Horticulture Magazine

20 Perennial Herbs That Return Each Year

herbs growing in raised garden beds

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

‘Perennial herbs’ is a term that can be used to apply to any herbaceous plants (in other words: plants that do not have woody stems above the ground).

However, in this article we consider herbs in the sense of plants, often with aromatic properties.

The herbs in this list 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 growing outdoors
  • BOTANICAL NAME: LAURUS NOBILIS
  • HARDINESS RATING: H4
  • POSITION: FULL SUN OR PARTIAL SHADE
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

Bay laurel is a slow-growing evergreen shrub or small tree, H4 hardy 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 a 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
  • BOTANICAL NAME: MONARDA DIDYMA
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5
  • POSITION: FULL SUN
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

This perennial herb (also known as Monarda didyma, bee balm or Oswego tea) is native to North America.

However, it is also a useful and decorative herb to consider growing in UK gardens.

It is H5 hardy 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

purple flowering nepeta cataria
  • BOTANICAL NAME: NEPETA CATARIA
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • POSITION: FULL SUN
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER / AUTUMN MONTHS

Another excellent attractive perennial herb is Nepeta cataria.

Catnip is of course best known for its intoxicating effect on felines, but the leaves can also be used as aromatic flavouring in salads. [source]

They have a mint-like flavour. Catnip can also be used to make herbal tea.

This hardy perennial is also great for visual appeal, wildlife attraction, and companion planting for pest control.

Catnip is fully hardy in the UK.

4) Chives

a field of purple flowering chives
  • BOTANICAL NAME: ALLIUM SCHOENOPRASUM
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • POSITION: FULL SUN OR PARTIAL SHADE
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

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 H6 in the UK.

5) French Tarragon

tarragon herbs growing wild
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Artemisia dracunculus ‘French’
  • HARDINESS RATING: H4
  • POSITION: FULL SUN
  • FLOWERS: AUTUMN MONTHS

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 H4 and above. [source]

The leaves and shoots impart an anise flavour.

French tarragon is usually grown in full sun but is H4 hardy and suited to growing in Britain.

6) Hyssop

purple flowering hyssop
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Hyssopus officinalis
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • POSITION: FULL SUN OR PARTIAL SHADE
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER / AUTUMN MONTHS

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. [source]

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

field of english lavender
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Lavandula angustifolia
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5
  • POSITION: FULL SUN
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

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 herbal tea.

8) Lemon Balm

lemon balm foliage
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Melissa officinalis
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • POSITION: FULL SUN OR PARTIAL SHADE
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

Hardy to UK H7 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. [source]

9) Lovage

Lovage plant
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Levisticum officinale
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • POSITION: FULL SUN
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

A perennial alternative to celery, lovage is a herb with a long history of culinary uses.

This is another hardy herb that will return each year in UK H6 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

oregano foliage
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Origanum vulgare
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • POSITION: FULL SUN OR PARTIAL SHADE
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER / AUTUMN MONTHS

Origanum ssp. are also excellent perennial herbs that 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 H3 hardy.

Oregano or ‘Pot marjoram’, Origanum vulgare, is H6 hardy.

11) Mints

mint plants covering a large space
  • BOTANICAL NAME: MENTHA
  • HARDINESS RATING: MOSTLY H7
  • POSITION: FULL SUN OR PARTIAL SHADE
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

There is a huge range of different mints that are great options to consider when choosing perennial herbs in 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 garden spaces if left unchecked – but planting them in pots can prevent their spread.

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

parsley herb
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Petroselinum crispum
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • POSITION: FULL SUN OR PARTIAL SHADE
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

Though parsley is technically a biennial rather than a perennial (completing its lifecycle over two years) it is worthwhile considering it within a perennial herb garden as it will often self-seed readily.

So like the other perennials on this list, it can often remain in your garden year after year.

13) Roman chamomile

roman chamomile with a shrubby, daisy-like appearance
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Chamaemelum nobile
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • POSITION: FULL SUN OR PARTIAL SHADE
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

Unlike German chamomile, Roman chamomile is a perennial herb.

It is evergreen, in leaf all year and is hardy to H7 in the UK.

Young sprigs are used as a flavouring in beers, and the flowers are used to make teas.

14) Rosemary

rosemary plant in flowering season
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Salvia rosmarinus
  • HARDINESS RATING: H4
  • POSITION: FULL SUN
  • FLOWERS: SPRING / SUMMER MONTHS

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 H4 and is not frost tender.

15) Salad Burnet

Salad burnet 'Sanguisorba' plants
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Sanguisorba minor
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • POSITION: FULL SUN
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER / AUTUMN MONTHS

Salad burnet, Sanguisorba, is an evergreen perennial that is H6 hardy.

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

leaves of Salvia officinalis
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Salvia officinalis
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5
  • POSITION: FULL SUN OR PARTIAL SHADE
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is an evergreen shrub hardy to H5.

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

sorrel plants
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Rumex acetosa
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • POSITION: FULL SUN OR PARTIAL SHADE
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

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 H7 hardy in the United Kingdom, and leaves can often be harvested in small quantities throughout the year.

18) Sweet Cicely

white flowering Sweet Cicely
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Myrrhis odorata
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5
  • POSITION: PARTIAL SHADE
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

Another great perennial herb, Sweet cicely or anise is an 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

thyme plants on dry ground
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Thymus vulgaris
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5
  • POSITION: FULL SUN
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

A number of thymes, including Thymus vulgaris (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 H5 hardy and the leaves can be used fresh or dried.

Cultivated hybrids such as lemon thyme, for example, are also well worth considering.

20. Winter Savory

white flowering winter savory herb
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Satureja montana
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5
  • POSITION: FULL SUN
  • FLOWERS: SUMMER MONTHS

Last but not least, winter savory is another of the great perennial herbs to consider.

This is an attractive plant, evergreen and hardy to H5 in the UK.

The leaves have a hot and peppery flavour, and are often used with beans, or as a garnish for salads.

The growing plant also attracts a range of beneficial insects, and is said to repel a range of pests.

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