6 Herbs That Grow Back Year After Year

Spend a little less time gardening and a lot more time enjoying these perennial herbs.

April 20, 2017
girl picking chives

It’s true: there’s nothing quite like a heap of harvested basil, fragrant in the summer sun. But what if you don’t feel like turning over the garden beds again this year? What if you don’t want to carefully sow another flat of near-invisible seeds? And what if you’re ready to throw in the towel on herb gardening altogether? Worry not! These six perennial herbs will cut down on time and backbreaking labor while sacrificing none of the culinary and medicinal benefits these special plants provide.

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Throw this licorice-flavored native of Eurasia into a sun tea and you’ll impress any garden visitor. Underused and easy to cultivate, this low growing lover of sun and drought is great for pollinators, too. If you live in a cool, wet climate, plant hyssop in a raised bed—and try it next to food crops for its pest-deterring properties. (Here are 26 more plants you should always grow side by side.) To make the most of hyssop, cut and dry the plant’s flowering branches for use over winter. It can be made into an excellent tonic against bronchitis and colds and is effective at expelling mucus from the lungs.

Order hyssop seeds here

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As mundane as chives may seem, they’re a must-have in any perennial herb garden. First of all, virtually nothing upsets them. Drown chives in a monsoon, bury them in gravel, freeze them in subzero temps—they’ll always come back. Secondly, chives are one of the first herbs to appear in spring making them a luscious must-have for any food fanatic. Chives are also one of the rare herbs that are relatively easily grown from seed, if you want to go that route. Easier still, is to buy a potted plant from your local nursery, plop it in any old soil and watch it flourish year after year.

Order organic chive seeds here.

Related: 5 Vegetables That Grow Back Year After Year

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Never underestimate mint (in both a horticultural and culinary sense). You can add it to almost anything—cocktails, Mediterranean salads, teas or barbecued meat—but never forget that it’s equally versatile in the garden setting. Mint will not just thrive in your herb garden, it will smother it. If not pruned with abandon each year, mint will dominate. Here's how to keep mint from running wild in your garden. Most kinds of mints share this appetite for gobbling up space, so whether you’re planting chocolate mint, spearmint, or peppermint, proceed with caution. (Here are 7 surprising health benefits of mint.)

Order mint seeds or plants here

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The perks of fennel are many: its pale, airy umbels are calling cards for butterflies, and its feathery leaves are a lovely contrast against the bland and boring ovals of most vegetable plants. What’s more, fennel’s anise scent lends great flavor to fish and salads.

Plant fennel in the back of the garden where it can reach its full five feet without shading out any other crops. It prefers rich, circum-neutral, freely draining soils and is hardy to zone 4. If grown as a perennial, mulch the bulbs in winter with thick straw or rotted leaves to provide an extra layer of protection. Thresh fennel’s flowering stalks in the fall to collect the textured, oval seeds—they’re excellent for brewing into a tea for stomach ailments of all kinds.

Order organic fennel seeds here.

Related: 10 Tips For Growing An Organic Herb Garden On A Budget

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A relatively uncommon herb today, lovage easily made its way around the world as a favorite of gardeners hundreds of years ago. The Romans brought it to Britain and the British brought it to America where it is beginning to enjoy a culinary resurgence. Refreshing in salads and cocktails, the celery-like flavor of lovage works in savory meat dishes, too. (Lovage is one of these 7 weird and wonderfully delicious greens you should be growing this year.)

Plant this tall relative of the carrot somewhere it can really stretch out—if it’s happy, it’ll put on six feet in the blink of an eye. Lovage needs very good drainage and prefers ample sun in zone 4  conditions. The sweet, nutty seeds become available after August and can be sprinkled over fruit or on pastries, while the young, fresh stalks can be used in soups, salads, or chopped up into a zesty lamb burger.

Order organic lovage seeds here

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This lowly little herb is one of the kitchen’s most essential seasonings. Native to the Mediterranean, thyme can be found creeping across dry, sandy hillsides in many parts of North America. Its profuse purple flowers give it away come summer when it lights up fields and lawns advertising to bees. Neglect thyme and it will repay you—plant it in a hot, sunny, dry location (between paving stones, up against a porch, on a rocky, dry southern slope) and it will be happiest. Give it a haircut come September (and don’t be shy—a good pruning is good for thyme) to harvest the little aromatic leaves that will flavor your eggs, stews, and roasts all winter long.

Order organic thyme seeds here