fan of Diana Kennedy, epazote is a common ingredient in her Oaxacan recipes. Like oregano and thyme, epazote has very small seeds and it grows well in a 5 gallon or larger container. Epazote readily goes to seed - the seeds can be carried by the wind and Epazote can easily morph from an herb to a weed.

Fennel - Wild
Just starting to flower in late July

Wild Fennel is a non-bulbing bush that's grown for seeds and pollen. It grows wild in Italy and some areas of California. I planted seeds in a garden bed during September. The seedlings grew very slowly but by July the plants were 4 ft tall and 3 ft wide. Then, in the last week of July they began to produce flower stalks.

I recommend planting seedlings with 3 ft spacing as they produce lots of shoots off the original plant and grow into a large bush by summer. The maturing plants need a lot of water during the summer months. I don't know if it's necessary to plant seeds as early as September - I decided to mimic their cycle in the wild where the seeds drop from the plants in the late summer and early fall.

Fennel pollen is known as spice of the angels in Tuscany cuisine.


Fenugreek is easy to grow. The leaves are often used for medicinal tea and the plants produce small seed pods that look like miniature beans. I like to harvest herbal seeds when they're mature and still green but fenegreek pods were difficult to open until they were dry.

French and Munstead are varieties that are recommended for culinary use. Lavender seeds have low germination and grow very slowly. The small French Lavender plant above was just starting to flower at 6 months. Lavender is a perennial that will grow year round in full sun. It can be grown in a garden bed or in a 5 gallon or larger container.


The lemongrass seeds available on-line produce a type of lemongrass that's used for flavoring or as a scent in soap and other cosmetic items. Culinary lemongrass has to be grown from cuttings. It's easy to propagate and can be grown in the ground or in a 10 gallon or larger container. Lemongrass has greater water and fertilizer needs than other herbs. Information on how to start a lemongrass plant can be found here:

In Kihei, herbal plants need daily water and monthly applications of fish emulsion or an organic all-purpose fertilizer.

To read about the herbs I've grown from M to Z click here:


  1. I didn't realize you could start lemongrass from stalks you get from the store. I bought some today for some additional plants. It's cheaper than buying the plants already started.

    I wish I could grown them in the ground like you. I keep mine in pots year round. It occurs to me I could plant some in spring and let them grow outside all summer. That would probably give me a lot of lemongrass.

  2. Hi villager! It's so easy to start lemongrass and it grows really fast here. I don't know how much cold it can take but maybe it would survive in your greenhouse during the winter.

  3. Hi Jane, here you cant find lemongrass in supemarket, so I started them from seed, but now I divide the plant and is very easy to create a new plant.
    I didnt know that summer there was so hot and bad to the herbs plant. Perhaps you need to put them in a more shadie area? or put some mulch in to the groud to keep it wet?



  4. Hi Carola! Lemongrass is quite prolific once it gets growing that's great that your plant is growing so well. I live in a resort area where it's hot and sunny during the summer. It has great beach weather but it's not the best place to garden during the summer. That's okay as the fall and winter months are wonderful for gardening here.

  5. BeachsideGardenerrAugust 10, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Jane, have you had any luck growing sweet lavender and english lavender in Kihei ?

    ~ Caroline

  6. Hi Caroline! Yes, a few years ago I grew French, Spanish and another variety but the name escapes me at the moment (it wasn't English or Sweet). I grew them in containers and they grew pretty well in Kihei but they did struggle this time of the year in the hot sun.

  7. BeachsideGardenerrAugust 11, 2012 at 2:46 AM

    Jane, can i bring them inside ? or they will rot ? Can you show us
    pictures thanks(;

    ~ Caroline

  8. Hi Caroline! I haven't tried growing lavender indoors but as long as the plant has sun it should grow indoors. If you live on Maui you might visit Alii Kula Lavender Farm - they're very helpful regarding growing lavender here on Maui. I don't have any current photos but there are lots of photos on the Alii Kula Lavender website.

  9. Hello Jane,
    I am thrilled to discover your blog! My boyfriend and I are wanting to transform a section of his yard with edible landscaping. I am not seeing on your blog where you purchase your seeds. I look forward to picking up tips from you and your readers. Thank you.

  10. Hi Nancy! If you scroll back up this page to where the Chervil is and look just to the right in the side bar (the lighter green area) there is a list of seed sources I recommend. Seeds add up pretty fast - the most affordable prices are Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Bountiful Gardens - some of their seeds are still under $2. Good luck with your garden!!