If you long to grow herbs but don't have an area that gets full or partial sun in which to grow them, despair not. There are many shade-tolerant herbs that don't need a lot of sun to thrive. Having a shady site can be a good thing for herbs that prefer cool, moist conditions, and the shade will keep them from overheating, wilting or drying out. If you wish to plant herbs in an area that gets less than four hours of filtered sunlight, these herbs are your best bet for success, as long as you don't plant them close to tree roots.
A hardy perennial, mint is a ground cover that grows vigorously. This can be helpful if you want a groundcover to fill a large area, but if you don't, you may want to keep your mint confined to a large planter or grow it in a raised bed. The aroma of the leaves will vary, and mint is good to add to drinks such as tea.
This ground cover blooms in spring, with small face-like flowers that are commonly dark purple, white or yellow. Violets grow naturally in the wild in shaded woodlands and near streams. You can propagate them by cuttings. If you plant them at the edge of the woods where your garden meets the trees, they make a wonderful transition between the controlled area of your garden and the wild formations of the forest. They are also good for salads and for mixing with or coating in sugar syrup to make sweets.
Fine, fernlike leaves give sweet cicely a beautiful woodland look. A hardy perennial, it grows up to 90 cm (3 feet) high and has umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers in late spring or early summer. This herb can be hard to transplant and is slower to germinate than some, so take care when considering where to plant it. The seeds are pleasant in tea and dessert breads, and the leaves can be added to salads.
The small, white, sparkly flowers in spring create a beautiful sight on this hardy perennial ground cover. The leaves when dried have a clean, fresh fragrance and can be used in potpourri. This herb tends to fade out quickly in climates that are too hot and humid, so it really is a great choice for cool, shady spots.
Mustard likes cool, shady climates, except for white mustard, which likes cool temperatures but full sun. It grows with coarse-toothed leaves and a tall flowering stem. The leaves and seeds have a spicy flavour. This annual herb flowers in early spring, and the individual outer leaves should be picked as the harvesting method.
Alhough it looks like parsley, it has an exceptionally sweet and musky flavour. This annual herb produces pale pink flowers in the summer, and these ripen into the sweet coriander seeds. The plant can reach 90 cm (3 feet) in height, so plan ahead for where you want to place it in relation to other low-growing herbs. This herb does need some sun, but it tolerates partial shade, and it prefers shade in hot weather.
Parsley is a biennial that prefers light rather than full shade. It grows a rich green, and it has frilly or flat leaves with a clean, fresh flavour. It is commonly used as a garnish, but can also be added to a variety of dishes, such as salsa, pasta sauce and salad. To harvest, cut off the outer leaves. The inner leaves will grow for picking the next time you harvest them.
- The herb gardener: A guide for all seasons; Susan McClure; 1996
- The American Horticultural Society encyclopedia of gardening; Christopher Brickell (ed.); 2003
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