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Growing Indoor Herbs

by Dawn
indoor herbs in mugs

Growing Herbs Indoors for a Year-Round Harvest

Do you love using fresh herbs in your cooking? The fragrance and flavor are outstanding, but buying them each time you need them at the grocery store is ridiculously expensive.

You can always use dried herbs, but it’s just not the same. So, what to do? How about growing the ones you love in your house?

All you really need is a sunny windowsill, some potting soil, and either small plants or seeds to get started. Let me show you how easy it can be to have all the fresh herbs you could ever want with very little work.

General Growing Information

Pots or Containers

First, let’s go over the basics that apply to all the herbs on the list. You will, of course, need pots for them to grow in. Some 6″ pots, one for each separate plant, should suffice.

Some suggest you should only use clay as it “breathes” and may prevent certain diseases like powdery mildew. I’ve personally never had trouble with plastic pots. Really, just use whatever you’re comfortable with or your budget allows.

This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase through one of these links, I earn a small commission. This does not affect your purchase price.

Check out the nice reasonably priced set here. If you’d rather have something a bit “cuter” or more appropriate for gift-giving, there’s a nice set here as well.

One thing I would NOT suggest is that you grow all your herbs together in one pot. Whereas companion planting is a great thing outdoors, it can cause trouble inside due to the naturally decreased air flow in the house.

Plus, if you do happen to end up with bugs or a disease on one plant, having it in its own pot makes it easier to quarantine it and keep the problem contained.

rosemary in clay pot

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Potting Soil

A good quality organic potting soil is sufficient for all the herbs on the list. You don’t need anything fancy, I even start my seeds in regular potting soil and never have a problem.

I’m not including an Amazon link here because unless you have Prime, shipping on potting soil is going to be nuts. Just head on over to your friendly neighborhood hardware store or gardening center and pick up a bag. I prefer organic, but that’s up to you.

Location

A nice sunny windowsill is desirable. All of the plants on the list will appreciate a south or west-facing window where they’ll receive 6-8 hours of sun a day (unless I say otherwise in the specifics). If this isn’t a possibility, a grow light suspended over a simple shelf will suffice.

Keep in mind that a grow light isn’t nearly as strong as the sun, even when it’s coming through the glass of a window. For this reason, you will need to leave the light on for about 14 hours a day to meet the plants’ light needs.

Watering Tips

Herbs also need less water than the average houseplant, so you’ll want to take care not to overwater. If the surface of the soil is dry, you can give your plant a drink. You should never let your plants get dry enough that they’re wilting, of course.

If you notice yellow leaves on any of your plants, this is most likely a sign of too much water and you should scale back a bit.

Feeding Tips

Another thing that all the herbs on this list will benefit by (as will most houseplants), is regular feeding. You don’t want to overdo this. A Tbsp of fish emulsion mixed into a gallon of water applied each time you water is sufficient and will keep your plants happy. If you’d like to read about my very favorite fertilizer ever, you can do that here.

TIP: You might consider only feeding your mint every other time you water as some authorities suggest the flavor will weaken if mints get overfertilized.

basil in pot
Is there anything yummier than the smell of fresh basil?

Basil

Yum!! I LOVE running my fingers over the leaves of basil plants and smelling their aroma (I *might* occasionally do that in the grocery store. Huh, maybe that’s why no one wants to go shopping with me). There isn’t much that compares to that smell though. And the taste? Fresh basil on a nice caprese salad with garden tomatoes and fresh mozzarella? Heaven on earth!

And since I bet I just made you hungry, here’s a recipe for caprese salad so you can make it yourself. Oooh, and how about fresh pesto? Here’s a recipe for that too. You’re welcome!

Now, I have to tell you that many people say basil is one of the harder herbs to grow inside. I haven’t grown basil indoors, only outside (where it’s super easy), so I can’t speak to this personally, but it’s something to keep in mind.

If you’d like to give it a try, you can either just grab one of those plants that most grocery stores have in their produce section, or you can try growing it from seed. I just planted a potful of cinnamon basil from seed the other day. I can’t wait for it to grow!

Basil likes heat and bright light, so a south or west-facing window is ideal. It needs 6-8 hours of sunlight (or 14+ hours of artificial light) a day. Be sure your window isn’t drafty and that it doesn’t get too cold at night.

Bay Laurel

Many people use bay laurel, or bay leaf, in soups and stews. If you’re a bay leaf fan, here’s an entire collection of recipes for you. Keep in mind that the oldest, largest leaves are going to have the strongest flavor.

If you would like to grow bay laurel, it’s best to buy a plant, as it is very slow to germinate from seed. Keep in mind, also, that bay laurel can get very large. You can keep it in check by keeping it a bit pot-bound and trimming it, but it isn’t a small plant like basil or oregano.

However, it is a very attractive plant, so you might not mind having it around, even if it is a little larger than some. I mean, it will never get as big as my grapefruit tree (you can read Spike’s story here if you would like), so you’re probably good.

Bay prefers fast-draining soil, so be sure your pot has good drainage. You’ll also want to make sure it has especially good air circulation to keep it happy, and as with the other plants, a west-facing window is ideal.

Bay can be susceptible to scale (the bane of my existence!), so you may want to keep a supply of neem oil on hand, just in case.

You can put your bay plant outside during the summer. Just remember to acclimate it to the brighter, hotter sunlight as you would any other houseplant.

chives, a super easy to grow herb

Chives

Chives are an oniony-flavored (is that a word? Well, it is now!) herb that is a perennial outside in most of the US. I have some growing in my garden and never really thought about bringing it inside until I started researching this post. I wish I had, but it’s too late now, we’re WELL past the first frost at this point.

Apparently, lots of people love using chives in recipes. Check this out to see what I mean! Some of these look REALLY good, and I have to admit I’m not even a chive fan (I don’t like onions either. I know, I’m weird. Garlic though? We’re besties!)

Although chives can be grown from seed, most authorities suggest growing them from a purchased plant. You can also uproot your chives from the garden in the fall, split some of the plant off and repot to bring indoors, replanting the rest back in your garden. I wish I had known that earlier (hubby and mom love chives!)

If you do repot from a garden plant, give your new little plant about a month to acclimate and grow before harvesting anything from it. When you do harvest, be sure to leave at least 2″ of the plant so it can regrow. Conversely, you can harvest 1/3 of the plant at one time, allowing the rest to continue growing.

As with the other herbs, chives appreciate a nice, bright, south-facing window that gets 4-6 hours of sun a day (or 14 hours under grow lights). Given proper conditions, chives are carefree and easy to grow, both indoors and out.

Mint

Yum, mint! Peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, orange mint, apple mint….the list goes on and on. I LOOOOOOVE mint! And it’s so versatile. It can be used in teas, mixed drinks (mojitos anyone?), salads and desserts.

Here’s a wonderful collection of mint recipes for your enjoyment. Mint brownies are one of my personal favorites, and I did manage to find this mint brownie recipe using fresh mint. I haven’t tried it (yet!), but I will!

Peppermint has a much stronger flavor than spearmint, so you may want to adjust your recipes accordingly.

chocolate mint herb plant
Chocolate mint is a delicious addition to any mint collection

Mint can be started from seed, although it also roots readily from cuttings. You can even grow mint in water if you want to.

I had the chocolate mint in the pic above growing in another plant I brought in for the winter, so I just pulled it out of the pot and placed it in a glass of water until it developed nice roots, then planted it. It’s doing beautifully, as you can see.

As with the other herbs, a west or south-facing window is ideal, as long as it doesn’t get too cold at night. Ideal daytime temps should be around 65-70F, with nighttime temps from 55-60F.

Unlike the other herbs on this list, mints like to stay moist, so don’t let the soil dry out too much between waterings.

They also like humidity, so place your mint plant on a pebble-filled tray to which you add some water. Just don’t let the bottom of the pot sit in the water, as mints don’t like wet feet (I mean, who does, really?)

If you decide to place your mint outside for the summer, I would HIGHLY recommend that you keep it in a pot. Placed in a garden, mint will grow, well, like a weed, and it is perennial in many areas of the US.

In fact, I had mint in a pot in my veggie garden 2 years ago and it grew so large that it hung down from the pot, and the stems rooted in the ground! Yup, this stuff GROWS!!! Trust me, keep it in a pot, you’ll thank me later.

Oregano

One of my favorite herbs. Who doesn’t love oregano? Well, there’s probably someone, somewhere, but I bet you’d have to look pretty hard. Here are a few recipes to get you started, but I use oregano in so many things. I make my own spaghetti sauce from garden tomatoes and in goes tons of oregano (and garlic, but that’s another post!)

If you’d like a few super simple, easy recipes to keep you out of the kitchen and in the garden, you can check out this post.

Ok, so how to grow oregano. It’s actually a member of the mint family, so it needs pretty much the same growing conditions. Give it moderate to strong light, again, a south-facing window is ideal. Six to eight hours of natural light or 14 hours under grow lights works.

Just like mint, 65-70F during the day and 55-60F at night will make it happy. The Greek variety is easiest to grow, but really, oregano is not hard. And as a bonus, it benefits from frequent “haircuts”, so you’ll always have some to use in your recipes.

Parsley

You can grow either the flat-leafed or curly-leafed (or is that leaved? Eh, whatever!) variety indoors, it’s really personal preference. And recipes? Yup, here they are.

Many people, though, just eat parsley fresh from the plant (Like my mom. My plants always look a little sick because she steals from them every time she walks by! Oh well, that’s why I grow them). Fresh parsley has many health benefits. If you’re interested, you can find out more about that here.

You should always grow parsley from seed as it has a long taproot and doesn’t take well to transplanting. I have transplanted from nursery pots, so it can be done, but you need to be careful not to damage the root. For the same reason, parsley benefits from growing in a deeper pot than the other herbs.

parsley
Parsley is another herb that’s delicious and super-easy to grow

When you’re ready to start your parsley seeds, it’s best to soak them for several hours first to soften the seed coat. This will improve germination rates. Parsley seeds are naturally slow to germinate, so don’t give up too soon if you’re not seeing any activity from your seeds. Just keep them warm and the soil damp and you’ll be rewarded.

Once you’ve got baby parsley plants, as with the other herbs, parsley likes a south-facing window and 6-8 hours of light a day.

Parsley does benefit from extra humidity, so as with oregano, placing it on a water-filled tray with the pot elevated on pebbles, and occasionally misting your plant will keep it happy and healthy.

Rosemary

Ahhhh, rosemary! I have to admit I like the smell and look of it better than the taste, but if you’re NOT like me, here are some recipes for you to enjoy. When selecting rosemary to grow as a houseplant, select an upright variety like Tuscan Blue or Blue Spire. They will stay more compact than others.

rosemary plant

Rosemary really likes it hot and sunny, at least in the summer. What this means is that if you’re bringing your plant in from your garden, you’ll want to gradually acclimate it to the weaker light it will be receiving in your house.

Just reverse the process you would follow in the spring to acclimate your indoors plant to the outdoors. Move your rosemary gradually to shadier and shadier spots over the course of several weeks and it should do well once it’s brought into the house.

This herb will do fine with cooler temperatures in the winter, with anything from 40 to 65F working for it. It does still need a lot of light though, 6-8 hours in a sunny window or 14 hours under a grow light.

Rosemary is a plant that you particularly want to take care not to overwater. It prefers to get most of its moisture from the air, not its roots, and overwatering can be very detrimental.

Situating your pot of rosemary on a pebble-filled tray, as with your oregano and parsley, is helpful. Misting the foliage 1-2 times per week is also recommended.

Powdery mildew can be a concern with rosemary, so good air circulation around your plant is essential.

Thyme

Last but not least, we come to thyme. I love growing different varieties of thyme in my garden. They are so attractive and the bees just love the little flowers. I’ve never personally grown thyme in my house, but it can be done. Oh, and before I forget, here are some recipes for you.

Thyme is best propagated from cuttings or grown from dividing an existing plant. As always, a warm, sunny window with 6-8 hours of sunlight a day is best, and thyme must stay above 60F in the house to stay happy.

Be sure your pot of thyme has good drainage, and water when the top of the soil feels dry, but don’t wait so long that the plant wilts. It will appreciate being outside during the summer as well.

Thyme is prone to whiteflies and mealybugs, so keeping a supply of neem oil on hand just in case isn’t a bad idea.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my rundown on the 8 best herbs to grow in your house this winter and that you’ll give some fo the recipes a try as well. If you found this post helpful, please do me a favor and share it to social media or pin one of my pics to Pinterest.

Posts Related to Indoor Herb Growing

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basil leaves
rosemary in a pot

Growing Herbs Indoors for a Year-Round Harvest

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6 comments

Linda Carlson 03/25/2019 - 2:34 pm

Nice article.. great information

Reply
Dawn 03/25/2019 - 4:24 pm

Thanks! Glad you liked it.

Reply
Nikki L Gwin 02/14/2019 - 4:01 pm

I really want to have a bay tree. I’ve tried a couple of times, but they didn’t make it. Probably was neglect that did them in… I do love my herb bed and enjoy making it pretty. I grow all the usuals, but I really want to grow the more unique ones such as Salad Burnet. If you really want to know my deep dark secret… I’d love to grow & sell rare herbs.
🙂 gwingal

Reply
Dawn 02/14/2019 - 4:11 pm

Ooooh, what a neat idea! You should do that! Just start small with one or two rare herbs until you find a nice selection that grow well in your climate. Betcha you could make some serious money selling the plants, or even packages of them for cooking and eating. I don’t think salad burnet is hard to grow, although I haven’t tried it yet. I’ve never tried bay because I don’t particularly like the flavor. But herbs really are fun, I have some baby cinnamon basil plants upstairs under my lights right now. The bees love them too, which is such a great bonus!

Reply
Heather 02/02/2019 - 1:37 am

Hi Dawn,
Very inspiring post for this time of year..I’m feeling wintery and grey, maybe a sweet indoor herb garden is what I need! I can grow chives and tarragon, which both winter over, occasionally mint will come back if the snow cover was deep enough, but that’s all.(Alaska) I’m a big fan of perennials! I love basil 🌿 but it just is too cold here even in summer to grow in the garden, so that is an indoor one for me. Love to see pictures of your garden!

Reply
Dawn 02/02/2019 - 11:21 am

And I complain about our winters! What hardiness zone are you in? I know Alaska covers a lot of them. Basil is so yummy-smelling, growing it indoors all year certainly isn’t a hardship! I have to admit I don’t really leave any of my herbs outside in the winter, I bring them all in, except for thyme because I have that all over the garden and it would be too hard to dig up. I can’t wait to be out in the garden again!

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