Texas Living

The Shady Side of Texas Herb Gardening

By Leslie Finical Halleck 4.2.13

Although our Texas climate and soils don’t make it easy on gardeners, we are lucky that so many tasty herbs seem to thrive here nonetheless.

The intense Texas sun has driven most homeowners to plant expansive shade trees. Once sunny landscapes have been transformed into shady retreats, many gardeners ask “what herbs can I grow in shade?”

Most edibles and herbs require a full sun location in order to thrive and produce properly. There are, however, a few quirky less-known herbs you might want to experiment with in shady spots.

Root beer plant (Piper auritum), also known as Hoja Santa, is one of my favorite uncommon herbs for shady gardens. Yes, this black pepper relative actually tastes like root beer! Plants grow to six feet tall and spread just as wide in shady, moist locations. The large leaves offer a spicy scent and flavor akin to root beer or anise.

Chop leaves to add flavor to dishes or even use them as a wrap for meat or tamales. Foliage of this perennial herb is hardy down to freezing, but roots are hardy to 15 F.

As an Italian proverb says, “The salad is neither good nor good-looking when there is no burnet.” Salad burnet, Poterium sanguisorba, is a perennial herb that offers up a nutty cucumber flavor. It’s a perfect addition to salads, sandwiches, and even tea. The fern-like foliage is right at home in a morning sun/afternoon shade location and plants will even tolerate dry soil.

If you’re a cilantro lover but lament its demise come warm weather, culantro is a must have. Completely unrelated to cilantro, Eryngium foetidum has long, serrated leaves and sports a blue flower when it eventually bolts. This warm season annual has a flavor similar to cilantro, but bigger!

Unlike cilantro, plants can be started in spring and grown in a shady spot through the warm season. Use only fresh in Mexican, Asian or Caribbean dishes.