7 Herbs that Grow in Shade

Herbs in shade may seem like a difficult combination. Fear not. For beds and borders shaded by trees, fences or buildings, try one or more of these seven stars for shade.

| April/May 2009


The delicate white blooms of sweet woodruff (foreground) complement other late-spring bloomers, such as iris and wisteria. Garden owner/designer: Claudia Scholz

Susan A. Roth

Wondering what to plant in those shady areas of your landscape? There’s no need to resign yourself to standard shade-fillers, like pachysandra and ivy, when you could be growing useful herbs that thrive in low-light conditions. While many culinary herbs do require lots of direct sunlight (like basil and oregano, which originated in the sunny Mediterranean), other herbs usually listed as full-sun plants will do just fine in partial shade. Parsley, anise hyssop, lemon balm and shiso are among the best herbs for dappled light or areas that receive only a couple of hours of direct sun daily.

Other, less-familiar herbs actually prefer shade. In nature, these plants can be found growing in the dappled light below trees, or at the edges of forests, where the sun shines directly on them for only a short time each day. These plants—which include wild ginger, spicebush and sweet woodruff—will do beautifully in a shady garden site, and will add enticing new flavors and aromas to your cooking.

For beds and borders shaded by trees, fences or buildings, try one or more of these seven stars for shade.

1. Sweet woodruff 
2. Anise hyssop 
3. Wild ginger 
4. Parsley 
5. Shiso 
6. Lemon balm 
7. Spicebush 

To Buy: Spicebush, sweet woodruff and wild ginger are available from Forestfarm, (541) 846-7269, www.forestfarm.com; Lazy S’S Farm Nursery, www.lazyssfarm.com; and Companion Plants, (740) 592-4643, www.companionplants.com. Anise hyssop, lemon balm, parsley and shiso are widely available; mail-order suppliers include Companion Plants; Johnny’s Selected Seeds, (877) 564-6697, www.johnnyseeds.com; and Richters, (905) 640-6677, www.richters.com.

Leda Meredith is a botanist, writer and instructor at the New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, specializing in edible and medicinal plants. She is the author of Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes (Heliotrope Books, 2008).

5/29/2016 7:59:43 PM

This herb has been labeled nephrotoxic by the FDA and is part of a family of carcinogenic herbs.

10/1/2015 8:07:37 AM

You know that you have a great article when you make your reader wish that she lived next door to the couple about whom you have written. Well done!

3/13/2015 2:20:57 AM

To: Just JJ - if you click on the different herbs they give suggestions for uses.

3/12/2015 9:50:05 AM

To the person with the question about the wysteria in the picture. That has not been pruned,it looks just like ours.We spend a lot{ AND I MEAN A LOT} of time staking it where we want it to go.

3/12/2015 9:42:51 AM

Thanks for sharing some great shade herbs. Wild Ginger genus Asarum is listed by the USDA as being nephrotoxic meaning toxic to the kidneys. Are folks using this as an herb? Is this the genus you are listing here? I am interested in knowing other folks experience with it.

3/9/2015 1:17:45 PM

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12/23/2014 5:46:59 PM

If you want your readers to be truly informed. How about some maintenance thoughts since these plants are highly invasive.

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4/13/2014 2:25:54 PM

great article has help me a lot, keep up the good work. www.herbalism-den.info

8/13/2013 8:02:08 PM

I have alot of shade and this really helps me out on what I can grow and use! Thank you! http://www.onlineplantnursery.com

8/1/2013 11:39:50 AM

I would love to get info on how to trim my whisteria.  The one in the photo is georgeous, mine looks like the killer tomato!  It's all over the place and I don't know where to cut so I don't ruin the blooms for the next year.  Can you plant the seed pods too???  I love lemon balm.  Thanks for the info, I could use some greens under the shade. 

just jj
3/14/2013 1:44:41 PM

Would appreciate a few suggested uses for these also.

gloria charlton
3/3/2013 2:56:55 PM

I always enjoy reading how to be healthier

elderberry, echinacea, bee hive


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