What Is an Ornamental Herb?

What Makes an Ornamental Herb?

A box full of herbs
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Traditionally, ornamental herbs would get their names because although they sounded slightly familiar, they were not edible. Some of these ornamental herbs were lacking the taste you come to associate with the name and others had been developed into a showy version of the garden variety. Ornamental herbs are perfect for many types of gardens; from small container gardens to landscaping entire parks and public areas.

I like to think of all herbs as ornamentals. They each have their strengths and can be incorporated into your home's landscape with little problem. Sometimes, an herb is the only thing that can bring a spot of color to a hard to plant area.

Some herbs are considered ornamental in nature but still have some medicinal or edible value to them. One of the most common plants that can be found in public landscaping is Echinacea puropea -the coneflower. This lovely purple blossom is hardy and easy to grow, so it makes a wonderful accent for a less than perfect garden environment. It still remains one of the most widely known medicinal plants. At the same time, Echinacea also comes in other colors and varieties that are truly ornamental in nature and are beautiful in many garden layouts.

Fun Fact

There's some research to support the taking echinacea to reduce the symptoms and length of a cold; however, other studies are inconclusive.

Choosing an Ornamental Herb

When planting an ornamental herb garden, focus on what type of herbs you will need. You can narrow the list down based on lighting needs, soil quality, and upkeep. If you are growing your garden strictly for ornamental purposes, you can often grow herbs that may not be for a beginning herbalist. This opens up a whole range of herbs that would otherwise be unsafe for all but the most experienced herbalists to use. Some herbs that double as ornamentals are:

These are just a sampling of herbs that can be used as ornamentals in your landscaping layouts.