25 Chilly-Hardy Herbs That Survive Winter within the Backyard

If you live in a region with a cold winter climate, plenty of wonderful herb selections overwinter in the garden for years of enjoyment. These perennial herbs often go dormant in the winter only to remerge from their established roots in the warming temperatures of spring.

Many herbs are native to the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia, and your climate and USDA hardiness zone help determine which herbs have the best chance of overwintering in your area. To give cold-hardy herbs the best cultural conditions, ensure soils are well-draining. In the winter, add a two- to three-inch layer of mulch to insulate herbs against cold soil temperatures and protect them against drying winter winds.

Cold-hardy herbs are useful, tasty, and highly ornamental in the garden. They also attract pollinators and beneficial insects. Harvest herbs fresh from the garden and expand your seasonal selection with these favorite cold-hardy herbs that survive winter in the garden.


Among the first herbs in spring, they are boasting edible blooms.

Cold-hardy, durable chives are among the first herbs to pop up in spring and one of the easiest to grow. Chive leaves and flowers are edible, with lavender pom-pom blooms emerging in spring and early summer, drawing pollinators to the garden. Finely bladed blue-green foliage bears a subtle onion flavor.

Low-maintenance chives are drought-tolerant and grow best in full sun and moist, well-draining soils. In cold climates, plants enter dormancy over the winter. In mild climates, they remain semi-evergreen. Chives prefer cool, moderate temperatures and fade in hot southern summers with high humidity.

Chives have a long garden history, cultivated for over 4,000 years in China and since the Middle Ages in Europe. They’re ornamental in perennial borders, the herb bed, and containers.


Tarragon features narrow, lance-shaped green leaves and small, greenish-yellow flowers.This herb offers pure anise flavor and aromatic leaves.

Tarragon comes in three types: French, Russian, and Mexican. True tarragon is the French, Artemisia dracunculus. Native to Russia and western Asia but popularized in European cuisine, French tarragon has the purest anise flavor and glossy, aromatic leaves. Cooking tarragon gives it a mellow, sweet flavor.

Both French and Russian selections overwinter in the garden. Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var. dracunculus) is a taller, coarser plant with lesser flavor than the French plant. Vigorous plants grow to five feet tall. Russian tarragon grows from seed, while French tarragon propagates through vegetative cuttings (plants seldom flower, and seeds may be sterile).

Mexican tarragon is a heat-loving alternative to French tarragon, which is more suited to hot climates. Also called summer tarragon, Mexican marigold, and Spanish tarragon, it is native to Central and South America.

Tarragon grows best in light, well-draining soils in a warm, sunny garden. French tarragon doesn’t withstand waterlogged conditions and prefers cool, moderate climates. Allow soils to dry slightly between waterings and provide mulch for insulation in winter.

Sweet Cicely

Sweet cicely has feathery, fern-like leaves and umbels of tiny white flowers.
A fragrant perennial with delicate foliage and vibrant blossoms.

Sweet cicely is a tall perennial herb with feathery, fernlike foliage that brings texture and aroma to the herb garden and rear of the border. All parts of the plant have a licorice or anise scent. Tender leaves make a fresh garnish in fruit and salad dishes or cooked into soups, souffles, and casseroles.

In late spring to early summer, umbels of flat, bright white flowers emerge, attracting pollinators and beneficial insects to the garden. The fine-textured leaves are a fresh green and a pretty contrast to the crisp blooms.

Plants readily self-seed, so deadhead spent blooms (or harvest them to enjoy) to prevent unwanted volunteers. Plants spread slowly to form dense clumps and divide for propagation or to thin the colony.


Rosemary presents needle-like, aromatic leaves and small, blue to purple flowers.
Aromatic evergreen with blue blooms, perfect for year-round gardens.

Rosemary’s form and fragrance in the herb garden make it worth growing year-round to encourage robust plants. In early summer, small blue blooms cover the stems, adding seasonal interest to evergreen foliage and attracting pollinators. 

Rosemary’s cold hardiness depends on the variety, with some stronger against winter conditions than others. Look for varieties like ‘Arp’, ‘Hardy Hill’, and ‘Alcalde’ for overwintering in the garden. Providing winter mulch and wind protection for plants gives the best chance for withstanding winter’s extremes. 

Rosemary leaves and flowers have a lemony, cypress, camphor scent and flavor. Needled foliage is highly aromatic and perfect for clipping for fragrance, decoration, and culinary uses. A Mediterranean plant, rosemary thrives in full sun with very well-draining soil. It’s a drought-tolerant, carefree perennial with multi-season appeal.

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Close-up of a lush Oregano plant with small, oval green leaves.Aromatic foliage and dainty blooms adorn this versatile perennial herb.

Oregano’s mounding habit, delicate foliage, and tiny pink, purple, or white blooms make it as pretty in the perennial border as in the edible garden. It became popular in the United States when soldiers returned from World War II. They enjoyed it on Italian dishes and pizza while abroad and brought the taste for it home.

Native to Mediterranean climates, oregano prefers arid conditions and struggles in overly wet sites and humid conditions. It’s a good option for surviving cold winters in the garden and is hardy to zone 3.

Oregano benefits from regular moisture and full sun. It tolerates light afternoon shade in the heat of summer. There are many species and cultivars of oregano, and it has the potential to spread aggressively in optimum growing conditions. Container-grown oregano offers a means of control. 

Roman Chamomile

Roman chamomile features finely divided, feathery leaves and daisy-like white flowers with yellow centers.
A fragrant ground cover with daisy-like blooms, perfect for garden borders.

Roman chamomile, also called English or garden chamomile, is a low-growing perennial herb that forms a spreading mat of aromatic foliage and flowers. It is similar to German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla). Both are in the daisy family, with clusters of daisy-like flowers and feathery leaves, though Roman chamomile plants are evergreen, shorter, and coarser-textured.

Roman chamomile blooms throughout summer and into fall, attracting pollinators. Sturdy stems root easily and spread to create a lovely groundcover or border planting, though plants may get out of bounds if they are turned in. Roman chamomile provides a lawn alternative that withstands mowing and minimal foot traffic. 

The flowers are suitable for making soothing chamomile tea and potpourris and enjoying them as an aromatic garden plant with a light, fruity fragrance. Roman chamomile is disease, pest, and deer resistant and tolerates poor soils and periods of drought. It tolerates winters down to zone 4.


Lavender has narrow, gray-green leaves and spikes of purple flowers.
Fragrant blooms and silvery foliage brighten any garden space.

Lavender carries a refreshing fragrance, silvery foliage, purple bloom spikes, and many uses, from cleansing to culinary. Whether it’s one of the many English, French, Spanish, or Dutch varieties, lavender makes a showy evergreen specimen in the herb garden and beyond. 

Lavender’s winter survival varies with the cultivar, and English varieties and hybrids are the best bets for cold winter zones. Opt for ‘Phenomenal’, ‘Hidcote Giant’, ‘Sensational’, and ‘Aromatico Blue Improved’ for winter-hardy selections to zone 5. Plants benefit from mulch and protection from winter winds. 

This sun-loving Mediterranean plant grows in arid, warm summers and cool winters. Plant lavender in full sun in average and well-draining soils. Plants tolerate dry conditions.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm has heart-shaped, crinkly green leaves with serrated edges.Zesty aroma and versatile flavor make it a delightful garden addition.

Lemon balm brings zesty refreshment to the garden. Its lemon-scented leaves provide a burst of citrus. Grow lemon balm for its aromatic leaves and culinary flavor in teas and beverages, soups, sauces, and more. Cold hardy to zone 3, lemon balm overwinters well for citrus aromatherapy for many growing seasons.

Lemon balm has a mounding habit and oval or heart-shaped bright green leaves, some varieties with variegation. The low-growing plants are dense and produce small bloom spikes in summer and fall. The leaves are edible, and fresh new leaves are the most flavorful.

Grow lemon balm in full sun to partial shade in rich soils with good drainage. They spread easily (and at times aggressively) and reseed after flowering. Trimming and deadheading keep plants in check and promote a fresh flush of leaves. Lemon balm grows well in containers and raised beds to keep them from getting out of bounds. 


Fennel displays feathery, dill-like leaves and umbels of small yellow flowers.
Tall, aromatic foliage and golden blooms attract pollinators effortlessly.

Fennel features tall, feathery, anise-flavored foliage and large yellow flower umbels in summer. A pollinator favorite, fennel attracts numerous beneficial insects and is a host for species of swallowtail butterflies. Since plants readily self-seed, they escape and naturalize easily to become invasive in some areas. Deadhead spent blooms to prevent unwanted volunteers.

Look for bronze fennel for a beautiful, cold-hardy herb garden addition. It produces edible tawny fronds with a sweet anise flavor, bringing attractive garden interest in color and form. 

Native to the Mediterranean, fennel grows best in full sun with organically rich, well-draining soils, though it adapts to a variety of conditions, including winters down to zone 4.

Garlic Chives

Garlic chives have flat, grass-like leaves and clusters of star-shaped white flowers.
Robust garlic flavor and elegant white blooms adorn this perennial.

Perennial garlic chives are related to common chives but with larger, brighter green blades and a robust garlic flavor. Allium tuberosum grows as a lovely ornamental plant in the perennial garden with a graceful habit and white flower clusters, along with deer resistance. It’s also edible with a long tradition in herbal medicine.

Garlic chives bloom in late summer to early fall when clusters of tiny, starry white flowers emerge on stems rising above the foliage. It’s best to deadhead blooms to prevent rampant reseeding. The flowers make attractive dried specimens for floral arrangements.

In cold winters, garlic chives die back to the ground to reemerge in spring. In areas with warmer winters, they remain evergreen or semi-evergreen. Plants form a clump and maintain their attractive fountain of bladed foliage all season long. Like many herbs, including common chives, cutting and harvesting the leaves promotes new growth.


Mint features serrated, oval-shaped aromatic green leaves with distinct veins.Hardy and fragrant, mint thrives but requires vigilant containment.

Mint is a rugged little herb that is cold-hardy and sometimes too durable. Plants create a low-growing carpet of freshly scented leaves. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) and peppermint (Mentha x piperita) are popular species and extremely easy to grow. Cultivars like applemint, pineapple, orange, and chocolate lend unique undertones to mint fragrance and flavor.

Mint spreads readily and escapes the herb garden into adjacent landscapes if not controlled. Harvest mint leaves frequently to enjoy and to inhibit spreading, flowering, and seed production. Mint makes an excellent container-grown herb. The stems, even those trailing from containers, root easily with soil contact.

Mint grows best in consistently moist, well-drained soils in full sun to partial shade. Dappled light or afternoon shade is best in areas with hot summers. In winter, mulch for winter protection.


A close-up of a growing Sorrel that produces large, arrow-shaped green leaves.Tender leaves offer a zesty, lemony kick for spring dishes.

Sorrel (Rumex acetosa, R. scutatus) emerges with tender, flavorful leaves in early spring. Young leaves are fresh green with a tart, lemony flavor, enjoyed fresh or cooked (which mellows the tartness).

In colder climates, sorrel grows from spring through fall and enters dormancy over the winter. Harvest leaves continually from spring until frost. Easily divide plants if clumps become large or crowded over time.

Red-veined sorrel (Rumex sanguineus) has true green leaves deeply lined with scarlet venation. These perennial herbs are edible and ornamental and make a lovely display with blooms like pansies, violas, and foxgloves. Young leaves are soft and fiercely tangy, with a hint of sharp raspberry notes. Older leaves become tougher and more bitter.


Horseradish boasts large, coarse green leaves with a slightly waxy texture.Tough perennial with a sharp, spicy kick, perfect for winter.

Horseradish is a tough perennial that benefits from cold winters. It’s also fun to grow because of its sharp, spicy, nose-tingling flavor, which is produced by grating the roots.

Horseradish roots benefit from loose, humusy, organically rich, and well-draining soils. Roots are ready to harvest about a year after planting by digging the primary root and any side roots. Harvest after cool temperatures cause foliage to die back. Clean roots last for about three months or more in refrigeration.

Horseradish plants spread vigorously through their roots. Dig and harvest them to control the spread. Replant the number of roots you want for successional crops and use the extras in the kitchen.


Thyme has tiny, oval green leaves covering thin vertical stems.Versatile thyme offers a spectrum of flavors for culinary creations.

Thyme and its many species and cultivars lend a variety of flavors to the kitchen. Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is used most for culinary purposes with a minty clove fragrance. Lemon, orange, and nutmeg are other varieties with unique aromatic and flavor notes. Thyme is versatile in the garden with culinary and ornamental uses, fitting into small spaces as a carefree, durable herb.

Though the plants are tough, thyme features petite leaves on wiry stems for a delicate look. Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) forms a groundcover, and wooly thyme (Thymus praecox) is useful as a turf alternative. Thyme also works in areas between stepping stones and along rocky ledges. Its small flowers attract pollinators.

In winter, ensure good soil drainage and provide mulch and protection from winter winds. For additional protection in extreme conditions, cover plants with a layer of evergreen boughs for added insulation. Thyme grows best in full sun, and once established, it is drought-tolerant. Plants wither in overly wet conditions.

Winter Savory

Winter savory features narrow, dark green leaves and clusters of small white flowers.
A resilient herb, thriving in diverse climates, with peppery zest.

Look to savory for an herb that stands up to cold winters (zone 5) and hot summers and is similar in flavor to thyme. Winter savory, Satureja montana, is a low-growing perennial with a fast growth rate and edible leaves and flowers. The leaves have a peppery spice flavor often used in salads, stews, meats, and sauces.

Savory grows well in full sun with moderately moist soils with good drainage. It tolerates poor soils and occasionally dry conditions. Winter savory is cold hardy to zone 5.


Sage has oblong, velvety gray-green leaves.An enduring favorite with aromatic leaves, perfect for gardens and cooking.

Sage is a hardy perennial herb favorite with a fresh, earthy scent and velvety leaves. Sage varieties have leaves in blue-gray, gold, purple, and tricolor. They make excellent sensory garden, rock gardens, and perennial border additions, as well as culinary herbs.

Common sage (Salvia officinalis) is extremely cold hardy. It is another Mediterranean plant that grows in full sun and thrives in medium to dry soils—even poor ones—as long as they have excellent drainage. However, it struggles in overly wet conditions.

Look for S. officinalis ‘Berggarten’ (also called ‘Herrenhausen’) for a variety with increased mildew resistance, winter hardy to zone 5. It features broad, silvery leaves and lavender bloom spikes in summer (sage flowers are edible, too). ‘Berggarten’ won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit for its ornament and performance.


Feverfew presents feathery, aromatic green leaves and clusters of small, daisy-like white flowers with yellow centers.
A charming perennial with daisy-like blooms, adored for generations.

Feverfew is an old garden favorite herb for its bushels of petite daisy-like flowers from early summer through frost. White flowers with yellow centers cover the mounding, feathery, aromatic foliage.

Feverfew is a short-lived perennial that grows for about two to three years. It has longstanding uses, and traditional herbal teas incorporate fresh or dried leaves. Hardy to zone 5, feverfew also produces seeds that overwinter and produce seedlings that pop up the following spring.

Sun-loving feverfew is easy to grow in moist, well-drained soils. It self-seeds hardily, so pull any unwanted volunteers and deadhead spent blooms to prevent unwanted seeding. Deadheading also proliferates flowering. Use feverfew in naturalized areas where it can reseed freely or in borders and rock gardens.


Catmint has gray-green, aromatic leaves and spikes of small lavender-blue flowers.
A hardy perennial, beloved for its fragrant foliage and blooms.

Catmint, or Nepeta, bridges the herb and perennial garden with soft, fragrant, edible leaves. Pillows of mounding gray-green foliage give way to prolific purple bloom spikes covered with small, tubular flowers. Catmint is a vigorous perennial cold hardy down to zone 3.

With its easy care and landscape versatility, catmint thrives with a bit of neglect. It blooms nonstop in warm months, persisting until frost. Grow it in a sunny or filtered light garden spot, and enjoy the busy pollinators visiting each flower for nectar. Deadhead spent flower spikes or shear the plant in mid-summer to encourage new blooms.

Nepeta’s slightly fuzzy and minty leaves repel insects like aphids and squash bugs in the garden. It is also deer—and rabbit-resistant.

Anise Hyssop

Anise hyssop features lance-shaped green leaves and spikes of purple flowers.
A garden gem, attracting pollinators with vibrant blooms and aroma.

Anise hyssop is the showiest of the native mints and a garden favorite with purple-blue bloom spikes that rise above gray-green, aromatic foliage. Anise hyssop is a rich nectar source for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators.

Agastache foeniculum is native to northern North America and has a wide range. It’s a rugged perennial that thrives in full sun to partial shade in various well-draining soil types.

Suited for the herb garden and perennial bed, anise hyssop blooms profusely in summer through frost. Cut back spent blooms to enjoy prolific flowering all season. The minty, anise-flavored leaves make refreshing iced or hot teas.


Lovage has glossy, celery-like leaves of a pale green color with serrated edges.A robust herb reminiscent of celery, perfect for culinary adventures.

Lovage is an old-fashioned herb with a celery-like flavor in its leaves, stems, and roots. Lovage is a robust grower that reaches six feet tall, making it ideal for the back of the border. Umbels of small yellow flowers emerge in spring.

Lovage leaves are flat and feathery, like those of parsley or celery and are high in vitamin C. Use them fresh in salads and other dishes and dried in teas and cooking.

Lovage self-seeds easily, so deadhead spent blooms to prevent volunteers. Plants grow best in full sun in moist, loamy soils, though, like fennel, it adapts to various soil types and light conditions. Lovage is a hardy perennial herb that survives in the winter down to zone 4.

Mountain Mint

Mountain mint has lance-shaped, gray-green leaves and clusters of small lavender flowers.A fragrant delight for gardens, inviting pollinators with its charm.

Mountain mint is a valuable native plant in herb gardens for its aromatic, velvety leaves and pink blooms from mid-summer through fall. Silvery flower bracts “dust” the plant in a pearly sheen. This pollinator magnet is showy and informal, well-suited to naturalized arrangements. 

Mountain mint is native to the Eastern U.S., with a wide range that includes Texas and Michigan and over from Florida to Maine. It grows naturally in grassy, open fields, meadows, and low woodland areas. Hardy to zone 3, mountain mint withstands cold winter temperatures. It prefers moist, rich soils with good drainage in full sun to partial shade.

Mountain mint is a clump-forming woody plant that spreads by rhizomes but isn’t invasive. If the plant gets out of bounds, cut the roots with a spade to control the spread. When crushed, the leaves have a spearmint aroma and are flavorful in cooking and teas.


Catnip features heart-shaped, gray-green leaves and spikes of small lavender flowers.
Catnip, beloved by felines and humans alike, offers dual delights.

Not only do our feline friends enjoy catnip (part of the catmint collective in the Nepeta genus), but it also makes a relaxing mint-lemon-flavored tea. Plants have soft green leaves and masses of white or lavender flowers in early to mid-summer. Pollinators appreciate the tubular blooms.

Use catmint fresh or dried by cutting the stems back to about four inches above the ground. Then, hang the stems to dry for future use in cat toys or your teacup. Keep drying leaves away from curious cats.

Catnip has a rangy habit that is well-suited to herb gardens and loose planting arrangements. Since it reseeds aggressively, cut plants back after flowering. Removing spent blooms promotes new growth while discouraging seed production. Pinching regularly helps maintain a tidier, fuller form. Catnip grows well in containers, hanging baskets, and in-ground beds.

Wild Bergamot

Wild bergamot boasts lance-shaped green leaves and clusters of tubular, lavender flowers.
A garden gem, attracting pollinators with vibrant blooms and aroma.

Wild bergamot (also known as monarda or bee balm) is native to the eastern U.S. and is a favorite garden performer due to its outstanding scarlet blooms and aromatic leaves. Two-inch blooms with flared petals cluster on stems above minty foliage. With its bright, tubular flowers, wild bergamot attracts hummingbirds and beneficial insects.

Wild bergamot’s bloom season is long, lasting from early summer through fall. Enjoy the edible flowers and minty leaves as a fresh garnish for salads and drinks, or dry them for use in cooking.

Provide plenty of air circulation, organic soils, and consistent moisture for monarda. Cut back spent blooms to prolong flowering. Monarda spreads by both seeds and rhizomes. Divide plants and weed out volunteers to control the spread.


Purple coneflower has rough, lance-shaped green leaves and large, daisy-like flowers with purple petals and a prominent orange center.
A native beauty, prized for its blooms and medicinal properties.

Echinacea, or purple coneflower, is a quintessential landscape native. A natural prairie plant with showy blooms, people use echinacea for its edible petals, medicinal properties, and ornamental garden value. Purple ray petals surround orange disc florets, which provide valuable nectar for beneficial insects. 

Coneflower cultivars abound in a myriad of colors and forms. They need well-draining soils and thrive in the summer heat and full sun to partial shade. These hardy perennials survive extreme winter conditions and seeds benefit from cold stratification.

Let this carefree perennial go to seed in the fall. The dried seed heads provide food for birds and extend winter interest in the garden. Seeds that drop reseed readily to join the next season of blooms.


Hops feature lobed, rough green leaves and cone-like clusters of greenish flowers.Perennial vines, adding flavor to beer and charm to gardens.

Hops are the herbaceous perennial climbing vines that give beer its punchy flavors. They have a long history in the garden and are cultivated worldwide in numerous varieties. The hop flowers are cone-like structures that really take off by the third year of growth.

There’s a whole science to hops based on variety and flavor preference, not to mention the brewing process. Growing hops brings a fun ornament of vertical interest and culinary history to the herb garden, even if you don’t make your own brew.

Grow hops along support structures and cut them back to the ground at the end of the growing season, post-harvest. New growth emerges in spring.

Final Thoughts

Growing winter-hardy herbs in the garden offers fresh rewards across many seasons. Many herb selections perform well in regions with cold winters (and prefer them to hot climates) with the right cultural conditions.

Spring is the perfect time to expand our herb selections in the garden bed and in containers. Herbs bring beauty, interest, and color to the display and attract pollinators, too. Adding some winter-hardy herbs ensures enjoyment of the harvest for years to come.

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