Herbs for Fun and Prophet
Happy Halloween (okay, almost) House Plant Hobbyists! This month we’re looking at all things spooky and witchy in the lead-up to Halloween (Samhain). We’ve compiled a list of lovely plants that have “magical” associations and folk uses from protection to prophecy, and plenty of fun uses around the house from soothing baths to scented sachets! Some of these plants can be grown indoors, while others are better suited to your outdoor garden. Please remember not to ingest any plants you’re not sure about, even if they’ve been used medicinally in the past.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) — If you have a spot with full sun and loamy soil, plant basil in containers for homemade pesto and good vibes! You can start basil seeds inside and move them out when the temperatures have warmed up to above 50°F (10°C) — remember that basil doesn’t like cold weather, so be patient.
Special uses: Not only is it delicious, the smell of fresh basil is said to promote sympathy and soothe tensions and tempers that are running high. It’s also said to promote love.
Bay (Laurus nobilis) — Sweet bay is another kitchen staple. These Mediterranean natives like full sun and well-draining soil with lots of organic matter. They can be grown in your garden or in pots, but need to be protected from colder temperatures. If you use your bay leaves for cooking, remember to remove them before serving and eating.
Special uses: Place a bay leaf under your pillow if you fancy having prophetic dreams. When worn or carried, bay is said to protect you from negativity and evil.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) — Potted marigolds are hardy, tolerant plants with a spicy scent and bright, happy blooms. Place them in full to part sun, with well-draining soil. Remember not to crowd the pot, as marigolds can grow rather large.
Special uses: The humble marigold is said to bring protection to your home — hang a garland or a wreath of Marigolds at your door, or place some under your bed for protection while you sleep. They might even help make your dreams come true!
Caraway (Carum carvi) — Caraway is a biennial herb that thrives in full sun and well-draining soil. It blooms in pink or white clusters in the second year, and about a month after the flowers fade, the seeds ripen and can be harvested, but all parts of the plant are edible!
Special uses: If you want to ward away negativity and evil, carry some caraway. It’s also said to protect against theft, and encourage fidelity in relationships.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) — Catnip thrives in full sun and rich, loamy soil. Outdoors, it spreads easily — inside you can grow it on a sunny windowsill. Remember to water regularly, and pinch back blooms to encourage new growth. If you’ve got a cat, growing catnip is a great way to give kitties their own garden to enjoy.
Special uses: Catnip also said to attract good luck and bring happiness, so even if you don’t have a cat you might want to plant some catnip.
Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) — This shrub-like plant typically has yellow blooms, but can be found in other colors. It likes full sun to light shade, and moist but well-draining soil although it will tolerate many different soils. If you have a spot that can give it a little shade during the hottest parts of the day, you’ll be able to enjoy the blooms for longer periods.
Special uses: Sometimes used for purification or to wash away curses, cinquefoil is also said to help you be more eloquent, especially when asking for favors.
Dill (Anethum graveolens) — Not only delicious, dill is an aromatic herb with pretty yellow blooms. If you want to make your own dill pickles, plant some cucumbers as well! Grow dill in full sun with well-draining soil, and remember to use deep containers to give adequate room to the roots. Dill can be kept outside if temperatures are above 60°F (15°C), otherwise keep it inside in a bright, sunny window.
Special uses: Dill can be carried in protective sachets, or hung over your doorway to prevent ill-intentioned or envious people from entering your home.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) — Also known as coneflower, echinacea is from the daisy family and is typically seen with purple blooms, but it’s available in other colors as well. Plant them in full sun and well-draining soil and they will lure the birds, butterflies, and bees to your garden.
Special uses: It is said to have strengthening properties, so add it to your other herbs to boost their benefits!
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) — Fennel is another herb that does double duty in the kitchen, with a licorice-like flavor. Some people even eat the stalks of fennel like celery. It’s a laid-back garden plant that thrives in full and loamy or sandy soils, and produces clusters of little yellow blooms. Like dill, fennel wants a deeper container to allow room for the taproot.
Special uses: If you want to ward away evil, hang some dried fennel at your doors and windows.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)— A member of the Aster family, feverfew produces sweet, daisy-like blooms. These plants do have a citrus aroma that tends to send bees packing, so don’t plant them in your pollinator gardens! Indoors or out, the main requirement for feverfew is a bright, sunny spot.
Special uses: Feverfew is said to protect against colds, fevers, and accidents.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) — Ginger roots can often be found at your local grocery store and planted. Unlike dill or fennel, ginger roots grow horizontally so you’ll want a wide, shallow planter. Find a spot with full to part shade, and give it a rich, well-draining soil. Be aware that ginger is a slow grower and will require you to have patience.
Special uses: If you’re looking for love or hoping for success in a project, grab some ginger; it’s associated with power, success, and love and may give you just the boost you need!
Lavender (Lavandula) — Sometimes known by the adorable folk name “elf leaf,” lavender is one of the most peaceful and soothing scents around! Grow it outside in full sun and well-draining soil. Inside, choose the sunniest spot you can find — a south-facing window is ideal.
Special uses: Use it in sachets to promote restful sleep, or have a relaxing lavender bath. Lavender has also been traditionally associated with love, perhaps making it the perfect scent to wear on your next date.
Marjoram (Origanum majorana) — Another multi-tasker, Marjoram attracts butterflies in the garden, while indoors you can enjoy its petite, gray-green foliage and use it in variety of recipes. Like most of the herbs listed here, it wants full sun and well-draining soil.
Special uses: It’s said to promote and strengthen love, and protect you from evil. Grow it in your garden to ward off negativity and evil from your home, or go ahead and hang some dried marjoram by your entryway.
Mint (Mentha spp.)— Mint is a wonderful herb with aromatic foliage and tiny white, pink, or purple blooms. It appreciates full sun and loamy soil. Pluck it from your garden to add to your iced tea, or to hang in your home as an organic air freshener.
Special uses: It is often used to promote healing — something about its fresh scent really lifts the spirits! It is also said to help protect you (and your home) from negativity.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) — Also known as Artemisia, mugwort hails from the daisy family. As the name “Artemisia” implies, this herb is traditionally associated with the Greek goddess Artemis. It’s often used as a border plant in gardens. Plant it in full sun in well-draining dry areas; it doesn’t like to sit in soggy soil.
Special uses: It’s said to aid women in childbirth, and if you’re running a marathon, you might want to place a little mugwort in your shoes — it’s supposed to lend you extra stamina on long walks or runs.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) — Parsley’s frilly leaves make a decorative addition to your indoor greenery as well as being useful in the kitchen. To grow it indoors, give it a well-draining potting mix and make sure you have a bright, sunny window — preferably south-facing. While parsley has sometimes been regarded as evil or associated with the Devil (if you’re allergic you probably agree!), it is also a delicious seasoning in many meals.
Special uses: Use for protection and purification in sachets and healing baths. A wreath of parsley worn is said to protect you from, or at least delay, becoming inebriated!
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) — Another herb that can hold its own in the kitchen, rosemary is very versatile. It can be grown in containers and needs full sun and loamy, sandy soil, but it isn’t cold hardy and will need to br brought inside in winter if you live in a cold climate.
Special uses: In addition to being delicious, as an incense rosemary can be used like sage to cleanse and purify. A rosemary infusion added to your bath is supposed to preserve youthfulness.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) — Grow sage in full sun and loamy, well-draining soil and you’ll have a versatile herb that’s good for the kitchen. There are multiple varieties you can grow. As with the kitchen or culinary variety, white sage wants full sun and well-draining soil — and be careful not to over water.
Special uses: White sage, Salvia apiana, is often used to cleanse and purify. Sage is also said to bring wisdom. If you want to make a wish come true, write it on a sage leaf and sleep with it under your pillow for three days. If you dream about your wish, it should come true.
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) — Sometimes considered a nuisance because it spreads so easily, tansy produces button-like yellow blooms. They grow well in full to part sun and nearly any type of soil, and can benefit the rest of your garden by repelling certain pests.
Special uses: It’s said that tansy placed in your shoes will help cure a fever, although we’re not totally clear on whether you have to be wearing them at the time!
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) — A Mediterranean native, thyme can be planted in full to part sun and will attract pollinators to your garden. You can find it in ornamental or culinary varieties, so if you’re planning to use it in the kitchen make sure you’ve picked the right one. If you grow it in a container, it can be overwintered outdoors after you’ve harvested it.
Special uses: It is said to promote healing and help you get a good night’s sleep by protecting you from nightmares.
Vervain (Verbena) — This lovely plant has traditionally been regarded as sacred or supernatural, and it really is a jack-of-all-trades! This Mediterranean native wants full sun to part shade, but make sure you have well-draining soil. It makes a great ornamental addition to a butterfly garden and has been known to attract hummingbirds as well.
Special uses: Dried vervain scattered throughout your home, worn, or carried is said to soothe emotions. It’s also said to ward off evil, protect you from bad dreams, help your garden thrive, and bring wealth, among other things.
Yarrow (Achillea spp.) — Yarrow is a hardy, pollinator-friendly plant that thrives in full sun and well-draining soil. It likes to stay on the dry side, so don’t let it sit in soggy soil. Otherwise, yarrow is a laid-back addition to your herb garden.
Special uses: If you need a little boost of bravery, try carrying a bit of it with you; it’s said to banish fear and give you courage. It’s also said to attract new friends and love.
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