Herbs are great. For some of us, they’re the gateway into gardening proper: an opportunity to grow a few plants that are fairly easy and have practical uses that make them feel worthwhile. For others, they’re an integral part of any home garden.
Whatever your relationship with or experience of growing herbs, though, knowing which ones will grow well in the shade is a useful bit of knowledge to have on standby.
Plants that prefer shade are ideal for those of us with limited space to grow things. If you’ve got a small garden surrounded by structures, for example. Or if your only outdoor space is a balcony facing in a direction that doesn’t give it much sunlight. In these situations, choosing plants that do best in the shade is a way to satisfy your gardening urge without needing to relocate.
So, with that in mind, here are seven herbs that will grow well in the shade. We’ll start with familiar faces, then move onto some you might not be acquainted with.
Perhaps most famous in bygone decades as a classy garnish for pretty much any fish dish, parsley is enjoying something of a renaissance now. This humble green herb goes well in pesto, chimichurri, and various other exciting sauces and accompaniments.
Parsley will grow well in the shade and will do even better with a fortnightly dose of a balanced fertiliser.
You can sow parsley from March through to June, plant out from May through to July, and harvest from June onwards. Sowing staggered batches will ensure a longer growing season, allowing you to enjoy more parsley fresh from the plant.
If you’re one of the lucky people who don’t carry the gene that make coriander taste like soap, then growing your own is practically obligatory. Whether you pop a sprig on top of a nice plate of curry, make a flavour-rich coriander sauce, or anything else, this herb is of almost inexhaustible use in your kitchen.
This herb will do well in the shade, and likes damp soil (too dry, and the plant may bolt). You can sow coriander from June through September, and harvest from July onwards. Again, staggered sowing will give you a staggered crop.
These long thin herbs have a fantastic flavour, making them a fine addition to an array of recipes. Wherever you want a flavour reminiscent of onion but without quite as much punch, a sprinkling of chives will do the trick. And what’s more, their flowers are highly appealing to bees, bringing a little extra wildlife to your garden.
Chives grow well in containers and in the ground, and will be quite happy without much direct sunlight. Sow in March or April, plant out the following month, then expcet to harvest from July to September. And keep in mind that you can still eat chives if they’ve flowered!
4. Golden oregano
There are several types of oregano, some of which sport yellow leaves that are prone to being scorched by the hot midday sun. This makes them particularly well suited to being grown in the shade. Oregano has got to be one of our favourite herbs, if only for the distinctive flavour and the incomparable contributions it makes to Italian and Mediterranean cooking. If you like these flavours – sundried tomatoes, garlic, onion, olives, and so on – then a homegrown supply of oregano will revolutionise your kitchen.
Sow oregano between February and March, staggering batches if you want to extend the harvesting season (May through October). Plant out your sown seeds between April and July. This herb likes regular watering, but be careful not to let the soil stay too damp, as this will damage the roots.
Whether you’re growing mint for the sole purposes of more authentic mojitos, or you have less luxurious plans for the herb, we recommend having a supply on standby. The gentle flavour provided by a mint plant is so much better fresh, and you’ll be surprised at how many uses it has. An accompaniment for meats, for example, whether as a garnish or sauce. Or an exotic variation on tea (mint, sugar, hot water, and you’re good to go).
If you’re growing mint in the ground, the received wisdom is to bury it in pots rather than plant directly. This keeps the adventurous root system in check, reducing the risk of the plant monopolising all available space. Plant your mint in March through May, and harvest from May through October.
Here we move onto the herbs which, for most of us at least, may be a little less familiar. It’s unlikely you’ll find angelica amongst the living herb plants in your local supermarket, for example. For us, this is the benchmark of whether or not a herb has made it into the mainstream.
Angelica is worth getting acquainted with, though. Beneath this plant’s striking bushels are stems that can be candied, stewed, and more. Angelica is famously useful in baking, too, and its seeds can be put to great use in delivering its distinctive flavour. Sow this herb in autumn or late spring, directly into the soil. Then harvest in the spring or as and when required.
7. Miner’s Lettuce
Here we have another herb still waiting on the C-List while its friends climb the ladder and mingle with the A-Listers. But lack of fame doesn’t mean this herb doesn’t have something to offer. In fact, in bygone days the leaves and stems of this plant provided a reliable source of salad greens for miners. The herb is high in vitamin C, and can be eaten raw or cooked making it nicely versatile.
If you want to get to know this herb, a shady spot will make a fine home for it. Sow from early spring, using staggered sowings to extend the harvest season. Then pick what you need in the summer and autumn months.
Herb is the word
There you have it: seven herbs that will grow nicely in a shady spot, putting to bed the idea that you can only have a viable herb garden if you’re blessed with a bright, sunny garden or outside space.
We firmly believe that gardening should be accessible to and enjoyable for everyone, regardless of the space they’ve got to work with. While some of the most popular herbs require sun, we think the selection above is indicative of the variety available to you if you’re growing in the shade. Parsley, coriander, mint and a couple of others are amongst the most common herbs – the ones you’ll find on the supermarket shelves.
And while you may not be familiar with the others, they’ve got plenty to offer to the intrepid chef. Some of the most rewarding cooking experiences come from taking the plunge and trying out a new ingredient for the first time. So take a chance, grow something you’ve never tried before, and see which culinary doors it opens up for you.
And finally, keep doing your research! This list is not exhaustive and there are plenty of other herbs and edible flowers that will grow well in the shade. We hope you find something suitably exciting and delicious, and that you enjoy the process of researching, growing, harvesting and, perhaps most importantly, eating.