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Guide to Indoor Herb Gardening

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Guide to Indoor Herb Gardening

If you love herbs and have been thinking about growing some indoors, here are some great tips and ideas to get you started! We like to preface every article that talks about growing any plant indoors with the following: No plant was created to grow inside, by definition, but some will take to it quite well provided you give them what they need to thrive. So, let’s talk about what that means.

Why should I grow herbs inside?

Because herbs are so easy to grow, you may wonder why you’d want to grow them inside. There are lots of reasons, including:

  • You have limited (or no) outside planting area
  • You’re an apartment dweller
  • You want more indoor plants
  • You’d like to have herbs closer for convenient use
  • You like to experiment and enjoy a challenge

And don’t fret over the word “challenge” — it doesn’t mean that we are being polite and indoor herbs are a nightmare that no sane person should grow. It simply means that growing herbs indoors is not a one-size-fits-all kind of endeavor and that you may need to fiddle around a bit to figure out the sweet spot.

Which herbs grow best indoors?

A majority of the most commonly grown herbs can be grown indoors — it’s really just a matter of giving each herb what it wants to thrive (see section below) and starting them from the right size. You may have to experiment a bit in your own environment, and some herbs may take too much effort, but most are doable if you have the passion for it!

 Rosemary
Thyme
Cilantro Lemon Balm
Marjoram Bay
Chives Basil
Parsley Oregano
Mint Sage

Herbs that are not recommended for indoors include very large herbs like dill and fennel, flowering herbs like chamomile and root herbs like garlic.

Cilantro and basil can be a challenge, but those challenges are not insurmountable. French tarragon and chives do also benefit from a cool period, so you may find those herbs less than ideal for indoors as well.

What do I need to know to grow herbs successfully inside my home?

  • Light: Most herbs need ample natural light in order to thrive, at least 6-8 hours. This means placing them by a sunny window and/or using full-spectrum growlights to supplement. Your south-facing windows will provide the most light for herbs like oregano, basil, rosemary, and thyme, but east- and west-facing windows may do well enough for parsley and chives. North-facing windows usually aren’t your best choice and will lead to disappointment.
  • Soil: Most herbs grow well in regular potting soil, but for those that need to dry out a bit in between watering (rosemary, oregano, thyme), try an equal blend of cactus mix and regular potting soil.
  • Water: Be careful to not overwater herbs. Make sure you have drainage holes in your containers, and never let the herbs sit in water collected in the dish or tray below. Aim to keep the soil slightly moist (akin to a wrung-out sponge) but never soggy. 
  • Fertilizer/food: Unless otherwise noted, you can fertilize once or twice a month with a liquid houseplant fertilizer.

Indoor Herb FAQs

Q: Can I dig up my outside herbs and plant them inside?

A:  Yes, within reason. Dig them up, cut them back, and replant them in a container that is large enough to house their roots. Plan to isolate them from other herbs or houseplants until you’re sure they’re not bringing in any unwanted houseguests in the form of pesky bugs.

Q: Do I have to start with young/small plants?

A: Perennial herbs like rosemary, thyme, and Greek oregano will do best if grown from transplants from the garden center. You can also take cuttings of herbs like basil and mint — start them in water and then transplant into soil. Herbs that can be started from seed include cilantro and parsley, and oregano can be started from seed as long as you’re willing give it a few months to reach harvest.

Q: What kind of bugs do I need to look out for?

A: If you are buying transplants, always inspect before you purchase and bring them home. Look for aphids and spider mites in particular. Aphids will leave sticky droppings on your herbs while spider mites create fine webs on the foliage.

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  • Jenny Peterson