Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Reader's Request: A List of Perennial Herbs!

This all started when a reader from northern Michigan asked what herbs were perennial in her climate.  She already had chives, lavender and parsley (which I grow like an annual even though it is a biennial).  OK, Janice from northern Michigan here is a list, not the list, just a list.  I think you are in Zone 4a or b or you can pinpoint it better with an e-mail to me.  This list is in no particular order.  I'm just trying to get a list in a post and will refine it later if it is helpful to do so.  I will also add links to earlier posts if I can.

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) (A biennial but if you let it seed, it will be perennial.) Zones 4-9  I call this a big babe herb.  With flowers, can get six feet tall and four feet wide.  Good for the back of a border

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) Zones 4-9 One of my favorite edible flowers.  Tastes just like a box of Good 'n Plenty.  Probably a mid range plant or front of the border.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) Zones 3-7  This herb is a summer tea favorite.  Once you have this herb, you will have it forever.  Cut down by a third throughout the summer if you don't want it to bloom.  Once you have let it bloom, it will seed wherever.  I was pulling out little lemon balms in the garden today!  Put this one in the front so you can clip it and use it.  Has a musky lemon scent.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) Zones 3-9  If you have cats, you'll maybe want a fence around it to keep them off of it.  They do love it.  I have never grown this but I would say it would be a mid range or front of the border herb.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) Zones 3-9 Janice already has this in her garden.  It is a staple in my herb garden.  Love those edible flowers in my omelet in the spring.  This makes a lovely border especially when it is blooming.  Cut down and chop up and freeze for winter use.  Mid range or front of the border.

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosumZones 3-9 The difference in garlic chives from regular chives is that garlic chives have a flat leaf and chives have a tubular or round leaf.  Garlic chives have beautiful white flowers in August when you are looking for a flower in the herb garden.  Just make sure you cut those flowers the minute they finish blooming or you will end up with a garden of garlic chives.  Leaves are very good in stir fries.  Mid range or front of the border.

Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata)  Zones 3-7  This is a good sugar substitute with an additional anise flavor.  It reminds me of tansy.  It does march along.  Not super invasive and it does like the shade.  It would be a good back of the border herb.

Bloody Dock (Rumex sanguineus) Zones 4-9  This is a red-veined sorrel.  It is very ornamental.  It does not have the lemony taste of regular sorrel.  Does well in water or by a pond.  It has gently spread itself throughout my garden and/or its seeds were composted and it has been spread that way.  Front of the border of your herb garden. 

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) Zones 3-10  Trying to give you herb flowers as well as just herbs.  This flower is a favorite of butterflies and the seedheads are loved by the finches and other birds in my garden.  They do get sown around by the wind and the birds.  One of my favorite flowers in the mid to late summer.  They are not just purple either.  Lots of color choices, but the granddad is the purple one.  Mid range for an herb border.  Two or three plants together make a nice stand of flowers.

Elecampane (Inula helenium) Zones 3-8  This is another big babe herb.  I have always wanted to grow this plant but haven't always been able to find it.  It has leaves similar to the mullein and the flowers are small and resemble a double sunflower.  It would be a back of the border herb.  It is used for dyeing and the root is used in the manufacture of absinthe.

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) Zones 4-9  I have trouble growing these flowers.  They do need some shade.  Although when I have grown them in shade, they reach for the sun.  They are a poisonous flower and are a source of digitalis, the heart drug.  They are a mid range flower in the herb garden.

Johnny-Jump-Up (Viola tricolor) Zones 4-9  Very front of the border.  Many gardeners get these to reseed in the garden.  I have not had that luck.  Love these little faces in the herb garden.  Need some shade to keep going into summer.  An edible flower and easy to start from seed.

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) Zones 4-8  Horehound is a lovely little plant with gray pebbly leaves.  Make cough drops to help sooth your cough.  Front of the herb garden border.

Horseradish (Armorica rusticana) Zone 3-10  Horseradish was the 2011 Herb of the Year and can be very invasive in a garden.  You might to make a horseradish garden on its own.  It would be a perennial herb, but just be aware that it will take over the garden unless you control it either in a pot that is deep because you are harvesting the root or by exiling it to its own bed.  Has a beautiful flower in the second year.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) Zone 3-9 Very aromatic and may be not in the best way.  Slightly bitter leaves used in soups or stews and with game meat.  I do love the tiny blue or white flowers around July 4th.  I would use it as a hedge in the front of the border.  I need to use this herb a bit more often.

Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) Zones 3-10  I have this in the back of the border.  It is another big boy herb!  It does alright in shade.  It is a native of the eastern US.  It has rosy purple flowers in the fall.  Richters catalog talks of when the leaves are crushed the smell is vanilla.  Another plus!

Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)  Zones 3-8  This beautiful clumping herb is a beautiful addition to your herb garden.  It has chartreuse flowers.  The leaves are like little capes hence the name mantle.  I would use it in the front of the herb garden.

Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina) Zones 4-9  Wooly leaves that are a delight for children.  Were used as bandages for wounds.  Front of the herb garden for these.  Silvery leaf color is a nice contrast for other herbs in the garden.

Lavender 'Hidcote' or 'Munstead' (Lavandula angustifolia) Zones 4-8  These are two of the hardiest lavenders.  These lavenders are the ones I would recommend you use to cook with.  Any angustifolia cultivar would be edible.  The other lavenders are too camphorous and not hardy in Zone 4.  Mid range or front of the herb garden for these.

Spearmint (Mentha spicata)  Zones 3-8  Most mints are invasive.  If you don't want it everywhere in the garden, put it in a container.  Spearmint is one of my favorite mints.  Not as strong as peppermint.  Delicious in tea blends.  Richters calls it the best cooking mint.  There are tons of mints not all of them are hardy to Zone 3 or 4 so make sure you check before buying it.

Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) Zones 4-6  This is a bee magnet and very fragrant.  It is beautiful in fresh flower arrangements and it dries very nicely.  It can be used in the back of the border or mid border.  It does run but is not invasive like regular mints.

Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) Zones 3-10  I put this in because Janice loves this in the garden and Janice, I have good news that Richters in Canada sells seeds for a reasonable price.  Check it out through the link above.  I had this in my garden for quite a few years.  A beneficial insect magnet.  I would put this in the back or mid range part of your garden.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare dulce) or Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare dulce 'Rubrum') Zones 4-9  Both of these fennels can be used in cooking.  Regular fennel has green fronds and bronze fennel has purple ones.  I have had bronze fennel at various times.  Just cut the flower heads before they seed everywhere!  Use either of these in the back of the border.

Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) Zones 4-9  I really love this species of herb.  Garden sage is so versatile.  It can be used for cooking or in potpourri or for an herb wreath.  I love the gray green leaves in contrast with other herbs.  I would use this herb in the mid range part of the herb garden.

Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)  Zones 4-8  Mostly famously used in sorrel soup.  It is a spring herb that has a bright lemony flavor.  It has an interesting red flower spike that dries very well.  The leaf is shield shaped.  We use the small early leaves in our salads.  I would use this herb in the front of the herb garden.

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) I would find a place of exile for this herb.  It is used to repel ants and a couple of summers ago it was a haven for the various stages of the ladybug.  So it doesn't repel good insects!  Don't be too quick to get rid of this herb.  It has fern like leaves and can be in the back of the border but it does run so it can take over a bed if not careful.  Not for culinary purposes, but mothchasers can use a bit of tansy.  It has very nice yellow button flowers and I have made a very nice wreath with tansy at the end of the season.

French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus sativa) Zones 3-7 This is the only tarragon to use in cooking.  It is not propagated by seed.  If you purchase tarragon seeds, you have the more inferior Russian tarragon.

English Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) Zones 4-9  This is the one thyme to have for cooking.  Silver Thyme (Thymus vulgaris 'Argenteus') Zones 4-8  I have some problems getting this through the winter.  Sharp drainage is key.  Lemon Thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) Zones 4-9 Can be creeping or upright.  I really love the flavor of this thyme.  Does it have anything to do with lemon?  Maybe.  Mother-of-Thyme (Thymus praecox) Zones 4-8  A very robust creeping thyme.  Used in cooking.  All thymes are good in the front of the border.
Other thymes may be hardy.  Need to check your zones.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) Zones 4-9 Fern shaped leaves and white flowers that have a very fragrant scent of vanilla.  I don't have this enough in my garden.  It needs a bit of shade in the heat of summer.

Well, this is my first take and I will probably be editing it as I find other choices.  I have tried to give you a variety of herbs.  Obviously these will work for you all in the middle and south of the US.

It is just crazy warm here.  Everything has started to bloom and the bad bugs are out!  I'm worried that we are just going to go into summer with very little spring!  Well, I will be adding other herbs as I go so I will put a link on my homepage.  If you think of an addition, let me know!  Talk to you later.   


Casa Mariposa said...

What a great list! Lemon balm is perennial farther south than zone 7. I had it in my zone 8 garden in SC. Thanks for posting this. :o)

Pen at The Little Herb Farm said...

This is a great list with some real favourites; thanks for putting it together.

Carla said...

I wish I had the room for all of these! But at least I do have room for some. This is a great list!

Janice Kay Schaub said...

Thank you so much. This is an awesome lis for me to begin with. Its also nice to know what can be done with the herb. A lot of times I grow something and have no clue what to do with it. Can you believe I am going to grow some Dandylions this year. When I see them I will move them into one spot and let them grow. They will get cut back when finished. The leaves are awesome in mashed potatoes.........I really appreciate your help here. Thank you.

Carol said...

This is a great list.... several I need to add to my garden this year. It's super warm here too and all of the trees are blooming. Scary for March.

Unknown said...

Great list! I'm from southern Michigan and I'm new to planting herbs and thoroughly enjoying it! I do have a few questions. I recently moved some of my herbs for outdoor to indoor like oregano, Chives, lemon balm, lavender chamomile, Valeria and Achillea all of which I planted in individual pots. Have you had any success doing this and will it be ok to transplant back to my garden in the spring?

Unknown said...

Great post! I'm from southern Michigan and I recently started an herb garden and it did very well this year. Many of my herbs transplaneted from my garden to indoor pots. I was wondering if this will be a successful move? I transplanted oregano, Valeria, chives, achillea, lemon balm, chamomile and lavender to their own individual pots.

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Hi Chanda, Thanks for writing. I think first of all you need to pinpoint where you are on the USDA Zone Map. Here is a link:

If you are in southern Michigan, a lot of the herbs you listed are hardy for you. You just have to make sure that your drainage is very good. Oregano, chives, lemon balm and lavender should all be hardy. The only one of these I bring inside would be a tender lavender. 'Goodwin Creek' is a variety that I get through the winter reliably here in sw PA. Valerian and achillea are hardy for us as well. Chamomile is an annual for us. I actually had a plant come through the winter last year. You must have a lot of southern or western window space or lighting. Herbs need light to get them through the winter.

So I guess I am saying to you that the majority of your list should be able to winter outside. I just don't waste time on an herb that winters over. We have herbs that would not necessarily make it in containers inside.

If you are making a new herb garden, I would do a soil test from your local extension office and then amend the soil so that you have the ideal conditions for herbs.

Hope everything makes it for you. I may just do a post about herbs coming inside.

Nita said...

Thank you so much for sharing it. I just started gardening and this list is very helpful.

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Hi Nita,

Thanks for your comment and stopping by! Hope you have success in your herb garden! Just start small. You will overwhelm yourself quickly if you get too big! If you have any questions, please ask. Always here to help. xo

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