Favorite Herbs to Grow for Tea

I love growing herbs for tea. Not only do I enjoy the flavor of homegrown herbal tea, but herbs for tea are easy to grow, look stunning in flower or garden beds and smell amazing.  Whether you have a single pot in a sunny window, a balcony planter or a large garden, I highly recommend you try growing herbs for tea.

Also Read: How To Make Tea with  Herbs, Using Herbs in Mocktails and Cocktails, Favourite Cooking Herbs to Grow

Here are nine of my favorite herbs for tea. I grow these in my Zone 3 Prairie Garden. Some in containers and some directly in the ground.

My Top 9 Favourite Tea Herbs

Giant Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

This tall purple beauty is probably my favorite tea herb. It’s gorgeous, easy to grow, attractive to pollinators and tastes delicious! As a native North American prairie species, it’s perfect for northern gardens as it is quite drought tolerant and will come back year after year despite long cold winters.

Where:
Sunny spot, seed directly in garden bed.

Tid Bits:
Beautiful purple spiked flowers that attract pollinators late summer. Flowers can be dried too.
Light, sweet black licorice flavour.
Self seeds and comes back every year. But easy to pull if not in a desirable spot.

giant hyssop

hyssop tea

German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

Chamomile is a must have for any tea garden. These dainty daisy like flowers grow on lacy, feathery leaves and have the power to soothe frayed nerves and upset tummies. It’s also a great sleepy time tea.

Where:
Sunny spot, seed directly in garden bed.

Tid Bits:
Beautiful, tiny daisy like flowers. The more you harvest, the more flowers grow.
Harvest only the flowers. Read about harvesting chamomile here. Watch video here: Harvesting Chamomile
Flavour is quite unique, a flowery apple flavour. If steeped too long, flavour may become bitter.

chamomile
chamomile tea

Mint

Mint comes in a variety of flavour and growth profiles, it’s worth growing several different kinds for the foliage and varied tastes. But be warned, mint can be crazy invasive with it’s extended root network. Luckily it does very well in containers – choose wide containers with a lot of surface area.  Look for variegated  curly, smooth, chartreuse, deep green, tall and creeping varieties. Here’s just a sample of what to consider:

Peppermint – the strongest menthol flavour – that intense cool minty flavor ideal for soothing coughs and colds
Spearmint – a sweeter less intense minty flavor, perfect for cooking (eg. Tabbouleh salad, Falafel salad bowl) and improving digestion
Chocolate Mint – truly tastes like chocolate mint wafers (the parent plant is peppermint)
Apple, Orange, Banana, Pineapple, Strawberry or Grapefruit Mint – some actually taste like their name suggests, others not so much, but they’re all fun to try and make great iced teas
Mojito Mint – the classic mint for muddling and making Mojitos – Watch How to Harvest Mojito Mint

Where:
Sunny spot, can handle part shade.
Start using seedlings or cuttings for fast growth in the summer.
Not every variety is available via seed.
Some varieties like chocolate and mojito mint grow taller, while others stay low to the ground and spread out – banana mint.
Do very well in containers. Wide containers are better than deep pots.

Tid Bits:
Prune/harvest often and early for full growth. Watch How to Pick and Dry Mint
Get best flavour by harvesting before flowers set.
Try any of these mints to make Herb Infused Simple Syrups, perfect for ice cold mocktails or cocktails.

chocolate mint
chocolate mint

spearmint tea

Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon)

Use lemon grass as a tall grassy center piece in large planters. Not only does it look great, but when you rub it, you’ll get a lemony scent that is suppose to help deter mosquitoes. I’m not convinced about the mosquito repellent properties, but I love the flavor of lemon grass tea! I’ve never been able to grow thick stalks like the kind you buy to cook with, like in Thai cooking, but the long grassy blades are perfect for tea. The tea really does taste like lemon grass – the longer you steep it, the more pronounced it gets. I like mixing lemon grass with dried fruit for tasty herbal fruit tea combinations.

Where:
Sunny spot. Works great in containers.
Start with seedlings or start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before transplanting outdoors.

Tid Bits:
Trim long blade like leaves about 2-3 inches above bottom.
Makes delicious Herb Infused Simple Syrup, perfect for ice cold mocktails or cocktails. Add ginger to infusion for unique flavour.

full lemon grass

lemon grass tea

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Here’s another lemony flavored herb that’s great for tea making. But, be warned, it’s a member of the mint family, so it’s another aggressive perennial that spreads via seeds and runners. It’s best to restrain it in a container or hard edging. Enjoy the refreshing lemony scent and flavor of this plant all summer long with repeated harvests. Good for fish

Where:
Prefers cooler location mostly sunny, but can handle part shade.
Start with seedlings or start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before transplanting outdoors.

Tid Bits:
Deer resistant.
Very aggressive re-seeder and root spreader. Trim back by 1/3 after flowers have died to control self seeding.
Here’s an article on harvesting and drying lemon or lime balm. Although aroma is lost within 2-3 months of drying.
Use fresh with fish, meat, salads and fruit desserts.

lemon balm

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora)

You won’t believe the lemony scent from this woody herb. This perennial tropical shrub won’t survive anything cooler than Zone 8, so it may be a little more challenging to find in prairie garden centres – but it’s worth it!  It grows quickly in our hot summers so you’ll enjoy multiple harvests.

Where:
Prefers warm temps, don’t plant outside until late May early June and take inside at first sign of frost.
Start with seedlings. Great in pots or containers.

Tid Bits:
The most “lemony” of all the “lemon” herbs. Holds it’s aroma well after drying.
A woody perennial that can be kept over-winter, although it does have a dormant stage and will lose its leaves.
Harvest regularly to get full growth and maximum harvest. Watch How to Prune/Harvest Lemon Verbena
The strong lemony flavor can be used in place of lemon zest in baking, glazes, infused vinegar and in tea.

lemon verbena

Borage (Borago officinalis)

With it’s incredibly stunning edible flowers and ability to attract pollinators borage is a must in any garden. The flowers and bristly leaves taste remarkably similar to cucumbers; as such, they’re perfect for making flavored water – just like at the spa. You can also use them in iced teas and lemonades. While we’ve never made hot tea with borage, it can be done. We also use chopped borage leaves and whole flowers in salads.

Where:
Prefers warm temps and sunshine.
Seed directly in garden or bed.

Tid Bits:
The plant is quite bushy and floppy, about the size of a tomato plant.
Borage is an annual that reseeds easily. Luckily, it is very easy to pull if they grow in an undesirable spot.
I like growing it in the big vegetable garden where it has space and helps attract pollinators – bees love it!
The edible flowers are so pretty.

borage

Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus)

Did you know that many savoury herbs like rosemary, sage and parsley make excellent tea as well?! It’s true. Their flavour is perhaps a little too intense to serve as an afternoon tea, but they’re certainly drinkable and worth researching for their medicinal properties.  Can’t go wrong with adding lemon thyme to your garden.

Where:
Prefers sunny location, will tolerate some shade. In garden beds or containers.
Start with seedlings. I have not found lemon thyme seeds in local garden centers.

Tid Bits:
Beautiful ground cover. Mine was variegated and even though only Hardy to Zone 5, came back five years in a row.
A lovely light lemon flavour for fish, meat, veggie or sweet dishes. Try these lemon thyme cookies.
Also look for other thyme varieties – orange thyme is another favourite for tea.
lemon thyme

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)

One final plant that makes my top list of tea herbs is stevia. Stevia doesn’t make a delicious tea on its own, but it’s a great sweetener for any tea. I prefer using a tiny bit of dried, crumbled stevia leaves instead of fresh leaves for sweetening tea. Unlike store bought stevia powder which is white, homemade dried stevia is green and has a slight aftertaste. It’s worth a try, especially if you’re trying to cut back on sugar.

Where:
Prefers cooler summer temps yet a sunny location. Works in garden beds or containers.
Start with seedlings. Or start seeds 8-10 weeks before last frost date.

Tid Bits:
Also known as the sugar plant because it is intensely sweet, up to 300 times sweeter than sugar!
Not particularly stunning, but grows quickly when pruned/harvested regularly.
Dries well.

stevia

USING GARDEN HERBS FOR TEA

Throughout the season as you prune and harvest your herbs, you can make tea with your fresh or dried herbs. To learn how read

How to Make Tea with Fresh or Dried Garden Herbs

tea brewing
Using freshly pruned herbs (lemon balm) to make a cup of tea.

A Word of Caution about Herbs for Tea

All plants have properties in them that may cause allergies or undesirable side effects, especially if taken in large doses. The herbs for tea mentioned in this article are intended to be enjoyed as an occasional cup of tea now and then.  Anyone intending to consume more than an occasional cup for pleasure should do more research about each individual herb. This is particularly true for young children, pregnant women, anyone on medication or anyone with a chronic disease.

I would love to hear your experience with making your own herbal teas. Have you tried it? Do you have a favorite flavor? Or, if tea is not your thing, how do you enjoy using your herbs?

Getty Stewart is an engaging speaker and writer providing tasty recipes, time-saving tips, and helpful kitchen ideas to make home cooking easy and enjoyable. She is a Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and veggie gardener.

 

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