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How to Grow Herbs Indoors

Grow fresh basil, oregano, and more right on your kitchen counter with an indoor herb garden! This article will teach you everything you need to know about how to grow herbs indoors, from choosing the right containers and soil to proper lighting and watering techniques.

A small indoor herb garden.

Growing Herbs Indoors

To grow herbs indoors successfully, it’s essential to choose the right herbs for your indoor garden. Many popular herbs, such as basil, chives, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and thyme, are well-suited for growing indoors.

It is also crucial to pay attention to the growing needs of your herbs – factors such as light, temperature, water, and humidity. These elements play a significant role in the well-being of your plants.

In the following sections, we’ll delve into the specific needs of each herb and provide tips to ensure your indoor garden flourishes.

Getting Started with Indoor Herb Gardening

Choosing the Right Location

When starting your indoor herb garden, it’s crucial to choose the right location within your home. Most herbs need at least five to six hours of sunlight each day, so placing them near a bright, sunny window is usually sufficient.

If natural light is scarce, you can also use artificial light to ensure your herbs get the nourishment they need. Remember, temperature and humidity play essential roles as well – herbs typically prefer a cool room with indirect, bright light.

Selecting Your Herbs

As a beginner, it’s a good idea to start with easy-to-grow herbs, such as thyme, cilantro, oregano, lavender, chives, mint, and basil.

These herbs are perfect for your indoor herb garden and not only are they resilient, but they also offer various culinary uses, making them great additions to your kitchen.

When deciding which herbs to include, consider the flavors you most enjoy and aim for a mix of easy-to-grow herb varieties.

These herbs can be grown from seeds or cuttings taken from an existing plant. Or for an easy way to get started, buy seedlings from your local plant shop.

Herbs growing indoors on a windowsill.

Deciding on Containers

When it comes to selecting containers, there are several options. You can choose between plastic, clay pots, herb pots, planters, or other types of containers, depending on your personal preference.

The key is to choose planters that have good drainage, as herbs do not like overly wet soil. For an indoor herb garden it is essential to get a plant pot with a saucer, or place the plant pot inside an outer decorative pot so that the soil can drain (without making a mess in your home!).

It’s also essential that the container is deep enough to accommodate root growth. Consider the following:

  • Plastic pots are lightweight and often come with drainage holes. They maintain moisture well but can be less sturdy than other materials.
  • Clay pots allow for good airflow around the roots and excellent drainage. They often look more stylish than plain plastic pots, butkeep in mind that they tend to dry out more quickly than other options.
  • Herb pots are specifically designed for growing herbs indoors, often featuring built-in drainage systems and adequate spacing between plants.

Preparing Your Indoor Herb Garden

Using the Right Soil

Choosing the right soil for your indoor herb garden is crucial for the health and growth of your plants. Look for a high-quality, well-draining potting mix specifically designed for growing herbs.

Avoid using heavy garden soil, as it can compact in pots and prevent proper root growth. You may want to add some organic fertilizer to your potting mix. This will provide essential nutrients to your plants and ensure they grow strong and healthy.

Proper Drainage

Good drainage is essential for the well-being of your herbs, as too much water can cause the roots to rot.

As mentioned above, selecting pots with drainage holes at the bottom is a good place to start. But, you can improve the drainage by placing a few pebbles or small stones in the bottom of the pot before adding the soil.

Next, fill the pot with your potting mix, leaving about 1 inch of space at the top of the pot. Place a saucer under your pot to catch any excess water that drains.

When watering your herbs, make sure the soil stays moist but not waterlogged. Let the water fully drain through the drainage holes, and don’t let the pot sit in standing water.

Ensuring Good Air Circulation

Air circulation is an important factor in maintaining a healthy indoor herb garden. Good air circulation can help prevent the growth of mold and help your plants take in vital nutrients. Place your pots in a well-ventilated area where air can flow freely. Be sure not to overcrowd your herbs by placing the containers too close together.

Additionally, you can help encourage air circulation by gently rotating your pots on a regular basis, which will also expose all sides of the plant to equal amounts of sunlight, promoting even growth.

Repotting a mint plant grown from seed.

Planting Your Herbs

Starting from Seeds

Starting herbs from seeds may seem like a challenge, but it can be quite rewarding. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Choose your herbs: Select seeds for varieties like basil, chives, oregano, parsley, and thyme, which grow well indoors.
  2. Prepare containers: Use small pots or seedling trays with drainage holes, and fill them with seed-starting mix.
  3. Sow seeds: Follow the instructions on the seed packet for proper spacing and planting depth. Gently water after planting to settle the soil around the seeds.
  4. Provide warmth and light: Place the containers in a warm and well-lit location, preferably near a south-facing window or under an LED grow light, so the seedlings receive 12-14 hours of light per day.
  5. Monitor moisture levels: Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. Use a spray bottle to mist the surface gently if needed.
  6. Transplant seedlings: Once your seedlings have formed a few sets of true leaves, gently transplant them into larger pots.

Starting from Cuttings

Another way to grow herbs indoors is by using cuttings, which are branches taken from an existing plant. This method is especially helpful for varieties like mint, rosemary, and sage. Follow these steps for propagating your herbs from cuttings:

  1. Choose healthy parent plants: Look for plants with new growth and no signs of diseases or pests.
  2. Take cuttings: Use a clean pair of scissors or pruning shears to make a diagonal cut at the node (the point where a leaf or branch connects to the stem) for a 4-6 inch long cutting.
  3. Remove bottom leaves: Carefully remove any leaves from the lower third of the cutting.
  4. Root the cuttings: Dip the cut end in rooting hormone (optional) and insert the cutting into a small pot filled with a moistened mix of perlite and peat moss or seed-starting mix.
  5. Provide a humid environment: Cover the pot with a plastic bag or place it in a small greenhouse to keep the humidity high.
  6. Monitor the cuttings: Keep the soil evenly moist, and place the pot in a well-lit location, like a south-facing window or under an LED grow light.
  7. Transplant rooted cuttings: Once roots have formed (usually within a few weeks), gently transfer the cuttings to a larger pot with well-draining soil.
Trimming the stems of mint cuttings.
Prepare mint cuttings.

Indoor Herb Garden Maintenance

Light Requirements

Your indoor herbs need plenty of light to grow well. They require at least six hours of sunlight daily, so placing them close to a sunny windowsill is essential.

If you are in the Northern-hemisphere, South-facing windows are ideal for most herbs, as they provide the brightest light (this is reversed in the Southern-heisphere).

However, some herbs that prefer cooler temperatures, such as parsley and chives, may prefer to be positioned near west-facing windows. If you don’t have a suitable sunny spot in your home, you can also use LED grow lights to provide the light they need.

Watering Your Herbs

Proper watering is crucial to keeping your indoor herbs happy and healthy. Here are some watering tips:

  • Avoid overwatering: Herbs don’t like wet soil. Make sure your pots have drainage holes and use a light, well-draining soil mix.
  • Water regularly: Keep the soil consistently moist but not soaking wet. Check the soil’s moisture by touching it with your fingers; if it feels dry on the surface, it’s time to water.
  • Monitor humidity: Indoor environments can be dry, so keep an eye on humidity levels. Placing a tray filled with water and pebbles under the pots can help increase humidity.
A hand watering indoor herbs.
How to water mint.

Feeding Your Herbs

Herbs grown indoors may need some extra nutrients to ensure their growth and flavor. Here’s how to fertilize your indoor herbs:

  • Choose a fertilizer: A balanced liquid fertilizer, preferably organic, is suitable for most herbs. You can also use compost tea or fish emulsion.
  • Fertilize sparingly: Overfeeding can lead to weak, leggy growth and diminished flavor. Dilute the fertilizer to half its recommended strength and apply it no more than once a month.
  • Monitor your herbs’ growth: Pay attention to their appearance; if they seem to be struggling, consider adjusting their light, water, or feeding regimen to find the right balance for healthy growth.

Troubleshooting Common Indoor Herb Growing Challenges

Dealing with Pests

Growing herbs indoors can sometimes attract unwanted pests, but with proper care, you can quickly address these issues.

Routinely inspect your plants for any signs of damage or insects, and treat them accordingly with organic solutions such as neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Avoiding Overwatering

Overwatering is a common issue when growing herbs indoors. To avoid this problem, make sure your container has adequate drainage holes to let excess water escape.

Water your herbs with room-temperature water and pay attention to their specific watering needs. For example, bay, marjoram, oregano, sage, and thyme need to dry out between watering, whereas other herbs may require more frequent watering.

Remember not to let your herbs wilt, and always monitor the soil moisture carefully.

Preventing Leggy Growth

Herbs that receive insufficient light can become leggy, resulting in weak and spindly growth. To prevent this, place your indoor herb garden close to a south- or southwest-facing window that provides at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.

If necessary, supplement the natural light with an LED grow light to ensure your herbs get a total of 12-14 hours of light per day. This will help develop strong and compact plants with intense flavors.

You should also prune your plants regularly to encourage growth and keep their form compact.

Using Your Indoor Herbs

Harvesting Your Herbs

Growing herbs indoors gives you access to fresh herbs year-round, adding robust flavor to your dishes. To get the most out of your indoor herb garden, it’s essential to harvest them properly. Regularly trimming your herbs encourages new growth and keeps the plants healthy.

To harvest your herbs, use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears, and cut just above a pair of leaves. This will stimulate further growth of the plant, providing you with a continuous supply of fresh herbs.

Hands harvesting mint with a pair of red herb scissors.

Using Fresh Herbs in Cooking

Fresh herbs can elevate your cooking by adding vibrant flavors and aromas to various dishes. Here are some suggestions for using your freshly harvested indoor herbs:

  • Salads: Toss freshly chopped herbs like basil, mint, or parsley into your favorite salads for an extra layer of flavor. Experiment with different combinations and herbs to create unique and refreshing salads.
  • Pesto: Fresh basil is the star ingredient in traditional pesto. Combine basil with pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil for a delicious homemade pesto that can be used on pasta, sandwiches, or even as a dip.
  • Soups and Stews: Fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano can add depth of flavor to your soups and stews. Gently simmer the herbs with your ingredients to release their full aroma and taste, and don’t forget to remove any woody stems before serving.

Remember, when cooking with fresh herbs, it’s best to add them towards the end of cooking to preserve their flavor and aroma.

Growing Specific Herbs Indoors

In this section, you’ll find information on how to grow specific herbs indoors. Follow the guidelines for each herb to ensure a successful indoor garden.

Growing Basil Indoors

Basil is an annual herb that thrives in warm temperatures. To grow basil indoors, start by planting seeds in well-draining soil and placing the pot near a window that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day.

Remember to water it regularly, but avoid over-watering, as basil prefers moist soil.

Growing Rosemary Indoors

Rosemary is a perennial herb that enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Place your rosemary plant in a location with at least six hours of sunlight and ensure good air circulation.

Keep the soil slightly damp, but avoid over-watering to prevent root rot.

Growing Parsley Indoors

Pots of curly leaf and flat leaf parsley growing on a windowsill.

Parsley is a biennial herb that requires full sunlight and well-draining soil. It can be started from seeds or cuttings, but the latter tends to grow faster.

Water parsley regularly, but allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings.

>> More details: Growing Parsley Indoors

Growing Thyme Indoors

Thyme is a low-growing perennial herb that thrives in well-draining soil and full sunlight. To grow thyme indoors, start with a cutting or purchase a young plant.

Keep the soil slightly moist but not wet and provide at least six hours of sunlight per day.

>> More details: How to Grow Thyme Indoors

Growing Mint Indoors

Mint growing indoors in a pot.

Mint is a fast-growing perennial herb ideal for indoor gardens. Plant mint in a large pot with well-draining soil and place it in a bright spot that receives at least six hours of sunlight daily.

Make sure to keep the soil consistently moist and provide good air circulation.

>> More details: How to Grow Mint Indoors

Growing Oregano Indoors

Oregano is a perennial herb that can be grown from seeds, cuttings, or root division. Start with a young plant or a cutting from an established plant and place it in a location with at least six hours of sunlight.

Maintain well-draining soil and water it regularly, but avoid over-watering.

Growing Chives Indoors

Chives are a perennial herb that grows best in a sunny spot and well-draining soil. Start chives from seeds or purchase a young plant.

Water your chives consistently, keeping the soil slightly damp, and provide at least six hours of sunlight daily.

Growing Sage Indoors

Sage is a perennial herb that grows well indoors with full sunlight and well-draining soil.

Start with a young plant or a cutting and place it in a sunny spot. Water regularly, but allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings to prevent root rot.

Growing Cilantro Indoors

Cilantro is an annual herb that requires at least six hours of sunlight and well-draining soil.

Start cilantro from seeds and plant them in a container with good drainage. Ensure air circulation around the plant and water regularly, but avoid over-watering to prevent roots from rotting.