5 Best Perennial Herbs for Your Garden

Plant Once, Grow Forever

Herb garden

 

-slav- / Getty Images

Many herbs are annuals that must be replanted each spring, but there are also several perennial herbs, hardy over a wide climate range, that can be planted once and left to grow for many years. Perennial herbs take some of the heavy lifting out of garden design by returning year after year. They are easy to grow and always look wonderful. A perennial herb bed also makes it possible for you to divide and expand your herbal plants at no cost.

When designing your garden, consider these five plants for an easy-care, long-lasting herb garden.

  • 01 of 05

    Coneflower (Echinacea spp.)

    Echinacea Plants
    Heather Sullivan/The Image Bank/Getty Images

    Echinacea is not only useful for healing, it is a beautiful accent for any garden. Coneflower grows in virtually any garden situation. The genus comprises 10 different species, but the most commonly grown is purple coneflower (Echinacea pupurea). Using coneflower as an edible herb generally involves making an alcohol tincture using the flower heads and buds, or drying and grinding the roots to use in teas. Echinacea has proven health benefits and is effectively used to ward off colds and flu.

    Echinacea will readily self-seed and spread itself, or you can remove the dried seed heads, separate the seeds, and plant them wherever you choose.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Variations: Purple; cultivars are also available in other colors
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil
  • 02 of 05

    Sage (Salvia officinalis)

    Bunch of sage with flowers

    Maximilian Stock Ltd./Getty Images

    Sage is a wonderfully versatile herb for your garden, with cultivars offering many colors and growth habits. Try using it as a lovely filler around other tall garden plants. Sage will grow for many years, returning after even the harshest of winters. In culinary use, sage has a strong, earthy taste that pairs well with meats, especially sausage.

    The only drawback to growing sage for years is that it can become woody, at which point the leaves will grow only on the end of the stems. Avoid this by keeping it pruned back to encourage new growth. The leaves will grow close to the cuts and result in a more beautiful specimen. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Variations: NA
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil
  • 03 of 05

    English Lavender (Lavendula augustifolia)

    Fresh

    Melissa Emiko Photography/Getty Images

    Lavender is used for everything from cooking to healing. Try growing this elegant herb alongside your best flowers. From shades of purple and blue to white, lavender is truly a wonderful perennial herb. Give lavender plenty of room in the garden, as it will quickly become quite large. Many different cultivars are available, and if you don't immediately succeed, try other varieties. Wet roots are the biggest concern, so make sure to give your plants plenty of drainage—growing them in whiskey barrels or another porous container can be a good idea.

    As an herb, lavender is often used in home health remedies, in salves or relaxing teas.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Variations: Purple/blue, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil
  • 04 of 05

    Garden Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

    Thyme

     

    dirkr / Getty Images

    Thyme is a low-growing, woody perennial herb that will grow in any garden. It is available in both upright and trailing varieties, so there is one to fit almost any situation and design. Thyme grows well in areas that are too dry and poor for many other plants. Use thyme as a filler between your stones in a walkway. It offers a lovely scent when stepped on and can handle moderate traffic. In culinary use, it blends well with recipes using garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes.

    Thyme loves to be trimmed back. It can easily be trimmed into decorative shapes for a more formal look. If you want to multiply your thyme, simply divide up a healthy plant or take a cutting.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Variations: NA; the pale purple flowers are insignificant
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil
    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Mint (Mentha spp.)

    Leaves on a mint plant (Lamiaceae)

    Tobias Titz/Getty Images

    Mint can be invasive, but it is also an important addition to any hard-to-cultivate garden. It will spread anywhere you allow it. To contain the plant and keep the roots form spreading, try planting it in a metal bucket buried in the soil.

    Mint is a refreshing, gentle tea herb and a lovely scented plant. Try growing several varieties if you are really interested in using it for tea. You do not want your mint varieties to mingle, so allow plenty of room between them to prevent cross-pollination.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9 (depends on species)
    • Color Variations: NA; flowers are insignificant
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist soil

Design Tip

Perennial herbs are a great way to grow your garden landscape with far less effort than replanting annual plants every year. You might consider drawing up your garden design and including all of your perennial herb locations. This makes easy work of planning where the annual plants can fill in the empty spaces between the perennials.