Garden Lifestyle

Culinary Herbs That Grow Well in Shade

Let go of perfection - herbs can deal with a little shade.

Lemon Balm will tolerate some shade in a garden.   Photo by Jess Beemouse under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

When I say these herbs grow well in shade, I want to be clear that I don’t mean full shade. Rather, I’m talking about those areas that are in semi-shade, dappled sunlight, and afternoon shade. In other words, they don’t need full sun, which is 8-10 hours of sunlight.

In fact, I came upon this lesson quite by accident when years ago I planted a darling little herb garden in an area that was receiving less sun than I realized. But the bed had already been planted and I decided that everything was just going to have grow where planted – and do the best they could. Low and behold, the garden grew beautifully and I continued maintaining an herb bed in that place for the rest of the time I lived in that home.

Here are six culinary herbs that, though they enjoy the sunshine, do well in less sun than you may think.

  • Shiso (Perilla frutescens) – This handy herb grows as an annual in all zones up to 3 feet tall. It can be used in dishes just like basil or cilantro.
  • Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – Grows great in zones 4-9 up to 2 feet tall. It’s bee heralded throughout histiory as one of the calming herbs.
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare) – Grows to 2-1/2 feet; zones 5-9 ; will tolerate light shade.
  • Thyme (Thymus spp.) – Grows well in zones 4-10 from anywhere between 6-12 inches tall depending on the variety. If you’re looking for groundcover, creeping thyme is your herb. And woolly thyme is heavenly on bare feet.
  • Parsley (Petroselinum spp.) – Grows well in zones 5-9 to to about 1 foot tall. Another sun lover that doesn’t mind some shady areas.
  • Corsican Mint (Mentha requienii) – Grows very well in zones 6-9 and is about 6 inches tall. Yes, Corsican mint like the sun, but behaves well in light shade. 

Aside from pulling their weight in the kitchen, these herbs can take the place of the more common stand-bys such a ivy in shady landscaping. Plus once they’re established, these herbs often have less water requirements.





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