When I think of perennial plants my mind automatically goes to shrubs, flowers, bushes and trees, but did you know that there are select herbs in Michigan that are also considered perennials? One of my favorite ways to fill space in the garden is by planting complementary herbs. I have them growing in tubs on the back porch, in the spaces in my garden beds to pair with my tomatoes and even in some of our landscaping.
There are two types of herbs annuals and perennials and some of the perennials might surprise you. To find out which herbs and plants in general are hardy for your garden, you need to start with knowing your hardiness zone. Your hardiness zone is based on your first and last frost dates in your warmer growing season. Plants need time to establish and the frost determines that.
I recently did a segment on wzzm13 regarding perennial herbs and I thought it would be fun to talk more about that here and dive in deeper about some of my favorites.
For reference my growing/hardiness zone is 5b/6a and I am located in lower southwest Michigan.
My favorite herbs to grow that are perennial to me are
- Garlic chives
- French Tarragon
- Sweet Annie
Other herbs that perennial to Michigan are
- Lemon Balm
- Sweet Cicely
- Sweet Woodruff
- Winter Savory
I start almost all of my herbs from the four inch pots I find at the farmers markets or local greenhouses. Some herbs are very simple to start from seed but in terms of hardy perennial herbs they are slow to germinate so I tend to stick to buying established plants.
Last year I bought lavender herbs in the four inch pots and by the end of the summer they were about 1.5 feet wide and tall.
There are some awesome herbs that are great perennials but also super invasive so they should not be planted directly into the ground and out of the way of wind. The two worst culprits are mint and sweet annie.
A few years ago I bought two pots of sweet annie from a woman at the farmers market and she warned me “sweet Annie has no friends”. This is because although it’s beautiful and smells incredible, it spreads like crazy, the seeds carry easy into the wind and also established plants release an oil (that smells so good) and it kills or stunts the growth of plants nearby it.
Mint is also lovely and smells incredible but if you plant it straight into the ground, you’re going to have issues. Give it a boarder and a boundary and keep it contained otherwise you’ll be eating a lot of mint flavored foods for years to come.
To give your herbs the best chance to grow and flourish follow these tips for planting.
- Choose a spot with well drained soil. If the dirt is too heavy or wet the herbs will not grow to their full potential.
- Choose a spot where the herbs will get at least 6 – 8 hours of sunlight a day. Some herbs will do alright with partial shade but for full flavored herbs choose the sunniest spot.
- Most herbs do not need to be fertilized and I prefer not to spray my vegetables or my herbs unless it is with organic materials. I think you’ll be surprised at how strong herbs are and how well they’ll do with a little compost and water.
- I do not cut back my herbs until the spring. Some Sage grows off old stems as does lavender and you don’t want to ruin your plants growth by cutting it to low. Also the dead foliage provides some weekend protection.
Herbs are what I consider a triple threat in the garden.
- They are great for cooking and adding flavors to your baked goods and meals.
- Some herbs enhance the flavor of your produce (I swear basil (annual) enhances the flavor of my tomatoes) but also some deter pests and other assailants on your produce and flowers. Rosemary is a great companion to your cucumbers.
- They are stunning in bouquets. I love adding some stems of sage or chive blossoms to my flowers.
Gardening is all about experimenting and finding out what works best for your garden. Some people say that they rip out their herbs every year because the flavors change, I have not found that to be the case. I enjoy watching the first of the herbs peek back up after a long sleepy winter.