Tending an herb garden is a delicious way to expand your plant vocabulary. And growing perennial herbs specifically for tea also opens new worlds of flavor and self-care. Plus you’ll join a centuries-long tradition of drinking tea to take in the medicinal benefits of certain herbs and plants.
Perennials are plants that come back year after year. You’ll find that many of the perennial herbs listed here are well known homestead garden plants. These are easy-to-grow multipurpose plants, also used as proven companion plants in the vegetable garden.
They’ll continue to give you larger harvests year after year, both because they spread and because, as you cut back to harvest, they produce more abundantly.
There’s an almost endless variety of plants that could make this list, but we’ll start with a few of the most common. We’ll go over the basic planting conditions and varieties suited for tea.
- Lamiaceae family
- Spearmint Mentha spicata (common mint)
- Zones 3 to 8
- 6 to 18 inches tall
- sun to part sun
- best flavor if well-watered
Let’s tackle the aggressive spreaders in the mint family. I admit that I have both apple mint and a spearmint planted in ground. I think between my chickens eating them and my continual harvesting, we have found a balance. But it is recommended to plant in pots, take in during the winter or start fresh each year.
Other fun varieties for tea include apple mint, chocolate mint, peppermint and pineapple mint. I enjoy mixing different mints together in the same cup of tea!
- Monarda fistulosa
- Zones 3 to 8
- 2 to 4’ feet tall
- sun to part shade
Since monarda is related to the mint family (you’ll notice the square stalks as you snip), it’s not surprising that these perennials share many characteristics—including vigorous spreading via rhizomes. It is also known as horsemint in England, but more often you’ll see this plant referred to as bee balm or bergamot in the States.
Cutting earlier in the season is key when harvesting monarda for tea. This leaves later blooms for the pollinators. I like blending monarda with mint and lemon balm.
- Melissa officinalis
- Zones 4 to8
- 2 feet tall
- full to part sun
Also in the mint family and a happy spreader (though less vigorous than mint and monarda), lemon balm grows in lower mounds and adds a cheery light green to the border. It will send up spikes of flowers later in summer unless continuously trimmed. You can trim this herb all the way back to soil level.
In the cup, lemon balm has a sweet lemony flavor that I find overpowering by itself. However, it is perfect when mixed with other lighter flavors like apple mint, hyssop or raspberry leaf.
- Agastache foeniculum
- 3 to 4 feet tall
- full to part sun
- drought tolerant once established
A beautiful addition to the tea garden, anise hyssop can be short lived, so you may have to reseed every few years.
You can smell the sweet licorice scent just brushing by this stunning plant. They are wildly popular with pollinators as well. I tend to leave the blooms for the bees, and snip the leaves for me.
Thyme, marshmallow and raspberry leaf are also easy-to-grow, multipurpose plants to add as your herbal tea garden grows!
Preparing Your Tea
All of these herbs can be hung and air dried out of direct sunlight to use in tea. Once dry, store in airtight containers in a dark space. They will last indefinitely but retain the best flavor and most medicinal properties within the first year after harvest.
To steep, I add mixed dry herbs to a deep strainer and steep for at least five minutes, often reusing the bunch of leaves twice.
You can learn more information about growing and preserving herbs on my website.
Forks in the Dirt