Culinary Herbs That Grow Well in Shade

comments (5) July 19th, 2010

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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Lemon Balm will tolerate some shade in a garden.
Photo by Jess Beemouse under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

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.





posted in: herbs

Comments (5)

Elodyanson writes: Hye dear, I have my pretty garden and also like to grow different types of herbs weekly.
Posted: 1:04 am on August 22nd
timonrooster writes: Thanks for sharing info. Great article
Posted: 1:57 am on July 13th
KathyL1947 writes: Perilla come in green and red. Both are medicinal herbs and taste great in salads. Have a anise taste and do not bleed like red cabbage. Spreads by seeds everywhere. Medicinal use: Antibiatic leaves, are used fresh in sushi to reduce bacteria poisoning, and dried to treat flu, coughs and nausea. (Eyewitness Handbooks Herbs)
I grow the culinary herbs in pots on the steps where I can move them to shelterered area if frost is coming. Then move indoors to windowsill in late fall. Also I remember to water them if I have to walk by them..
Posted: 1:19 pm on April 24th
Gisforgunnera writes: Finally, some info on Shiso!

I couldn't find it because of all the names it is known by. It is an absolutely beautiful (but small) leaf with a wonderful fragrance when rubbed and neat flavor. Google "shiso" to find an latimes article on how to serve it all types of foods (sushi, fruits, salads, etc.).

I found the Korean version of this plant as a "leaf caster" (add cement to leaves to cast a fossilized imprint) a couple of years ago where my neighbors were growing it in their garden in dappled shade.

Thanks for mentioning it - I'm finally able to go find seeds!

Alternative names in various Ethnic markets:
-perilla, bai su (Chinese)
-ohba, aoba/oba/akajiso, shiso (Japanese)
-purple mint, Japanese basil, wild coleus, beefsteak plant (American?)
-deulkkae (translates into "wild sesame"), kkaennip ("sesame leaf") (Korean)
-silam (Indian)
-tia to (Vietnamese)

Posted: 1:55 pm on March 16th
WhatsTheMuck writes: Chris, ALL of my leaf herbs grow fine in the shade- meaning pretty significant (but not total) shade, as the back yard (where they are growing) doesn't get but two or three hours of sun in any one spot anymore. The plants probably do not produce the crop that they would in 'full' sun (at least 6 hours per day here) but they produce, even the basil. I have Cameo basil finally starting to flower, after growing for many months on the back deck with very little sun. Which may be a good thing, as the Mid-Atlantic has been slammed by a period of unusual, almost non-stop heat and humidity for two months now. Keep that in mind if you live in a region that traditionally experiences brutal summers- more shade may be better for your leaf crops.

A week or so ago I set three small seed-grown large leaf basils in a pot on the front porch, which only gets a couple of hours of blasting afternoon sun every day, and is shaded or partially shaded the rest of the day, and they are shooting up pretty quickly. For me the take home message is you just gotta try a spot and see if it works. Leaves are a lot less picky than fruits, so what do you have to lose?
Posted: 8:50 pm on July 24th
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