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Are ANY herbs perennial?

August 30, 2005

I have basil, oregano, chives, parsley and dill. I'd like to add more next year, but I'm curious to know if there are any that will come back to me year after year.

Comments (28)

  • kris

    Lots of herbs are perennial. Basil and dill are not, parseley is biennial. Oregano and chives are perennial. Mints are perennial, the thymes are perennial. Just google the herb your interested in and type perennial or annual and the info will show up. Then google it and type hardy, that tells you which zones the plant won't die in a normal winter (ie. doesn't get colder than the minimum for your hardiness zone).

    Now where I get confused is if you have a perennial, and it is hardy for your zone, does that mean it stays green and grows in the winter? Or does it go dormant and look like a lump of dirt all winter? Maybe someone can clear that up for me :). I think it has to be classified as "evergreen" to stay green but i'm not sure.

  • Daisyduckworth

    'Perennial' is a botanical term, not a matter of climate. However, in severe climates, many 'perennials' are TREATED as annuals because they can't handle a climate that isn't natural for them.

    Actually, there are lots and lots of perennial herbs. Nothing lives forever, of course, so there are some which are best replaced after a few years. Thyme, for instance, is classified as a perennial, but it's past its best after about 3 years. Lavender is a perennial, but is usually best replaced after 5-7 years.

    Here's just a short list of perennial herbs for you - some are culinary, some are medicinal, some are both. You will need to simulate their natural habitats to get them to behave as Nature intended, of course!

    Aconite, Agrimony, Alexanders, Alfalfa, Allspice, Aloe Vera, Angelica (biennial, often treated as short-lived perennial), anise (frost-tender though fairly hardy annual, sometimes treated as a perennial), anise hyssop (half-hardy, short-lived perennial), Arnica, Arrowroot, Astragalus, Balm of Gilead, Bay, Bayberry, Bergamot (Monarda), Bistort, Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Brahmi, Bugle, Calamint, Capers, Caraway (frost-hardy biennial which may become perennial in mild climates), cardamom, catmint, catnip, Roman Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile, Anthemis nobilis -half-hardy perennial, usually grown as an annual), German Chamomile Matricaria recutita (similar in appearance, habits and uses to Roman Chamomile), Chaste-tree (deciduous perennial), Chicory, (biennial, sometimes perennial), Chillies (annuals in cold climates, perennials in warm or hot climates), chives and garlic chives, cinnamon, Clove Pinks, Clove tree, Coffee, Coltsfoot, Comfrey, Asian Coriander (Eryngium foetidum); Costmary, Curry Leaf Tree, Curry Plant, Dandelion, Elder, Elecampane, Epazote (annual, often treated as a perennial), Evening Primrose (biennial, sometimes treated as a perennial), Fennel, Feverfew (short-lived perennial), French Tarragon (half-hardy), Galangal, Ginger, Ginkgo biloba, Ginseng, Good King Henry, Gotu Kola, Hawthorn (May), Heliotrope (usually treated as an annual), Hops, Horehound, Horseradish, Hyssop (semi-evergreen, hardy but short-lived perennial), Juniper, Kaffir Lime, Kava Kava, Lady's Bedstraw, Lady's Mantle, Lamb's Ears, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lemongrass, Lemon Verbena (tender, deciduous perennial), Liquorice, Lovage, Marjoram/Oregano (tender perennials), Marshmallow, Meadowsweet, Mints, Mother of Herbs (Cuban Oregano, Spanish Sage and numerous other names), Motherwort, Mugwort, Mushroom Plant (tender perennial), Nasturtium (annual in cold climates, perennial in warm climates), Nettle, Nutmeg, Passionfruit (short-lived, tender perennial), Pepper (as in peppercorns), Plantain, Pyrethrum, Rose, Rosemary, Rue, Saffron, Sage, (Pineapple Sage, too), Salad Burnet (evergreen in mild climates), Santolina, Sassafras, Winter Savory (Summer Savory is an annual), Scented Geraniums, Scullcap, Self Heal (Prunella), Sesame (annual sometimes treated as a perennial), Soapwort, Sorrel, Southernwood, Speedwell, Stevia (tender perennial in warmer climates, treat as an annual in cold areas), St. John's Wort, Sweet Cicely, Sweet Woodruff, Tansy, Thyme (short-lived), Toothache Plant (tTropical perennial grown as an annual in temperate areas), Turmeric (dies down in winter, comes back in spring even in warm climates), Uva-Ursi, Valerian (short-lived), Watercress, Wild Yam, Winter Tarragon (also called Mexican Marigold Mint and many other names - dies down in winter), Wood Avens, Wood Betony, Wormwood, Yarrow, Yellow Dock, Zedoary.

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  • redloves2sing

    Wow...thank you!

  • jules7ky

    Hey, Kris - to answer your question... Perennial plants don't necessarily have to be evergreen. There are plenty that go dormant over the winter, dying back to the ground. Others stay green, like lavender, sage, and thyme. (I've been known to do a little desperation harvesting of sage at Thanksgiving for turkey dressing - not as flavorful, but it worked!)

    My mints all but disappear in the winter, as do chives and lemon balm. But they're back in the spring with a vengeance, bigger and better than ever!

    Hope that helps...

  • Daisyduckworth

    Oh yes, many perennial plants will die down to soil level in winter, then pop back up in spring. The roots remain alive, you see, so the plant lives on - perennially! It's like trees - they are usually perennials, but they don't all grow in the winter, and some lose their leaves. Doesn't mean they're dead - they just go to sleep (shut down, become dormant, hibernate even!) when the weather doesn't suit them.

    An annual will usually grow like crazy while the weather is right, then make babies (flowers then seeds) to ensure the continuation of the species, and die completely. When the weather is right again, those babies begin growing.....

  • alison


    That's a new one to me!

  • Daisyduckworth

    Zedoary: Curcuma zedoaria. Looks a bit like a ginger plant, and is used in much the same ways.

    The young rhizomes can be eaten as a very aromatic vegetable, or used in the preparation of curry pastes. The grated fresh rhizome can be added to pickles recipes, soups and chutneys. It is used as a dried spice in curry powder, especially for seafood dishes. It may be pounded with turmeric or ginger to make a spice paste for lamb or chicken curries. The heart of the young shoots, and sometimes the flowers, are eaten either raw or cooked.

    The root, ground to a paste, can be applied locally to cuts and wounds to aid healing. Taken internally, it is used as an aid to digestion, and to relieve flatulence and colic. A paste of a little zedoary and cream makes a good face mask and keeps the skin clear and shining.

  • baci

    Annuals & perennials will probably be straightforward in your zone. Some annuals are perennial in the warmer zones, however. Purselane is one example. My basil lasted through January last year I could have probably overwintered it, but I threw it away because of a pest.
    Some other perennial herbs include Vietnamese coriander, & culantro (not cilantro). There are various types of edible turmeric varieties which are probably perennial in warmer zones, although you could keep the rhizome in your climate.

  • kris

    Thanks jules and daisy, I was confused on that evergreen point and I'm in that part of the country where more perennials do stay green and but some don't so it just gets confusing.

  • zuniform

    Have no idea if you are still interested, but sage and tarragon are also easy reliable perennials in your zone.

  • ksrogers

    My winter chives are a perennial. They do form new, tiny bubil clusters that I replant, but they still survive (and grow well) in winter. Garlic chive is another that will do a similar thing, once it has the seeds. Sage and tarragon will not survive a Z6 winter, let alone a Z5. My tarragon died after a single year outdoors, and the sage did the same thing.

  • oakleif

    Garlic and Egyption onions are also perennials

  • tosser

    Sage most certainly can survive a zone 5 winter - I've never had a problem with it not coming back. French tarragon is also reliable here if it's mulched. Roman chamomile is a perennial. German chamomile is not, although it reseeds so efficiently it doesn't really matter. And rosemary is a tender perennial. I've never been able to overwinter one even with heavy mulching.

    Bay (bay laurel, sweet bay) is only good to about 25F. I have an 8-year-old bay laurel in a pot that comes inside every winter. A kaffir lime tree is only safe down to 32F (dwarf trees can be grown in pots).

    Pineapple sage is a tender perennial. It usually dies off at the first frost here.

  • jerry24

    I know a company which is pretty good at soil diagnostics (bodemverbetering). It is a dutch company, though they can probably give you some advice on this.

  • digit

    The herb forum sure gets the oddest posts. Jerry registers today and comments on soil diagnostics. Was there a question in this thread on soil that I missed?

    Click the website and it is apparently on website building in the Netherlands, not soil. The word "bodemverbetering" is translated by as "floor improvement" . . .! I don't know what to make out of it . . .


  • vera_eastern_wa

    I love might not be annual like mentioned but it sure is a good reseeder!! I get them in both spring and cool fall :D

    Sage (Salvia officinalis) definatley survives zone 5b-6a absolutely fine! It's one of my fave perennial herbs ever! As a matter of fact, mine are still looking good until after X-Mas...around end of January then they start to look sad. In spring I rejuvinate (sp?) by cutting them down to just above the newest growth and they are always nice big full plants again by May :D
    This picture was taken on April 14th about a month before the last frost date (May 12-15)just after pruning it back...
    May 27th....
    June 11th...

    Another one of my fave perennial herbs would have to be the Feverfew 'Flore Pleno'! Here it is on June 21st and it's at least 4' wide and almost as tall :D
    Echinacea and Lavender of course!

    others reliable for me here are:
    Thymus vulgaris 'German Winter'. Nice to see this evergreen globe thru the dreary winter months...need MORE MORE!
    Thymus x citriodora 'Silver Queen'
    Thymus serpyllum
    Echinacea angustifolia (not the one I posted the pic of)
    Nepeta mussinii....favorite early bloomer and again in summer and fall
    Garlic Chives
    Lemon Balm
    Agastache foeniculum
    Hyssopus officinalis
    Monarda fistulosa
    Monarda didyma

  • takadi

    Can't any herb be considered a perennial if given ideal stable conditions indoors?

  • leira

    Can't any herb be considered a perennial if given ideal stable conditions indoors?

    Nope. Herbs that are annuals will bloom, set seed, and die. You can keep these going longer than normal by pinching back any buds and not allowing the plant to bloom, but I doubt you could do this forever.

  • takadi

    Is basil a true annual, meaning it'll die no matter what efforts I put into it at the years end?

  • mudflapper

    Basil will die in the winter, sorry. Tosser, I have grown French tarragon but it has not survived the winter, perhaps too wet? Redloves2sing, As others have said some are evergreen, some die back and resprout from the roots and others will drop there leaves and some will just die.

  • fatamorgana2121


    Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) or tulsi is a perennial but is not hardy to most of the US. It is also a different plant than the basil (Ocimum basilicum) used in foods like pesto. Holy basil is used in ayurvedic medicine and is not really used in a culinary sense.

    I've got a 3-year holy basil plant that I bring indoors each winter. He hates the winter months and pouts but livens up each summer when he can go back outdoors. It is easy to start from seed - even direct sowing into your garden bed meets with good results.


  • rebeccadparker_yahoo_com

    I know artichokes are not an herb, but I need to ask anyone obviously more educated than I this question: I've had an artichoke plant for about 3 years. It starts out beautifully, getting full and tall but never produces the actual heads. It usually dies down by the end of June. Does anyone have a suggestion besides forgetting about it?

  • srj19

    Chives will come back every year even after a cold winter.
    Dill is will die off at winter but easily re-seeds itself and you'll probably find strays growing next year.
    Sage and Parsely if insulated a bit will usually survive even a cold winter.

    If you're in a cold climate, you might be surprised to see your parley hold out until Thanksgiving.

  • eibren

    IMO the more decorative sages are not winter hardy even in zone 6, but the more basic garden sage was asa I left it to overwinter outside in a pot. Apparently it needs very sharp drainage in winter.

    Thyme might as well be treated as an annual in my zone; it will come back if in a pot but is so bedraggled it is difficult to get much herb from it for quite some time. (Full sun would help, though: I don't have that to offer.)

    AARP rosemary will sometimes overwinter in a protected spot in zone 6, too.

    I purchased a small plant of varigated basil this spring which supposedly is a tender perennial, and I'm wondering if that could be because it might not flower. In any case, I will take it in this fall and see.

    The annual herbs that "bolt" (ie are determined to produce as much seed as possible as quickly as possible) in a similar manner to lettuce, spinach, and broccoli can be held back a bit by pinching off of the flowers, but this becomes an onerous process as the plant desperately tries to produce flowers from almost every node.

    The important thing, if you are in a climate with a freezing winter, is to bring in your tender perennial herbs before your first frost date, before they have a chace to be harmed by the cold. Some will die anyway finding insufficient light or humidity (or the reverse) inside. It's always fun to see what makes it, though. As a matter of practicality, I try to plant the tender herbs in pots that can just be carried inside, rather than having to transplant them from in-ground. Also for that reason I try to avoid planting perennial tender herbs in pots which are too large to carry into the house.

    My bay plants always survive for me until I have to leave them for DH to water.


  • fatamorgana2121

    I live in snowy and cold Western NY State. I've never gotten "arp" rosemary to survive but I know people who have. I think it's all about the right microclimate. Obviously, I don't have that.

    Sage (S. officinalis) and thyme (T. vulgaris) both do well for me. I grow them in garden beds (not pots). They start off the season pretty bedraggled but they quickly bounce back. Planting in the ground is warmer than a pot but trickier for drainage which is key to overwintering both of these.

    And a big YES to bringing in the tender ones before it gets frosty. Some need the house and some only need a little help, like an unheated garage to make it through the winter. Always check out what the plant can survive long before you get to your frost date. :)


  • lolauren

    Funny how my answers are different than others in zone 6. Our sage plants all overwinter just fine, even decorative sage in pots. By contrast, rosemary doesn't have a chance during winter here...

  • jctsai8b

    interesting long list of herbs

  • vera_eastern_wa

    I've had no problem growing common sage (Salvia officinalis) just fine in zone 5 either. I never had luck with Rosemary 'Arp' in zone 6 either :(

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