- Due to space limitations, our planting areas may not receive the full sunlight requirements of most plants, which is 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. Nevertheless, we still yearn for the freshness in herbs that we can only have by growing them ourselves. Nature intended for plants to survive and thrive in different sets of conditions, and we just have to select those that we can take care of given our unique circumstances. With a little bit of ingenuity and persistence, we can still have the benefits and fulfillment of being able to create an herb garden that thrives in partial shade.
- The following herbs can be successfully grown in shady areas of your garden.
1. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme is a popular herb used in different cuisines around the world. There are several types of thyme, but the commonly cultivated variety is the English thyme. It has a highly branching and spreading herb, and bears tiny leaves and pink or purple flowers. It goes well with beef, pork, lamb, potatoes, fish and lots of other food products. Thyme loves partial shade and shouldn’t be watered too often. It is very appropriate to be grown in containers, as it has shallow roots. It is recommended that you plant it in wide, shallow containers, where it will have enough space to expand and grow freely.
If you start with a sprig planted in spring, it will soon spread to form an aromatic carpet, providing you with more herb than you can use up. But the leaves can be frozen or dried for winter use. Frequent pruning keeps the plants healthy and green.
2. Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
Angelica is a biennial, which loves partial shade, high amounts of moisture, and woodland conditions. It can be grown in the garden, too, though. This plant is a cure for a lot of diseases, but its roots are poisonous. Only the flowers/leaves and stems are edible.
You need fresh seeds to grow Angelica because they lose their viability pretty quickly. The plants produce only leaves in the first year. These large leaves are highly divided into leaflets which give them a lacy look. The tall flower stalks with fewer leaves come up in the second year, carrying large umbrellas of tiny, nectar-filled flowers.
You can plant Angelica in the shade of shrubs and trees where it can enjoy the dappled shade and the slightly acidic soil. It needs plenty of space to grow and spread out, so it is fine to grow it in a remote part of the garden and gather the leaves and stem as and when required.
3. Parsley (Petroselinum neapolitanum / crispum)
Parsley is also a very popular herb. It goes very well on tomato salads, but it is widely used for other dishes, too. It is rich in vitamin C. There are two types of parsley – flat-leaved and Italian. They both like moist soil and partial shade. It can be grown in containers, just like mint.
Parsley comes in two varieties, the flat-leaved Italian parsley (Petroselinum neapolitanum) and its curly-leaved cousin (Petroselinum crispum). The more flavorful Italian parsley is commonly used in cooking while the crispy, beautifully ruffled leaves of the other are used for garnishing dishes.
Parsley needs moist soil rich in organic matter to do its best. Although it can grow in full sun, light shade is better for the lush growth of the leaves. The herb is grown from seeds, but it has a long germination period, thanks to the furanocoumarins present in the seed. Parsley thrives in USDA zones 5-9, preferring a temperature range of 70 to 85. However, it is very cold hardy, remaining green even in freezing temperatures.
4. Shiso/Red perilla (Perilla frutescens)
This colorful herb with anise-like flavor deserves to be grown more often. Commonly called Beefsteak plant or Red Chinese basil, this purple-colored plant belonging to the mint family can be used as a flavoring and coloring agent in pickles and in rice and vegetable dishes.
Red Perilla can be grown from seeds and planted in moist areas with rich soil and some amount of shade. It does well as an annual in USDA zones 3-11, but areas with high humidity are preferred. Pinch off the growing tips to promote branching and to prevent the plant from flowering and setting seed early.
5. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
When it comes to ginger, you should know that this herb gives the ginger root used as a spice in cooking and as a medicinal herb to treat nausea and digestive problems. The ginger root is actually a branching rhizomatous underground stem which send out top growth every now and then.
Ginger is a woodland plant of the tropics, and it can be grown successfully as a perennial in USDA zones 9-12. Elsewhere, treat it as an annual, providing a warm, sheltered location. It is propagated by division of the rhizomes.
When planted in early spring, with at least one or two growing buds or ‘eyes’ to every section, they sprout new leaves in a few week’s time. Mulch it well to keep in moisture and provide warmth. The plants complete their growth by the end of fall, the leaves dying out naturally. The rhizomes can be dug up and stored in a cool place to be used as fresh herb, or dried to make ginger root powder.
6. Mint (Mentha spp.)
As one of the easiest herbs to grow in the shade, mint also derives its flavor from not having too much sunlight and keeping itself to cooler areas. It is advisable to keep this herb in a container since it can spread quickly to other areas of your garden. Keep it tame with regular trimming and harvesting, and add the leaves to your tea or cold beverages for a fresh feeling across your palette.
Mint is easily propagated from seeds and cuttings, and thrives well in well-drained, moist soil. You can find mints that grow in any USDA zone. For instance, Peppermint ( Mentha x piperita) is ideal for USDA zones 3 to 8, while Spearmint (M. spicata) is perfect for zone 5 to 9 and above. Mint likes light shade, especially when grown in warmer areas. It tends to grow leggy, but frequent pruning helps the herb remain bushy. It will give you plenty of leaves to make digestive teas and pretty garnishes for years to come.
7. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon Balm, as you can guess from its name, has a very pleasant citrus flavour. It is used for flavouring dishes, salads, tea and whatever else you can think of. It is also a perennial and loves shade. It has to be trimmed often, though, in order to prevent it from getting leggy. Medicinal uses include a digestive tea made by steeping leaves in warm water. It can control bloating and vomiting. The calming tea relieves a headache and restlessness too.
Grow lemon balm in rich, moist soil. It loves sun and warmth, but it can thrive in partial shade as well. It can be grown as a perennial in USDA zone 9-10, but may not survive cold winters elsewhere unless overwintered indoors or under heavy mulch. Frequent pruning keeps the plant bushy and prevents early flowering.
8. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens)
This woodland orchid is a medicinal herb native to the Eastern United States. The entire plant consists of an underground rhizome and a ground hugging rosette of beautifully veined leaves from which arises an occasional spike of small, white flowers . A tea made from the leaves is used as a toothache remedy and the slightly wilted leaves can be applied to skin sores and burns for pain relief and faster healing.
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain can be grown in USDA zones 4-10 as long as its woodland habitat can be replicated. Give it a shady location, preferably under an evergreen tree, and provide light, well draining soil, to which some peat moss or leaf-mold has been added.
9. Wild ginger (Asarum canadense)
Wild ginger is a herbaceous plant with beautiful, heart-shaped leaves is commonly used as a groundcover in shady areas. The rhizomes spreading underground beneath the thick leaf cover can be used in cooking to impart a spicy flavor to dishes. Native American Indians used wild ginger to treat cold and fevers.
Grow wild ginger anywhere in USDA zones 2-8, but give it moist, slightly acidic soil, preferably in the shade of tall trees. You can plant small sections of the rhizome, each with an eye or two, in late fall or early spring. They will sprout soon and send out stolons to spread and cover the area with their attractive foliage.
10. Anise (Pimpinella anisum)
Anise has a liquorish flavour. It is mainly used in medicine and for the production of strong anise drinks. Tea made of its fruit is very effective against colic. Anise loves partial shade. The leaves can be used as a flavoring herb and the fennel-like seeds as a spice in many sweet and savory dishes.
You can grow it in USDA zones 4-9, but the seeds have to be sown in situ because the seedlings do not like to be transplanted once they start developing the taproot. Start them as early as possible in well-drained soil in a shady spot because they need at least 4 months of warmth to complete flowering and produce anise seeds.
11. Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Meadowsweet is a native plant to most of West Asia and Europe. It is a herb that grows in meadows and blooms beautifully in June to September. The blooms and leaves have s pleasant aroma and are used for flavouring teas, desserts and wine. Meadowsweet is an appropriate plant for your garden, if you want to attract bees and butterflies.
The leaves and stem can be used to flavor jams and jellies, wines and vinegars. The plant has medicinal properties too, thanks to its high salicylic acid content. In fact, this plant extract was the original basis for the preparation of acetyl salicylic acid which came to be known as aspirin. A tea of the leaves or flowers can be used to relieve headaches, but shouldn’t be given to children, asthmatics and those who are allergic to aspirin.
Grow Meadowsweet in moist and shady locations in USDA zones 2-8. It prefers rich soil with good amounts of compost added to it.
12. Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Sweet woodruff is very appropriate for a ground-covering plant. It has aromatic, star-like leaves. It is used in pot-pourri and is a very effective moth repellent. Germans use it to flavour desserts and drinks, as it has a very strong scent.
Sweet Woodruff can be grown from seeds or divisions in USDA zones 4-8 and overwintered with some amount of protection. Give it a shady location with rich, well-draining soil and it will soon send out runners to cover the entire area with sweet-smelling ground cover.
Use Sweet woodruff in small quantities to flavor soups, syrups and wine, or for making a relaxing tea. A poultice of the leaves can be applied on sprains, hemorrhoids, and swollen joints to get pain relief.
13. Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
Tarragon loves shade but only in the afternoon. In the morning it prefers sunny spots. Tarragon is used in salads and other meals. You can also flavour vinegar with it. It is a very interesting herb from the perennial family. The easiest way to grow it is from cuttings.
Tarragon loves rich, well-draining soil, but poor soil intensifies its flavor. It should be watered not more than once or twice a week; the rhizomatous roots can rot in wet and waterlogged conditions. The herb thrives in warmth, but cannot stand very high temperatures. It does well in places that get full morning sun, but requires afternoon shade, especially in warm areas. Harvest the young stems for fresh herb or freeze or dry them.
14. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Most of you might not even heard of it but it is a very popular herb. In my opinion, it is not exactly a herb but a vegetable, but it likes shade. Chives is a type of onions, which is used for flavouring salads or as a decoration of other meals. It has grass-like leaves and a light flavour, which is very pleasant. Unlike mint, though, it doesn’t like full shade. You have to grow it somewhere where there is some direct sunlight.
Chives can be successfully grown in USDA zones 3-10. Start it from seeds or by divisions of the clumps. Once established, they faithfully come back year after year, enlarging their clumps in the process. Rich, well-drained soil is ideal, although they can survive in less than ideal conditions too. They prefer some moisture in the soil, but waterlogging should be avoided.
Chives can thrive in full sun, but light shade, especially during the afternoon, is preferred. Shade-grown chives may not develop as many flowerheads, but that is a good thing since self-seeding is a big problem with this herb. Snip off the lower leaves and any flowers that come up.
15. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)
Cilantro also likes partial shade, like chives. It can be grown from seeds and is a very good addition to lots of meals, too. Mind that this herb doesn’t like to be transplanted.
Coriander belongs to the same Apiaceae family as the Italian parsley, and has similar growth habits and cultural requirements. It is easily grown from seeds, and thrives in rich, moist soil containing plenty of humus. The older leaves can be harvested regularly as the plant develops more tender leaves from center of the rosette, or the entire plant can be pulled up and used finely chopped.
Cilantro can be grown in USDA zones 4-10. Although it can grow in full sun where ample soil moisture is present, there is the risk of the plant bolting––or developing flower stalk that marks the end of its vegetative growth. It also results in bitter leaves. Partial shade helps maintain the taste and flavor of the herb and ensures a steady crop of larger leaves.