In general when you think of herbs you think of the brightest Mediterranean day, but even in those gorgeous countries there will be shaded spots. So we want to help you keep your herbs alive longer and know where to plant in terms of sunlight hours and what you can get away with!
In gardening we use the term full sun as being more than 6 hours a day, partial sun as 4-6 hours a day and partial shade as 3-4 hours. They do not need to be continuous hours of sunlight and dappled sun can help plants that would otherwise struggle with the heat of afternoon sun. Meaning some herbs will grow better on a windowsill than others.
Most herbs do not need full sunlight, but will cope with it just fine. We want to share some variations for each herb to better help you get the most from your herb garden!
|6 + hours, Full Sunlight||Lavender, Basil, Rosemary, Sage, Fennel, bay Tree, Chamomile, Lemon Verbena, Borage, Oregano, Echinacea, Marjoram|
|4-6 hours, Partial Sun||Parsley, Sorrel, Dill, Tarragon, Mint, Lemon Balm, Catnip, Thyme|
|3-4 hours, Partial Shade||Cress, Chives, Parsley, Cilantro / Coriander, Lovage|
Tips For Planting Herbs In Full Sun
- Irrigation and drainage are important for all herbs, but those in full sunshine will often still be subject to heavy rains at times. Meaning that the roots will sit in water unless there is adequate drainage.
- A good mulch will help to retain moisture to the herbs, even if they are in full sunshine for more than 6 hours a day. This will cut down the amount of watering you may have to do during Summer months.
- Some of the herbs that love to have full sunshine are perennials, but will need a little bit of love overwinter. Pruning back and covering their base with a fleece or mulch can really help!
- Full sunshine is one thing, but if you have an area that is not sheltered from the wind then your herbs may suffer. So there is a compromise to be made. Missing a few hours of sunshine will be fine as long as it is not losing too much moisture through the leaves in a drying hot wind.
- A lot of herbs that love full sunlight will also grow happily on your windowsill. So make sure to give your herbs the best chance by choosing a sunny spot for them, with sunlight for at least 6 hours.
- Young seedlings may need a bit of tender care, including waiting for frosts to have passed. So just because in the height of summer they will get full sunshine, it does not always follow that they will in April. Grow young seedlings under cover to help avoid this fear.
- If you are new to gardening trial your herbs in pots, then when you have gauged the hours of sun correctly you can plant out to the ground. This will prevent you from misjudging and placing a shade loving herb in direct 16 hours of sun!
- Grow the herbs that you enjoy cooking or eating. This sounds like a sensible idea, but I do grow a few herbs that my family prefer, but what I mean is, if you have never cooked with fennel before, don’t knock up an entire raised bed of the stuff. When you are growing herbs in the sun, they will really go for it and grow like crazy, so a little packet of seeds can go a long way
- Avoid herbs bolting by cuttings back after flowering season. You will want to make your herb garden as bee friendly as possible, and having all of that great sunlight will really encourage the essential oils to be released.
Herbs That Will Thrive In Full Sun
It’s not that herbs that thrive in full sun won’t survive in partial sun to shade, it’s just that they may prefer it. We can afford to be a bit casual about this one, but we do need to pay close attention to those herbs that DO NOT LIKE full sun. They could wilt and fade, even resulting in a degradation in the aroma and flavor. Some herbs will bolt as they think the sun is signalling the end of their lifespan.
Generally speaking any soft wood herbs will do better with partial sun to shade. This is because the intensity of the sun can cause damage or wilting. There are notable exceptions in the form of basil and even parsley can enjoy some heavy sunshine.
Herbs that originate from the Mediterranean will really love a full day of sunlight. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram can all thrive, even in drought conditions. We have also experimented with herbs like chamomile and given them the same amount of daylight hours as thyme and oregano, by pairing them in pots together.
I recommend setting up a passive watering system if you are planning on growing herbs in full sun. This will stop you over watering them to try and compensate for dry top soil. This is not suitable for herbs like rosemary and thyme as they are drought tolerant, but your basil and parsley will really take off with a system in place.
Herbs That Prefer Partial Shade
So many herbs will wilt and die off in full sun. Check out our article on growing herbs in partial shade! There is a correlation between the amount of hours in the sun and the amount of watering you will need to do as well.
What about rethinking your herb garden completely? Instead of trying to fit herbs into the outside, try indoors. Even going as far as to think about growing micro herbs. This way you can have a year round harvest without fear of frosts or lack of sun.