Difference Between Herbs And Shrubs

Herbs are soft-stemmed plants used for medicinal, culinary, or aromatic purposes, while shrubs are woody plants with ornamental value.

Difference Between Herbs And Shrubs

When it comes to plants, there are many classifications and categories. Two of the most commonly known are herbs and shrubs. Although both may seem similar in some ways, they have distinct characteristics that make them unique. In this article, we’ll explore the difference between herbs and shrubs in depth.

What are Herbs?

Herbs refer to a group of plants whose leaves, stems or flowers are used for medicinal, culinary or aromatic purposes. They usually grow in temperate climates and have soft stems that are not woody. Most herbs die back in winter, but they sprout again from the root in the spring. Examples of common herbs include basil, mint, thyme, dill, parsley, and coriander.

In addition to their culinary and medicinal purposes, herbs have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Many herbs contain active compounds that can help with healing and provide a range of health benefits. For example, chamomile tea can help with digestion, lavender oil can promote relaxation, and ginger can alleviate nausea.

What are Shrubs?

Shrubs are woody plants that usually have multiple stems and grow to a height of around 15 feet. Some shrubs can grow much taller, depending on the species. They are widely used in landscaping and gardening, and they’re often used to create borders or hedges. Examples of common shrubs include boxwood, azalea, camellia, and hydrangea.

Shrubs have woody stems, and their leaves can be either evergreen or deciduous. Unlike herbs, shrubs do not necessarily die back in winter, and they can provide an attractive display of flowers or berries depending on the species. Many shrubs are also used for their ornamental value and can add beauty and color to any garden or landscape.

The Differences Between Herbs and Shrubs

Now that we have a general understanding of what herbs and shrubs are let’s take a closer look at the differences between them:

Growth Habit

The most noticeable difference between herbs and shrubs is their growth habit. Herbs have soft, green stems that usually don’t exceed a height of around 3 feet. They tend to grow as single, self-contained plants and are often much wider than they are tall. On the other hand, shrubs have woody stems and can grow to be much taller than herbs.


Another significant difference between herbs and shrubs is their lifespan. Herbs are generally annual or perennial plants, which means that they can live for one or several growing seasons before their stems and leaves die back. Most herbs grow during spring and summer, and many of them die back during the winter months. Shrubs, on the other hand, can live for many years and may remain in the same location for a long time.


Herbs are commonly used for medicinal, culinary, and aromatic purposes. They are used to flavor food, make teas, and create essential oils. Shrubs are often used for ornamental purposes to provide landscaping and gardening with structure, color, and height.


Herbs and shrubs also differ in their appearance. Herbs usually have soft, green stems and thin, delicate leaves. They tend to be bushy and spread out rapidly. Shrubs, on the other hand, have woody stems that may be covered in bark. They have a more upright growing habit and can grow into large, bushy plants. Shrubs may also have thick, leathery leaves or colorful flowers.


The cultivation of herbs and shrubs can also differ significantly. Herbs can be grown in small containers, on windowsills or in herb gardens. They require less space than shrubs and can be grown indoors or outdoors. Shrubs, on the other hand, require more space and are often grown outside in gardens or landscapes.


While both herbs and shrubs are plants that are used for various purposes, they have distinct characteristics that make them unique. Shrubs are woody plants that can grow into large, bushy plants with ornamental value. Herbs, on the other hand, are soft-stemmed plants that are used for culinary, medicinal, and aromatic purposes. Understanding the differences between herbs and shrubs can help you choose the right plants for your garden or landscaping needs. Whether you want to add some color and beauty to your outdoor space or use plants for various purposes, there are many choices available to suit your needs.