Perennials are plants that bloom for one season and if grown under favorable conditions, they can live a long time. Their lifespan usually ranges between three to five years and they can be divided into three major categories; herbaceous, evergreen, and woody. Herbaceous perennials die every year, but their roots and other parts of the plant that are underground may survive. This makes them “come back” every year if kept in favorable conditions. Examples of herbaceous perennials include mint, geranium, mugwort, and black-eyed Susan.
Evergreen perennials, on the other hand, retain their glorious foliage all year. Unlike herbaceous perennials, they don’t die in autumn and winter. Some examples of evergreen perennials include bush lily, elephant ear, and cranesbill. Woody perennials are plants that don’t die. Instead, they continue to grow with each passing season. Some examples include lilac, hibiscus, crape myrtle, and spirea.
What are Perennial Herbs?
Perennial herbs, in contrast with annual herbs, can be planted once but yield foliage for a number of years. Not only are they excellent for culinary use, but they can be used in homeopathy. Perennial herbs come with many benefits, like insect and pest control, whilst attracting pollinators and other beneficial wildlife. They are generally low maintenance and are easy to take care of.
How do Perennial Herbs Survive Winter?
Perennials are notably cold-hardy plants, which means that they can resist injury during exposure to low temperatures, more so, freezing temperatures as low as 32F/0C. They survive the winter by allowing the exposed parts of the plant to die whilst their roots are maintained by their characteristic sugars, which lower the plant’s freezing point. While this process is a unique coping mechanism for perennials, adding mulch during bitter cold winters can add a layer of much-needed heat they need to pull through.
17 Perennial Herbs You Can Grow in Your Garden
1. Biennial Parsley
Parsley is, no doubt, one of the most beloved herbs in Asian kitchens. From soups to curries, rice, and grills, parsley is one herb that completes a recipe. Even though this herb is biennial, it can be cared for as though it is a perennial because it seeds so easily. Whether in full or partial shade, parsley plants will grow like there’s no tomorrow, especially if you trim them. Parsley regrows after cutting, and the more you cut the stems, the fuller the plant gets, making it somewhat of a “permanent” plant. If you want one in your garden, here’s how to grow parsley in your backyard!
2. Chives/Garlic Chives
Chives are part of the onion family and, much like their fellow alliums, they have a strong aroma and taste. Chives flourish in full sun and fertilized soil that is well-drained. Be sure to space your chive plants at least six inches apart as they tend to spread about 12 inches across, and to water them regularly as they thrive in moist soil. Garlic chives are a variety of chives that have the onion taste of normal chives but also have a garlicky finish. While chives bear purple blossoms, garlic chives bloom white flowers and can tolerate drought. They are both stars in fresh and cooked dishes, with garlic chives being a lauded substitute for garlic.
Resounding a honey-like fragrance, clovers are a non-waste perennial herb edible from foliage to flower. While they usually bear white blossoms, clovers bloom in a variety of colors and their seed pods make an excellent substitute for flour when dried and ground. Clover plants can thrive in loamy, sandy, or clay soil, in either partial or full sunshine. Many gardeners make the mistake of killing clovers, however, there are many benefits of clovers and reasons why you wouldn’t want to kill them. Clover leaves have a slight lime-like taste and they make an excellent garnish for grilled and steamed foods.
You can’t get over the beauty and utility of lavender, which is why it is such a great perennial herb to have in your garden. Plant lavender in warm and sunny conditions, in well-draining soil. Along with its charming color, lavender can be used for household applications by infusing its distinct fragrance into oils and cosmetic products. Some of the best cakes, cookies, and body creams have lavender as their star ingredient. If this plant interests you, here’s an in-depth guide to growing lavenders. But if you have little space to spare, you can learn how to grow lavender in containers.
5. Lemon Balm
Did you know that lemon balm is one of the plants that help repel mosquitoes? Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and can be identified by a simple rubbing of a leaf. Its potent lemon smell has hints of mint that make a palatable impression in both cooked and raw dishes. Lemon balm grows well in late spring and can be planted in a pot so long as there is moist, well-drained soil. Lemon balm is a great pollinator, and apart from adding it to dishes, you can use it to soothe insect bites.
Often confused with oregano as pot marjoram, this sweeter herb is multi-purposeful and loved by pollinators. Marjoram grows well in spring and is a lover of direct sunlight. It is a spreading plant that grows over a large area, so be sure to make room for the flowering herb. Marjoram has a sweet and delicate flavor and is often used fresh; include it in floral or citrus aromatic compounds to hone its full potential. Many gardeners prefer marjoram among the few best border plants for lawns and gardens.
This graceful perennial imparts an effortless beauty and possesses both culinary and medicinal benefits. Marshmallow plants have a modest fragrance and taste that is mostly earthly. Their tender flowers, leaves, and roots can be eaten raw or brewed to make tea. When planting marshmallows, ensure that the soil is moist. The plant grows quite tall and could overshadow other plants, so it’s best to plant it next to plants that don’t mind shade.
For better or for worse, mint is the easiest perennial herb to grow, and it has a number of variations you can grow. Mint is a very adaptive plant and can grow in a variety of soils, but its ideal conditions are; moist, fertile, and well-drained soil, in either partial or full sun. It grows particularly well in warmer climates, but be sure to mist the plant as it loves humidity. Mint is notably a spreader, and it tends to be invasive. To keep it under control, you can place barriers around the soil it grows in or grow it in large containers above ground. If you’ve always loved mint and wanted a plant for yourself, learn how to grow mint from seed indoors or in pots.
Oregano is a prized Mediterranean herb that lends earthly flavor to a number of dishes. This easy-to-grow perennial herb thrives in well-drained soil in partial shade if growing in a warmer climate. Together with its culinary utility, oregano plants repel several insects, including aphids and spider mites. You can also use oregano to fragrance soaps and in essential oil form.
With its distinct taste and aroma, rosemary is a classic perennial herb that is tolerant of drought-prone areas and is an effective insect repellent. Plant this herb in well-draining soil in a sunny spot. For complementarity, you can plant rosemary with tomatoes and other Mediterranean plants and herbs. To know more, learn how to grow rosemary in your garden.
Fair warning for this herb as it has much to boast but just as much to be cautious about. Rue is a sweet, yet toxic-smelling herb that is drought tolerant and can grow in rocky, dry soil. Its ease of flourishing also causes it to be invasive if not trimmed effectively. The plant can be toxic if consumed in large quantities, especially for dogs, and is mostly used as a repellent or in herbalism. Although these woody perennials are known to treat a number of health concerns, we wouldn’t recommend you consume these plants without expert guidance.
Boasting velvety and cotton-like leaves, sage is a perennial herb from an evergreen shrub. Plant the grey-leafed herb during the cool days of spring or fall with exposure to medium or full sun. Sage has a strong earthy aroma that adds warmth to dishes and pairs well with citrus and pine flavors. Its musky fragrance is also popularly used in incense and smudge sticks. Sage’s properties have been noted to clear up airborne bacteria and introduce negative ions which improve people’s moods. Here’s a study that claims burning sage can kill 94% of airborne bacteria.
Sorrel is a leafy perennial plant that is used as both a herb and a vegetable. Its relation to rhubarb and buckwheat explains its broad-bladed leaves and notably sour and lemony flavor. Plant sorrel seeds in spring, preferably in pots and in a partially shaded area.
Identified by its clustered bright yellow and button-shaped blossoms, tansy is a perennial herb related to yarrow and wormwood. Much like its relatives, it contains a chemical called thujone, which can have adverse effects if ingested in large quantities. Primarily, tansy is great at attracting pollinators while repelling insects and pests. Plant tansy seeds in early spring, by scattering them in fertile and well-drained soil, followed by a light rake.
This thyme-less herb has been used for centuries; from flavoring and fermenting to medicating. Its ideal planting conditions are in full sunlight, in fertile, neutral soil about a ¼ of an inch deep. Thyme is also a great repellent against aphids but also attracts insects that are beneficial to your garden. Toss fresh sprigs of thyme in your roasted dishes or infuse cosmetic oils with their floral and peppery smell. Thyme is also a perfect alternative for grass!
16. Winter Savory
Winter Savory is a hardy plant whose scent is a blend of sage and pine, redolent of the winter. This plant can grow in rocky soil with full sun exposure and the best season to plant it is in spring. Winter savory can be used as a garnish or be brewed to make teas. In the garden, the herb makes an effective repellent against cabbage moths.
Yarrow is a sweet-tasting and licorice-scented plant that can flourish in dry and poor soils. The rainbow blossomed herb has long and straggling stems that grow very fast that oftentimes the perennial needs staking to keep its flowers upright. Yarrow can become invasive if not thinned out, so divide yarrow plants every three to four years to control where and when they reseed.
Perennials generally follow one rule; plant once and never look back. This makes them reliable. Perennial herbs, in particular, can serve your garden in a number of ways. From their fragrant leaves and blossoms to their holistic benefits; perennial herbs are worth the investment. We hope that this article has encouraged you to grow some in your garden.
What are some of your favorite perennial herbs? Please leave a comment down below and don’t forget to share this article if you enjoyed it. Happy Gardening!