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Want to grow herbs that overwinter while snow is on the ground? Or maybe you want to plant spring herbs early when there is still a risk of frost? Knowing which frost resistant herbs to grow will help maximize yield and reduce the amount of worry you have over your precious crop.
Before you start planting, however, you need to do some research. Not only do you need to know what herbs can withstand a frost but you also need to know the lowest temperature they can tolerate. Do herbs need to be covered for frost? Well, some of them are much more cold-hardy than others.
Which winter herbs you choose will also depend on your climate. From the frozen north that is covered with snow for months to the occasional light frost of the southern US, learn about your climate (and microclimate) before choosing which cold hardy plants to grow in your garden.
General Types of Herbs
There are a few different kinds of herbs when it comes to categorizing them for cold hardiness.
Some herbs are herbaceous. They have soft stems and leaves that die back after the first frost. Some of them are perennial herbs (like chives) and others are annuals like dill.
Other herbs are woody and drop their leaves but retain a winter skeleton if you don’t trim them. Lavender is one example of a woody herb that drops its leaves after a frost.
The third category is evergreen herbs. These have woody stems and leaves year-round in the warmest regions of their appropriate growing zones. Rosemary would be a good example of an evergreen herb (at least here in Georgia where I live)
10 frost-tolerant herbs to grow in winter months
Whether you are looking for herb plants that survive winter conditions or want to get a head start on your spring growing season, here are some cold tolerant herbs to grow this year.
If you are looking for cold hardy herbs to grow in your winter garden I absolutely love the fresh flavor of horseradish. It grows best in a sunny spot with well-drained soil and is incredibly cold-tolerant.
When planting horseradish, it’s important to remember that it can quickly become invasive, so be sure to plant it in an area where it can grow without getting out of control.
One of my all-time favorite herbs is parsley. Fresh leaves from curly parsley give a burst of color to pasta and it even makes a delicious parsley pesto when you have enough of it.
Parsley is very cold tolerant and here in Georgia, mine overwinters successfully every year. Growing parsley in the winter can be done in a container garden or garden bed. Plants grow well even indoors if you have no winter protection and live in a climate with a severe winter.
Parsley is an incredibly frost-tolerant herb and can be grown successfully in the winter months, even in frosty locations. Growing parsley in the winter requires a few additional considerations, such as ensuring that the soil is well-drained and ideally has some compost or organic matter mixed into it.
Additionally, parsley plants require at least six hours of full sun a day, so be sure to place them in an area that receives enough light. Make sure to snip off a bit regularly to encourage new growth, although it will be slow while the weather is chilly.
If you are looking for a hardy perennial that tolerates a light freeze, consider growing mint. Mint thrives in numerous planting zones and is well adapted to even fairly low-nutrient soils.
Be aware that this herb can become invasive, and even clay soil can not stop its growth. You might want to keep it only in container gardens to control its spread.
It will develop fairly woody stems and comes in several varieties. You can find everything from chocolate mint to spearmint so consider the type of uses you want it for when choosing a variety. Use is varied, from garnishes to brewing tea to boiling to make jelly.
Fennel is an herbaceous perennial herb that returns once a year for a three or four-year period. The plant grows well in organically-rich soils.
The bulbs can be sliced and served fresh or cooked in numerous simple recipes. I enjoy it roasted in the oven and tossed into pasta, then topped with parmesan cheese.
Chives are a perennial bulb-growing herb that grows well in partial shade. They require average soil with good drainage. Clumps mature at heights about 18 inches tall and they will spread slowly over time.
Chives are related to onions and garlic. They provide subtle flavor and are good tossed onto baked potatoes and garnished with a bit of sour cream. Chive seeds can be ordered online.
Can thyme handle frost? YES! Not only can it handle a bit of frost, but it will also usually survive a deep freeze as well. Plant thyme in a sunny location with well-draining soil and it will continue to grow and stay green all year long.
As with mint, there are a number of varieties available. I believe I have ‘common thyme’ in my backyard, which is also known as English thyme or garden thyme. It is incredibly versatile and easy to grow.
Lavender is fairly cold hardy but often dies off due to excess soil moisture. In order to ensure that your lavender survives the winter, plant it in soil that is well-drained.
Additionally, lavender plants require at least six hours of sunlight each day, so make sure to plant them in an area that receives enough light.
Lemon balm is similar to mint in terms of growing conditions. In my garden, it usually disappears in mid-October, however, using cloches, row covers, or cold frames can encourage it to send out low growth throughout the winter. It is good to use for herbal tea as well as adding lemon flavor in many other dishes.
Once established, oregano is fairly cold tolerant. Once it is well-rooted and thoroughly mulched, it should handle a frost fairly well.
If desired, small plants can be potted up in fall and grown through winter indoors. I have a large pot of Greek oregano on my patio and one thing I have learned is that it does not like overly moist soil.
If you provide fairly dry soil during the colder months, this Mediterranean herb should come back year after year and provide new growth fairly early in the spring.
Rosemary needs ample space to grow since it is a fairly bushy plant. If you are new to herb gardening, growing rosemary is a great choice. Not only is it one of my favorite winter hardy herbs flavor-wise, it also has very few pests or diseases associated with it.
Unlike many herbs, ignoring it is one of the best things you can do for this hardy perennial! Just plant it in full sun and harvest regularly to encourage new growth. We have already had a hard freeze here in Georgia that lasted several days and my rosemary is still going strong.
How to keep herbs alive in winter if they aren’t cold hardy
Choosing frost resistant herbs is the first step in keeping them alive in cold temperatures. However, there are tons of herbs that I love to use year-round, even though I can’t put them in my garden bed in January.
There are several steps you can take to help temperature-sensitive herbs to thrive if they are slightly less cold-hardy than others.
Here are a few ways to enjoy fresh herbs year-round, even if you don’t plant fresh herbs that are resistant to cold weather.
Protect herbs from the cold with a cold frame or cloche
Growing herbs in a cold frames is one of the best ways to protect them from the extreme cold. With its vegetation growing close to the ground, growing non cold hardy herbs outdoors in regions with harsh winter weather can be impossible unless special measures are taken.
Cold frames provide an effective solution by warming up faster than the outdoor temperature and blocking windy conditions that can chill growing herbs. You can make a cold frame from old windows or buy a premade cold frame if you aren’t the DIY sort of person.
Instead of a full cold frame, add a cloche (a glass-like cover) on top of the plants which will enable them to better retain heat both day and night. If you are frugal, use an empty gallon milk jug instead. Just trim off the bottom and place it over your plant to protect it from frost.
You can also use reusable row covers or tarps either over a cold frame or directly over your herb patch. As a temporary protection from a particularly cold winter’s night. Or when that surprise cold snap comes during early spring when you have already planted your herb gardens.
Grow them in a greenhouse outdoors
Growing herbs in a greenhouse during the winter can be a fun, rewarding experience. With careful planning, it’s possible to extend the gardening season year-round with the help of a dedicated growing space.
Greenhouses provide protection from the cold and other elements, allowing delicate herbs to thrive even during cooler months.
Not only does growing herbs in a greenhouse bring added convenience, but growing conditions are also often better than what would naturally be available outdoors, even when the weather warms up in spring and summer.
By adding a small walk-in greenhouse to your backyard, winter gardeners can enjoy fresh herbs in their favorite meals all year long.
- 8 DURABLE SHELVES- The 8 sturdy shelves provide plenty of room for trays, pots, or planters of anything you want to grow. It’s a convenient option for any gardener!
- INDOOR OUTDOOR- This versatile greenhouse is ideal for both indoor and outdoor use; keep it on your backyard patio, deck, or in the basement or garage! The clear PVC cover helps protect seedlings from frost or pests for an ideal growing environment.
- EASY ASSEMBLY- With no tools required, the greenhouse is easy to assemble! Simply follow the included instructions and connect the rods. Rope and anchors are included for stability, and each shelf comes with zip ties to ensure they can’t be tipped over.
Add a thick layer of mulch to them
Adding mulch to protect herbs from the cold is one of the simplest solutions for gardeners. Mulch helps to insulate the plants, meaning they can stay healthy and thrive in colder climates.
In addition, mulching is a great way to control weeds and keep soil moisture levels consistent. It’s also very easy to apply – simply spread a 2-4 inch layer around your herb bed, making sure there’s no direct contact between the mulch and the stems or leaves of the plants.
If done correctly, this added protection can help you enjoy homegrown herbs even during colder months!
Put them in a sunny window
Growing herbs in a sunny window is an easy way to add flavor and freshness to your meals, while also adding that extra bit of flair to your windowsill.
To get the best results, it helps to learn a few tips for maintaining your sun-filled herb garden. First and foremost, ensure that your windows are east or south-facing since that direction gets the most light throughout the day.
Next, choose herbs that thrive in full sunlight and make sure their planters have proper drainage holes. Try a self-watering indoor herb planter box to make it really easy to grow herbs indoors.
Lastly, be sure to water your herbs so the soil stays moist but not wet. This will help them stay strong and healthy as they grow and minimize the risk of disease.
Final Thoughts on Growing Cold Tolerant Herbs
There is no reason that your growing season has to be limited to spring and summer. Grow herbs that thrive year-round or choose perennial herbs that will come back year after year with little additional work from you.
Make sure you do your research when it comes to varieties. From common oregano to Russian tarragon, know which varieties will grow best in your planting zone.
Once you have gotten used to the flavor of fresh herbs, you won’t be satisfied with those little jars from the grocery store anymore. Fresh sage in turkey stuffing is delicious and the best flavor comes from freshly harvested herbs!
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More Herb Gardening Tips
I hope you enjoyed this post about frost resistant herbs. While you are here, check out some more of my herb gardening tips below:
- Herb gardening tips for beginners: If you are new to herb gardening, this is a great herb gardening 101 post to get you started.
- Easy vertical gardening ideas: Great for people with limited space!
- Best herbs to plant in fall: Get inspiration to start your fall garden.
If you have any questions about herb gardening, drop me a comment below and I will try to help!