Looking for herbs that grow in shade? Here are 24 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. Culinary Parsley
Flat-leaved parsley is a culinary biennial herb generally grown as an annual. It grows well in the shade and is a standard plant in windowsill herb garden kits. Parsley grows well in the low-light indoor conditions of the kitchen and outdoor shade herb gardens.
- Dark Green Italian Parsley Seeds
- Heirloom Curled Parsley Seeds
- Certified Organic Flat-Leaved Italian Parsley Seeds
Parsley is used in all kinds of recipes. It is minced up into salads (especially heartier salads like tabbouleh and potato salad). It is also commonly used in making bone broth and also to flavour sauces, soups, and even rice.
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. There are numerous types of mint to grow in the garden. Most common mints can be grown from seeds, while true herbal peppermint (M. piperita) is grown only from divisions or cuttings (seeds are sterile).
- Peppermint Plants (Bonnie Plants, Home Depot, USA)
- Peppermint Plants (Richter’s Herbs, Canada)
- Common Mint Seeds (Botanical Interests, USA)
- Spearmint Seeds (West Coast Seeds, Canada)
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.
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 Plants from Richter’s Herbs (Ontario, Canada)
- Wasabia japonica ‘Mazuma‘ from Pheonix Perennials (British Columbia, Canada)
- Wasabi Plants from Oregon Coast Wasabi
Wasabi is well known in its role as a spicy condiment alongside sushi rolls in Japanese cuisine. Fresh wasabi has strong but short-lived flavour. 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).
Cilantro is a fresh green culinary herb grown as an annual. Cilantro is the leafy portion of the coriander plant. 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.
- Calypso Cilantro Seeds from West Coast Seeds
- Santo Cilantro Seeds from Hoss Garden Seeds
- Santo Long-Standing Cilantro Seeds from West Coast Seeds
- Heirloom Cilantro Seeds from Botanical Interests
- Certified Organic Cilantro Seeds from Seeds of Change
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.
Sorrel is a medium-sized leafy green culinary herb. This herb does best in cool conditions – both in terms of flavour 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 flavour. It’s often used alongside mild-flavoured foods such as poached fish or boiled potatoes.
6. 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 Plants from Richter’s Herbs (Canada)
Sweet cicely is used in herbal tea, as it has a licorice-like anise flavour. 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
7. Sweet Woodruff
Sweet woodruff is a delicate perennial herb that truly loves 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 Plants from Richters Herbs (Canada)
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.
8. 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 favourable.
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 less-flavourful tarragons that are quite commonly sold.
- French Tarragon Plants from Richter’s Herbs
Tarragon is featured in French cuisine, and can be used to flavour 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.
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 flavour soups and other savoury dishes. It has a strong herbal flavour reminiscent of parsley or celery. Your lovage can go into fresh garden salads, potato salad (or on baked potatoes), and of course, in soups.
- Lovage Seeds from West Coast Seeds
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.
10. 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 used in herbal tea blends, as it has a lovely flavour and complements other herbs quite well. It is also grown to attract bees to the garden.
11. 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 favourite of bees (and of butterflies).
Dill is a biennial culinary herb that can be grown in sun or shade. While dill flowers much better in sunny conditions, this is not necessarily a good thing. Many gardeners grow dill only for its feathery foliage known as dill weed, and shady conditions can sometimes allow for a higher production of this leafy herb per square foot of garden soil.
- Bouquet Dill Seeds from West Coast Seeds
- Bouquet Dill Seeds from Hoss Garden Seeds
- Ella Organic Dwarf Dill Seeds from West Coast Seeds
- Certified Organic Dill Seeds from Seeds of Change
Dill is used most commonly in sauces, especically for fish, potatoes, and vegetables. Salmon and asparagus are two dishes that commonly include dill as a culinary herbal flavouring.
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, they seem to live forever!
- Organic Chives Seeds from West Coast Seeds
- Common Chives Seeds from Botanical Interests
- Garlic Chives Seeds from Hoss Garden Seeds
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 favourite of bees and butterflies.
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 its still certainly worth growing if your only spot is shady.
- Organic Borage Seeds from Botanical Interests
- Borage Seeds from West Coast Seeds (Canada)
- Borage Seeds from Hoss Garden Seeds
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.
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.
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 Plants & Seeds from Richter’s Herbs
Angelica 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 is a pretty annual grown for its edible green leaves and flowers. 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!
- Empress of India Nasturtium Seeds
- Baby Rose Compact Nasturtium Seeds
- Black Velvet Nasturtium Seeds
- Heirloom Alaska Variegated Nasturtium Seeds
- Jewel Blend Nasturtium Seeds
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.
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.
- Red Perilla Shiso Seeds from West Coast Seeds
- Green Perilla Shiso Seeds from West Coast Seeds
- Green Perilla/Shiso Seeds from Richter’s Herbs
- Hojiso Perilla/Shiso Seeds from Richter’s Herbs
Shiso has a kind of cinnamon scent, and is used in Japanese cuisine for flavouring fish and bean curd. It is also widely used in pickled ginger served alongside sushi (red shiso gives the ginger the lovely bright pink colour!).
Ginger is a tropical perennial culinary herb grown for its spicy rhizomes. Ginger is an understory plant which grows well in light shade. The plant is used to the filtered light of the forest floor. Ginger can be grown directly from store-bought rhizome roots.
- Ginger Root Plants from Baker Creek
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.
20. 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 welcome flavour to otherwise mild dishes.
21. 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 favourable. Salad Burnet is best grown directly from seed, as it does not transplant well.
Salad Burnet is used to add flavour to sauces and salads. It has a mild yet interesting flavour – 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.
22. 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.
- Purple Dead Nettle from Richter’s Herbs
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.
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 condiment. It has a very strong spicy flavour. 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.
24. 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 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 Violet Seeds from West Coast Seeds
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.