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Plants vs. Herbs: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 26, 2023
Plants are all members of the kingdom Plantae, while herbs are a subset of plants used for flavor, scent, or medicinal properties.

Key Differences

Plants encompass a vast kingdom of living organisms known as Plantae, which includes trees, shrubs, grasses, and more. Herbs, however, specifically refer to plants with savory or aromatic properties, often used in cooking, medicine, or fragrances. This distinction highlights the functional aspect of herbs within the broader category of plants.
While all herbs are plants, not all plants qualify as herbs. Plants serve various ecological roles, from providing oxygen to forming the base of the food chain. Herbs are distinguished by their utility in human activities, such as culinary arts and herbal medicine, due to their distinct flavors or medicinal qualities.
The classification of plants is based on their biological structure and life cycle, including trees, mosses, ferns, and flowering plants. Herbs, in contrast, are usually defined by their non-woody stems and practical use in various industries, especially culinary, medicinal, and aromatic applications.
Plants exhibit a diverse range of forms and sizes, from tiny algae to giant sequoias. Herbs are generally characterized by their smaller size and the tendency to die back at the end of the growing season. This characteristic size and growth pattern distinguish herbs from other plant forms.
In terms of cultivation, plants can be grown for various purposes like timber, ornamental use, or ecological benefits. Herbs are specifically cultivated for their leaves, seeds, or flowers, which are valued for their aromatic, culinary, or therapeutic properties.

Comparison Chart


All living organisms in the kingdom Plantae
Plants with savory or aromatic properties used for flavor, scent, or medicine


Includes trees, shrubs, grasses, ferns, etc.
Limited to plants with non-woody stems and practical human uses

Primary Use

Ecological roles, oxygen production, food source
Culinary, medicinal, or aromatic uses

Structural Characteristics

Wide range of structures, including woody and non-woody
Primarily non-woody stems, often smaller in size


Varies widely, including perennials, annuals, and biennials
Often die back at the end of the growing season

Plants and Herbs Definitions


Plants are crucial for ecological balance and oxygen production.
Plants along the riverbank prevent soil erosion.


Herbs often have aromatic leaves or seeds.
Lavender is an herb known for its calming fragrance.


Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae.
The rainforest is home to a diverse range of plants.


Herbs are plants used for their flavor, scent, or medicinal properties.
Basil and oregano are popular herbs in Italian cooking.


Plants can be cultivated for food, medicine, or ornamental purposes.
He grows plants for herbal remedies.


Herbs play a significant role in culinary and medicinal applications.
Traditional medicine often uses herbs for healing.


Plants are primarily characterized by their ability to perform photosynthesis.
Plants in the garden convert sunlight into energy.


Herbs are cultivated for their leaves, seeds, or flowers.
The garden includes a variety of culinary herbs.


Plants include various forms like trees, shrubs, and grasses.
The park is filled with different types of plants.


Herbs are typically non-woody and small in size.
She added fresh herbs to the soup for extra flavor.


Any of various photosynthetic, eukaryotic, multicellular organisms of the kingdom Plantae characteristically containing chloroplasts, having cell walls made of cellulose, producing embryos, and lacking the power of locomotion. Plants include trees, bushes, herbs, ferns, mosses, and certain green algae.


What are plants?

Plants are living organisms that typically grow in soil, absorbing water and nutrients to survive.

Are herbs always safe to consume?

While many herbs are safe, some can be toxic or have adverse effects; proper identification and knowledge are important.

What is the difference between herbs and spices?

Herbs typically refer to the leafy parts of a plant, while spices come from other parts like seeds, bark, or roots.

Can plants purify air?

Yes, certain plants like spider plants and peace lilies can help purify the air.

What are herbs?

Herbs are plants used for flavoring, medicine, or fragrance, often characterized by their aromatic properties.

Can herbs be used for cooking?

Yes, many herbs like basil, thyme, and rosemary are commonly used in cooking for flavor.

Are all herbs perennials?

No, herbs can be annuals, perennials, or biennials, depending on the species.

Are all plants herbs?

No, not all plants are herbs. Herbs are specifically used for culinary, medicinal, or aromatic purposes.

How do plants photosynthesize?

Plants convert light energy into chemical energy through photosynthesis, using sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water.

How often should I water my plants?

Watering needs vary by plant type; generally, soil should be moist but not waterlogged.

What are succulents?

Succulents are plants with thick, fleshy parts adapted to store water, like cacti and aloe vera.

Can herbs be used in tea?

Yes, many herbs like mint and chamomile are popular for making herbal teas.

How do plants reproduce?

Plants can reproduce through various means, including seeds, spores, and vegetative parts like stems and roots.

How do I start an herb garden?

Choose a sunny spot, select your herbs, and plant them in well-draining soil with regular watering.

Can plants feel pain?

Plants do not have nervous systems like animals, so they do not feel pain in the same way.

What are native plants?

Native plants are those that occur naturally in a region, adapted to local environmental conditions.

Can herbs grow indoors?

Yes, many herbs can be grown indoors with adequate light and care.

What are medicinal plants?

Medicinal plants are those used for therapeutic purposes, like echinacea or chamomile.

Are there herbs for shade?

Some herbs, like parsley and mint, can tolerate or even prefer shaded areas.

What is an annual plant?

An annual plant completes its life cycle in one growing season and then dies.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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