20 Perennial Herbs You Can Plant Once and Harvest Year after Year

What could be better than having fresh herbs in your garden return every spring?

Growing perennial herbs in your garden means you can reap the benefits of growing edible and medicinal herbs from one growing season to the next, with very little effort on your part!

Here are the 20 all time best perennial herbs that you plant just once and harvest year after year, and why you should grow them in your garden or container!

What is a Perennial Herb?

Perennial herbs will establish themselves in your garden and return for a variable number of years without a new planting.

Come spring, you’ll see your perennial herb either pop up again or regrow leaves after winter.

This is in contrast to annual herbs, which will just survive one season and then die back, and new seeds or seedlings need to be planted the following year.

Benefits of a Perennial Herb Garden

If you have ever grown perennial herbs before, you will already know how productive they are for what feels like very little work.

As a reminder, or for beginners, here are some of the awesome benefits that growing perennial herbs provide:

Benefits Of A Perennial Herb Garden

Perennials Are Less Work Than Annuals

By nature, perennial herbs will come back every year without any work on your part. The typical spring garden chores of preparing beds, starting seedlings and planting do not apply to perennials.

You will probably need to do some light weeding and pruning but overall you can sit back and relax as you watch them come back year after year!

Perennial Herbs Offer A Reliable Harvest Every Year

Perennial herbs offer you a consistent harvest for as many years as they live, so you can count on being able to use fresh rosemary in your cooking every summer.

If you bring them indoors to extend the season you can keep harvesting into the winter as well. Many annual plants offer no guarantee of germination or success, but barring a disaster you can count on your perennial herbs to be consistent producers.

No Digging Or Tilling Is Better For Soil

Since perennial herbs will return in the same spot that they have been planted, the soil there gets to sit undisturbed from tilling equipment for a few years.

Topsoil contains lots of essential bacteria, microorganisms and nutrients that are destroyed or leached out through tilling, and perennial herbs allow the soil food web to develop and strengthen in patches of your garden, creating an overall healthier soil system.

Perennial Herbs Can Mark Out Your Garden And Define Beds

Perennial Herbs Can Mark Out Your Garden And Define Beds

Perennial herbs are helpful cornerstones for garden design, and can delineate the edges of beds or the beginning of rows.

Every spring when your garden is a bit of a mess your perennials can help you re-establish a sense of order and map out what goes where.

They Extend Your Harvest Into The Spring And Fall Months

Many perennial herbs will produce a harvest in the cooler border seasons of spring and fall, allowing you to extend your harvests to be almost year round.

As mentioned above, you can even bring many potted perennials indoors for the winter and even have fresh herbs in the winter!

Perennial Herbs Will Become An Aesthetic Feature Of Your Garden

Perennial-Herbs-Will-Become-An-Aesthetic-Feature-Of-Your-Garden

Perennial herbs not only map out your garden but also beautify it, and many offer ornamental as well as productive features.

Creeping thyme is often enjoyed for its low growing carpet of foliage that spills over pots and raised beds and decorates low stone walls.

They Bring Pollinators Back Every Year

Every spring when pollinators come out again, your perennial herbs will offer some of the first blooms to attract them to your garden and get your annual plants pollinated!

Many herbs are highly fragrant and beloved by bees and butterflies, and can make your garden into a space where pollinators feel welcomed every year.

They Are Versatile Companion Plants That Effectively Deter Insects

The fragrant smells of many perennial herbs not only attract beneficial insects and pollinators, but actively deter many common garden pests.

A number of annual vegetables grow very well next to perennial herbs as companion plants, and the herbs can be used as a form of integrated pest management that keep your garden healthy without any need for chemicals.

20 Perennial Herbs That Will come back on its own every year

Here is a list of our favorite 20 perennial herbs that are worth growing for their ornamental, medicinal, or culinary uses – or all three!

1. Oregano

Oregano

Oregano is a hardy perennial herb that produces small purple or white flowers which are edible and attractive to pollinators. It has a zesty flavor and is a common companion plant for vegetables due to its pest-deterrent qualities, particularly for the cabbage butterfly.

They will provide an excellent harvest for around 4 years, after which point the leaves will be less flavorful. Oregano will easily self-seed so let the plant flower and finish its life cycle to see new plants pop up the next year.

  • Planting and Care: Plant in full sun from seed, cuttings, or with transplants. Plant 8-10 inches from other plants, in loamy soil with good drainage. Water infrequently as oregano is drought tolerant, but provide a deep soaking when you do. Regular trimming and harvesting encourages more bush-like growth.
  • How to Harvest: Once the plant is 4 inches tall, you can snip away springs near the base of the plant regularly throughout the season.
  • Varieties to Grow: Greek Oregano for culinary uses, Common Oregano for ornamental blooms

2. Thyme

Thyme

Thyme is a low-growing, woody perennial with many small oval-shaped leaves that have a powerful aroma and flavor. After four years the plant will be less productive and you may notice most of the stems have become woody, at which point you should take cuttings to produce new plants. Thyme is low-growing and low maintenance, making it well suited for container gardening.

  • Planting and Care: Plant thyme transplants or cuttings (it is very difficult to grow from seed) in the spring, once all risk of frost has passed Plant in nutrient-rich soil that has great drainage and in a spot that receives full sun and heat. Take care not to water too frequently as thyme prefers drier conditions.
  • How to Harvest: Harvest right before the plant produces flowers for the leaf best flavor by cutting away the top few inches of growth. Flowers are also edible and can be harvested for culinary uses.
  • Varieties to Grow: Creeping Thyme, Lemon Thyme, ‘Silver Queen’

3. Sorrel

Sorrel

Sorrel is a herbaceous perennial often grown as a leafy green as well as a herb, with young leaves tasting like a more tangy version of spinach.

Once mature, sorrel leaves become much stronger in flavor and are used as a herb. During the winter the plants will die back completely and re-emerge in the spring with fresh leaves.

  • Planting and Care: Plant sorrel in a spot that receives full sun, but it is also tolerant to partial shade. Sorrel likes fertile soil that is able to retain some moisture, so vermiculite is a good soil amendment. Mulch the soil surface and water semi-frequently to keep soil lightly moist, but make sure not to drown the plant or create muddy soil.
  • How to Harvest: Young leaves can be picked throughout the growing season for use in salads, but the longer you wait the stronger the flavor will become.
  • Varieties to Grow: English or Garden Sorrel, French Sorrel

4. Sage

Sage

Sage, or Salvia, is a woody perennial with hundreds of different cultivars used for many purposes including culinary and medicinal. The leaves are often a grey/silver green and the plants will produce tall, lupin-like flowers that are pink, purple, white or blue.

There are a few varieties of sage that are annual, so make sure to choose a perennial one to see this beautiful plant return every season.

  • Planting and Care: Plant sage in a spot that receives full sun and keep seedlings moist until they are completely established, at which point you can water more infrequently. Sage likes soil that is rich in nutrients and slightly acidic. Prune woody stems down in the spring to encourage fresh growth.
  • How to Harvest: Don’t harvest in sage’s first year of growth, but in the second year you can snip away leaves whenever you need them. If doing a big harvest limit them to only a few times a season.
  • Varieties to Grow: ‘Tricolor Sage’, ‘Purple Garden Sage’, ‘Golden Sage’

5. Rosemary

Rosemary

Rosemary is a perennial shrub native to the Mediterranean that is popularly used in cooking. In the right conditions, rosemary can become a large bush with more growth than any cook could likely harvest and use!

In hot climates, rosemary can be grown outdoors, but if you live in a region where temperatures drop below freezing in the winter, you should grow rosemary in a container that can be brought inside to protect it.

  • Planting and Care: Rosemary is difficult to grow from seed, so buy transplants or take cuttings and plant them in slightly acidic sandy or loamy soil with excellent drainage. Rosemary is drought tolerant and dislikes excessive moisture, so be careful not to overwater. Prune to control bush shape and growth direction.
  • How to Harvest: Harvest young stems with scissors, and always leave two thirds of the plant to recover.
  • Varieties to Grow: ‘Blue Boy’, ‘Tuscan Blue’, ‘Spice Islands’

6. Lavender

Lavender

Another perennial hailing from the Mediterranean, lavender is famed for its distinct scent which is used in many products from soap to medicine, and it’s sprigs also have culinary uses in baked goods.

It has silvery grey leaves and is usually most recognized by its tall purple flowers which are loved by pollinators. With correct pruning, lavender bushes can live between 5 and 15 years, depending on the variety.

  • Planting and Care: Plant lavender as a transplant in the spring in soil with good drainage. Lavender is hardy and tolerant of poor soil conditions, but it is important for soil to not be soggy. Water young plants frequently but once they are mature they only need watering every couple weeks. Mulch over winter or bring indoors.
  • How to Harvest: Harvest lavender when half of the flowers are blooming by cutting stems as far down as possible. Harvest in the morning for best aroma.
  • Varieties to Grow: English Lavender is a long living species, and French Lavender has a distinct flavor

7. Roman Chamomile

Roman Chamomile

Roman chamomile, unlike German chamomile, is a perennial herb that will regrow from the same root from one year to the next.

Often used in tea, chamomile has been around for centuries as a medicinal herb reputed for its calming effects. The flowers are the part of the plant that is typically harvested, and closely resemble daisies when they are in bloom, only a little larger.

  • Planting and Care: Plant chamomile seeds, cuttings or transplants in fertile soil where they receive partial shade. Chamomile is very low maintenance and once established, is fairly drought tolerant and should only be watered every couple of weeks. It does not need to be fertilized.
  • How to Harvest: Harvest chamomile flowers when they are in full bloom and petals are all extended. Snip flower heads with an inch of stem and let them dry for a couple weeks before use.
  • Varieties to Grow: Roman Chamomile, also called Russian or English Chamomile

8. Tarragon

Tarragon

Both French and Russian tarragon are perennial herbs, but French tarragon is more flavorful and suited for cooking. Tarragon plants can grow to about 2-3 feet tall and have long, light green leaves. Most tarragon plants will live around 3-4 years after which point they should be replaced.

  • Planting and Care: Plant tarragon transplants in the spring in sandy soils and in a spot that receives full sun. It doesn’t like wet soil so water infrequently and harvest often to encourage fresh growth.
  • How to Harvest: Harvest leaves whenever they are needed by snipping stems and leaves.
  • Varieties to Grow: French Tarragon

9. Marjoram

Marjoram

Marjoram is a low-growing perennial very closely related to oregano. It is often used as a companion plant because it attracts beneficial insects, like pollinators, and deters pests.

In Northern climates they are often treated as annuals as they will die completely in below freezing temperatures, but they can be brought indoors to avoid this. Marjoram does very well in containers, so if you are in a region with heavy winters grow it in a window-box or pot.

  • Planting and Care: Marjoram needs full sun to thrive, and should be planted in well-draining soil to avoid soggy roots. Water when soil is dry and pluck away flower buds as they develop to encourage fresh growth.
  • How to Harvest: Snip away sprigs and leaves as needed throughout the season once the plant is fully established.
  • Varieties to Grow: Sweet Marjoram, Variegated Marjoram

10. Mint

Mint

Mint is one of the most famous backyard garden perennials, often returning with such vigor that it becomes a nuisance. For this reason, it can be a good idea to grow mint in a pot or raised bed, to contain some of its spread.

There are hundreds of varieties of mint, all with distinct flavors and characteristics, but generally mint leaves are some shade of green with scalloped edges.

  • Planting and Care: Mint can be easily propagated through cuttings and should be planted in rich soil with good drainage, and can tolerate partial shade. They enjoy moist soil conditions but make sure soil doesn’t become boggy and add a layer of mulch around the base of plants.
  • How to Harvest: Harvest sprigs whenever they are needed by cutting near the base of the plant. Young leaves have a more potent flavor than older ones.
  • Varieties to Grow: Spearmint, Peppermint, Chocolate Mint, Apple Mint

11. Yarrow

Yarrow

Yarrow is a low-maintenance addition to your perennial herb collection with flowers that will attract pollinators.

Yarrow flowers can be yellow, white, pink and even red, and offer ornamental value and are a great way to delineate edges and borders in your garden. It can grow quite vigorously so it should be occasionally pruned so that it doesn’t take over your space.

  • Planting and Care: Plant yarrow in the spring in a spot that receives full sun and in soil that has good drainage. Yarrow likes hot and dry conditions so water infrequently, and deadhead flowers to encourage new blooms.
  • How to Harvest: Harvest full stems with flowers intact and dry upside down. Flowers and leaves can be dried and used as herbal remedies or spices, and leaves can also be eaten fresh.
  • Varieties to Grow: ‘Coronation Gold’, ‘Apple Blossom’, ‘Moonshine’

12. Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

A member of the mint family, lemon balm is a popular perennial herb that most gardeners will already have growing in their gardens. It spreads quickly so consider growing it in a pot to contain and control some of the growth.

In addition to being a perennial it will self seed vigorously so make sure to cut back blooms if you don’t want a bunch of extra plants popping up next season. The leaves provide a mild lemon-y flavor and have culinary and medicinal uses.

  • Planting and Care: Plant lemon balm cuttings in the spring in well-draining, rich soil. Lemon balm likes full sun but tolerates partial shade, and in very hot climates it will actually prefer some afternoon shade. Like mint, lemon balm appreciates moisture and should be watered frequently without letting soil become soggy.
  • How to Harvest: Harvest sprigs whenever needed by cutting stems at the base of the plant. Only harvest 1/3rd of the plant at a time to allow regrowth.
  • Varieties to Grow: Citronella Lemon Balm, Quedlinburger Lemon Balm, Aurea Lemon Balm

13. Bay Laurel

Bay Laurel

The bay laurel, or bay, tree is an evergreen shrub-like tree that produces leaves commonly used as a seasoning for stews.

When correctly pruned, the tree is kept to a small bush shape and can be grown in a container, but untended trees can grow very tall- up to 60 feet!

Only in warm climates should bay laurel be planted in the ground outdoors, and if you experience freezing winter temperatures you should keep it in a container that can be moved indoors.

Although safe for humans, bay laurel is toxic to many animals so keep your cats, dogs, and horses away from this plant.

  • Planting and Care: Plant in the spring in slightly acidic soils that are rich in organic matter and drain well. Bay laurel likes full sun but is shade tolerant, and it should be pruned in the spring to ensure it stays a manageable size.
  • How to Harvest: Leaves can be harvested from plants that are at least two years old, and the tree can tolerate heavy picking. Dry leaves out for a few weeks before using as a spice.
  • Varieties to Grow: ‘Angustifolia’, ‘Saratoga’

14. Rue

Rue

Rue is an evergreen herb that has been cultivated for hundreds of years. It has many uses in traditional medicines, and although the leaves are very bitter it is used in certain spice mixes and certain cuisines.

It is poisonous in large quantities so ingest with caution! As a garden herb, it is a great companion plant due to its pest-deterrent qualities that ward off moths and fly larvae.

  • Planting and Care: Plant seeds in the spring and keep them moist until established, at which point they only need watering around once a week. Rue grows best in rich, fertile soil with good drainage and in a spot that receives full sun.
  • How to Harvest: Harvest rue before it flowers and in the morning when the essential oils are most potent. The sap can be an irritant so wear gloves.
  • Varieties to Grow: ‘Fringed Rue’, ‘Jackman’s Blue’

15. Hyssop

Hyssop

Another perennial herb that has been used for centuries, hyssop is a member of the mint family grown for its leaves and flowers. It has a sweet smell and a slightly bitter flavor that is used medicinally and culinarily.

The flowers are arranged in towering purple clusters that resemble lavender, and are attractive to many pollinators.

  • Planting and Care: Plant seeds or starts in soil that has been amended with compost or composted manure and in a location that gets full sun, but it is tolerant to some light shade. Hyssop is low maintenance, disliked by pests, and drought tolerant so it can be mostly left alone throughout the season.
  • How to Harvest: Snip young leaves and stems for the best flavor, and do not wash them or they will lose their essential oils.
  • Varieties to Grow: ‘Giant Hyssop’, ‘Anise Hyssop

16. Wild Bergamot

Wild Bergamot

Bergamot, also known as ‘Bee Balm’ is a hardy perennial native to the East coast of North America. They can grow into bushy plants that reach a height of two to four feet, and produce spiky pink or purple flowers that are beloved by bees and disliked by mosquitoes.

The flowers are edible and can be used in teas or as an edible garnish, and you should replant Wild Bergamot every three years for the healthiest plants.

  • Planting and Care: Plant in the spring or fall with enough space between plants for good air circulation. It appreciates slightly moist soil, so mulch around plants to improve water retention. Deadhead flowers to encourage fresh growth.
  • How to Harvest: Clip flower heads at full bloom.
  • Varieties to Grow: Mintleaf Bergamot, and Common Wild Bergamot

17. Echinacea (Coneflower)

Echinacea (Coneflower)

Coneflowers are both an ornamental perennial flower and a herb, which can bloom from July all the way until the first frost in some climates. They are in the daisy family, and look very much like oversized daisies but more colorful.

Pollinators like butterflies, bees, and even songbirds love coneflowers, and they are a great way to brighten up your garden for many seasons to come. Every four years or so, replant to continue the colorful summertime blooms.

  • Planting and Care: Plant transplants in the spring (from seed they will take a couple years to bloom) in a location with full sun and fertile, well-draining soil. Cone flowers are drought tolerant and should be watered infrequently. Deadhead flowers to extend the blooming season.
  • How to Harvest: All parts of the coneflower are edible, so cut away flowers or leaves for whichever use you intend and dry for a few weeks before using as a herb.
  • Varieties to Grow: ‘Bravado’, ‘Butterfly Kisses’, ‘Hot Papaya’

18. Valerian

Valerian

Valerian is a flowering perennial often grown for its root, but its flowers are a good way to attract pollinators to your garden. It’s flowers attract several types of fly that butterflies feed on, making it a great butterfly plant.

If you are planning to grow valerian for its roots, plant several plants at a time, as there is a risk the plant won’t survive a partial root harvest. The flowers have a sweet vanilla-y scent and the root is used in teas and capsules as a sleep-aid.

  • Planting and Care: Grow valerian root in well-drained loamy soil, preferably in a spot that receives full sun but it is shade tolerant. It likes a consistent amount of light moisture in the soil so water semi-frequently. Amend with compost a few times throughout the growing season for an extra boost.
  • How to Harvest: Harvest the root only in the second year after planting in the spring or autumn. Dig out the root, harvest slices, and replant. If it does not recover then harvest the whole root before it begins to rot and wash thoroughly before drying it out. Flowers can be harvested in full bloom by cutting the stem right below.
  • Varieties to Grow: Mountain Valerian, Sharpleaf Valerian, Large-flowered Valerian

19. Marshmallow

Marshmallow

Marshmallow is another herbaceous perennial used for its root and flowers. The flowers, leaves, and roots are all edible and typically used for medicinal purposes, and yes it is where the modern marshmallow candy gets its name (and that story is worth a google)!

Plant several plants if harvesting for the root, which is renowned for helping with respiratory issues.

  • Planting and Care: Plant marshmallow in a spot that receives at least 4-5 hours of morning sun per day and in soil that is slightly acidic. It appreciates lots of moisture so water frequently but make sure the plant doesn’t sit in standing water.
  • How to Harvest: It is possible to harvest the roots without killing the plant by digging up the plant and slicing off a portion of the root material before re-burying the crown, however this can be tricky. Dry roots before using in teas or other herbal remedies.

20. Sweet Cicely

Sweet Cicely

With all parts of the sweet cicely plant being edible it is an underrated perennial garden herb, especially considering its attractive fern-like foliage and ornamental clusters of small white flowers.

The leaves can be cooked or eaten fresh, the seeds are sweet and can be eaten like candy, the flowers attract bees and other pollinators, and the root can be boiled and used medicinally- you really get the bang for your buck with this herb! 

  • Planting and Care: Plant sweet cicely in the autumn in moist soil with good drainage that has been amended with compost or manure. It is fairly low maintenance and only needs enough water to keep the soil consistently moist. To limit self-seeding plants popping up next year, remove blooms before they distribute seeds.
  • How to Harvest: Leaves can be harvested once they are at least 6-8 inches long, and roots should be harvested in the autumn by digging plants up with a sharp spade.

Winter Care for Perennial Herbs

Winter Care For Perennial Herbs

If you live in a region that experiences winter, and depending on the cold hardiness of your perennials, you may or may not need to spend some extra time preparing vulnerable herbs for winter.

Here are some steps you can take to help your herbs get through the winter:

Stop Fertilizing Herbs In September

Since fertilizer encourages fresh, new growth, make sure to halt all applications of it after the summer to avoid tender new growth being exposed to the cold.

Cut Down Hardy Perennials, Protect Tender Perennials

Hardy perennial herbs like chives, thyme, mint, oregano, and lavender will usually be fine in the winter.

After the first frost, cut them down to a height of around 4-5 inches so they are ready for fresh growth in the spring.

It is a good idea to add a layer of mulch or branches around those plants for extra protection. Tender perennials, like lemongrass, rosemary, and bay laurel, will need to be brought indoors for the winter, as they won’t survive hard freezes.

Bring Potted Perennials Indoors To Extend Harvest

If you are already growing some of your herbs in containers, you may be able to bring them indoors for the winter to extend the harvest and growing season.

Herbs like thyme or rosemary will generally last a while longer inside as long as they are placed on a sunny, south facing window sill.

If you live in a very northern climate it will eventually reach a point where there are too few hours of daylight for these herbs to keep producing, but you will still have gained a couple extra months of fresh herb use

Cut Down Outdoor Woody Perennials During Dormancy

Certain woody perennials like sage will begin new growth from the old stems and if they aren’t trimmed down, and over time your plant will have less and less harvestable foliage and become more like a pile of sticks.

This only applies to certain woody perennials (not lavender!), but for those it does apply to, prune back excessive woody growth in the winter while plants are dormant, to encourage fresh growth in the spring.

Important Tips for Perennial Herb Care

Use these tips to ensure that the herbs in your garden will keep growing back year after year.

  • Avoid disrupting perennial root systems. Established herbs should be disturbed as little as possible, so make sure to be careful if you are using a hoe or digging in the ground nearby. It’s easy to accidentally rip up roots, particularly of shallow-rooted herbs like thyme, so only hand weed around the base of your perennial herbs if needed.
  • Don’t use chemicals on leaves. Most herbs are harvested for their foliage or flowers, so spraying chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides on them is not only bad for the plant, it also poses a serious danger to anyone consuming it. Many of the herbs on this list are hardy and pest resistant, and the only fertilizer they need is compost or well-composted manure around the base of their main stem, so you should avoid using chemicals at all. If you still feel that you need them for some specific use, ensure that you purchase those that have the label “safe for edibles”.
  • Beware of over-watering. The majority of the herbs on this list are drought tolerant and will not appreciate soggy roots or boggy soil. In fact, this is one of the quickest ways gardeners can kill their herbs, so err on the side of caution and water less than you think you need to and gradually increase from there as needed.
  • Harvest continuously and deadhead flowers to encourage new growth. To encourage new leaves to grow, keep harvesting from the plant at frequent intervals. Snipping away older leaves and foliage will help encourage the plant to produce fresh growth, and deadheading flowers does the same for fresh blooms if you are growing a herb for its flowers.
  • Pluck flowers to extend harvesting season. Unless you are growing a herb specifically for its flowers, like chamomile, you can pluck away flowers as they develop to extend the foliage harvest for your herbs. Flower growth generally indicates the plant is reaching the end of its life cycle and will try to now focus its energy on growing flowers and releasing seeds, which can result in the leaves losing flavor or becoming bitter. However, if you keep picking the flowers you can delay this process by weeks on end and still harvest flavorful leaves.
  • Replant with cuttings every few years. Perennials last a long time but not forever! Most of the plants on this list will produce an excellent harvest for anywhere between 3 and 6 years, but eventually their time will come. The plants themselves may still survive but stems become woody and the leaves or flowers less flavorful. Luckily, many perennials will self-seed or can be easily propagated via cuttings, so if you like the herb variety that you are growing you can easily make more of them!

Updated on by Amber Noyes

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