9 Perennial Herbs for USDA Zones 5 and Up
Fresh cilantro, mint tea, colorful chive flowers, and tangy dill sauce. What could be better than snipping fresh herbs to add to your food?
How about not having to buy them every year! These nine herbs are either perennial or self-seeding in all but the coldest climates. Plant them once and enjoy fresh aromatic herbs year after year.
Long revered for its healing properties and vibrant taste, parsley is one of the world's most popular herbs. Lucky for us, it's also one of the easiest to grow.
A biennial plant, parsley takes two years to complete its life cycle. It will not flower the first year. But in the second year when it bolts, leave the flowering stalk on the plant until fall. The seeds will fall to the ground and self-seed a whole new (free!) batch of parsley.
Parsley is hardy in zones 3–9. In colder climates, cover beds with greenhouse plastic to overwinter.
Often overlooked, chives add a delicate onion-like flavor to dishes and are one of the hardiest and easiest herbs to grow. Once planted, chives will flourish in your garden, or even a container, for years. They are perennial in zones 3–10.
Deadhead spent flowers to keep chives from spreading too far, or leave them on and let chives grow where they may. You can even use the purple flowers in salads for a colorful, tasty addition.
Cilantro is actually an annual with a fast life cycle, but it self-seeds so readily that it will come back year after year in zones 3–9, as long as you let it go to seed. Once it bolts, it stops producing nice, big leaves.
Add it to tacos, make fresh salsa, or pour fresh cilantro pesto over noodles. Keep three to four plants on hand and let one go to seed, deadheading the rest for better harvesting.
Dill is another annual that self-seeds so easily that it will reliably grow year after year. Harvest often and keep it pruned back to encourage leaf growth, letting just one go to seed to produce next year's crop.
Most people think of it as a pickling herb, but it's so much more. Add it to a little mayo and vinegar and drizzle over eggs. Or mix it with plain Greek yogurt and sour cream and pair it with salmon.
A staple in Italian and Greek cooking, this medicinal herb is a self-seeding perennial in zones 5–12. Use it as a ground cover in full sun to enjoy continual harvest all summer long. Add it to chicken, make herbed butter, a pesto, enhance tomato sauce for spaghetti, or use it as a burger seasoning.
4. The Mint Family
The mint family includes peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, apple mint, cat mint, catnip, lemon balm, and bee balm, just to name a few. You can grow them all year after year with just one planting. They are hardy to zone 4. So while the vegetation with die off every fall, this plant will thrive in your garden so hardily that it can become a nuisance.
The mints grow from underground runners, while the balms self-seed like tiny madmen. Either way, give these guys lots of space and thin them ruthlessly to keep them in check.
Common sage is a low, bushy herb used in savory dishes. In zones 5–8, sage grows a perennial with velvety evergreen leaves. Pinch back to promote branching and allow sage to go to seed and produce new plants every other year, removing the oldest, more woody plants in the spring. Try sage and eggs, sage polenta, or sage butter on, well, anything. So good!
Thyme is a compact, perennial evergreen herb that would do well mixed in a flower bed. Try adding it to eggs, chicken, soups, or pasta.
Lavender may be the most popular of all the aromatic herbs. Lucky for all of us in zones 5 and above, we can grow it as a perennial shrub right in own backyards. Be careful, though. While there are several varieties, only English lavender and Grosso lavender are perennial up to zone 5.
Dry it for homemade sachets or add it to meat or salad dishes. Blend the flowers in with tea, or combine with chocolate or other baked goods for a twist.