Herbs have been cultivated for centuries for their medicinal and culinary properties. While many common herbs are grown as annuals, there are some, such as sage and rosemary, that can been grown all year round.
As well as using their leaves fresh or dried to provide flavours for the kitchen or for infusing in teas, evergreen herbs make wonderful ornamental plants, adding structure and fragrance. They’re also versatile: bay, rosemary and lavender can be trained as small standard trees or pyramids, while lavender, rosemary, teucrium and santolina can be used as low-growing hedging plants.
Most evergreen herbs come from the Mediterranean and share a love of sun and well-drained soil. Their small flowers are also loved by pollinators. So growing evergreen herbs in pots and borders makes good gardening sense and will give you an attractive mix of textures for year-round interest.
Discover which evergreen herbs to grow, below.
Rosmarinus officinalis is an essential herb for kitchen gardens. The perfect accompaniment for roast meat and vegetables, you can pick the aromatic leaves all year round. It’s also an attractive evergreen shrub, with small blue flowers. A Mediterranean herb, rosemary is best grown in well-drained soils in full sun, although it’s well suited to growing in pots. There are many different varieties to choose from, including low-growing Rosmarinus prostratus.
Another kitchen garden staple, Salvia officinalis has also been traditionally grown as a medicinal herb. Sage tea has digestive, cleansing and antiseptic properties. But it’s also a good culinary match for pork and chicken. With attractive textured leaves, sage is a good, low-growing shrub for Mediterranean-style planting schemes. While sage will keep its leaves through the winter, plants can look a bit tatty by spring, so pick leaves regularly.
There are many different varieties of Thymus vulgaris, all with small rounded evergreen leaves, packed with flavour and scent. The variations come in habit and leaf colour which ranges from dark green to variegated – golden or white. Creeping thymes are good for planting along paths or between paving stones as stepping on the plants releases the scent. Many varieties are hardy but some are frost tender and will only survive if brought undercover for winter. All thymes are good for growing in containers and herb gardens.
With its distinctive perfume and silver-grey, evergreen foliage, lavender is enduringly popular. Oil from the stems and blooms has traditionally been used as an antiseptic and in soaps, but the flowers can be used in cooking too. Lavenders thrive in well-drained soil with plenty of sunshine and grow well in containers or borders. Perfect as low-growing hedging, bordering paths, lavender looks equally good in a more informal Mediterranean-style scheme.
Bay leaves are a key ingredient in many soups, stews and sauces, while oil from the leaves has traditionally been used to treat bruises and rheumatism. Unlike other common herbs, bay is a tree and, given the right conditions, will grow up to 15m high. It makes a strong evergreen statement, and can be used to bring formal structure to a garden, particularly when grown as a standard or pyramid.
Biennial, parsley can be evergreen if grown in pots and brought undercover in autumn, where it will continue to produce leaves until it flowers the following season. Sometimes underrated as a herb in British cuisine, it’s often just used as a garnish for fish dishes. However it has a wonderful flavour, adding depth to salads, marinades, stews and sauces. It’s also a rich source of vitamin C and iron, and is said to cure bad breath and cleanse the skin. The most common types are curly, like Petroselinum crispum ‘Aphrodite’, or flat-leaved, such as ‘French’.