Herbs That Grow in Shade

Evening Primrose
Today we're going to talk a little about herbs that like shade. In a perfect world, you'd have enough space in your garden to grow every plant that strikes your fancy. In the real world, your plant passions are probably constrained by a number of factors, including: your budget, the time you have available and the limitations of your landscape. Garden realities may create special challenges. Your yard may be located on a hill, be at the mercy of punishing heat or wind or be subject heavy shade cast by nearby trees or buildings.

Trees in Your Landscape


If you planted a charming sapling a couple of decades ago that now towers over you home, you're not alone. There are more dwarf trees available now than there were back in the day. If you misjudged just how tall that arbor day project was going to grow between the time your kids were toddlers and the day one of them would ask you for the car keys (or were misled by the description on the label) you may well be dealing with a big swath of garden that's in shadow much of the time. The answer to opening up your landscape may not be to cut down the tree, though.

If you haven't had your tree trimmed in a number of years, creating good air flow by judicious pruning can help keep your tree healthy and looking good. It will also promote dappled light, a much better growing condition for many plants (including your lawn) than deep shade.

Trees do pose some unique challenges though:

Tree roots may extend farther than you expect. The root systems of a tree can be as wide as its aerial canopy. From a practical perspective, that means plants placed close to trees have less room to put down their own deep roots. This can make them more vulnerable to stress, drought conditions and cold snaps.

Trees can also be water hogs. The area directly under a tree's canopy usually remains relatively dry, too, even during wet weather. What water does penetrate may be soaked up by thirsty tree roots before plants have a chance to get a good drink.

Choose the Right Herbs for Your Growing Conditions

The bad news is that many common plant varieties may not get enough water to survive under (or near) trees, even when they can tolerate some shade. Plants that manage to do well under trees usually have somewhat shallow roots themselves. They are also champions at being able to access moisture quickly before it passes deeper into the soil. Many are traditional woodland residents. If you have problem with trees in your landscape, prefer woodland plants and herbs for those locations. One excellent example is sweet woodruff. There's a photo of this charming little plant below.

Herb Plants for Shade

The following is a list of attractive herbs that do well in shade. For the best results, position plants where you can dig six inch deep and six to eight inch diameter holes. Provide plants with rich soil, and give them a two to three inch layer of protective mulch unless otherwise noted in the plant profiles you see here or elsewhere.

Angelica - Angelica archangelica

Black Cohosh - Actaea racemosa

Catnip - Nepeta Cataria

Chervil- Anthriscus cerefolium

Chives - Allium schoenoprasum

Cilantro - Coriandrum sativum

Evening primrose - Oenothera -

Ginger (wild) - Asarum canadense

Goldenseal - Hydrastis canadensis

Hyssop (anise) - Agastache foeniculum

Lemon balm - Melissa officinalis

Mint - Mentha -

- Petroselinum crispum (likes shade, but needs room for taproot growth)

 Pennyroyal - Hedeoma pulegioides

 Periwinkle - Vinca -

 Sweet Cicely - Myrrhis odorata

 Sweet Woodruff - Galium odoratum

 Tarragon, Russian - Artemisia dracunculus L. 

 Thyme - Thymus vulgaris
Sweet Woodruff

 Valerian - Valeriana officinalis 

Periwinkle - By Dcrjsr (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Evening Primrose - By Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Chives Photo - From my garden

Varerian Photo - Valerian1_Wiki.jpg By Christian Hummert (Ixitixel) (eigenes Foro) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sweet Woodruff Photo - From my garden

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