Most herbs prefer to grow in sunny conditions, but there are a few that thrive in shade. Here are a few herbs that can make do on four or fewer hours of sun each day.
Tips on Growing Herbs in Shade
All herbs grown in shade will grow tall in an attempt to reach for the sun. Pinch the foliage back to keep plants compact and encourage new growth. Always use new leaves for cooking. Older foliage has a bitter flavor and a tough texture.
In gardening, the word "shade" rarely appears alone. It's usually paired with other words that indicate the degree of shade. In your garden, for example, there may be light shade, filtered shade, full shade or partial shade. Evaluate the light levels in your garden and take into consideration how much shade you have when selecting herbs to plant.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), a perennial herb hardy to USDA Zone 3, tolerates partial shade and grows well in poor soil as long as the drainage is good. It self-sows easily. Lemon balm may be used in teas, salads and fish dishes or with fruit. Its dried leaves may be used in potpourris and sachets. Plants grow leggy and thin unless they're cut back several times a year.
Garlic chives grow best in light shade and require frequent cutting to encourage production of new leaves. Chives may be used in soups and salads, as a garnish and as a seasoning for poultry, fish and pork.
Mint tolerates light shade and comes in a variety of fragrances, including peppermint, spearmint, apple, chocolate and orange. Mint may be used in flavoring teas and drinks or in baking. Because they have a tendency to be invasive, grow mint in containers to help keep plants in check.
Parsley, a biennial herb, requires part shade in hot climates and can be grown in containers or window boxes. Italian flat-leaf parsley has an especially strong flavor. Soak parsley seeds for 24 hours before planting.
Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) is a perennial that bears star-shaped white flowers in spring and requires partial shade in hot climates. It prefers a rich soil and can become a pest if left unchecked. Foliage is hay-scented when dried and is used in making May wine.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), an evergreen shrub, prefers full sun but may be grown in light shade. It is very aromatic when brushed or bruised and is used in cooking fish, poultry and game. Rosemary comes in upright and prostrate forms. The latter may be grown on a wall or in a hanging basket.