8 Herbs That Grow in Northern Climates

Some herb plants are fairly fragile while others seem to keep growing no matter what Mother Nature throws at them. If you live in a northern climate, you still have several options that will thrive in your herb garden. You can grow these plants in containers, as well as in the ground. And many are perennial, coming back year after year under the right growing conditions. Here are eight herbs that tend to do well in northern climates.

Tip

By investing in a healthy plant to begin with, you increase the odds of your herbs tolerating cold weather. Pick an herb plant that has bright, lush foliage with no signs of bugs or disease. Not only will a sickly plant potentially not make it, but it also can infect your entire herb garden.

  • 01 of 08

    Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

    Flowers of chives

    Roel Meijer/Getty Images

    Chives are a generally resilient perennial herb plant. They start growing early in the season and provide beautiful purple blooms from April to May. In fact, the flowers are edible and often used as a garnish for soups and salads. The leaves may be snipped as needed to add a light onion flavor to dishes. Or you can freeze them whole for later use. If your winter conditions are too harsh for chives, you can dig up the plants and pot them for overwintering indoors.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 02 of 08

    Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

    Fennel plants

    David Gomez/Getty Images

    Fennel is a fragrant perennial herb that can be grown from seed sown directly into the ground around your last spring frost date. You can also start seeds indoors roughly four weeks before your last predicted frost. Some varieties of fennel can grow quite large—around 5 feet tall with a 2-foot spread—so give your plants plenty of space. Harvest the leaves as needed to use fresh. The seeds are ripe for harvesting in late summer or early fall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining
  • 03 of 08

    Lavender (Lavandula)

    Lavender is a beloved fragrant herb in many gardens. And its purple flowers are a favorite of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Although this plant has some cold-weather hardiness, it does appreciate protection from winter weather. During the growing season, lavender prefers a sunny spot with good drainage. Cut the leaves as needed for culinary and other purposes. And prune the flowers to dry for sachets, potpourris, and more.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
  • 04 of 08

    Mint (Mentha)

    peppermint (mentha x piperita)

    David Q. Cavagnaro/Getty Images

    Mint is a notoriously hardy herb, often becoming invasive in some gardens. Even if you live in a cold climate with a short growing season, there's enough time for mint to spread over a large space in your garden. It prefers rich, moist soil but can adapt to most conditions except for very dry soil. You may start harvesting leaves as soon as your plant has multiple stems that are at least 6 inches long. Don’t harvest more than a third of the plant at once. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

    Oregano is a bushy plant that’s not only found in herb gardens but also as a border plant, in rock gardens, and as ground cover. Plus, it grows well in containers. This perennial can tolerate heat and drought, as well as rocky soil. You may harvest the leaves as needed or clip large quantities for drying. The leaves typically taste best just before the plant flowers in late summer. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy loam, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
  • 06 of 08

    Sage (Salvia officinalis)

    Sage plant

    Alice Henneman/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    As useful as sage is for cold and flu remedies, it's fitting that sage also can withstand cold weather. Sage does best in full sun but can tolerate a bit of shade. However, sitting in wet soil can kill the plant, so make sure your growing area has excellent drainage. Tender new leaves are typically more flavorful and thus better for culinary purposes than older growth. Use these leaves fresh, or pick some to dry for later. Drying whole leaves and crumbling them as needed enhances the flavor of the herb.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
  • 07 of 08

    Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)

    Tarragon is a perennial plant in most temperate climates, though it prefers a location that’s somewhat sheltered from the elements. It grows well in herb and container gardens, as long as it has well-draining soil. The plant can easily succumb to root rot in soil that’s too wet. Certain varieties are better for culinary use than others, and even individual plants vary in their flavor. Harvest fresh leaves as needed throughout the growing season. You also can dry or freeze the leaves for later.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
  • 08 of 08

    Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

    Thyme is a low-growing perennial herb that can be effective as a ground cover and in rock gardens. It also grows well in between pavers and in containers. The plant is highly aromatic and produces tiny lavender flowers in the late spring and early summer, which tend to attract bees and butterflies. Harvest the leaves fresh as needed, or dry them for later. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, dry to medium moisture, well-draining