Growing herbs in the shade is a wonderful way to increase the amount of crops on the homestead to eat or use. There are a plethora of benefits of living on a partially wooded homestead, but having ample full sun growing areas is not necessarily one of them.
If you live on a small homestead or just want to increase your herb yield by making use of shady spots, there are many beneficial and delicious herbs that can be cultivated to accomplish this goal.
Herbs that grow in light, partial, or close to full shade can vastly increase your culinary herb or apothecary patch. Herbs that tend to be more tender often thrive in areas that do not allow direct sunlight, and grow well in the damp soil present in such locations.
You will probably be surprised at how substantially you can increase both the number and type of herbs that you can grow merely by taking advantage of shady spots in flower beds, on the porch, and around the entire homestead.
Most of the herbs that grow in the shade on the list below have been used as single or base ingredients in natural remedy treatments for centuries.
But, the United States Food and Drug Administration has not validated such claims and little to no scientific studies have been conducted to gauge the ability of the herbs to successfully treat or prevent any medical conditions.
Mint is a hardy herb that can quickly and easily take over a single garden raised bed or ground growing plot. This tasty herb can thrive in nearly any type of growing condition – including up to nearly full shade.
While mint varieties have long been used to add a pleasant flavor to teas, candy, and a plethora of delicious fruit and soup recipes, this herb has also been traditionally used in natural home remedies for centuries.
Mint can has been used to promote restfulness during sleeping, as a natural way to calm anxiety and stress, to treat stomach aches, as well as to thwart menstrual cramps, gas, general indigestion, and the symptoms of menopause.
2. Red Perilla
This herb is a member of the mint family. It can grow successfully in light to partial shade. Red perilla tastes like a blending of cinnamon and anise – green perilla tastes nearly identical to cinnamon.
This herb hails from Asia and is often used in soup, BBQ, and rice dishes – but tastes superb sprinkled on salads, as well.
From a natural healing perspective, red perilla has been used in ancient to modern remedy recipes used as anti-inflammatories, antioxidant, and antidepressants.
Parsley is yet another shade thriving herb. Both the flat leaved and the curly leaved varieties can be grown in light to partial shade. You can eat the entire parsley plant – including the roots.
Parsley is a hardy crop that will consistently grow from season to season when some plants are allowed to go to seed.
This garnish herb has been used in natural remedies created to address gastrointestinal disorders, bladder infections, cough associated with the common cold, kidney stones, asthma, constipation, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Cilantro is one of the most popular culinary herbs in India, Mexican, and Thailand. While some folks think cilantro boasts and unpleasant soap taste, this shade tolerant herb is incredibly hardy and easy to grow from seeds.
Cilantro plants that are grown in partial shade are often deemed to offer the best flavor free from any bitter aftertaste. The entire cilantro plant can be consumed. It is the leafy green portion of the Coriandrum sativum plant – the seeds are classified as coriander.
As a natural home remedy ingredient cilantro has been used to detoxify the body. This shade loving herb has also been used in recipes to alleviate the symptoms of toothache and measles.
This partial shade loving herb is as beautiful as it is fragrant. Spicebush blossoms do not flourish until the latter weeks of winter into the early spring.
In the fall, the leaves turn a vibrant shade of yellow before they fall off.
Both male and female Spicebush plants develop edible berries, but you must plant both types to garner a berry harvest.
Spicebush was used to make a healing tea by Native Americans. The tea was used as a blood purification treatment and also to deal with rheumatism, the cold common and anemia.
During the pioneer era, our ancestors used twigs from the spicebush herb plant to make a bark tea to treat typhoid fever, colic, parasitic infestations, and general fever.
Anise grows best in light shade, and can often grow successfully in a deeper degree of partial shade. Anise has a delightful licorice style flavor – and smell.
Both the oil and the fruit from the anise herb plant are often used for culinary, natural healing, and decorative purposes. The leaf and the root are also used in culinary and medicinal recipes, but to a far lesser degree.
Herbalists have traditionally used anise to deal with or help prevent common cold symptoms like a runny nose, stomach aches, to facilitate a productive cough, gas, to stimulate appetite, and as a diuretic.
This perennial shade loving herb prefers to grow along the edges of a field in damp areas. Meadowsweet is loosely related to a rose, and it is often heralded for its sweet smell. This herb is often used in wine, dessert, and sweet tea recipes.
Meadowsweet flowers from June through September and is a major attractor of both honeybees and butterflies.
This herb has long been used as a sole or base ingredient in natural remedies crafted to treat or deter heartburn, bladder infections, gout, peptic ulcers, stomach ache, joint pain, common cold symptoms, and bronchitis.
Although chives are part of the onion family, they are truly an herb, and can grow quite well in light to partial shade.
Chives are often used in potato and egg recipes to infuse a bit of a mild onion or tart flavor to the dish. The onion-like stalks and flowering leaves are both edible.
Chives boast a dense amount of beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidant compounds. Herbalists often use chives to naturally treat or thwart parasite infestations in both humans and livestock.
9. Lemon Balm
This wonderful herb, also commonly referred to as “Melissa” boasts a citrus-like flavor and is a tender light to partial shade loving herb. Lemon balm also attracts many butterflies and honeybees.
Lemon balm has often been used to infuse more citrus flavor into soup, cocktails, casserole, wine, tea, and dessert recipes.
Since at least the middle ages, this herb has been used as a natural remedy to combat stress, to stimulate appetite, for stomach ache pain, and to treat bloating, gas, and colic.
The spicy and somewhat “woody” flavor makes thyme a favorite when cooking, roasting, grilling, or smoking meat – and wild morel mushroom recipes. The blossoms on thyme plants can range in color from white to a shade of pink.
Thyme can take over a growing plot due to its desire to seek out shade in any and all directions. This herb spreads close to the ground, and often grows thickest beneath the sun shielding covering offered by large trees.
Thyme is a well-loved and time-honored perennial herb. It has a spicy woody flavor and is a great addition to meat and mushroom dishes.
Herbalists have used thyme to treat general stomach ache, sore throat, gas, colic, diarrhea, parasitic worm infestations, whooping cough, dyspraxia, bronchitis, arthritis, and even bed wetting.
11. Sweet Woodruff
This herb plant is perfect for growing in a shady spot on our near your porch. The tiny star shaped flowers it produces make for an exceptionally attractive display.
Sweet woodruff lives up to its name from a scent perspective. This shade loving herb smells simply delicious.
Like thyme, sweet woodruff grows close to the ground and seeds out the shade it needs. Allowing sweet woodruff to grow along the ground of your crop growing plots or in an ornamental flower bed can help deter unwanted weed growth.
Thanks to the vanilla like taste of sweet woodruff it is often used in dessert recipes, teas, wine, cordials, and in candy making. Folks used to stuff their pillows with sweet woodruff to help bring about “sweet dreams.”
Herbalists have used sweet woodruff to address poor digestion, uterus, liver, and kidney cramping, anxiety, heart irregularities, varicose veins, dropsy, and menopause.
Every part of the Angelica herb is edible, but the root is poisonous. This shade-tolerant biennial tastes like a version of sweetened celery. Angelica thrives best along the edges of the woods or pasture in partial shade and moist soil.
It has been used as part of herbal remedies to treat appetite loss and anorexia, gas, common cold symptoms like a runny nose, anxiety, insomnia, circulation woes, and arthritis.
Because Angelica has also been used to facilitate the start of a menstrual cycle, consuming it may also cause abortions in pregnant women.
This annual herb prefers light to partial shade, only thriving in direct sunlight on cold climates. Borage tastes similar to cucumbers, and is often used as a flavor additive to soups, casseroles, and salad dishes.
Borage leaves and flowers have been used by herbalists to treat depression, coughs, lung inflammation, fever, adrenal insufficiency, to spark sweating, and also as a natural sedative.
Dill is one of the most popular cooking and home canning spices. It smells a lot like anise, creating a savory aroma in any recipe – including cucumbers as they are processed into pickles. Dill is also frequently added to egg, seafood, and potato dishes.
Dill is a well-known herb best used with seafood, potatoes, and eggs. It’s also used to make dill pickles. This herb is best used fresh, and has an aroma similar to anise.
Dill has also been used to soothe indigestion issues and stomach aches, to naturally freshen your breath, mixed into a bottle of water to calm babies with colic, to treat common cold and flu symptoms like coughing and fever.
Herbalists have also used dill alone or as an active base ingredient in remedies geared to address insomnia, oral inflammation, genital ulcers, menstrual cramping, hemorrhoids, nerve pain, and muscle spasms.
Dill favors partial shade, and sowing directly into the soil during the late weeks of summer. It also can easily be grown indoors year-round in a window that does not garner direct sunlight.
15. Wild Ginger
Growing wild ginger in the homestead herb garden or apothecary patch is an excellent way to make use of a shady spot. The ginger develops into a substantial ground cover that can deter the growth of unwanted weeds.
Our pioneering ancestors foraged for wild ginger to use as a cultivated ginger substitute. Wild ginger was supposedly so good at dealing with colic it became better known by its nickname, “Colic root.”
Wild ginger has traditionally been used by herbalists to treat stomach aches and cramping and gas.
This shade-loving herb is also widely known as both “Gourmet Parsley” and “French Parsley.” The flavor of chervil rivals that of anise by is said to be more “delicate” in taste. Chervil is often used as a flavoring ingredient in soups, casseroles, omelets, sauces, and stews.
Although this herb might not be a household name like oregano, rosemary, and thyme it has been a favorite of herbalists for centuries. A chervil and vinegar infusion has been used to get rid of hiccups as well as to bolster the digestive system.
If a chervil herb plant garners too much sun it will quickly go to seed. Slugs are highly attracted to this herb, so be on the lookout for them and treat the growing area to prevent an infestation to avoid yield loss.
Tarragon is also considered a gourmet herb by chefs, especially in France. The leaves of this shady herb are most often used fresh in recipes, but can be easily preserved for future use by freezing.
Chewing on the herb or gargling with a tarragon tea has long been used to not only help with digestive system issues but also to relieve general oral discomfort.
Tarragon, a perennial herb plant, has been used by herbalists to naturally thwart insomnia and to start menstruation – so pregnant women should avoid using this herb.
It is not uncommon to find tarragon on the ingredients list of natural soaps, fragrance, and cosmetic items.
Tarragon will wilt quickly if it is exposed to too much sunlight or to high temperatures.
18. Musk Geranium
This perennial herb prefers light to partial shade – it can tolerate morning sun but will wilt when exposed to too much afternoon sunshine.
Although the leaves and flowers of this herb plant are safe to eat, they are most often used only for their scent.
When diluted with water musk geraniums have been used as a topical liquid astringent for the face or poured directly into bath water.
Herbalists have heralded the antiseptic properties of this shade-loving herb, and have used it to help balance out hair and skin that is either dry or oily in texture.
The young leaves of this perennial herb plant are often used in stews and soups to add extra flavor to either meat or vegetables. Sorrel is also often tossed into salads in its raw state.
This herb has a distinctive but not unpleasant sour flavor. In regions of the world where lemons did not grow, sorrel was often used to create a similar flavor, until modern refrigerated shipping developed.
Sorrel’s high percentage of vitamin C made it popular with sailors and folks traveling long distances by ship to help prevent scurvy. If you have a history of either kidney stones or arthritis eating sorrel only in small amounts is recommended due to its oxalic acid content.
Herbalists have used sorrel as part of natural treatments for nasal and respiratory tract inflammations, as a diuretic, and to treat bacterial infections.
20. Wild Bergamot
Wild bergamot spawns vibrant lavender flowers that are highly attractive to honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Steeping the leaves of this shade tolerant herb plants creates a delicious tea.
Both the flowering stems and leaves of wild bergamot plants have been used by herbalists as a diuretic, to treat headaches, to lower fever, address gastric disorders, to soothe sore throats, and thwart kidney problems.
21. Black Elderberry
While black elderberries can thrive in the sunshine, they can also be grown successfully in light shade.
We have grown black elderberries on our wooded 56-acre homestead in both types of environments, and have realized nearly identical cultivation success and crop yield.
Elderberries are often used to make a delicious syrup to treat or prevent common cold and flu symptoms like fever and sore throat. Black elderberries are also often used to make cordials, jellies, jams, and sweet sauces for desserts.
Black elderberries contain anthocyanins – a type of flavonoids with a high percentage of high antioxidants – hence their purple to black color.
Black elderberry plants will not produce berries until they are two or three years after they are planted.
The berries ripen only briefly before going to seed. Black elderberries typically come on from the middle of August to the middle of September.
22. Golden Oregano
This is the only variety of oregano that will tolerate shade. Golden oregano can be grown in partial shade to avoid it from becoming scorched and wilting in direct sunlight.
This shade thriving herb is often grown to use as a fragrance because it may have a more pungent taste than other more common varieties of oregano.
Like all other varieties of oregano, herbalists have used golden oregano in natural remedy recipes to treat inflammation, for its topical antiseptic properties, and as a general painkiller.
I grow golden oregano to make the shady spots on our land work as part of our growing plant primarily because our chickens, ducks, and guineas absolutely love it.
Golden oregano is always a part of the weekly herb ball they get as a general immune system booster. Our meat rabbits and goats are also rather fond of golden oregano.
23. Stinging Nettle
Although this herb plant is often looked upon as a mere weed (one that prickles your skin relentlessly), stinging nettles are absolutely edible once they have been processed.
The sharp hairs on the stems and leaves of stinging nettles cause the skin of not just humans, but animals to itch, and can even cause a histamine response.
This shade thriving plant must be boiled or cooked in water, then stained, and be allowed to dry completely before it can be used raw in salads or cooked into casseroles, soups, and stews.
This herb plant tastes a lot like spinach and also makes a wonderful tea. Stinging nettles boast high percentages of iron, manganese, vitamins A and C., as well as potassium and calcium.
Due to the uncomfortable physical response stinging nettles cause, I plant them in any shady area bordering our growing plots to help deter unwanted pests.
Herbalists have used stinging nettles are sole or active ingredients in home remedies to alleviate joint and muscle pain, anemia, gout, eczema, and arthritis.
Stinging nettles grow best in a damp soil in the shade – they spread rapidly in the right environmental conditions.
So, Which of These Are You Growing?
Growing herbs in the shade helps to put otherwise wasted areas on the homestead to work for you.
Not only will doing so allow you to maximize your growing area, but will introduce new tastes, scents, and home remedy options to your family – perhaps creating some new favorites that will be grown on the land for generations to come.
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day, raising chickens, goats, horses, and tons of vegetables. She’s an expert in all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping, and many more.