A wide array of herbs flourish in the southern garden. You can choose among warm season and cool season herbs–despite the heat and humidity. With a little extra care come August, the southern herb garden can still provide color, aroma, texture, medicine, and seasoning. Many herbs also provide pollen and nectar for important pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Some even serve as larval food sources for butterflies such as the black swallowtail and the giant swallowtail.
What are Herbs?
Herbs are generally defined as non-tropical plants whose leaves, stems, and flowers are grown for culinary, medicinal, or aromatic uses. Herbs can be herbaceous perennials, biennials, or annuals. Some are cool season plants, while others thrive in warm season conditions. They can add lovely blue or green foliage and varying textures to the garden. Flowers are often spikes of color such as red or purple salvia or flat heads of yellow on fennel and dill.
Herbs are not fussy about soil and do not need a lot of fertilizer, which can increase leaf development at the expense of oils. Herbs that are frequently harvested, such as basil, parsley, and chives will need regular fertilizing. Before planting perennials, enrich the soil with compost to loosen the soil and add fertility. When planting in containers, use a well-draining potting soil.
Most herbs will flourish in a pH range of 6 to 7.5. A soil test will show whether pH or soil fertility needs to be adjusted when growing herbs in the south.
Many herbs need at least six hours of sun each day. Herbs such as parsley, lemon balm, mints, sweet bay, and comfrey prefer part shade. Herbs that typically prefer full sun, such as lavender and lemon verbena, may benefit from afternoon shade in late summer when heat and humidity take their toll.
Mulch the soil well to retain moisture, regulate the temperature, and keep down the weeds. Although many herbs are drought tolerant, they perform best when watered thoroughly then allowed to dry before watering again. Containers may need to be watered every day during hot spells.
Best Herbs to Grow in the South: Planting a Southern Herb Garden
Herbs are often grown in groupings such as for a kitchen garden, apothecary, scent garden, or incorporated among ornamentals. Here are some of the best herbs to grow in the south.
Warm Season Annuals:
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
- Lavender (Lavandula species)
- Lemon balm (Mellisa officinalis)
- Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
- Mints (Mentha species)
- Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans)
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Scented geraniums (Pelargonium species)
- Artemisia (Artemisia sp.)
- Sweet Annie (Artemesia annua)
- Thyme (Thymus species)
Cool Season Annuals:
- Borage (Borago officinalis)
- Chamomile, German (Matricaria recutita)
- Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)
- Dill (Anethum graveolens)
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
- Parsley, biennial (Petroselinum crispum)
- Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis), tender perennial
- Chamomile, Roman (Chamaemelum nobile)
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
- Garlic (Allium sativum)
- Lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora)
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
- Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus), tender perennial
- Rue (Ruta graveolens)
- Santolina (Santolina sp.)
This is only a sampling of the best herbs to grow in the south. Many more will thrive, just give them a try!
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After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in English, Susan pursued a career in communications. In addition, she wrote garden articles for magazines and authored a newspaper gardening column for many years. She contributed South-Central regional gardening columns for four years to Lowes.com. While living in Oklahoma, she served as a master gardener for 17 years.