By Bethany Hayes
Gardeners often view shade as a curse — it’s empty space that doesn’t serve much purpose in a garden. It’s time to take back the shade and reclaim it as a valuable growing space. That means you need to find vegetables and herbs that grow in the shade, along with flowers, to show that full sunlight isn’t always required.
The herbs that tolerate shade often grow well in limited sunlight. Ideally, these plants should receive around two hours of full sunlight per day, but even if the spot you select doesn’t receive two hours of sunlight, you can still try to grow these plants.
9 Herbs That Grow in The Shade
Most of the popular herbs, like basil and lavender, need to be grown in full sunlight, but that doesn’t mean all herbs need tons of sun. While all nine of these herbs appreciate some sunlight (don’t all plants), they will survive without much.
Not enough people grow bay laurel; it tends to be an herb overlooked by many gardeners. Bay laurel is a large, evergreen shrub that has dark green, fragrant leaves. When you grow bay laurel in full sunlight, the plant reaches several feet tall, but it’ll stay smaller in the shade.
Bay laurel is a perennial plant that is hardy in many climates, but if you live somewhere cold and receives frosts, it’s better to grow it either as an annual or in a container. You can bring the pots indoors to protect it from the cold temperatures and move it back outside in the spring when it gets warmer.
Here is how to grow bay laurel at home.
It’s best to start with a plant from a local garden center because attempting to grow from seed is quite tricky and takes a long time.
Try growing this shrub in a glazed ceramic pot or a terra cotta container that has plenty of drainage holes in the bottom. Make sure to fill it with high-quality potting soil.
Don’t let the soil dry out; bay laurel prefers to be watered regularly but not overwatered.
Make sure to move this shrub inside when the temperatures outside drop into the 50s.
Here is an herb that tends not to be the first selection for new gardeners, but herb-lovers always love to add chervil to their garden beds. It’s a cool-season annual that is relatively easy to grow.
Chervil has a light flavor that has hints of licorice. It’s most often used fresh rather than dried because drying tends to dilute the flavor. You’ll end up with flavorless leaves that aren’t good for anything.
Here’s what you should know about growing chervil.
- If you live in a colder northern climate, you can sow the seeds directly into the garden beds in the spring. The best time is typically a few weeks before the final frost in your region, and then you can sow the seeds in the late summer for a fall harvest.
- Those living in the south will want to grow chervil during the winter months. Remember, chervil prefers cooler temperatures.
- You can harvest the leaves the entire growing season until it drops seeds and dies back.
- It’s important to note that chervil is fantastic for self-sowing, so even though it’s an annual, it’ll grow back each year.
Chives are one of the easiest herbs to grow; you might not know that they’re a hardy perennial until the plants show up again the following year. Chives withstand harsh winter conditions, popping up year after year.
Most gardeners grow chives for its leaves, but the flowers are edible as well. This herb has an onion-like flavor, so that you can use it in a range of culinary dishes. All you need to do is cut off some of the stems; new stems continue to grow from the base.
Here’s how to grow chives in the garden.
- It’s so easy to grow chives from seeds! It would be best if you started them indoors under a grow light in the late winter, typically eight to 12 weeks before the final frost date.
- When the time comes, harden off the chive plants and transplant them into your garden.
- Chives can self-sow. If you leave the flowers to mature on the plant, the seeds drop to the ground, and a new plant grows in the next spot.
This is another annual herb that grows fast in the shade. It tends to be a controversial herb – either you love it or hate it. What you might not know is that you can consume cilantro in two different ways. First, you can eat fresh leaves, which is called cilantro. The dried seeds can be put into recipes, and it’s called coriander.
For new gardeners, cilantro is a fantastic choice because it doesn’t require much knowledge to grow. Aside from being shade tolerant, it grows well in average garden soil. Cilantro is a cool-season crop that will bolt quickly when the weather turns warmer.
Here is what you need to know about growing cilantro.
- It’s best if you plant cilantro from seed as soon as you can work the soil. If you live in a hot climate, then you will need to grow cilantro in the winter.
- Cilantro handles spring frosts well. It’s better for the seeds to encounter a frost than the plants going to flower too fast. That can be ideal if you want coriander!
- The seeds need darkness to germinate. Cover the seeds with up to ½ inch of soil; you don’t want any light to reach the seeds.
- It’s best to sow new seeds every two to three weeks for a continuous harvest. Pick the leaves that you want as you need them. Then, as the next row comes to harvest, you can let the older ones go to seed.
If you like seafood dishes or yogurt dips, you need to grow dill in your garden, and it’s one of the best herbs that grow in the shade. Dill does grow best in full sunlight, but it tolerates growing in the shade, but you won’t end up with as many flowers.
Dill is fern-life with a distinctive flavor that’s typically best used in the fresh form, and the seeds can be used to make pickles. This is an annual herb that does best when you grow it directly from seeds in the garden. Shade-grown dill won’t be as tall as dill grew in full sunlight.
Here’s what you should know about growing dill.
- It’s best to toss the seeds in your garden in late spring but before the last frost date in your region.
- For the best results, you should add compost to your soil before planting the seeds. Dill likes plenty of nutrients.
- The best thing about growing dill is that it doesn’t need much attention at all. These plants thrive on neglect, so you don’t need to give them any special treatment.
- Dill returns each year, so once you have an established plant, it’ll return each year.
If you’ve grown lemon balm before, you know it’s easy to grow and full of a lovely scent. You can use lemon balm to make herbal teas with both dried and fresh leaves.
Most gardeners grow lemon balm as an annual plant, but it does self-sow, so expect it to come back year after year. Make sure that you plant it in a location that you’re okay with the self-sowing. If you don’t want the plants to sow themselves, deadhead and remove the flowers before they drop to the grow.
Here’s what you need to know about growing lemon balm.
- Sow lemon balm seeds outside in your garden beds in the spring after the danger of frost is gone.
- If you don’t want to sow the seeds outside, you can start lemon balm seeds indoors under grow lights. It’s best to do this six to eight weeks before the final frost date in your area.
- In some areas, if you have mild winters, lemon balm plants might overwinter well.
- You can use the leaves, stems, and small yellow flowers to make herbal teas. The leaves contain the most flavor.
- Cut the young foliage with clean scissors. If you want a strong herbal tea, dry the leaves first, which results in a concentration of flavor.
Here is another perennial plant that grows well in the shade and mild climates. If you live in a colder climate, lemon verbena grows as an annual plant.
You can grow this herb from cuttings or buy a nursery-grown transplant. You can grow lemon verbena from seeds, but that takes a lot of time. It’s often better to start with something more established. If you’ve never seen this herb, you’ll love the fragrance of this plant.
Here are the things you should know about growing lemon verbena.
- It’s best to plant lemon verbena in the springtime after the danger of frost.
- Once planted, this herb grows fast. It can reach four feet in height by the end of the growing season.
- If you want to grow lemon verbena each year, it’s often best to grow it in a container. Move the pot inside when the temperatures drop below 50℉, keeping the plants inside when it’s cold outside.
Without a doubt, mint has to be in any list of herbs that grow in the shade. Not only do they thrive in shady areas, but you can pick between dozens of different varieties from the infamous spearmint to unique pineapple mints and everything in between.
One thing you need to know is that mint plants grow aggressively. If you don’t want it to take over your entire garden bed, growing it in a container is recommended. Mint plants spread with underground stems, growing all over the place.
Here is what you should know about growing mint.
- You can grow mint from seed, but it’s easiest to start with a plant from your local garden center. Another option is to take a root piece or a division from a friend who has too much mint.
- Mint isn’t picky; it grows in nearly any conditions. It seems to thrive when you neglect it.
- Make sure to harvest mint frequently to keep its growth in check.
Without a doubt, parsley is a staple herb for most gardens, but you might not realize it’s an easy herb that grows in the shade. There are two types of parsley: flat-leaved (Italian) and curled parsley. No matter the type of parsley you’re growing, it has a delicious flavor needed for thousands of recipes.
Parsley is a true biennial, which means it produces only foliage during its first growing season. If you live in a cold climate, it might not survive the winter, but parsley will grow for a second year in mild climates. During that period, flowering occurs, and the plant will set seeds (that you can save) and die back.
Here’s what you should know about growing parsley.
- You can start parsley seeds indoors eight to 10 weeks before the last frost date in your region. Then, you’ll harden off the seedlings and plant once the danger of frost passes.
- Another option is to buy a transplant at your local garden center. Don’t try to sow the seeds directly into the garden; you won’t have the best results.
Try Growing Herbs in Shade
While not all herbs grow well in the shade, these nine herbs will do fine if you keep them in a shady spot. Ideally, they would have a site that receives at least two to four hours, but they’ll be fine without that as well. Don’t neglect your shady garden spot; take it back by planting some herbs that grow in the shade there.
Learn more about growing herbs in the shade here: