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Herbs That Grow in Shade – 8 Useful Herbs for Your Shady Herb Garden

We all know that sunlight is what gets all life on Earth going.

That is especially true for plants because they have the near-magical ability to turn sunlight into food in the process of photosynthesis. That’s the main reason we all have something to eat!

A group of plants that we like to nibble on and add to our meals is herbs

Although we all love herbs, not all of us have the luck of having an ideally positioned garden.

Some gardens are simply shady. That can be due to a north-oriented plot, tree cover, the shade cast by buildings, and other physical reasons. 

On the other hand, some south-oriented gardens in warmer climates get way too hot and dry for many delicate herbs like basil.

Maybe plants can eat sunlight, but they do need a rest from the rays of our radioactive life-giving star. If that’s the case, trying to plant in the shade provided by trees may be the only option.

In short: sometimes you can’t escape the shade.

However, the good news is that there are herbs that will grow in shady conditions.

If you live in an area where summers are dry and harsh, many herbs will actually prefer partial shade to diffuse the effect of the most intense summer sun.

What Should I Know About Herbs That Grow In Shade?

Here are some general rules that relate to all the herbs on the list when they’re grown in shade.

  • Every time you see that a herb can grow in the shade, it means in dappled shade, light shade, or semi-shade. Very few (if any) herbs tolerate deep shade.
  • Growing an aromatic herb in the shade will affect the intensity of its aroma and fragrance. The less sun it gets, the lesser the concentration of aromatic oils seems to be. However, it can never lose its scent entirely.
  • Herbs grown in the shade may become less bushy and lankier than their sun-bathing counterparts.

So, finally – what are the herbs that grow in shade? 

Come to the dark side and find out.

herbs-for-shade
Mint, cilantro, dill, oregano, sorrel, and parsley are just some of the herbs that grow in shade. There are many others and trial and error is one of the best ways to find out what grows well in which parts of your garden!

1. Mint

fresh-green-mint-in-shade
The Mint genus contains 24 species and at least 15 hybrids – there’s a variety to suit everyone and every garden! Mint will grow in full sun and in shade. The reason why it generally ventures from full sun to a shadier part of the garden is that it hunts for moisture. Mint loves moisture!

If you seek out mint in the wild, you will find it growing both in full sun and in the shade. The reason that mint, which generally thrives in the sun, will venture out to the shady corners of the habitat is the hunt for moisture. 

In the garden, mint will do exquisitely well in the shade provided by a tree with a light canopy.

If you’re worried that you’ll get bored with all the mint, perhaps you should know that what we call “mint” is a genus containing 24 species and at least 15 hybrids – including the famous peppermint; mints are the very opposite of boring.

If you are enthusiastic, there are various mint plants you can co-opt for your garden.

There is one trait that makes mint challenging, and that is their aggressive growth.

If your definition of “boring” means “having nothing to do,” boy, controlling your mint in a mixed garden bed will keep you busy!

However, if you prefer not having to fight your own herbs, consider planting mint in a container

How to start growing: Mint is mostly reproduced vegetatively via cuttings or divisions.

However, if you want to try raising your mint plants from seeds, some types can be bought online. For example, spearmint seeds are currently available at Eden Brothers Seeds.

2. Garlic Chives 

Garlic-chives
Garlic chives are one of the best herbs that grow in shade. They don’t just tolerate shade – they thrive in it! Garlic chives are great for salads, meat marinades, and many other dishes where you’d prefer a slightly less intense garlic flavor.

Our second herb that grows in shade is garlic chives (Allium tuberosum). It belongs to the wild garlic and onion group. Not only can it tolerate shade – it grows very well in it! 

This feisty Allium is used for seasoning salads, dishes, and marinades for poultry, pork, and fish. It is ideal if you prefer a light scent and taste of garlic rather than the full, often overwhelming package.

Parts of the plant that have a culinary value are the flat leaves, the stalks, and the unopened flower buds .

However, be careful if you live in Australasia. In the Land Down Under, this herb, native to Asian steppes, is listed as invasive, as it tends to push out and outcompete native vegetation.

I haven’t called it ‘feisty’ without reason – if given a chance, it will spread its seeds and grow like an aggressive weed in various landscapes.

How to start growing: Garlic chives are easy to start from seed. The plant is said to reach full maturity at 21-inch leaf length.

3. Parsley 

Fresh-parsley-herb
Parsley loves the sun. However, it is a herb that grows quite well in the shade, too. Parsley leaves grown in the sun can taste slightly bitter. If you grow your parsley in the shade, you may find that those leaves taste a lot milder. Picking young leaves also help with a less intense flavor.

Originally a Mediterranean plant, parsley surely loves the sun. But, it will survive in the shade as well, with no trouble at all.

Since parsley leaves can taste bitter, if you prefer parsley with a milder flavor, you could get the softer-tasting parsley precisely by growing it in the shade (although picking only the young leaves will also do the trick).

Like carrots, parsley is readily raised from seed. There are several varieties to choose from, the most commonly available being Italian, Curled, and Paramount. If you have a strictly organic garden, USDA-certified seeds are also available.

4. Golden Oregano

golden-oregano-Origanum-vulgare-Aureum
Golden oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’) doesn’t enjoy growing in full sun. This makes it the ideal herb for growing in a shady garden! Golden oregano is less aromatic than common oregano – but it makes a great addition to your herb garden nonetheless.

As its name suggests, the golden oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum) is an oregano cultivar with yellow to green leaves, making them look golden, especially in the full sun.

However, the catch is that golden oregano doesn’t tolerate full, midday sun. If exposed, its leaves will likely fall prey to scorch. However, it is this intolerance that makes golden oregano an ideal plant for semi-shade or light shade.

You can harvest leaves from July to late summer when oregano goes into flowering. It is a perennial that will come back every year; trimming the plant after flowering will keep it compact.

If you’re looking for a strong flavor, remember that Golden oregano is said to be less aromatic than the common oregano.

How to start growing: Golden oregano is not as easy to order online as its common cousin. Keep an eye for potted plant offers, as it is easier to reproduce vegetatively anyway.

5. Common Sorrel

common-sorrel-herb
Sorrel is one of the forgotten favorites. It is so versatile in the kitchen that it’s known both as a vegetable and a herb! As an added bonus, sorrel grow well in shade, too.

So far, the search for our favorite herbs that grow in shade has surely churned out many commercial global favorites. Now, prepare to meet some forgotten favorites of the olden days. 

Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa) belongs to the dock family and has a distinct tart, lemony flavor. It can be used for freshening up salads and also for various cooked dishes.

Its wide variety of uses is the reason why it is often listed both as a vegetable and as a herb. This tough plant, which gets pollinated by wind, will even grow like a weed.

However, it can’t stand sweltering summer heat, so its growing season is limited to the cooler portion of spring. Because of its preference for cooler conditions, it is only logical that it can take some shade.

How to start growing: Used widely in the past because of its availability, as many other dock species, sorrel has been largely forgotten by commercial farmers – which is a shame because of its nutritional value.

Still, thanks to modern farming enthusiasts, sorrel seeds are available to purchase, even online.

6. Coriander / Cilantro

fresh-cilantro-coriander-herb
Cilantro, or coriander in some parts of the world, prefers light shade and cooler growing conditions. It’s a great herb to grow in containers and indoors – all it needs is a well-lit windowsill.

Coriander is famous for the fresh, bitter, lemony flavor of its leaves. Its seeds also make for a popular spice but give a whole other aroma than the foliage. Talk about a 2-in-1 herb! 

It is precisely this double nature of coriander that causes some confusion.

In the UK, for example, the entire plant is called coriander. However, in the US, only the seeds are called that, and the fresh leaves are called cilantro.

Still, we’re here to talk about shade, not linguistic dilemmas, right?

Coriander actually prefers light shade and cooler conditions – it doesn’t take well to intense sun conditions. Thus, it is often grown in containers on porches and windowsills.

How to start growing: Coriander is commonly grown from seed, and the seed is easy to obtain. There are both organic and uncertified options available for purchase.

7. Dill

Dill.
Dill is a culinary herb classic! It’s a wonderful addition to salads and many other dishes with its delicately sweet and tangy foliage. Dill is easy to look after. As long as you water it appropriately, it will tolerate some shade in your garden.

The handsome dill is one of the culinary herbal classics.

Like coriander, it’s a 2-in-1 herb, with its delicate sweet and tangy scented foliage being used in various dishes, salads, and other goodies, while the best batch of homemade pickles is unimaginable without dill seeds.

Read more about the best cucumber varieties that are super easy to grow!

Dill is a genuinely undemanding herb. As long as it gets watered optimally (never drying out, but never being too soaked either), it can tolerate some shade.

However, if it ends up growing in pervasive shade, it can get lanky and floppy – which is what we want to avoid.

How to start growing: Dill is commonly started from seeds, and the seed market offers plenty of surprises.

I have just recently discovered a variety called Bouquet, bred for prolific seed production, making it ideal for use as cut flowers for floral arrangements and, of course – seeds to season those crunchy pickles (if you haven’t figured by now, I love making pickles).

Bonus: Is Lavender One of the Herbs That Grow In Shade?

Sage-savory-lavender-herbs-on-plate
Lavender is not usually grown in the shade. However, as the author explains, it may well thrive in unexpected places of your garden! Experimenting with herb plants in different positions is the best way of finding out if a herb performs well in shade.

Lavender is almost never found on the lists of herbs that grow in shade. The bush with one of the most wonderful fragrances in the entire plant world is nearly always pictured in rugged open terrain and full sun.

In our garden, we planted our lavender bush too close to our then-young red cherry tree, not considering the possible final size of its crown. As a result, as the tree grew, the canopy overshadowed the bush. 

To my surprise, the lavender continued to thrive, outliving some other Mediterranean plants planted in the full sun.

However, it did get elongated while growing, trying to reach the sun; and when it flowers, the flower stalks are elongated and thin.

Also, I believe that the shade does negatively affect the intensity of the fragrance and the size of flower clusters. 

Still, our lavender lives on and provides food for many pollinators during its flowering season. We did it anyway!

Growing Herbs In Shade Is Not a Myth

While most herbs love the sun, the possibility of growing them in (light) shade is not a myth. In fact, it may be beneficial in some situations, and especially for herbs such as cilantro and sorrel that don’t tolerate high heat and full sun.

When choosing, do your homework on what herbs don’t need direct sunlight – those are the ones that will grow successfully in shaded parts of your garden.

However, the shady spot you choose needs to be lightly shaded, not in deep shade.

With good information, some planning, and a bit of trial and error, be confident that you’ll manage to add some fragrance and aroma to your shady herb garden.

As you’ve seen in my lavender example, there are always some exceptional success stories contrary to the official lists of herbs that tolerate shade.

What herb have you managed to grow in the shade? It would be wonderful if you could share your experience in the comments!

Author

  • An environmental analyst, gardener, insect enthusiast, and a mom of three, trying to pour her life-long naturalist experience into useful articles. She is passionate about protecting biodiversity, achieving harmony with natural ecosystems, and raising kids conscious of - and conscientious about - our shared environment.