Before we move one to our list of the best herbs to grow indoors, let’s consider a few important tips for indoor gardening, planting and potting your herbs and keeping them healthy and thriving in your home all year around.
The choice of herbs
If you like fresh herbs to spice up your meals you can have them on hand if you grow them yourself in the home. There is a no limitation on which herbs to grow apart from their natural suitability for indoor growth and the space you have available at home.
There are a few herbs, however, which simply don’t thrive indoor or are too large to be grown in an apartment or a house.
In addition, you need to make sure that you get the right varieties. There are imposters for tarragon, mint, and oregano that are worthless to grow. There are much more compact varieties suited for indoor container growing and these make far better choices than the standard varieties.
When buying herb seeds, we recommend that you go to a reputable herb specialist who can help you select the best varieties for your needs and growing area available at home.
The home gardening herb requirements
In order to successfully grow herbs indoors, you need a good choice of herbs, quality seeds, good soil, sufficient light, regular watering and adequate containers. Some enthusiasm and a bit of an adventurous spirit coupled with modest effort will certainly help as well.
The positioning of your herbs
The best position of your herb containers is near the window or on a window board if you have one. If not, you can DIY or buy an affordable shelf for that purpose. The main reason for this positioning is the natural light, of course.
If the area near your windows gets colder in the winter, you need to move the herbs a little further inside the room but still close enough to the source of natural sunlight.
Avoid placing your herbs close to the walls, in tightly packed areas, corners, and damp spots of your home. Also, make sure to provide some room and space so that the light breeze and fresh air can ruffle the surface parts of your herbs from all sides.
South-facing windows have the brightest light and will provide the most hours of sun during the short, cool winter days.
They are a great option for herbs that come from tropical and semi-tropical climates, such as rosemary, thyme, bay laurel, and oregano. East- and west-facing windows get bright sun for about six hours in the morning or afternoon, but east windows remain cooler. They are suitable for mint, parsley, chives, and chervil, which thrive with less intense light and prefer the cooler temperatures.
Apart from natural light, you can also use full-spectrum growlights are good for all herbs. You should position your herbs within a foot of the bulbs or follow the instructions which came with your lights.
You can start by having the lights on for 12 to 16 hours a day for bright-light plants and adjust the time if necessary.
Apart from a sunny window, which is obviously a well-lit spot, you can also keep your herb containers in a winter terrace or a room with roof windows. Choose a room with a temperature suitable for your herbs of choice and with good air flow.
Most spice plants work best with at least 5-6 hours of direct light and parsley will be satisfied with 4-5. Keep in mind that natural light is limited and less intense in winter.
Other factors to consider when choosing a location are trees that grow around windows that can obstruct the natural light. If your herbs look droopy, you may need to move them to a spot with more light or to add artificial lighting.
Selecting the right container
Almost any container that is at least 5 inches in diameter can be used for growing herbs as long as there are drainage holes. Choose the largest pot so that the herb’s roots have enough room to fully develop.
As for the material of the container, unglazed terra cotta is better than plastic because terra cotta allows moisture and air to pass through and plastic does not. The roots need air as they are living tissue and they need to respire in order to thrive and stay healthy.
How much watering is sufficient for herbs indoor?
In general, it is better to water more thoroughly and less often. A good principle to follow is to water until water comes out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the container.
If you have a balcony, you can get one of the best rain barrels that fit the space and harvest rainwater.
Whether plastic or terra cotta containers are used, you need to make sure that there are drainage holes at the bottom. These will allow excess water to drain out. If it takes more than a minute for the water to begin to drain out of the holes after a thorough watering, then you don’t have enough holes or the holes are too small for proper draining.
If the soil becomes "water-logged", the crevices around the roots become filled with water and the roots cannot breathe. If the drainage is poor, the roots will eventually turn mushy.
Your herbs need to be checked frequently but only watered if the soil feels dry to the touch. In the winter you may need to water your herbs only a week while in the summer that might be once a day. Simply use your finger and if the soil feels moist enough at about an inch below the surface, no watering is necessary.
Choosing the right soil
Although many people new to gardening think that if the soil in the garden is good enough to grow herbs or other plants, the same soil must be good enough for potted herbs kept indoors – this is wrong.
Firstly, consider the drainage: the good garden soil drains well enough in the garden, but in a container, the walls of the container will restrict the flow of water in the soil column.
Even in unglazed terra cotta containers, it is important to use a good potting soil mix that contains amendments such as perlite or vermiculite or even sharp builder’s sand to allow water to move freely.
A combo of organic potting mix made with compost, peat, and perlite is a good option, for instance.
The harvesting of indoor herbs – snip or pinching a few bits for a tasty meal
When you finally come to the point of harvesting, you need to adopt a selective pinching mode rather than herb hacking or your herbs will be gone before you know it. Bear in mind that a more ample harvest outdoor is not expected in indoor containers.
Best herbs to grow indoors – our choice and picks
Bear in mind that this is not a definite list of herbs suitable for indoor planting. This is our list while some other keen gardeners and gourmets may have a different list of picks.
We suggest that you read as many lists as you can and pick the herbs you like in your meals.
An essential herb for many cuisines around the world and a favorite pairing for tomatoes, Basil is easy to grow indoors. Not as easy as outdoors but it’s doable.
You can take a pinch off individual leaves and add to salads, sandwiches, and sauces that you like.
You can plant seeds or purchase small plants and pot them in rich, organic potting soil.
Basil thrives in heat and bright light, so give it a southern or western window or use a grow light. Avoid cool and drafty spots, especially in winter.
Basil is not a long-term houseplant. You can expect to keep and use it for several weeks until the stems start to grow woody. This is why you should plant a new batch of seeds every few weeks in order to provide a steady supply.
The thick, flavorful leaves of this Mediterranean shrub are the key ingredients for delicious soups and stews. You can pick individual leaves as needed or harvest a few leaves from larger plants and dry them for storage.
Make sure to remember that the oldest leaves have the strongest flavor. Bay laurel should be planted in fast-draining soil and placed in a bright east- or west-facing window.
Adequate air circulation will help prevent disease. Watch for shield-like scale insects on leaves and stems and keep neem oil on hand to control any outbreaks.
Chervil is one of the finest traditional French herbs with an anise-parsley flavor. It's an essential ingredient in Béarnaise sauce and goes well with fish, potatoes, steamed carrots and eggs.
You can snip fresh leaves for salads, steep in white wine vinegar for dressings. To retain their flavor, you should add them at the end of cooking.
Start growing Chervil seeds in moist potting soil in deep pots to give their tap roots room to grow. After sprouting, keep the plants cool (60 to 70 degrees F) and provide them with moderate sun. Replant Chervil every few weeks to keep plenty of fresh young leaves on hand.
Famous for its spiky leaves, this onion-flavored herb can be added for a mild kick to eggs, soups, and salads. It also makes pretty garnishes.
Use scissors to snip off individual leaves or give the whole plant a "crew cut" to keep floppy leaves tidy. You should leave at least 2" of growth so that plants can resprout.
Start with a purchased plant and pot it in rich, organic soil. Chives will grow best in bright light, such as a south-facing window.
There are dozens of flavorful varieties available so you can choose from peppermint, spearmint, chocolate, orange, apple, banana and more.
Simply snip leaves and sprigs for tea and mixed drinks, salads and desserts. Mint plants usually grow unruly and their trailing, fragrant stems make them attractive houseplants.
You need to keep the soil moist and give them moderately strong light. Most varieties of Mint are hardy temperature-tolerant.
This herb is a must for Italian, Mexican, Central American and Middle Eastern cuisines. A member of the mint family, oregano is harvested by stripping the leaves from snipped stems and adding them to tomato sauces, meat, casseroles, soups, and stews.
The dried leaves are more pungent than fresh. In general, you should grow oregano as you would other mints.
Water Oregano when the surface of the soil is dry, but don't let it dry out completely. Give it moderate to strong light.
Whether you go for a curly or a flat-leaf variety, you simply need to have Parsley in your kitchen garden. Parsley adds bright color and flavor to soups, salads and delicious fresh sauces.
It's essential in tabbouleh, and delicious in pesto, stuffing, chicken, fish and vegetable dishes. You should harvest individual leaves by pinching stems off near the base. Parsley needs to be grown in a deep pot with rich, organic potting soil and in strong light.
Rosemary, which is native to warmer climates, has needled leaves which are a must-add spice to chicken, pork, lamb, soups, and potatoes. It also makes tomato and cream sauces even more delicious.
Snip 1-4" sprigs and toss into soups, or strip the leaves and mince them. Rosemary tolerates hot, sunny, dry locations in the summer months, but prefers cooler temperatures (40 to 65 degrees F) in the winter, as long as the light is strong enough.
Thyme comes in many varieties and makes a key ingredient in nearly every cuisine in the world. Its tiny leaves and trailing stems give Thyme a natural houseplant appeal, as well.
Plant Thyme in a fast-draining soil mix and place it in a warm, sunny window. You do need to water Thyme when the surface of the soil is dry, but don't let it wilt.
Overall, herb hardening indoors will liven up your home and especially the kitchen. It will bring you a ton of joy as long as you have a little patience and put a minimal effort into turning your home into a beautifully scented oasis of herbs.