Grow Herbs for Teas at Home with our DIY Guide
HERBAL TEA GARDEN GROWING GUIDE
Follow the directions below to start your seeds. Keep your seeds in their sealed packet in a cool, dry place until ready to sow.
To harvest your herbal teas
To harvest and store your herbs, there a a few simple rules to keep in mind. Harvest early in the day, after the dew has dried, but while the herbs are still lush in the cool of the morning. Most herbs are at their peak just before they bloom. Use fresh, or air dry carefully out of the direct sun, in the oven, or even in the microwave. See website for more instructions. If you’re looking for ornamental kettles to add to your tea time collection – In The Kitchen has the top 10 coolest kettles we’ve ever found.
And now to the herbs!
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
This beautiful perennial is a magnet for hummingbirds, butterflies and beneficial insects and would be welcome in any garden for its showy flowers and fragrant foliage. But many grow it for its medicinal and herbal properties. The leaves have a strong scent of licorice with a touch of mint, hence its nickname “licorice mint.” Leaves and flowers can be used fresh or dried for salads, teas and garnishes.
Anise hyssop grows up to four feet tall and produces blue spikes of compound florets. The seeds are easy to germinate and grow with full sun and average water. It self seeds readily and often blooms the first year. New seedlings are hardy and transplant easily. Plant the tiny seeds on soil surface, pat down gently and water well. Optimum germination temperature is 60-70 F. with germination in 10-40 days.
Dragonshead (Dracocephalum moldavica)
When you look closely at the blue flowers of dragonshead, you’ll see where it got its name. Sometimes also called Melissa, Moldavian Balm, or Moldavian Dragon’s Head, this lovely little annual is easy to grow and both the flowers and leaves have a delightful lemon scent. The leaves can be used fresh or dried to make a lemony flavored tea. The dried leaves are stronger in flavor than lemon balm and the foliage holds its scent well when dried. Best of all, bees love this plant, and it will attract lots of beneficial pollinators to your garden.
Blooming in summer, the bright blue-violet flowers are held in upright terminal clusters above the dark green thin foliage. It grows about 2 feet tall, with a spread of about a foot. It will tolerate semi-shade, but is happiest in full sun and moist soil, although it is more drought tolerant as it grows. Start seeds indoors to plant out after all danger of frost. Plant seeds ¼” deep, germination temperatures can range from 50-75° F, and germination should be from 7-14 days.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Although chamomile is an annual, this sturdy little plant will reseed readily if planted in the right location, and reward you with a bouquet of uses: aromatic, cosmetic, culinary, decorative, and medicinal. Among other uses, the leaves and golden dried flowers are used for tea to calm frayed nerves (or even your restless child), to treat various stomach problems, and to relieve muscle spasms. Dried leaves and flowers are used to scent potpourris. Chamomile also is used for soothing baths and skin lotions, and a chamomile rinse adds golden highlights to blonde hair.
Chamomile seeds are tiny! When you are ready to plant, carefully shake the seed packet contents onto a piece of dry white paper, and use a slightly moistened toothpick to pick up the seeds. Plant into prepared medium, gently pressing into the surface, do not cover. Germination is 4-8 days at 55-70° F. When the plants are big enough to handle, transplant into your garden or container 6 inches apart. Prefers light, dry soil. Keep plants moist until established.
Horehound (Marrubium Vulgare)
You can grow horehound and use it in your own soothing teas, or if you are adventurous, in your own homemade candy. Candy made from the herb horehound was often given as a cough drop to sooth deep chest coughs. Horehound can be started from seed and harvested the first year. This woody perennial grows 8-24″ tall and has hairy stems covered with downy, gray-green leaves. The leaves have a wooly crinkled appearance. The small, off-white flowers are born in summer and are said to attract beneficial insects to the garden. As an added bonus, it’s a great companion plant for tomatoes and peppers.
Start your seeds indoors 12 weeks before transplanting. Sow the seeds ¼” deep with soil temperature 70-85° F. Keep the seed moist until germination. When two leaves have formed on the seedlings, they are ready to transplant into the garden in a sunny location. Do not over water horehound, it likes to dry out between waterings. Grow horehound in any well-drained, soil in full sun.
Keep cutting back for new growth and extended harvests. The leaves and flowers lose their flavor quickly, so snip them into smaller pieces to dry on screens. When dry, crumble and store in jars.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm is one of the most prized summer herbs for teas. A perennial lemon-scented member of the mint family, it’s a great candidate for a container. Fresh sprigs are beautiful to top drinks and as garnishes on salads and main dishes. The dried leaves scent potpourris. Lemon balm is used in a facial steam to clean the skin. It also is used in teas, beers, and wine and with fish, mushrooms, and soft cheeses. Fresh leaves are used in salads, marinades for vegetables, chicken salad, and poultry stuffings.
Lemon balm is easily grown from seed; germination is best when seed is uncovered. Start earliest seed 6-8 weeks before the date of last frost. You may also sow the seed directly outside in the spring or fall. Germination time is widely variable, between 10-40 days at 60-70° F. Make sure the planting medium does not dry out while the seeds are germinating, and be patient if needed. Enjoys well-drained soil in full sunlight. Leaf growth may be slow the first year, and more vigorous thereafter.
Harvest before the plant flowers, for optimum fragrance. Cut the entire plant about 2 inches above ground. Dry quickly to prevent the leaves from turning black. Lemon balm should be dried within 2 days at temperatures between 90 and 100 degrees F. Place on a wire rack to dry. Store in an airtight container.