Just because your yard is partially shaded doesn't mean you can't grow your own herbs this summer. Plenty of herbs actually prefer partial or dappled shade, especially in warmer climates.
You often hear that herbs are sun-lovers, but its surprising how happy many herbs are in shade. In my own zone 4 Minnesota garden, I have chocolate mint working as a fragrant groundcover in a mostly shaded area on the north side of our house. Not only is it a lovely, low-growing plant that spreads itself well (it is not nearly as leggy or invasive as standard mint), but it is also tasty in our family recipes and it releases a fabulous chocolate mint scent every time we walk through the area.
Here are herbs that will grow with as little as three to six hours of sun per day, or constant dappled shade. Some of these actually prefer a mostly-shaded spot if they're in hot, dry climates. Those in cooler zones may have to experiment to see how little shade their herbs will tolerate.
Some of these herbs also prefer a partially shaded area during hot summer months when they tend to bolt, such as cilantro.
Those who will only tolerate partial shade (and not heavier shade) are noted.
- Wild ginger
- Lemon balm
- Sweet woodruff
- Dill (partial)
- Tarragon (partial)
- Garlic chives
- Anise hyssop
View the slideshow for more information about some of these herbs.
Keep in mind:
- Herbs in shaded areas may grow lanky. Pinch the tops often to encourage bushiness.
- Overfertilizing will result in less flavorful herbs, so use fertilizer sparingly.
- Use new leaves for cooking. Older, larger leaves are more bitter.
- Areas with partial shade in the afternoon can also extend the growing season for some cool season herbs that are prone to bolting during higher heat, such as cilantro.
- The amount of shade may vary by the seasons when the angle of the sun is different. Study your land carefully and see if sunlight is a bigger or smaller problem than you may have thought later in the season.
- Bright and light surfaces nearby (such as white fences or walls) can increase the amount of light that herbs get.
- Morning shade and afternoon shade differ in their effects on garden plants. Some cool season herbs may actually prefer lots of morning sun and then shade during the hot summer afternoons.
- Pay attention to air circulation. Walls and branches can block air flow, allowing moisture to build up and encourage some diseases. Plant herbs with more space between them in shady areas, and be careful to water around the root area and not soak leaves from above.
- It's even more important to keep weeds at bay for herbs that are already competing for light, water and nutrients in less ideal conditions.
- Pruning nearby trees and bushes can dramatically help increase sun exposure.
- Light is more important in northern states, where we have shorter growing seasons and cooler temperatures. A southern zone 9 garden can tolerate much more shade than a zone 4 garden in Minnesota.
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Parsley requires part shade in hot climates and can be grown in containers or window boxes. Italian flat-leaf parsley has an especially strong flavor. Soak parsley seeds for 24 hours before planting for easier germination.
Rosemary is an evergreen shrub that prefers full sun but may be grown in light shade. It is very aromatic when brushed or bruised and is used in cooking fish, poultry and game. Rosemary comes in upright and prostrate forms.
Garlic chives grow best in light shade and require frequent cutting to encourage production of new leaves. Chives may be used in soups and salads, as a garnish and as a seasoning for poultry, fish and pork.
Dill is a self-seeding plant that will tolerate most growing conditions. While it likes full sun, it will grow well in partial shade and may prefer afternoon shade. It can be planted more closely in shaded areas, since it will not get as bushy.
Mint tolerates light shade and comes in a variety of fragrances, including peppermint, spearmint, apple, chocolate and orange. Mint prefers moist soil, though it is pretty tolerant of adverse conditions. Mint may be used in flavoring teas and drinks or in baking. Many mints have a tendency to become invasive, which can be tempered by growing them in shade. Low-growing mints like chocolate mint can work as a wonderful fragrant groundcover in partial shade.