Don't put away those gardening gloves yet! Growing herbs indoors is an incredible way to keep the gardening spirit alive during winter. It's also an excellent activity to get the kids involved with, plus you get pungent, flavor-packed herbs to add to your cooking. Starting an herb garden indoors isn't difficult at all. You just need to give the plants the proper placement and attention, and soon you'll be harvesting fresh mint, parsley, thyme, and oregano leaves.
The Easiest Herbs to Grow Indoors
One of the keys to success is picking the easiest herbs to grow. Some types are picky about their care and needs, but many are not. These are the herbs that best for the beginner indoor herb gardener.
- Parsley - Does well in full or partial sun. Germinates slowly, so be patient in the beginning.
- Chives - Prefers full sun, but is extremely adaptable. Keep soil moist.
- Oregano - Needs full sun. Drought-tolerant perennial; this plant can grow for 10+ years!
- Mint - Must have full sun. Keep the soil moist. Do not plant with other herbs since mint will invade and take over any space it is given.
- Catnip (a must if you have a cat!) - same as mint, above.
- Thyme - Doesn't start well from seed. Buy seedlings or take a cutting from a mature plant. Place in full sun. Drought-tolerant perennial.
- Rosemary - Needs lots of sun, at least 6-8 hours per day. Drought-tolerant perennial.
Six Keys to Successfully Growing Herbs Indoors
1. Location, location, location
Plants need sunlight, so the location must provide lots of light. Sunny windowsills are the best option. South-facing windows get the most sun and are the preferred option. Do not out the herb plants in north-facing windows; they won't get enough light there. Make sure wherever you place them, they will get at least six hours of sunlight per day. If there are no places with this much sun, you'll have to supplement with grow lights.
Pay attention to drafts, heaters, and vents. These will all affect the growth of your herbs. The ideal temperature for growing herbs indoors is between 60F-75F. Indoor temperatures fluctuate seasonally, so be aware of the changes and how they may affect your plants.
2. Potting Soil
Choose a good quality potting soil mix. Use one specifically for herbs, if possible. This is the foundation of the herb plant; if it is inferior, the plant growth will be too. Never use dirt from outside since that will transfer harmful microbes and organisms to your plants, plus it's too compacted for the roots to grow well.
All pots and containers must have drainage holes, or the water will sit stagnant at the bottom and rot the roots. Put a saucer underneath to protect your windowsill or table. Use 6" pots to grow individual herb plants or 10" containers for multiple plants. In dry environments, ceramic pots are the best option since they retain moisture better. In moist or humid environments, clay pots are the better choice since they drain better.
4. Air Flow
Don't crowd the herb plants; plants placed too close together will grow mold and fungi or pass diseases to each other. A great way to provide additional airflow is to place the containers on a tray filled with pebbles. Air is now able to circulate underneath the plants and reach the roots through the drainage holes.
Be consistent! There is no one perfect schedule for watering; each plant may have slightly different needs. The best way to determine if your herbs need watering is to stick your finger an inch into the soil. If the soil is dry, add water. If it is moist, leave it be. Pay attention and mark it on a calendar. After a while, you'll see pattern and can put them on a good schedule.
Only add water until you see it coming out of the drainage holes. Be careful not to overwater and never, ever leave water sitting in the saucer – it is the quickest way to root rot.
Simply put, don't forget about them! Set a reminder on your phone for watering, or mark it on a calendar. Most indoor plants die from neglect. And, when they're ready to harvest, use them! Herbs grow best when they are harvested, trimmed, and pinched back when they get top-heavy.
Don't let cold, winter weather prevent you from gardening! Indoor gardening is just as rewarding, especially with wonderfully fragrant herbs like mint and rosemary. An added bonus is they will fill your home with their rich, soothing scents, and are excellent added fresh to your favorite pasta dish or stir-fry.