HomeGrowing TipsFull Sun Herb Garden: 16 Must-Have Plants for Sunny Spots

Full Sun Herb Garden: 16 Must-Have Plants for Sunny Spots

A full sun herb garden is a wonderful way to enjoy fresh flavors and fragrances all season long. When grown in the proper conditions, many classic culinary herbs thrive in full sun exposure, rewarding gardeners with vigorous growth and intense essential oil production that enhances their taste and aroma.

This article explores the best herb varieties for full sun gardens. You’ll discover 16 of the top sun-loving herbs, along with useful growing tips to help you plan, plant, and maintain a successful full sun herb garden.

Why Sunlight Matters for Herbs

Most full sun herbs originally evolved in the sunny, arid landscapes of the Mediterranean region. For this reason, they are well-adapted to full sun exposure and some even depend on intense sunlight to fully develop their prized aromatic qualities.

Sunlight catalyzes the production of essential oils, terpenes, and other flavor compounds in full sun herbs. Insufficient sunlight can result in dull, less pungent herbs. Full sun also promotes vigorous growth, fuller plant habits, and abundant flowers in many full sun herbs.

When planning a full sun herb garden, make sure to select a site that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Morning sun is especially important, as it dries dew from the plants, reducing moisture-related issues like mold.

While some herbs can tolerate partial shade, most full sun herbs will be healthier, more productive, and fuller-flavored when grown in full sun. Just be sure to provide adequate water and rich soil to support all that sun-fueled growth.

Now let’s explore the best full sun herb varieties!

Basil – The King of Full Sun Herbs

Basil - The King of Full Sun Herbs
Basil – The King of Full Sun Herbs

Sweet basil is undoubtedly one of the most popular full sun herbs. This quintessential Italian culinary herb thrives in hot, sunny conditions. Given adequate moisture, it will reward you with vigorous growth, continuous harvests, and intensely flavored leaves full of aroma-enhancing essential oils.

Grow basil from seed or transplants after the last frost date. Space plants 12-18 inches apart in well-draining soil enriched with compost. Pinch back growing tips frequently to encourage bushy growth. Water regularly, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings.

Harvest by pinching off leaf clusters anytime after plants reach 6 inches tall. Frequent harvesting stimulates the production of flavorful new growth. Remove flowers to prolong harvests.

In addition to traditional Genovese sweet basil, also consider planting spicy Thai basil, cinnamon-scented basils, or purple basil varieties in your full sun herb garden.

Oregano – A Sun-Loving Herb

Oregano - A Sun-Loving Herb
Oregano – A Sun-Loving Herb

Known for its trademark zesty, aromatic flavor, oregano absolutely thrives in full sun. This Mediterranean native needs at least 6 hours of direct sun daily and hot growing conditions to fully develop its essential oils and flavor.

You can grow oregano from seeds or transplants in early spring after the danger of frost. Space plants 12-18 inches apart in well-draining soil. Do not overwater, as oregano is prone to root rot. Harvest leaves anytime once the plant is established. Cut back flowers to promote more leaf growth.

In addition to regular oregano, golden oregano adds visual interest with its chartreuse foliage. Italian and Greek oreganos offer more ornamental appeal and milder, sweeter flavors perfect for cooking. Oregano is a classic culinary herb to grow in any herb garden.

Rosemary – An Iconic Sun-Lover

Rosemary - An Iconic Sun-Lover
Rosemary – An Iconic Sun-Lover

With its piney scent and beautiful blue flowers, rosemary is a treasured herb in any garden but truly thrives in full sun. Native to the Mediterranean region, this iconic herb needs at least 6 hours of direct, hot sunlight per day. Insufficient light leads to stretched growth and less flavorful leaves.

Start rosemary from young plants as seeds can be difficult to germinate. Give each plant 2-3 feet of space as mature specimens can grow quite large. Avoid overwatering, as rosemary prefers dry conditions. Harvest leaves anytime, cutting back growth to stimulate new growth.

Spreading rosemary varieties work beautifully spilling over walls or containers. Upright types like ‘Tuscan Blue’ make striking vertical landscape features. Consider rosemary’s growth habits when choosing herbs for your garden.

Lavender – Full Sun Brings Out Its Fragrance

Back Lavender

The enchanting fragrance of lavender is at its peak when grown in full sun. This Mediterranean native absolutely thrives with at least 8 hours of hot, direct sunlight. Anything less can result in weak growth and reduced bloom.

Give lavender excellent drainage in sandy, gravelly soil. Amend soil with compost at planting time. Space plants 1-3 feet apart depending on the variety. Lavender tolerates drought once established but appreciates occasional deep watering. Prune plants after flowering to stimulate fresh growth.

English lavenders like ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ remain compact with abundant blooms. Spanish lavender grows larger but needs less pruning.

Sage – A Sun-Drenched Classic

Sage - A Sun-Drenched Classic
Sage – A Sun-Drenched Classic

Salvia officinalis is grown as much for its silvery foliage as its earthy, aromatic flavor. To keep this classic looking its best and tasting its strongest, site it in an area with full sun and excellent drainage.

Start with transplants of culinary sage, spacing them 18-24 inches apart. Prune mature plants in early spring to stimulate new growth. Water sparingly, allowing the soil to dry between waterings.

For fantastic fall color, grow a colorful sage variety like tricolor sage or purple garden sage. Harvest sage leaves before plants flower for the best flavor.

Lemon Balm – A Zesty Sun Herb

Lemon Balm Indoors
Image Credit: zrenate from Pixabay

Delightfully lemon-scented, this mint relative thrives with full sun exposure and reasonably moist soil. Lemon balm will spread vigorously when happy, so be sure to give it enough space.

Start transplants after the danger of frost has passed, spacing plants 12-24 inches apart. Pinch back flowers to encourage leafy growth. Harvest leaves as needed throughout the season.

Lemon balm may need afternoon shade in extremely hot climates. Provide ample water and mulch to retain moisture.

Thyme – A Petite Plant That Loves Sun

Thyme - A Petite Plant That Loves Sun
Thyme – A Petite Plant That Loves Sun

The tiny leaves of thyme contain powerful flavor, especially when grown in full sun. Native to southern Europe, thyme performs well with at least 6 hours of hot sunlight and very well-drained soil.

For culinary use, stick with English thyme, French thyme, or lemon thyme. Plant transplants 8-12 inches apart in dry, sandy soil. Water very sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Thyme thrives on neglect once established.

Pinch off flowers to encourage leaf production. Harvest thyme leaves anytime. Light shade in hot climates can prevent leaf scorch but results in reduced flavor.

Chives – A Delicate Herb for Sunny Sites

Chives - A Delicate Herb for Sunny Sites
Chives – A Delicate Herb for Sunny Sites

Though delicate in appearance, chives are one of the toughest full sun herbs you can grow. This popular onion-flavored herb thrives with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight and tolerates heat extremely well.

Plant chive transplants in clusters 6-8 inches apart. They have shallow roots, so take care not to disturb them while weeding. Water regularly to keep soil consistently moist.

Snip chive leaves back to 1-2 inches whenever you need them. Remove flowers to prolong harvests. At the end of the season, cut plants back to the ground. They will re-sprout the following spring.

Parsley – A Sun-Loving Biennial

Parsley - A Sun-Loving Biennial
Parsley – A Sun-Loving Biennial

Widely used for its fresh, green flavor, parsley performs best in full sun. A biennial, it will flower and set seed in its second year, but you can harvest leaves nearly year-round in warm climates.

Soak seeds overnight before planting directly in prepared garden soil in early spring. Space plants 6-12 inches apart and keep them consistently watered. Cut outer stems frequently to encourage bushy growth and continuous harvests.

Flat-leaved Italian parsley offers the best flavor for cooking. Curly parsley boasts attractive frilly foliage that makes an edible garnish.

Dill – A Uniquely Flavored Sun-Worshipper

Dill - A Uniquely Flavored Sun-Worshipper
Dill – A Uniquely Flavored Sun-Worshipper

The feathery foliage and unique flavor of dill only reach their full potential when grown in a sunny herb garden. Native to the Mediterranean and Russia, dill thrives in full sun and cool conditions.

Direct sow dill seeds in prepared soil after the last frost date. Space plants 8-12 inches apart. Provide consistent moisture, especially when plants are young.

Snip leaves anytime once plants are established. Harvest seeds once flower heads turn brown by cutting the entire flower stalk.

Plant dill successively every 2-3 weeks for a continuous harvest. Grow fern leaf dill for its attractive lacy foliage.

Fennel – Full Sun Unlocks Its Licorice Flavor

Fennel - Full Sun Unlocks Its Licorice Flavor
Fennel – Full Sun Unlocks Its Licorice Flavor

The distinctive licorice taste of fennel gets a boost when grown in full sun. A perennial in warm zones, fennel can be grown as an annual herb elsewhere and reaches its full flavor potential with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.

Sow seeds directly in the garden in early spring, spacing plants 8-12 inches apart. Consistent moisture and mulch help promote vigorous growth. Harvest leaves as needed and trim back often to prevent flowering.

Florence fennel produces swollen bulbs that can be roasted or grilled along with the fragrant foliage and seeds.

Summer Savory – An Underrated Sun-Lover

Summer Savory - An Underrated Sun-Lover
Summer Savory – An Underrated Sun-Lover

Don’t overlook summer savory for the full sun herb garden. Native to the Mediterranean, this lesser-known herb thrives in hot, dry conditions and intense sunlight. The peppery leaves pair perfectly with beans, poultry, and more.

Sow summer savory seeds directly in prepared soil after the danger of frost has passed. Space plants 6-12 inches apart and keep them consistently watered. Pinch off flowers to encourage leaf production.

Harvest leaves early and often by cutting stems back to 2 inches. Savory turns woody and bitter if allowed to flower.

More Full Sun Herbs to Consider

While the above represents the most popular full sun herbs for gardens, many others also thrive with plenty of sunlight. Here are a few more to consider:

  • Cilantro – This parsley relative needs sun to develop its signature flavor. Go for slow-bolting varieties.
  • Tarragon – Licorice-anise flavor thrives in full sun. Just be sure to choose French tarragon, not Russian.
  • Peppermint and Spearmint – Mint spreads vigorously in moist, sunny conditions. Contain it or plant where the spread is acceptable.
  • Chervil – Subtly flavored herb does well in the sun but appreciates some afternoon shade in hot climates.
Full Sun Herb Garden: 16 Must-Have Plants for Sunny Spots
Image Credits: rawpixel

Key Takeaways for Growing Full Sun Herbs

To recap, here are some key tips for successfully growing full sun herbs:

  • Select a sunny location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. The morning sun is especially beneficial.
  • Amend soil with compost and drain well to prevent overly wet conditions that can rot roots.
  • Space plants appropriately to allow ample air circulation and growth room.
  • Water young plants regularly until established. Then adjust watering based on plant needs.
  • Pinch off flowers on most full sun herbs to encourage leafy growth. Allow dill and fennel to flower if you want seeds.
  • Harvest frequently by pinching off leaf clusters or cutting back stems. This stimulates new growth.
  • Consider afternoon shade for full sun herbs like basil and chervil if summers are extremely hot in your climate.

Conclusion

Full sun brings out the best in many popular culinary herbs. Follow the growing tips in this article to create a thriving herb garden filled with flavors and fragrances that only intensive sunlight can produce.

Experiment with different herb varieties to discover your favorites, and enjoy the pleasure and convenience of having garden-fresh herbs right outside your door.

FAQs

What herbs can tolerate full, hot sun?

Many Mediterranean herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, and lavender thrive in very hot, sunny conditions. Other full sun champions include basil, parsley, chives, dill, and fennel.

How many hours of sunlight do herbs need?

Most culinary herbs need a minimum of 6 hours of full sun per day. Certain plants like lavender desire closer to 8-10 hours if possible. Early morning sun is especially beneficial.

Should I grow herbs in containers or garden beds?

Both work! Containers are great for small spaces or if you want to move plants around. In-ground herb beds make management easier for larger plantings.

What are signs an herb needs more sunlight?

Leggy, weak growth, small leaves, and pale coloration are clues an herb isn’t getting enough sun. Insufficient sunlight also reduces flavors.

How much water do sun-loving herbs need?

Herbs prefer consistent moisture while establishing. After that, most Mediterranean herbs prefer soils on the drier side and do not tolerate overwatering well.

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