26 Herbs That Grow In Shade For Low-Light Garden Areas

Looking for herbs that grow in shade? Here are 26 wonderful herbal plants that can grow in low-light conditions. Some are total shade-lovers and others are partial to partial shade…but they’re all well suited to a shaded herb garden!

1. Parsley

Parsley is a culinary herb that grows well in the shade. This biennial herb is a standard plant for kitchen herb gardens. Parsley grows well in the low-light indoor conditions of the kitchen and in outdoor herb gardens situated in the shade.

This herb is easy to grow from seeds and is also easy to find as seedling plants at the garden center. Flat-Leaf Italian Parsley is grown for most culinary applications while Curly Parsley is used as a garnish. Here are several different types of Parsley to consider for your shade herb garden:

Parsley is used in all kinds of recipes, including dishes with potatoes, rice, pasta, soups, stews, and seafood. It can also be minced up into salads (especially heartier salads like tabbouleh and potato salad) and is commonly added to bone broth.

Mint - herbs that grow in shade
26 herbs that grow in shade for low-light garden areas

2. Mint (Especially Peppermint)

Mint is a perennial culinary and medicinal herb. While it is most commonly grown in sunny areas, it is such an enthusiastic plant that it can also thrive in low-light conditions. Mint plants are usually grown in planter pots or larger containers like whiskey barrels as these fragrant plants spread vigorously (even in the shade).

There are numerous types of mint to grow in the garden. Most common mints can be grown from seeds, including Spearmint (Julep Mint) and Apple Mint (Pineapple Mint). True herbal peppermint (M. piperita), however, can be grown only from divisions or cuttings (seeds are sterile).

Mint makes a lovely herbal tea and a cool refreshing herbal water. Mint is also lovely in fresh summer salads (especially with watermelon). It’s also a great medium-height greenery foliage plant in shady garden areas.

3. Wasabi

Wasabi is a true shade-loving herb. Direct sunlight can cause an otherwise happy wasabi plant to wither and droop. It is much easier to grow your wasabi from an existing plant than to find and grow it from seed.

Wasabi is well known for its role as a spicy condiment alongside sushi rolls in Japanese cuisine. Fresh wasabi has a strong but short-lived flavor. Wasabi is similar in taste to horseradish, and so horseradish is a used common wasabi substitute in pre-prepared “wasabi” (as opposed to true, freshly-made wasabi paste).

4. Cilantro

Cilantro is a fresh green culinary herb grown as an annual. Both Cilantro and Coriander come from the same plant (Coriandrum sativum). Cilantro is the leafy portion of the coriander plant while the rounded seeds are more commonly referred to as Coriander.

Both the leaves and stems of Cilantro plants can be finely chopped and added to recipes. While you can certainly let your plant go to seed and produce coriander seeds, it’s generally easiest just to grow it for the fresh green cilantro leaves if the plant is to be grown in the shade as these plants don’t flower as well in shaded areas.

Cilantro is most commonly used in Latin-American cooking, such as in fresh pico de gallo salsas and hearty southwest salads. Coriander seeds are most commonly dried and ground for use in Indian cuisine.

5. Sorrel

Sorrel is a medium-sized leafy green culinary herb. This herb does best in cool conditions – both in terms of flavor and ease of growing the plants. Sorrel is best grown from seeds rather than trying to find baby sorrel plants.

Sorrel is most commonly used to add some zip to fresh salads, soups, and sauces. Sorrel has a sour, tangy flavor. It’s often used alongside mild-flavored foods such as poached fish or boiled potatoes.

6. French Tarragon

French Tarragon is a medium-sized shrubby perennial herb. While tarragon does grow best in sun, it will tolerate shade if other conditions are favorable.

French tarragon can only be grown from divisions of existing plants (it spreads in clumps, but the flowers/seeds are sterile). Take care to look for “French Tarragon” plants (Artemisia dracunculus ‘sativa‘) as there are many less-flavorful tarragons that are quite commonly sold.

Tarragon is frequently featured in French cuisine and can be used to flavor meat, eggs, or sauces. Tarragon-infused vinegar is used for fresh salad dressings and other sauces. Tarragon can even be used to make compound butter which is excellent for cooking veggies.

Lemon balm leaves in the shade garden

7. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a perennial herb grown for its green scented leaves. This hardy plant does like some sun, but like its mint cousins, is certainly capable of thriving even in a shady corner. Lemon balm is quite an enthusiastic grower, and is easiest to contain if grown in a pot (especially if your herb garden is partial shade/partial sun).

Lemon balm is used in herbal tea blends, as it has a lovely flavor and complements other herbs quite well. It is also grown to attract bees to the garden.

8. Dill

Dill is a biennial culinary herb that can be grown in the sun or shade. While dill flowers best in sunny conditions, these blooms are not necessarily a good thing for culinary herb gardeners. Many gardeners grow dill only for its feathery foliage known as dill weed, and shady conditions can sometimes allow for higher production of this leafy herb per square foot of garden soil.

Dill is used most commonly in sauces, especially for fish dishes, potatoes, and vegetables. Salmon and asparagus are two dishes that commonly include dill as a culinary herbal flavoring. As a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae/Umbelliferae) Dill also pairs nicely with carrots (especially when roased in the oven with a bit of olive oil).

9. Chives

Chives are a perennial culinary herb from the onion family. Chives are quite a low-maintenance herb and will grow in sun or in shade. They are also easily grown from seed or from root divisions, and once they’re established, these hardy perennial plants seem to live forever (especially if allowed to go to seed)!

Chives are used as fresh green onions in salads, sauces, and on top of starchy dishes like baked potatoes. Their cheery pink/purple spherical flowers are lovely in salads as well. The flowers are also a favorite of bees and butterflies.

English thyme plants

10. Thyme

Thyme is a popular culinary herb that grows on low-growing semi-woody shrubs. While this herb grows best in full sun, it certainly can be grown in shady environments. Just expect it to grow quite a bit more slowly in low-light locations.

Thyme is a nice herb to add to roast dishes, meat rubs, and subley flavored dishes like fish and chicken. The plants are also quite ornamental as a groundcover or cascading over a stone wall or rock garden.

11. Oregano

Oregano grows best in partial to full sun, but is tough enough to grow in shady spots. As with thyme, it will grow more slowly in shade, but it can certainly be done. Even if your herb garden only gets a few hours of sun each day, oregano can grow quite vigorously once established. Just be sure that the soil is well-drained and not soggy for this heat-loving Meditteranean herb.

There are many different types of Oregano to grow in the herb garden. Greek Oregano is the type preferred for culinary applications. Italian Oregano plants resemble Greek Oregano but tend to have a more mild scent and flavor. Golden Oregano is a decorative type used mainly for ornamental purposes in sunnier sports.

Oregano is a must-have herb for many pastas, meat dishes, stews, and other hearty comfort foods. This strong herb is a common component in many spice blends and rubs.

12. Lovage

Lovage is a large perennial culinary herb. Lovage isn’t a total shade lover, but it will tolerate shade quite well, especially once happily established.

Lovage is used to flavor soups and other savory dishes. It has a strong herbal flavor reminiscent of parsley or celery. Your lovage can go into fresh garden salads, potato salad (or on baked potatoes), and of course, soups.

A lovage plant grows to about 5 feet tall (and several feet across). This large footprint makes it wise to choose its location carefully! It can be grown from seed, but I had better luck growing it in the shade when I purchased and planted a small lovage plant from the nursery.

13. Bee Balm

Bee balm is a perennial tea herb with showy red/pink flowers. This is a hardy plant that fares well in either sun or shade. Bee Balm does grow best in moist fertile soil – conditions that can be easier to maintain with at least some shade.

Bee balm is used in tea blends to add a flowery scent, similar to the bergamot in Earl Grey tea. This plant is also one of the most popular flowers for attracting hummingbirds to your garden. True to its name, it is also a favorite of bees (and of butterflies).

Sweet woodruff herbaceous plants - shade loving groundcover
Sweet Woodruff – Shade Loving Groundcover Plant for Woodland Gardens

14. Sweet Woodruff

Sweet woodruff is a delicate perennial herb that thrives in shade. While this plant does need some moisture, it is tolerant of less-than-ideal conditions like acidic soil. Sweet woodruff is also extremely low-maintenance; the only annual chore is to rake up the previous years’ foliage in the spring (it is so fine it generally does not need to be cut back).

Sweet woodruff is most commonly grown as an ornamental groundcover plant in woodland gardens. In Germany, it is used to make festive wine for May Day. Fresh woodruff is also used in linen closets and as potpourri, as it tends to keep its scent for at least one year. Here is a complete guide to growing sweet woodruff in your garden.

15. Sweet Cicely

Sweet Cicely is a shade-tolerant herb that is one of the first herbs available in early spring. This plant has fine, fern-like leaves and lovely white umbels of flowers. Sweet cicely is becoming more common as heritage British herbs are rediscovered.

Sweet cicely is used in herbal tea, as it has a licorice-like anise flavor. It can also be used to sweeten up tart dishes (think rhubarb) and as a flavourful addition to fresh spring salads.

“Sweet cicely’s anise-flavored foliage makes a delightful tea when blended with mint and lemon balm.”

Herbs: The Complete Gardener’s Guide, by Patrick Lima

16. Borage

Borage is a flowering herb grown for its edible flowers, and also as a medicinal and spiritual herb. While it does like some sun (especially for flowers), it can be grown in partial shade. A shade-grown borage plant likely won’t be quite as healthy as it would be in the sun, but it’s still certainly worth growing if your only spot is shady.

Borage flowers are a beautiful addition to fresh salads. Traditionally, borage was used in medicines and health tonics. It also makes a lovely addition to the garden as an ornamental.

17. Chervil

Chervil is a delicate annual culinary herb. This herb does really well in light shade. Chervil is almost always grown from seed (rather than transplants) and often re-seeds itself each year.

Chervil is graceful in the herb garden and is also quite delicate as a culinary herb. It is rarely sold in supermarkets and is best grown right at home. Chervil is lovely with chives and dill in spring dishes like herbed asparagus and potato salad.

Read more about Chervil and how to grow it in your garden.

18. Angelica

Angelica is an ornamental biennial herb grown for its decorative fine flowers. The flowers are a lovely addition to the back of a shade garden, where the flowers can grow on stalks up to 6 feet high!

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) is most commonly grown as an ornamental due to its ability to produce masses of decorative flowers in shady conditions. Historically, this plant was used as a medicinal herb and as a spiritual plant.

Nasturtium leaves and flowers from the herb garden for salad

19. Nasturtium

Nasturtium is a pretty annual grown for its edible green leaves and flowers which have a spicy fragrance and flavor. When grown in the sun, it will certainly flower more, but it is completely possible to grow nasturtium in partial shade. You may get more greens than flowers, but they’re just as much fun!

Nasturtium leaves and flowers are lovely in fresh salads. Their leaves have a peppery sharpness to them, kind of like arugula/rocket. A few nasturtium leaves are also lovely on a sandwich or on top of a freshly-baked pizza.

20. Shiso

Shiso is a self-seeding annual herb grown for its lovely purple leaves. Shiso is a true shade herb, growing perfectly well in full shade.

Shiso has a kind of cinnamon scent and is used in Japanese cuisine for flavoring fish and bean curd. It is also widely used in pickled ginger served alongside sushi (red shiso gives the ginger the lovely bright pink color!).

21. Ginger

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a tropical perennial culinary herb grown for its spicy rhizomes. This is different from the “Wild Ginger” plant (genus Asarum) grown in temperate gardens. Tropical Ginger is an understory plant that grows well in light shade. The plant is accustomed to the filtered light of the forest floor. Ginger can sometimes be grown directly from store-bought rhizome roots or purchased specifically for planting:

Ginger is widely used in cooking. It can be used fresh, pickled, or dried as a powder. Ginger is also widely used in teas and medicinal tonics.

22. Sweet Fennel

Sweet fennel is a culinary herb grown as a perennial in southern areas and as an annual in northern climates. While the vegetable-like Florence fennel really does need some sun, herbal sweet fennel can be grown in partial shade.

Sweet fennel is used most commonly in salads, in sauce (especially for fish), and as a herbal tea. The shoots and flowers have a sweet licorice-like taste that adds a welcome flavor to otherwise mild dishes.

23. Salad Burnet

Salad Burnet is a perennial culinary herb. While it does like a bit of sun, it will put up with shade if other conditions are favorable. Salad Burnet is best grown directly from seed, as it does not transplant well.

Salad Burnet is used to add flavor to sauces and salads. It has a mild yet interesting taste – a little bit tart, kind of cucumber-like, and almost a bit spicy. While this herb is not common in current herb gardens, it will likely be included in the upcoming trend of growing unusual herbs in our gardens.

24. Purple Dead Nettle

Purple Dead Nettle is a perennial ornamental herb with lightly-striped green leaves and lovely light-purple flowers. As a mint relative, this plant is aggressive enough to survive and thrive in shady conditions.

Dead nettle is most commonly used as a groundcover in shade gardens. Cultivars are available with white flowers, pink flowers, and variegated leaves. Dead nettle was used historically as a medicinal herb.

25. Horseradish

Horseradish is a large perennial culinary herb. While it grows best in full sun, horseradish is incredibly hardy and will survive shady conditions with a bit of ambient light and enough water. Horseradish grown in shade is best established from the division of an existing healthy plant (as opposed to from seed).

Horseradish is eaten mostly as a condiment. It has a very strong spicy flavor. It is sometimes used alongside mustard and is also a popular side for beef dishes (think beef dip, roast beef with Yorkshires, et cetera). Horseradish is also a main component of imitation wasabi paste served alongside sushi.

Sweet violet flowers

26. Sweet Violet

Sweet violet is a perennial flowering herbal plant. These hardy plants are the herbal equivalent of the easy-care pansy and can be grown in the sun or shade. Our patch of sweet violets grows happily under the weeping willow tree, where they have happily out-competed the less-than-happy turf grass.

Sweet violets are most commonly grown for their fragrant purple flowers, which appear in early spring. The flowers are most often enjoyed in place but are also sometimes used in salads, desserts, and herbal teas.

Resources

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a gardening expert and founder of Home for the Harvest. She's also an engineer and certified permaculture garden designer. Mary Jane has been featured by publications such as Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Homes & Gardens, Heirloom Gardener, and Family Handyman.