The Challenge of Cultivating: What Are the Most Difficult Herbs to Grow?

Jamie Picon

August 9, 2023

Jamie Picon-Difficult Herbs

Herbs have been cherished for centuries for their aromatic flavors, medicinal properties, and culinary enhancements. Many herbs, from basil to thyme, are relatively easy to cultivate, even for novice gardeners. However, not all herbs are created equal when it comes to cultivation. Some herbs demand meticulous care, specific conditions, and patience. In this article, we delve into horticulture and explore the difficult Herbs– those elusive and ordering plants that can test the skills of even the greenest thumbs.

Demanding Delights: Herbs that Test Gardeners’ Skills

Meticulous gardeners are always seeking new challenges, and growing difficult herbs is perfect for those who relish pushing their horticultural boundaries. These herbs often require careful attention to detail and a deep understanding of their unique needs. Let’s explore some of the most challenging herbs to cultivate:

1. French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus): The Estragon Enigma

French tarragon is a staple in French cuisine, known for its distinctive anise-like flavor. Unlike its hardy cousin, the Russian tarragon, French tarragon cannot be reliably propagated from seeds. It primarily spreads through root division, which can make sourcing the plant a challenge in itself. This herb is picky about its growing conditions, requiring well-draining soil, full sunlight, and protection from harsh winters. A connoisseur’s delight, the French tarragon demands dedication and patience from gardeners.

2. Saffron (Crocus sativus): The Golden Dilemma

Saffron, often called the “red gold,” is the world’s most expensive spice. It’s derived from the stigmas of the saffron crocus flower. Cultivating saffron is an intricate process, as each flower produces only three red stigmas, which must be carefully hand-picked. This labor-intensive harvesting, combined with the need for well-draining soil, proper moisture, and protection from extreme temperatures, makes saffron a daunting challenge for even seasoned gardeners.

3. Lovage (Levisticum officinale): The Vigorous Vexation

Lovage, with its intense celery-like flavor, is a herb that requires specific conditions to thrive. It’s known for its tall growth and expansive foliage, which demands significant space. Lovage prefers moist soil and can be challenging to establish from seeds. Additionally, this herb’s pungent taste means it must be used judiciously in culinary dishes, further adding to the challenge of cultivating it successfully.

4. Angelica (Angelica archangelica): The Ethereal Giant

With its towering height and delicate clusters of flowers, Angelica is as beautiful as it is demanding. This herb is known for its medicinal properties and use in confectionery. However, growing Angelica requires a relaxed, moist environment, often mimicking its native habitats near streams and rivers. The plant takes time to establish itself, and its large size can overwhelm small gardens. Patience and meticulous care are essential when attempting to grow Angelica.

5. Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora): The Fragrant Frustration

Lemon verbena, prized for its intense lemon scent, is a favorite for herbal teas, desserts, and potpourris. While it’s not impossible to grow, lemon verbena can be challenging due to its sensitivity to frost and its preference for warm climates. It’s best grown in containers that can be moved indoors during colder months in cooler regions. Additionally, lemon verbena requires well-draining soil and consistent pruning to maintain its shape and vitality.

Cultivating Success: Overcoming Herb-Growing Challenges

While these herbs may present a formidable challenge, they can grow successfully. With the proper knowledge, dedication, and perseverance, you can enjoy the rewards of a thriving herb garden, even when dealing with demanding plants. Here are some tips to increase your chances of success:

Research and Planning: Thoroughly research their specific requirements before growing challenging herbs. Understanding their preferred soil type, sunlight exposure, water needs, and temperature range will set you on the right path.

Start with Quality Plants: Start with healthy plants or cuttings from reputable nurseries or experienced gardeners whenever possible. This will give you a head start in cultivating these herbs.

Optimal Growing Conditions: Create an environment that mimics the herbs’ native habitats as closely as possible. This might involve using containers, adjusting soil composition, or providing protective structures.

Regular Monitoring: Keep a close eye on your herbs, checking for signs of stress or disease. Prompt action can prevent potential issues from spiraling out of control.

Pruning and Maintenance: Regularly prune and maintain your herbs to ensure proper growth and prevent them from becoming leggy or overgrown.

Patience Pays Off: Challenging herbs often take time to establish themselves. Be patient and persistent, and don’t be discouraged by slow growth or setbacks.

Cultivating challenging herbs is a rewarding endeavor for dedicated gardeners who enjoy pushing the boundaries of their horticultural skills. While these herbs may demand extra effort and attention, the satisfaction of successfully nurturing them to maturity is unparalleled. From the elusive French tarragon to the luxurious saffron, these herbs offer a unique journey of growth and learning that can turn even the most casual gardener into a dedicated herbal enthusiast.