Herbs that grow in shade


I grew up on a small, organic family farm and after a gap year spent working on an American ranch, I started studying agricultural science. Soil, organic farming practices, and plant science are what I am most drawn to. At home, when I'm not in our garden, you can find me in the kitchen, cooking and baking with our harvested fruits and vegetables.

Favorite fruit: Even if a bit boring - apples
Favorite vegetables: Bell peppers, red beets, zucchini, white cabbage

All plants need light to grow, but some require less light than others. Here are some of the best shade-loving herbs to grow in your garden or on your balcony.

Low sunlight herb growing in shade
Not many herbs like shade [Photo: SimplyAdrienne/ Shutterstock.com]

Every garden has them: shady spots where nothing wants to grow. Most well-known herbs thrive in the sun, like oregano and basil, but there are lots of interesting and delicious herbs that do well in shade too.

Hardy herbs that grow in the shade

Here are some herbs that tolerate shade well and are hardy enough to be planted outside in the garden.

Wild garlic

If you go for a nature walk in May, it is hard to escape the scent of wild garlic (Allium ursinum). This herb’s preference for shade is quite evident; it is mainly found in woodland, and in rather damp, nutrient-rich locations. By planting wild garlic in your garden, you will not only provide yourself a wonderful Spring herb, but reduce the risk of confusing it with highly poisonous lily of the valley when foraging.

wild garlic in shady forest
In nature, wild garlic is found mainly in shady woods [Photo: matteso/ Shutterstock.com]

Pygmy borage 

Pygmy borage (Borago pygmaea) is the perennial brother of the common borage, which is well known and used across the UK. The herb likes loose, well-drained soil and, although it prefers the sun, is fine in shade, where its leaves often tenderise. Due to its size, pygmy borage is also ideal on a shady balcony and can withstand frost of up to -10°C. Any colder though, and you will need to cover it with bark.

pygmy borage leaves
The leaves of the perennial pygmy borage can be used just like those of the annual [Photo: Manfred Ruckszio/ Shutterstock.com]


Woodruff (Galium odoratum) is known for flavouring sherbet powder and jelly. Like wild garlic, woodruff is one of the few herbs that likes shade and cannot tolerate sun. In fact, in moist, humus-rich and chalky soil, the plant quickly get out of hand, spreading over a wide area through its root runners. You can prevent this, however, by using a root barrier.

Toxic green woodruff herb fizzy juice
Woodruff is the secret ingredient in some toxic-looking green drinks and dishes such as fizzy drinks, jelly or May wine [Photo: Foxxy63/ Shutterstock]

Lesser calamint 

Unlike its relative peppermint, lesser calamint (Calamintha nepeta) does not form runners, so is easier to keep in check. Thanks to its compact growth, lesser calamint is an ideal herb for shady balconies, thriving in dry, nutrient-poor soil. You can use calamint leaves as you would peppermint leaves. And best of all, calamint flowers are an insect magnet!

Bee feeding on lesser calamint herb flowers
The blossoms of lesser calamint provide a feast for insects [Photo: FMB/ Shutterstock.com]


Watercress (Nasturtium officinalis) is an evergreen herb whose leaves can be eaten and enjoyed in a variety of ways, not least in winter, when the plant is an important source of vitamin C. However, watercress does demand very moist soil, preferably near flowing water, which is not a common feature of UK gardens.

Watercress herb growing in water
Watercress feels most at home in running water [Photo: Daisy Daisy/ Shutterstock.com]

Wasabi (Wasabia japonica), or Japanese horseradish, is an ideal herb for shaded gardens, because its leaves turn yellow and the plant stops growing under the sun. In Japan, the root, stems and leaves of the wasabi plant are used to make the famed wasabi paste, which accompanies sushi. Cultivating wasabi can be a bit tricky, as it demands cool, damp conditions. However, the reward of homemade wasabi paste is well worth the effort!

wasabi growing in water and stones
In Japan, wasabi is often grown between water-cooled stones [Photo: Hachi888/ Shutterstock.com]

Jupiter’s sage

Can you really plant sun-loving sage in the shade? Jupiter’s sage (Salvia glutinosa), also known as sticky sage or sticky clary because of its tacky stem, is one of the few species that enjoys moist, limey, nutrient-rich soil away from the sun. Although it has no proven medicinal properties, its flowers and leaves are still used for teas. And, as the only yellow-flowering sage species, Jupiter’s sage makes for an excellent ornament in a shady bed.

Shade tolerant jupiter’s sage with yellow flowers
The yellow flowers of Salvia glutinosa [Photo: Edita Medeina/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Sunlight is not the only thing to affect a plant’s growth. Choosing suitable soil for your herbs’ development is paramount. Woodruff, coriander and mushroom plant, for example, grow best in nutrient-rich soil, like our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost. Other herbs, like cardamon and pygmy borage, prefer shade and nutrient-deficient soil. For them, a low-nutrient soil, such as Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost is ideal.

Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, 20L
Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, 20L
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  • Perfect for herbs as well as sowing, propagating & transplanting
  • For aromatic herbs & healthy seedlings with strong roots
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

Non-hardy, shade tolerant herbs

Some shade-loving herbs do not tolerate frost. Potting these herbs works best, because they can be set on the balcony during the summer, and brought inside during winter, for protection.

Vietnamese coriander

Vietnamese coriander (Polygonum odoratum) is an easy-to-grow culinary herb that grows well in moist, nutrient-rich soil in the shade. Although it is most at home under the sun, Vietnamese coriander produces many leaves in the shade that are delicious in salads and soups, and can even be pickled!

Shade tolerant Vietnamese coriander leaves
The delicious Vietnamese coriander leaves can be enjoyed in many ways [Photo: wasanajai/ Shutterstuck.com]

Gotu Kula

Gotu Kula or Indian pennywort (Centella asiatica), which comes from Asia, is best known as a superfood. This herb prefers nutrient-rich, moist soil and contains many important minerals and vitamins. Since Gotu Kula does not survive temperatures lower than -4°C, we recommend growing it in a pot and overwintering it indoors.

Shade tolerant Indian pennywort wet leaves
The leaves of Gotu Kula look almost like little umbrellas [Photo: G_Suriyaraks/ Shutterstock.com]


An Indian native, cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is not suitable for year-round, outdoor cultivation in the UK. Our chilly winters are too extreme for this herb, which works best as a balcony plant or houseplant. Cardamom is low-maintenance and shade-tolerant. And, although it does not flower, so you cannot harvest its seeds, its uniquely delicious leaves can be used for cooking.

cardamon herb growing well in shade
Cardamom thrives in the shade [Photo: Pravruti/ Shutterstock.com]

Mushroom plant

Mushroom plant (Rungia klossii) is a little-known and underrated shade-loving herb. Its thick, crunchy, mushroom-tasting leaves are excellent in salads, and an ideal garnish. Packed with nutrients, mushroom plant is even rich in protein, boasting 3g of protein per 100g. In shade, this herb grows vigorously in humus-rich, nutrient-rich soil, but does stop growing when temperatures drop below 10°C. As such, it is best to move mushroom plant inside in autumn.

dark green, thick leaves of ushrom plant herb
The thick, crunchy leaves of the mushroom plant are versatile in cooking [Photo: Martina Unbehauen/ Shutterstock.com]

If your garden enjoys some sun, read our follow-up articles on herbs for partial shade and herbs for sun.