How to Grow Herbs Indoors

Place herbs near a sunny window.

This windowsill garden includes marjoram, rosemary, and lemon balm in individual pots. (image source: iStock.com/Carly Hennigan)

Many kitchen gardeners love the convenience of fresh herbs at home, and what could be more convenient that an indoor herb garden? Even if you live in an apartment or condo without any outdoor space, you can grow herbs indoors. The ideal setting for an indoor herb garden is the kitchen, where you can snip fresh herbs and use them in dishes without skipping a beat. If you don’t have a spot in your kitchen, though, you can still grow herbs in any sunny room. Here’s how.

Find the best spot for an indoor herb garden.

To grow well indoors, herbs need as much natural light as possible. Place them in a sunny spot near a window where they’ll get at least 4 hours of sun daily. Windows that face south or southwest are your best shot at sun, though east- or west-facing windows also will do. North-facing windows are not bright enough.

If you’re not sure whether a spot gets enough light, try this test. On a sunny to partly sunny day, turn off all lights and periodically check on the natural sunlight. How much sun does the spot get throughout the day?

Give indoor herbs good drainage.

The best way to ruin a tabletop or windowsill is to let a potted plant drain on it. Likewise, the best way to ruin most herbs is to let them sit in water so the roots will rot. Be sure to use a saucer, liner, or drain pan under the pot to catch water and protect your surface. A clay saucer lets moisture pass through, so opt for plastic, rubber, or metal instead.

Clay pots help with drainage, but they can dry out quickly. If you live in a dry climate or are growing herbs indoors during winter, when furnace heat causes homes to get especially dry, try a glazed or plastic container that won’t dry out as quickly as clay.

Use a premium potting mix for containers to pot your indoor herbs. And by all means, be sure your pots have drainage holes!

Indoor herbs are happy with typical indoor temperatures.

Many cooks grow herbs indoors during the winter when it’s too cold outside or too wet to dig in the dirt, but you can grow herbs inside any time of year.  Indoor herbs prefer the same temperatures that most people do—around 65 to 70 degrees F—so if you’re comfortable, they probably are. At night, temperatures near a window may drop to 55 or 60, but most herbs like that, too. Keep foliage from touching glass to protect from getting nipped by cold.

Basil is trickier. Many kitchen gardeners yearn for basil in their indoor garden. If you have plenty of sun and warmth indoors, basil should thrive, but don’t keep it on a cool windowsill. Basil leaves will droop and fade after a short time in cool air. It prefers indoor temperatures in the 70s day and night.

Remember that the air next to a window will be cooler in winter (or hotter in summer) than your average indoor temperature, so adjust your plants accordingly. Dry air, whether from air conditioning or heating, is hard on most herbs, so if you can give them a weekly shower in the sink, they will be happier.

Indoor herb plants will probably stretch and be spindlier than plants in the outdoors, but they will still give you plenty of fresh clippings. Fertilize with Bonnie Herb, Vegetable & Flower Plant Food about once a month if you are harvesting leaves regularly.

Try these culinary herbs in your indoor herb garden:

Chives
Lemon Balm
Marjoram
Mint (Chocolate Mint, Peppermint, Spearmint, or Sweet Mint)
Oregano (Greek Oregano, Italian Oregano, or Hot & Spicy Oregano)
Parsley (Flat Italian Parsley or Curled Parsley)
Rosemary
Sage
Thyme (German Thyme or Lemon Thyme)