Herbs are aromatic and savory plants, and many people grow them from their fragrance, flavoring, and medicinal uses. Most herbs do very well with little maintenance or intervention from you, especially herbs that grow in shade. They need less fertilizer and water than many other garden plants, and they’re usually free of pests.
Since herbs act like natural pest repellents, they make great companion plants for fruits, flowers, and vegetables. Interplanting herbs that grow in shade with their companion plants will boost your crop production, increase pollination, and give you a habitat for good insects while maximizing your garden space.
Many herbs do best when you plant them in a space that gets six to eight hours of sunlight every day, some herbs that grow in shade adjust to lower light levels. You can tuck these herbs into shaded spots in your yard against a wall or fence, under shrubs or trees, or in any corner, nook, or cranny you have that gets three to six hours of sunlight a day.
16 Herbs that Grow in Shade
You want to pay close attention to the planting zone you’re in before you purchase your herbs to ensure that they’ll thrive in the environment and the shaded conditions. The following 15 herbs that grow in shade are aromatic and nice additions to your garden.
1. Bay Laurel
Along with being a herb that grows in the shade, Bay Laurel is a big evergreen shrub with dark green, fragrant, glossy leaves. In full sun situations, this plant will only get a few feet high at full maturity. But, in the native Mediterranean climate, it gets a lot bigger. You can plant it in containers in shade to keep it manageable.
Bay Laurel is hardy in climates that don’t get frost at any point during the year, but it can grow well in areas where you plan on using it as an annual. They do well in containers, and they’re relatively tolerant to drought and require very little maintenance. During the winter months, you’ll bring it inside to protect it from freezing. The leaves are very flavorful, and it’s common to dry them before you use them.
The leaves on this herb that grows in shade are very tough, especially when you dry them, so you have to pull them from the dish before you serve it. To grow this herb, start with a plant from your local nursery early in the spring. Plant it in a terra cotta or glazed ceramic pot with a drainage hole in the bottom. Water it regularly, but avoid overwatering. Move it inside as soon as the temperatures drop below 50-degrees Fahrenheit at night.
2. Bee Balm
Bee Balm is a perennial tea herb that has pink and red flowers. It’s a very hardy plant that does well in sun, but it’s better as a herb that grows in shade. It grows best in fertile soil, and it’s easier to maintain it when it’s in at least partial shade. Bee Balm is very popular in tea blends to add a flowery smell that is very similar to Earl Gray’s bergamot. It’s also one of the most popular flowers you can have to attract hummingbirds to your garden, and it’s a favorite of butterflies and bees.
Borage is a flowering herb that people grow for the edible flowers, and it’s also a spiritual and medicinal herb that grows in shade. It does like a little sun, but it can’t handle more than partial sun. Putting it in deep shade will result in a plant that isn’t as healthy as one grown in partial shade, but it will grow. Borage flowers are a very pretty addition to your fresh salads. It was traditionally used in health tonics and medicines, and it works in the garden as an ornamental.
Garden Chervil is one herb that grows in shade that you should never be without. It’s a cool-season annual, and it’s easy to grow while producing ferny, soft green foliage. It has a very delicate flavor that is very close to licorice. You use Chervil when it’s fresh because the flavor profile is so delicate. If you try to dry it, it’s flavorless. You can combine fresh chervil with chives, tarragon, and parsley to make a herbal sauce, or you can toss fresh leaves into your salad for a welcome flavor.
Depending on your climate, you have two options for starting this herb that grows in shade. In northern areas, you should sow the seeds directly into the garden during the spring, a few weeks before the frost goes. People in southern locations will want to grow it in the cooler months in August or September. This allows you to harvest the leaves throughout the winter months. Once the off-season arrives, the plant will flower, drop the seeds, and die.
Chervil thrives in the shade. It’s a self-sowing plant, so once you manage to get your plant established, it will come back year after year. This plant grows very quickly and they’re ready for you to harvest within a few weeks of planting it.
Chives are one of the earliest herbs you can harvest, and they’re a very hardy perennial herb that grows in shade that is grown for the leaves, but you can also eat the flowers. You’ll get a very delicate onion flavor with this herb, and you can harvest it and use it throughout the growing season by snipping a handful of stems off at the plant’s base. New stems will grow continually from the crown of the plant throughout the season.
Chives are very easy to grow starting from seeds, and you can start them indoors under a grow light during the late winter. The young plants can get moved out of your garden or into pots 8 to 12 weeks later. If you let the flowers mature, the seeds will get ripe, dry, and drop off. New plants will come up next spring. It’s very easy to find chives in your local gardening center if you don’t want to start from seeds.
This herb that grows in shade is tolerant of freezes and frosts, even without a lot of sun. Even though they are ranked as one of the best shade herbs, they’ll produce more flowers in full sun. The ball-like clusters of purplish-pink flowers appear on the top of the plant’s green stalks during the late spring months. You can sprinkle some of the flowers in sandwiches, salads, or soups to lend a very mild flavor. Regular harvests and dividing the plants every three or four years are all of the routine maintenance they need.
6. Cilantro or Coriander
This is an annual herb, and it’s one of the fastest-growing herbs for shade you can buy. Cilantro gets harvested and used in two different ways. The fresh leaves are called cilantro, and the dried seeds are coriander. You won’t need to do much to get a successful harvest. It’s a very shade-tolerant shrub, and it grows nicely in average soil. The trick to growing a hearty crop is getting the timing correct.
Cilantro is a great cool-season crop that bolts or goes to flower quickly when the weather warms up and the days get longer. Because of this habit, you want to start this plant from seed as soon as you can work the soil in the early spring months. In hot climates, this is a winter-growing herb.
It’s common to sow cilantro in late March. Unlike many herbs that grow in shade, this one can tolerate spring frots without a problem. Waiting and sowing the seeds too late will push the plant to bolt too quickly, and this will limit your yield of cilantro but increase your coriander production. The seeds require darkness to germinate, so you want to cover them with ¼ to ½ inch of soil to block out the light. Sow new seeds every two or three weeks to get a continuous harvest, and pick a few leaves at a time from the plant’s crown to encourage new growth.
To harvest this herb that grows in shade, allow the plants to go to flower and stop harvesting the leaves. After pollination, the seeds will form and dry out. Shake the dry stems in a brown paper bag to harvest them. Since cilantro is a cool-weather herb, you can sow more seeds in early September. The fall harvest will give you leaves that are more tender because the plant is slow to generate flowers.
Dill is an annual herb that grows in shade, but it also does very well when you place it in full sun. The distinctively flavored, ferny foliage on this plant is best when you use it fresh, and it’s common to use the seeds to flavor dill pickles. Annual herbs like dill do best when you start them from seed directly sown right into your garden. Start the plants by putting seeds in during late April. Add some compost to the area and cover them with a light layer of soil. Dill thrives on neglect and does better when you leave it be. Once you establish your colony of dill, it will return each year as long as you make a point to not overharvest the foliage.
Dill is one of the easiest herbs to grow in the shade, but it won’t get as tall. At full maturity, it gets between two and three feet tall. You can harvest the foliage at any point throughout the growing season. The edible flower heads are a nice addition to fresh salads, and the blooms support dozens of species of pollinators and beneficial insects.
8. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is very easy to grow in a variety of conditions, and it makes a fantastic herbal tea when the leaves are dried or fresh. It’s typically grown as an annual, and it readily self-sows. This is excellent if you love this herb that grows in shade and want a lot of it. But, if you don’t want it to take over, deadhead it regularly. All you have to do is snip the flower stalks before the seeds mature and fall.
Lemon Balm is a very prolific herb with a heavy flavor that grows in shade or sun. The stems, leaves, and little yellow flowers work well to make tea, but the leaves pack in the most flavor. To harvest it, all you do is remove the young, fresh foliage with a pair of sharp, clean scissors. To get a stronger flavor, dry the leaves. Sow the seeds outside in the spring right after the last frost passes. You can also sow them indoors using grow lights in late winter and transplant them outside. Some of the plants may overwinter well, but this depends on your climate.
9. Lemon Verbena
Lemon Verbena is a perennial when you plant it in extremely mild climates, but it’s more commonly grown as an annual. This herb that grows in shade is native to South America, and it gives you airy sprays of tiny pale purple or white flowers. It’s a woody, warm climate herb that can’t tolerate frost. It’s a tender perennial that you can overwinter as a houseplant, and it’s best to grow it from nursery-grown transplants or cuttings because growing from seed is a long process.
Plant it in the springtime after the frost recedes for the last time and watch it reach a maximum of four feet high. The foliage is lemon flavored and highly fragrant. If you’d like to keep the plant from year to year, you’ll put it in a container. When the temperatures drop to the 50s, it’s time to bring this herb that grows in shade inside and turn it into a houseplant. When the warm weather comes back with no frost threat, move it back outside.
This is a bigger culinary herb that is a perennial. It’s not a complete shade lover, but it can tolerate anything but full shade, especially once you establish it. This herb that grows in shade gets used to flavor savory dishes and soups. It has a very strong herbal flavor like celery or parsley, and you can put it into fresh salads, baked potatoes, soups, or potato salad.
The lovage plant will get roughly five feet tall with a similar spread, and this larger size means that you have to choose your location carefully. You can grow it from seed, but you’ll have better luck growing it as a small plant from a nursery.
There are dozens of mint plants available that thrive as herbs that grow in shade. Mint will grow in sun or shade, and old-fashioned peppermint does very well. However, mint has a very aggressive growth habit. They spread using underground stems that can quickly take over and grow out of bounds, even in deeper shade. Because it has a reputation for quickly getting out of hand, consider planting it in a container without any drainage holes so the creeping roots can’t escape.
Mint is very easy to grow from a nursery-started plant. You can also get a root piece or a division from someone who is growing it. The divisions are very easy to transplant as long as you keep the soil moist with frequent waterings for the first few months after you plant it.
Oregano likes partial shade, but it’s hardy enough to do well in more shaded areas of your yard. Just like thyme, it will have a slower growth rate in the shade, but it will get there. Once it’s established, it’ll grow vigorously in a range of conditions. You do want a well-draining soil for your oregano to grow in that isn’t soggy for this Mediterranea, heat-loving herb.
There are several Oregano types you can add to your herb garden. Many people prefer to plant Greek Oregano to use in cooking. Italian Oregano is very similar to Greek Oregano but it has a more mild flavor and scent. Golden Oregano is more decorative, and it’s used mainly for sunnier areas as an ornamental plant. It works well in meat dishes, pastas, stews, and comfort foods. It’s also a very common addition to spice rubs and blends.
Parsley is a staple herb that grows in shade in many gardens, and it’s arguably one of the easiest to grow. It fits into the curled parsley or flat-leaved parsley category. Both have a very fresh and recognizable taste, and both will grow well in shaded conditions. As a biennial, it produces only foliage during the first growing season.
Most parsley varieties will survive the winter in every climate but the coldest ones, and flowering happens during the second year before the plant goes to seed and dies. Once the flowering process starts, it changes the flavor. You can plant it using nursery plants or starting seeds inside roughly 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost.
14. Sweet Woodruff
This delicate perennial herb that grows in shade needs some moisture to be happy. It’s also tolerant for less-than-ideal conditions like very acidic soil. Sweet Woodruff is a very low-maintenance herb, and all you’ll have to do once a year is rake up last years’ foliage during the spring months. You usually won’t have to cut it back since it’s so fine.
Most gardeners grow Sweet Woodruff as an ornamental ground cover plant in their woodland gardens. In Germany, it’s common to use this herb to make a festive wine for May Day. This herb is also commonly used in linen closets and as a potpourri, and it will hold the scent for a year.
Tarragon works well as an addition to your shade garden, and you get a very mild, licorice-like flavor that is very important to flavoring fish and poultry. It’s a fun perennial herb that grows in shade, and it’ll come back bigger and better year after year. This beautiful plant is slightly floppy, and it requires regular harvests to keep it in a more compact shape.
Get a sharp pair of shears and snip the stems to encourage new growth. Fresh tarragon is lovely, but you can also dry it for a less intense flavor. Start this herb using nursery-grown plants or from cuttings.
Finally, wasabi is a nice herb that grows in shade, and direct sunlight can cause this happy plant to droop and wither. It’s much easier to grow it using cuttings or a small plant than it is from seed. Wasabi has a reputation for use as a spicy condiment in Japanese cuisine that you serve alongside sushi. Fresh wasabi has a very short-lived but strong flavor that is very similar to traditional horseradish.
These 16 popular herbs that grow in shade are more than enough to help kickstart your new garden and fill in any open spaces. Follow your climate zone’s recommendations and choose herbs that will thrive in these conditions to ensure you get a full harvest.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.