Great Garden Herbs for your Tennessee Garden Design

 In Garden Tips

You’ve probably heard some old-timers say that nature has a cure for every ailment. They’re not wrong. We’re flocking to the health food stores more than ever to seek natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals. 

However, homeowners can grow many healing plants and flowers they would buy in a store right in their gardens. This post will look at these herbs, their health benefits and offer tips on how to cultivate them. 

Despite specific evidence to show the health benefits for the below-mentioned plants, you should ask your doctor before consuming any herbs, flowers and plant materials from your garden.

  1. Bee Balm 
bee balm knoxville

A member of the mint family, bee balm (aka monarda) is a perennial plant known for its aromatic and herbaceous qualities. Its leaves are long and dark green, but in the summer (June through September), its tubular-shaped flowers bloom in bright clusters of scarlet red. 

Bee balm gets its name from its original usage – to soothe bee stings. It has been a go-to “ointment” among Native American communities to treat minor wounds. 

However, its active ingredient, thymol, makes it a potent antiseptic and thus frequently used to fight infections. Bee balm is also used to fight off parasites, a diuretic, and a diaphoretic (encourages sweating/perspiration). 

Everyday uses of bee balm include the treatment of headaches, nausea, insomnia, vomiting, fevers, colds, and respiratory complaints. 

Tips for Growing Bee Balm from a Landscape Architect in Knoxville

  • Plant in the spring or fall
  • Place bee balm plants where they can receive full sunshine
  • Space plants 18-24 inches apart from each other in rich, well-draining soil 
  • Plant them where they can receive adequate air circulation (to prevent mildew on leaves)
  • Water thoroughly when planting them
  1. Chamomile 
chamomile knoxville

Chamomile hardly needs an introduction since you’ve probably seen boxes of the herb, in tea-form, at the grocery store. Your typical chamomile plant looks like a daisy, with a yellow center and white petals around it. A sniff of a chamomile leaf will give rise to a sweet, grassy aroma resembling the light scent of fruits.

Yes, chamomile is renowned for its calming, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. However, it does more than just keep your mind calm. This delicate yet powerful herb is also spasmolytic, meaning it relieves muscle spasms. 

Other little-known benefits of chamomile include its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects on the skin, making it highly effective at treating wounds, eczema and rashes. It also can control blood sugar levels, improve heart health and help cancer patients. 

Tips to Plant Chamomile 

  • Plant chamomile where it can receive full sunlight 
  • Make sure to plant in well-drained soil 
  • Keep plants away from scorching temperatures (above 98 degrees) since they don’t grow as well in extreme heat.
  1. Echinacea 
echinacea knoxville

Another herb that you’ve likely seen at health food stores is echinacea. Also known as the Eastern Purple Coneflower, the echinacea plant is a perennial herb that can reach 2 feet in height. 

Their stems, which are rough and hairy, are unbranched for the most part, and they produce a mix of ovate and ovate/lanceolate leaf blades with serrated edges. Echinacea flowers bloom from the plant head, drooping down but vibrant in color, typically reddish-purple or lavender. 

Echinacea plants not only look pretty, but they can do an ailing body well. Native Americans often used the plant to treat toothaches, coughs and colds, sore throats and even snake bites. 

Things haven’t changed. Echinacea is an herbal favorite for respiratory conditions such as bronchitis. It can also relieve anxiety, control blood sugar levels, treat skin conditions, and reduce inflammation. It has even shown the potential to treat cancer. 

Tips to Grow Echinacea 

  • Ideally, coneflowers should be planted in spring or early summer
  • If dividing or transplanting them, you should do so in the spring or fall
  • Plant them 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on their size 
  • If moving a potted plant, dig a hole twice the pot’s diameter 
  • Bury the plant to the top of the root ball while ensuring the root ball is level with the soil 
  • Water thoroughly 
  1. Foxglove
Foxglove knoxville

Foxglove may sound more like a magic potion than a plant. The foxglove is also a peculiar-looking plant. It resembles a rosette, and they’re coarse in texture with prominent veins. Foxgloves produce a mix of ovate and lanceolate leaves that have hard-to-notice rounded teeth on their margins. 

It also produces alternate leaves that grow up to a foot long, covered in gray-white hairs. 

It can potentially treat serious heart problems, including congestive heart failure (CHF), fluid retention (edema), irregular heartbeat, and atrial fibrillation. It’s a lifesaving plant. 

Foxglove is also beneficial in treating respiratory conditions such as asthma and tuberculosis and neurological ailments ranging from headaches to epilepsy. 

With that said, its power can be a double-edged sword: foxglove can result in poisoning and adverse reactions among those who are sensitive. It’s imperative that if you consume foxglove, that you do so under a doctor’s supervision. 

Tips for Growing Foxglove 

  • Prepare the soil by mixing in a 3 to 4-inch layer of compost
  • Space foxglove containers 1-2 feet apart for optimal growth
  • Dig a hole twice the diameter of the foxglove pot
  • Place the plant in the hole and keep the top of the root ball level with the soil 
  • Fill in around the root ball and pat down the ground to make it firm
  • Water it thoroughly 
  1. Ginger 
ginger knoxville

Do we need to spend much time telling you about ginger? 

Their roots are unmistakable, their benefits undeniable. Nevertheless, it’s worth reminding you about the power of ginger and how accessible it is to you as a plant you can grow at home. 

In case you forgot what the plant looks like, it has a corky exterior and pale-yellow center that’s scented. The shoots that protrude from the soil resemble a reed, with alternating linear leaves on the stem, and its flowers are cone-shaped and pale-yellow. 

When it comes to the medicinal properties of ginger, they’re likely not foreign to you at this point. This household herb can alleviate a laundry list of ailments. 

The most common use of ginger is to treat an upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal complaints such as food poisoning and indigestion. Ginger is also a staple treatment for colds, the flu, and other respiratory complaints. 

However, it doesn’t end there. 

Research has shown that ginger may positively affect human health, such as regulating blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and anti-cancer properties. Ginger is truly a swiss-army knife of an herb, and it belongs in your garden! 

Tips for Growing Ginger 

  • Plant in early spring if possible
  • Slice off the fingers and make sure each rhizome is 1-2 inches long with at least one bud 
  • Allow the pieces to dry for 24-48 hours before planting
  • Plant cut sections at least 12 inches apart and no more than 1 inch deep
  • Water thoroughly after planting
  1. Lobelia 
Lobelia Tennessee

An herbaceous perennial, Lobelia is likely an unfamiliar albeit pretty name. The plant itself is also quite beautiful. They reach somewhere between 15 – 18 inches in height, producing branched, erect stems. 

Lobelia leaves have a toothed look and grow to be narrowly oblong, elliptic, lanceolate or oblanceolate in shape. The flowers they produce are a spectacle themselves – they are two-lipped and brilliant blue. 

We’ve been harvesting Lobelia for centuries due to its medicinal magic. 

Its key active ingredient, lobeline (from which it derives its name), can relieve respiratory conditions including asthma, bronchitis, and even pneumonia since it relaxes airways and clears mucus. The herb also has mental health benefits too. It blocks receptors that may trigger depression and can relieve depression symptoms. 

Lobelia can also reduce the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) thanks to its ability to increase dopamine uptake in the brain. Beware, however: a dose exceeding 0.6-1 gram or more is highly toxic and can have life-threatening effects (around 4 grams).  

Again, consult your doctor before determining any herbal plant may help combat certain conditions or symptoms. 

Tips for Growing Lobelia 

  • Place lobelia plants in an area that receives full sun as that is optimal for their growth (they do tolerate partial shade, however) 
  • Plant this herb in moisture-rich soil 
  • Spread the seeds so that they land just on top of the soil
  • Water thoroughly
  • Place them in a warm, well-lit area 
  1. Lemon Balm
lemon balm knoxville

Like many other plants on this list, lemon balm is a herbaceous perennial. Its stems are branched and square-shaped, from which ovate leaves with tooth-like edges sprout. The leaves may also look somewhat smooth and slightly hairy. Its flowers are two-lipped and grow in clusters and are colored pale yellow, white, or pinkish petals.

If you’re looking for a brain-boosting, mind-relaxing herb, then lemon balm belongs in your garden. 

It relieves a host of “head” problems such as headaches, and it can even help those who have insomnia and other sleep disorders. 

Lemon balm also can relieve stress and anxiety, and it seems to boost brain function to help you concentrate, memorize, and even solve math problems better.

Lemon balm also shows efficacy in treating other typical troubles such as cold sores, indigestion, and menstrual cramps. 

Tips to Grow Lemon Balm 

  • Plant lemon balm in rich, well-drained soil (this is their preference)
  • Place plants in the area where they will receive full sun (this is their preference)
  • Water them regularly and evenly
  • Keep ample space between lemon balm plants
  1. Passionflower
passionflower knoxville

Purple passionflower is a perennial vine

At a slightly pubescent stage, passionflower vines climb with tendrils that sprout from their leaf axils. Their flowers are a vibrant pale lavender, but they sometimes grow with five petals that are colored white on occasion. To me, these blooms look a bit tropical. This plant also goes by the common name “maypop” and has a green, plum-shaped fruit.

There’s a reason to be passionate (pun intended) about this mysterious yet magnificent vine. It has substantial mental health benefits thanks to its ability to reduce anxiety, improve sleep disorders, and relieve attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. 

Tips for Growing Passionflower 

  • Plant passionflower in well-drained yet rich and moist soil 
  • Water immediately after planting, and then proceed to water them once or twice per week during their growing season
  • Protect them against winter weather (mainly, cold temperatures) and strong winds – keep them inside during the winter 
  • Place in well-lit areas where they can receive light regularly (be aware that this plant can get too comfortable in some gardens and may be difficult to keep contained in one place).
  1. Peppermint 
peppermint knoxville

Just like chamomile and ginger, peppermint hardly needs much explanation. 

It’s a favorite among tea drinkers, and it has become one of the most popular essential oil blends.

Peppermint plants are aromatic perennial plants that can grow up to 3ft (1m) in height. The leaves are green and serrated – perhaps instantly recognizable to you by now – its flowers are delicate yet charming light purple. It grows throughout the world, including North America, Europe and Asia, and there are more than 25 species of this plant

You’re probably no stranger to the health benefits of peppermint at this point. Its active ingredient, menthol, is responsible for the intense yet refreshing mint flavor you know. Of course, menthol serves as one of many of the healing compounds in the plant. 

Peppermint can also treat the common cold and flu, as well as digestive upsets, including nausea and vomiting. 

It’s also an excellent remedy for headaches and migraines and is beneficial for treating wounds and accelerating their healing. With that said, it’s essential to avoid peppermint if you are taking immunosuppressive drugs or have gallstones (peppermint makes them worse). Also, taking too much peppermint can be very harmful. 

Tips for Growing Peppermint

  • Keep in moist soil (not soggy)
  • Plant peppermint plants in areas that receive full sun or partial shade
  • Move peppermint plants to a new location every 3-4 years
  • Prune and divide peppermint plants to avoid them from becoming unwieldy
  1. Witch Hazel
witch hazel garden

The name alone has magical connotations, a name which, frankly, sticks because of its use in folk medicine. 

Witch hazels are deciduous shrubs that grow up to 10-25 feet in height, although they can sometimes reach 40 feet tall. The leaves are alternately arranged as oval and broad-shaped, with smooth or wavy edges.

When it comes to health and wellness, witch hazel works its magic in various ways. It’s highly effective at treating skin problems such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and sensitive skin and scalp. It also provides relief to those who suffer from hemorrhoids. Native Americans also called this the toothache plant as new stems give a slightly numbing sensation when chewed.

Tips to Grow Witch Hazel 

  • Amend the soil thoroughly before planting witch hazels
  • Place them in areas where they will receive full sun or partial shade 
  • Prune before summer so that buds in the following year develop
  • Remove suckered twigs around the base

Sustainable Landscape Design in Your Backyard

The Knoxville, Tennessee climate makes the rearing of your favorite healing herbs highly sustainable and practical. Native plants and herbs can make for a sustainable garden and sustainable design.

Realistically, you won’t be able to grow all of the spices you’d typically buy, but you can raise some of the ones you rely on most. In times past, this practice was common. (Google “Physic Garden” for some fun facts about medicinal gardens in medieval times). 

Do you have a landscape plan for your front yard, back yard or home garden? A Landscape Architect like myself can provide a wide range of design options to make your outdoor concept a reality.
From drip irrigation, outdoor lighting, considering hardscape materials or reducing waste or water waste with a rain garden, call me, and we can make something great.

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