The United Kingdom isles can present challenging growing climates, but herbs can still be grown there as perennials and annuals. Cold hardiness zones are similar to those in the southern United States and even the Mediterranean, where many herbs originated. The southwestern fringes of the isles compare to USDA hardiness zones 9 and 10. Because Britain is the northern-most of any other country with the same hardiness conditions, it also sees less sunlight each day. But with the right care and selection, herbs still proliferate.
Agrimony is a native perennial that likes to grow in open, sunny areas. It can grow up to 2 feet high and thrives in poor, alkaline soil, according to the National Herb Centre. The dark green plant features slender spikes with yellow flowers about 3/8 of an inch across that bloom in the summer. Aside from its ornamental value, agrimony is often grown for use as an astringent and diuretic. A slow-release organic fertilizer will help give seedlings a better start.
Mint, used for flavoring tea and desserts, can grow as a perennial, but it has a tendency to grow out of control. Frequently cutting it back or keeping it in containers will help prevent it from choking out nearby plants. Peppermint and spearmint like moist soil but not spots that become water-logged. Protecting with leaves or straw helps them survive harsh UK winters. Leaves are usually serated ovals with a downy texture in colors from bright green to burgandy, depending on variety. It enjoys full sun or partial shade, and rich and moist soil with a slightly acidic pH. It can grow to 1-1/2 feet tall but has a tendency to be more of a ground cover plant, growing in partial shade and full sun, too. Since it grows so aggressively, fertilization usually is not required.
This perennial evergreen shrub, a Mediterranean native, grows well in the British Isles if enough sun shines. Sage can be dried or used fresh. It is a popular seasoning used in dressings, sprinkled on meats and ground into sausage. Sage plants, which feature grayish leaves and purple to blue flowers, can grow up to 3 feet tall in well-drained, rich soil and full sun. It likes to be regularly watered but does not enjoy growing in soil that is constantly moist. Working in a couple handfuls of bonemeal around the plant at the beginning and end of summer will help it grow.
Thyme is another perennial that thrives in the UK. Debunking the myth that virtually all herbs grow best in full sun, this one likes well-drained soil and partial shade. Thyme likes conditions dryer, making over-watering a common care issue. Soups and lamb dishes, for instance, benefit from thyme infusions. The plant has small gray-green to green leaves and flowers that range in hue from pale pink to purple. A handful of bonemeal in mid-May and July will help the plant grow.
Scented Geraniums are grown more for their pleasing aroma rather than flowers, although many varieties also feature striking blooms that can serve an ornamental purpose. Leaves can feature different scents, from rose to lemon to cedar. They are perennials in zone 8 and higher, making them ideal for British Isles cultivation. Water is required when the soil becomes dry. They enjoy full sun and only an occasional dose of balanced fertilizer.
Chives enjoy growing in full sun, but aren't as particular about soil conditions. Fertile soil is best to grow them in if they will be frequently picked. They also feature different colored flowers, depending on variety, that are edible and make for good salad additions. This member of the onion family includes light purple, round flower heads. They grow well in well-draining soil if a handful or two of bonemeal is worked into the soil around the plant. Moderate watering that allows soil to dry in between is best.
Lavender, one of the more popular herbs worldwide because of its fragrant, light purple flowers, can grow as a perennial in the UK. English lavender, with its mounding capability, forms a low-level hedge row. Some varieties, however, cannot withstand England's wet winters. Lavender grows best in well-drained soil and full sun. A handful of organic matter added when planting occurs will help the plants grow. Watering should occur regularly until the plants are established. After that they are more tolerant of dry conditions. Plants can grow up to 3 feet high and feature lilac blue flowers that grow on spikes. Leaves are narrow and grayish-green.