Although North Carolina is said to have four very distinctive seasons, the western part of the state can get quite cold and often has snow throughout the entire winter season. You may think it would be hard to maintain herbs in western North Carolina, but there are several that do well there with just a little winter planning.
A favorite herb for Italian pasta dishes, basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a low-growing annual that reaches about 24 inches in height. It has opposite growing oval-shaped leaves that form a point at the ends and produces small clusters of white flowers on spikes in the center of the plant starting in the late summer. The leaves can be picked and used fresh throughout the growing season, frozen in ice cubes to use as pesto or harvested and dried. The basil plant enjoys the sun and likes well-drained soil. It does not do well with the cold weather in western North Carolina, but cuttings can be taken and grown through the winter or the plant may be dug up and taken inside.
The horehound (Marrubium vulgare) is a hardy perennial herb that grows to 24 inches in height and has an appearance that is somewhat similar to mint. It has opposite growing 1 1/2-inch green leaves and from June to November blooms with small white flowers that grow in clusters around the leaf axils. The horehound does not do well in the shade and requires well-drained soil, although it does all right if planted in poor soil. Although the plant is sometimes considered an invasive weed, it has several medicinal uses and is used as a cough remedy as well as flavoring in candy. The horehound does not have a problem with North Carolina’s winter weather, but does like a little light mulching to help keep its roots from getting cold.
Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) is a perennial herb best known for its therapeutic soft scent. Its grows to 1 1/2 feet tell and has a 1 1/2-foot clumping spread. Its purple flowers bloom from June to early August and are a favorite to hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. Used in potpourris, soaps and in tea, the lavender plant is often used as floral arrangements by bunching the stalks together, hanging them upside down and allowing them to dry. Some types of lavender are fine with the colder weather, but should be provided with wind protection and mulching to help them make it through the harsher winter months.