Herbs That Grow Well in Zones 5 and 6?

eibren(z6PA)April 22, 2009

Much hebal lore is from England; additionally, many of the better-known herbs are from the Mediterranean. Books on herbs do not always make it clear which ones can overwinter where, or under what conditions. Authors that should be capable of making the distinction frequently do not, hoping for national appeal for their works.

I am seeking recommendations for herbs that can colonize in zones 5 and 6 in the US, with descriptions of what aspects they need to do well. Do they do better in clay or sand, well drained or swampy? Sunny or shady?

Some herbs seem to need to be divided every couple of years, and this information is also helpful.

I have found one variety of skullcap grows well in my area, but it is a rather small plant and needs protection if not to be crowded out by others. Valerian also seems to be able to hold its own here and has the potential to be long-lasting, even in the rather dry, shady conditions I have been able to provide. Angelica archangelica will reseed itself, given the right conditions. Motherwort and lemon mint/balm can reseed prolifically, to the point of becoming pests, even in partial shade. Most of the mints do well here, chocolate mint only with coddling.

Most of my space is shaded, or has only partial sun, so I personally don't have much to share regarding plants that prefer full sun. I have succeeded in having both the traditional, non-varegated sage and horehound winter over in pots, as well as the basic thyme. However, without division and re-planting, all of these do a fade in a couple of years, horehound actually doing a bit better than the other two.

White horehound is the medicinal one--black horehound is poisonous, and someone in another forum has eported it is weedy.

I did have Coltsfoot overtake a small herb garden one year, but it disappeared soon after.

Oregano will overwinter here, but marjoram does not seem to.

The various elderberry species seem to do OK here, although I have had trouble getting trunks to live if I prune them back. They reseed themselves rather prolifically.

Pokeberry is a perennial weed with an enormous taproot here. In general, the poisonoous herbs seem to do well because of their ability to repel rabbits. Lenten rose, Lily of the Valley, Monkshood, and foxglove also can establish themselves--foxglove more sporadically due to being a biennial and not a true perennial.

Althea, which I believe is a type of hibiscus (not certain if the kind you can make tea from) reseeds itself well, and the little shrubs pop up everywhere.

I have small trees with 2" thorn-like growths from the trunk self-seeded in the wild portion of our yard. The bark is a medium somewhat golden brown with little narrow white markings...possibly a Hawthorn? The bark is almost like that of a young mulberry, which it can't be because of the thorns. The birds sit on the electric wires over that area and seed it with the oddest things. I have always wanted a Hawthorn; hope that's what they are. I have a seedling Honey Locust, and that looks totally different.

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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

This seems like more of a question for the Herb's forum.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 5:39PM
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Hi eibren,
I am not sure where zones 5 & 6 are.
Based on what you grow I can suggest stinging nettles; good stuff.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 5:45PM
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You could check out the catalog for this nursery for more ideas on hardy herbs for your area.

The Herbs forum would be a good place to ask this question and get suggestions for regional books on herbs.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 6:41PM
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Thank you for your responses and link, but the Herbs forum is for herbs for flavoring to use in cooking.

This is the forum for all things to do with herbs traditionally seen as being useful for curative purposes, including information about the individual plants, their forms and growth characteristics, how to raise and care for them, and how they have been traditionally and historically used.

The recent focus in this forum on modern medical herbal uses and chemistry is just one of the many aspects of herbalism.

In doing searches, I was surprised to see that the most active thread of this type was indeed in the Herbs forum, and that there was another excellent one on planting herbs for bees in yet another forum. It would be nice if the more memorable threads on the care and traditional uses of herbs with a history of medicinal uses were actually being made in the forum designed for that--this one--don't you think?

I think it would be inappropriate to delve too deeply into traditional medicinal herb lore in other forums, where the overarching precautions against incautious use are not as prevalent.

Brendan, zones 5 and 6 are for such places as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and areas with similar winter temperatures. Where I live, the lowest winter temperature is usually 0 degrees F, and the last frost date is May 15. I could consider myslef to be in zone 6a, but only with some risk, as I live north of Reeser's Summit.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 2:44AM
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i'm in z6 have modified clay soil. I added leaf mulch over the years and earthworms did the rest so i've pretty good soil now and like you its mostly semishady with spots of mostly shade and some with sun.
Same temp extremes as you but with long dry meditarrainian summers.
Catnip goes wild here in the sun but having lots of land i just let it go.Motherwort also goes wild in sun as does echinicea and butterfly weed. Which actually does grow wild,yarrow also goes wild here.Thyme also spreads.and chammomile does though after 8 years it did'nt selfseed last year and i've had to replant it.Japanese and wild yellow honeysuckle grow wild. ST johns wort goes semi wild in partial shade.Violets wild of course.Province lavender plant is growing well. I can't get rosemary to grow anywhere but pots. Mugwort and skullcap refuses to grow for me.Self heal grows wild in semi shade. I have Ginsing but won't touch it nor let anyone else know where it is in deep shade. I want to try growing Valerian this year. I've a couple of huge Wild cherry trees and alot of small ones.
I probably have more but can't think of any right now.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 3:46AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

eibren> Thank you for your responses and link, but the Herbs forum is for herbs for flavoring to use in cooking.

No. It is for herbs of all sorts - culinary, medicinal, for dye, etc. Culinary herbs are typically popular topics and especially this time of year when people are starting seeds and planning gardens but go back and look through back posts and you will see a very wide range of topics, including medicinal herbs.

The advice you got here was good - ask your question on the Herbs forum. A number of the regulars, myself included, live in the zones you are asking about and can speak from personal experience about herbs that do well.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 12:07PM
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Hi! I live in US6, SWPA. I grow perennially, easily: SUN: oregano, thyme, marshmallow, elecampagne, roses of all sorts, lavenders, st. johnswort, joe pye, yarrows, lily of the valley, marjoram, strawberries, currants, orange butterfly weed, mints of all sorts, valerian, schizandra, chaste tree, sorrel, mullein, violets, honeysuckles, burdocks, dandelions, docks, plantains, horseradish, tansy, rue, poke, coneflower, bergamot, feverfew & the ever ubiquitous Japanese knotweed... SHADE: witch hazel, lenten roses, sweet woodruff, lungwort, foxgloves, lady's mantel, black & blue cohoshes & locals including canadian ginger, mayapple & trilium (both popping up now). Annually, in raised beds or patio pots I grow calendula, sages, rosemary, tarragon, chia, gotu kola, geraniums...

I could not get rid of the skullcap--had it for years-- full sun--until I overseeded heavily with larkspur & I think that just finally shaded it out.

Things that in the southern US would require afternoon shade don't up here unless it's been a long, dry stretch. My soil runs the gamut from boggy to retaining wall clay; my light full shade to full sun. I do this on a standard city-sized lot--25 x 100', with an E-W exposure & an additional 4' x 25' retaining wall beside the driveway on the other side of the house & still have enough grass to play a game--albeit confined--of guerrilla bocci.

My suggestion to anyone who wants to set up an herb garden is to decide what you want & why you want it, then network with herbalists & other gardeners & experiment with your land & soil types & go to every garden club plant sale or swap you can find-- people grow the most amazing things.... Even tho' I come from a long line of sustainable city & country gardeners I read books, consult with neighbors, call the cooperative extension for the most simple-assed questions imaginable. And, while some things in my garden have been passed down, literally, through generations & carted from house to house with us-- and while I have spent a considerable amount of money over a considerable number of years on plants-- the majority of my existing, long-term plantings have come from local sources: the aforementioned garden club sales, friendly neighbors and-- I am not ashamed to admit, since my neighborhood has experienced somewhat of an urban decline over the past few decades-- a fair amount of abandoned property plant-poachings & rose rescues.

Every year this time of year I stare at different bits of green popping up and go, "What the h*ll is that?" & tell myself to be patient because in another few days I'll either remember what I put there or somebody will have unwittingly stepped on it or possibly eaten it. Last year Neighbor Joe got a new roof & fixed his gutters & the sweet woodruff under his foundation-grown mulberry all but dried up, though it's going strong about 10' away. This year some of the strawberries also migrated about 15 feet completely around a couple of shrubs towards the north-- they'll probably make Canada in another couple hundred years... & I have no idea where the st. johnswort will show up, but it always does. So trust the garden, as well, to tell you what it needs. And enjoy the adventure.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 11:41PM
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Thanks, Simplemary. I am finding that local sources provide more reliable plants as well.

Have you ever made herbal use of your knotweed? I've been trying to determine if it is the common weed that has some herbal uses....

Fata, I am confused abut the Herb/Herbalism forums. I would prefer to discuss the medicinal ones on this forum, because the Herbs forum seems to focus on the culinary ones (and, frankly, I don't feel comfortable encouraging new gardeners to plant many of the medicinals). How did this division come about? In older posts, there seem to be gardening references here in the Herbalism forum...?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 2:04AM
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We've eaten knotweed-- stewed small new stalks (6-8" --otherwise the outer portion of the stalk is really tough) like rhubarb. It's a sour-- like rhubarb, and despite a rather disgusting olive green color, it's quite tasty. Lovely "old fashion" aroma. Good on top of ice cream & tossed in with "sweeter" veggies like green beans & potatoes or fruits (particularly mixed with applesauce)

I have heard that in large quantities (actual meaning of large debatable)it's a mild laxative, but I have not experienced that effect but will attest that it is mucilaginous & perhaps that's part of its manner of working. I recently read that the larger stalks can be made into marmarlades & might just try that soon.

We only started eating it because it seemed the best way to get rid of it-- kind of a predator viewpoint & not terribly successful, but it's a nice wild food to weird out the neighbors...

A few notes on foraging wild foods: be absolutely sure that what you are foraging is what you are looking for (Japanese knotweed-- polygonum c-something-- has NO poisonous look alikes, but lots of other foods do). Also, start with very little to see how your body reacts to it-- they usually have a far "stronger" action on your system than cultivated ones. The first time we ate lily shoots (common orange daylily), they were SOOOOO good that we totally thinned out our patch in one sitting & PAID for it for the next two days (talk about a bowel stimulant!). Of course, wash everything well first & follow the rules of polite wildcrafting.

Have fun!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 9:56PM
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Oh, well, I guess I could have mentioned that Japanese knotweed has high vitamin A & C contents & components that supposedly help regulate/lower LDL (bad cholesterol).

Spring plants with high Vit A help our bodies slough off dead winter cells-- inside & out. & of course there's that whole bugs bunny good eyesight thing...

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 10:00PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

eibren>Fata, I am confused abut the Herb/Herbalism forums. I would prefer to discuss the medicinal ones on this forum, because the Herbs forum seems to focus on the culinary ones (and, frankly, I don't feel comfortable encouraging new gardeners to plant many of the medicinals). How did this division come about? In older posts, there seem to be gardening references here in the Herbalism forum...?

Growing medicinal herbs is discussed in the Herbs forum and more so than on this forum. You can take the advice to ask in the Herbs forum or not - it is your choice. The advice was offered to help you.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 2:28PM
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