Horticulture Magazine

20 Perennial Herbs That Return Each Year

herbs growing in raised garden beds

There are a huge range of perennial herbs that can be very useful additions to your garden.

Perennial herbs is a term which can be used to apply to any herbaceous plants (ie, plants which do not have woody stems above the ground). But in this article looks at herbs in the sense of plants, often with aromatic properties, which are used for culinary and/or medicinal uses.

The 20 herbs on the list below are particularly useful and interesting culinary herbs. All will be very useful while in growth, and will also be useful in your kitchen:

1. Bay

Bay laurel is a slow growing evergreen shrub or small tree, hardy to zone 8 in the UK. It can grow in full sun or light/dappled shade. A key ingredient in a French ‘bouquet garni’, bay leaves are used as flavouring for soups, stews, and other recipes. It will thrive in most soils which are fertile, and relatively moisture retentive yet free draining.

2. Bergamot

red flowering Monarda didyma herbs in a garden
Monarda didyma

This perennial herb also known as Monarda didyma, bee balm or Oswego tea is native to North America. But it is also a useful and decorative herb to consider growing in UK gardens. It is hardy to zone 4 in the UK and is not frost tender. Notable for attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects, bergamot is also used for culinary purposes. Leaves and the tips of the shoots are used in salads, drinks etc. And it is famously used to impart an ‘Earl Grey’ flavour to China tea.

3. Catnip

Another excellent attractive perennial herb is Nepeta catarina. Catnip is of course best known for its intoxicating effect on felines. But the leaves can also be used as aromatic flavouring in salads. They have a mint-like flavour. Catnip can also be used to make a herbal tea. This hardy perennial is also great for visual appeal, wildlife attraction, and companion planting for pest control. Catnip is fully hardy to zone 3 in the UK.

4. Chives

Chives are a well known culinary herb in the onion (allium) family. They are excellent companion plants for a range of other crops, helping to repel, confuse or distract a range of pest species. When in flower, chives also look pretty, and attract pollinators and other beneficial insects to your garden. Chives can be chopped into a salad, or used as a pot herb, to impart a mild onion flavour. Chives can grow in sun or light shade, in a rich, moist but free-draining soil. Chives are hardy to UK zone 5.

5. French Tarragon

tarragon herbs growing wild

French tarragon, said to be superior in taste to Russian tarragon, is another well known culinary herb, and another perennial that can return each year in areas of the UK zone 6 and above. The leaves and shoots impart an anise flavour, and this herb is said to have beneficial effects on the digestion and so is often used to accompany oily foods.

6. Hyssop

This evergreen shrub is another great wildlife-friendly perennial to consider. Hyssop used to be a more common culinary herb than it is today. But it is well worth adding to your garden. Leaves and young shoot tips are used as a pot herb, imparting a flavour that combined mint and sage. Hyssop attracts a range of wildlife and can be useful as a companion plant in your garden.

7. Lavender

Lavender is a well known ornamental shrub, prized for its beauty and fragrance. But what you might not realise is that leaves, petals and flowering tips can be used as a pot herb in moderation. The flavour is strong and so lavender is usually only used in small quantities. But it could be an interesting addition to your culinary repertoire. Fresh or dried flowers are sometimes also used to make a herbal tea.

8. Lemon Balm

Hardy to UK zone 4 and not frost tender, Melissa officinalis, lemon balm, is another of the great perennial herbs to grow in the UK. Bees and other insects love it, and it is notable for its delicious lemon flavour. It is also good for organic pest control, and is said to be a useful dynamic accumulator plant.

9. Lovage

Lovage plant

A perennial alternative to celery, lovage is a herb with a long history of culinary and medicinal use. This is another hardy herb which will return each year in UK zone 4 and above. It is often used as a pot herb to impart a celery-like or yeasty flavour. Young stems can also be used like celery in salads or cooked recipes.

10. Marjoram/ Oregano

Origanum ssp. are also excellent perennial herbs which return each year. Both are notable culinary herbs, of course, and are also useful as wildlife attractants and companion plants. Sweet marjoram, Origanum majorana, and Origanum x majoricum (hardy marjoram) are hardy to UK zone 7. Oregano or ‘Pot marjoram’, Origanum vulgare, is hardy to UK zone 5.

11. Mints

There are a huge range of different mints that are great options to consider when choosing perennial herbs for the UK. Peppermints, spearmints, and many mints with different and unusual flavours can be considered. Mints can be very vigorous and can tend to take over. But planting them in pots can stop their spread. However, in some cases, you will want them to spread, as they provide excellent ground cover. Mints are, like many herbs on this list, great for wildlife and pest management in an organic garden.

12. Parsley (Technically Biennial)

Though parsley is technically a biennial rather than a perennial (completing its lifecycle over two years) it is worthwhile considering it in a perennial herb garden as it will often self-seed readily. So like the perennials on this list, it can often remain in your garden year after year.

13. Roman chamomile

Unlike German chamomile, Roman chamomile is a perennial herb. It is evergreen, in leaf all year. And is hardy to zone 4 in the UK. Young sprigs are used as a flavouring in beers, and the flowers are used to make teas.

14. Rosemary

Rosemary is another well known culinary herb that will remain in your garden over a number of years. It is an evergreen shrub, with needle-like leaves which are used as a pot herb and in moderation in a range of different recipes. Rosemary is another great perennial to consider in a wildlife-friendly, sustainable garden. It is hardy to UK zone 6 and is not frost tender.

15. Salad Burnet

Salad burnet 'Sanguisorba' plants
Salad burnet

Salad burnet, Sanguisorba, is an evergreen perennial hardy to UK zone 5. It has young shoots and leaves which can be eaten in salads, used as a garnish, or used in cooked recipes as a pot herb. Salad burnet can also be used in herbal teas.

16. Sage

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is an evergreen shrub hardy to UK zone 5. This is of course a very common culinary herb, which can be used in a wide range of dishes. Other salvias can also be very useful perennial herbs to grow in your garden.

17. Sorrel

A number of sorrels, or Rumex ssp. are also very useful perennial herbs of perennial vegetables. Sorrels have a lovely lemony flavour, and can be used in mixed salads, to make soups, or to impart flavour to a range of recipes. Sorrel is hardy to zone 3 in the UK, and leaves can often be harvested in small quantities throughout the year.

18. Sweet Cicely

white flowering Sweet Cicely
Sweet Cicely

Another great perennial herb, Sweet cicely or anise is a aniseed-scented plant whose leaves are often used as a herb in salads or cooked recipes. There are also culinary uses for the seeds and roots of the plant. Sweet cicely is related to fennel, which is also a useful perennial herb to grow for an aniseed-like flavour.

19. Thymes

A number of thymes, including Thymus officinalis (common thyme) are also very useful perennial herbs to grow in your garden. This shrub is notable as a companion crop for a range of common edibles, and is another great herb for attracting wildlife in your garden. It is hardy to UK zone 7. The leaves can be used fresh or dried. Cultivated hybrids such as lemon thyme, for example, are also well worth considering.

20. Winter Savory

Last but not least, winter savory is another of the great perennial herbs to consider for culinary use in the UK. This is an attractive plant, evergreen and hardy to zone 6 in the UK. The leaves have a hot and peppery flavour, and care often used with beans, or as a garnish for salads etc.. The growing plant also attracts a range of beneficial insects, and is said to repel a range of pests.

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