There are so many reasons to have an indoor herb garden. An indoor herb garden lets you have fresh, organic herbs whenever you want them.
Herbs add flavor, color, fragrance, and important nutrients to your food. And an indoor herb garden is an attractive, charming way to make a home look and smell more natural and inviting.
Many herbs are incredibly easy to grow indoors, and it’s a rewarding and money-saving activity. Here’s how to start an indoor herb garden.
Best Herbs to Grow Indoors
While you can grow nearly any herb indoors if you are dedicated enough, it’s a good idea to start your indoor herb garden with herbs that grow well together.
These herbs are a great choice for beginning an indoor herb garden because they are popular in foods and recipes, tolerate growing in indoor containers, and because they grow in very similar light and water conditions, so your garden can thrive right away. If you are looking to start an indoor herb garden, the easiest would be to buy an indoor herb kit.
Here are some of the best choices for herbs to grow indoors:
Basil is a staple in Mediterranean and Thai cuisine, and is best and most fragrant when used fresh rather than dried. It’s easy to cultivate indoors, tolerant of some neglect, and a staple of the herb garden.
Chervil is essential in French cuisine, and grows well indoors, where it can avoid predation from slugs, who are attracted to this plant. It’s a cool-season plant, and will enjoy being shaded by other plants in an indoor herb garden.
Chives are beautiful and incredibly easy to grow, providing a wonderful flavor to all kinds of dishes. They also freeze well, making them simple to use all year long.
Coriander is a delicate, tender green that is used in traditional recipes all over the world. If allowed to go to seed, the plant produces coriander seeds which are easily dried, ground, and used in a whole different way than the leaves and stems. In many Asian countries, coriander roots are also a valued ingredient.
Dill is an important part of many European culinary traditions, and both the fronds and seeds are popular flavoring ingredients. Dill needs full, warm sun to thrive, so may not be suitable for all indoor herb gardens.
Mint is a hardy little herb that grows best in containers indoors, to control its spreading tendency. It has a huge range of uses, from culinary to cosmetic, and grows quickly, producing a wonderful fresh scent.
Oregano is a favorite in Mediterranean cuisine, and grew popular in the US as the “pizza herb.” Mexican oregano is in a completely different plant family, with a different and stronger flavor, but also takes well to being grown indoors.
Parsley is one of the most common garnishes, but it’s also packed with nutrients and extremely good for you.
Rosemary can eventually turn into a large, woody shrub, but it is slow-growing and suitable for keeping in an indoor herb garden for a long time. Rosemary is a classic culinary herb with a wonderful fragrance and flavor.
Tarragon is essential in many classic French dishes, and is required for a proper Bearnaise sauce. Russian tarragon is a larger, tougher herb that is less flavorful than French tarragon, but is easier to grow and thrives on neglect.
Thyme is a close relative of oregano, and is used throughout Europe and the Middle East. Although the two herbs taste very different, they are easily grown together.
Starting an Indoor Herb Garden
All of the herbs above, with the exception of dill and chervil, need almost exactly the same environment in order to thrive.
- Bright sun, with at least 4-6 hours a day of direct sunlight. Dill needs a couple more hours of light, and chervil needs indirect light
- Moist, well-drained soil
In other words, if you can find a sunny south- or west-facing windowsill, and remember to water your plants once a week, you can probably successfully grow an indoor herb garden.
If you don’t have sufficient light indoors, these herbs will grow very well with the addition of a grow light. If you don’t want to invest in an expensive grow light, you can often affordably create your own with an under-cabinet light fixture, and a full-spectrum fluorescent light tube.
Herbs are hardy plants but will not grow well in insufficient light, so it’s worth spending some time to find the right spot or create a light solution.
Growing Indoor Herbs
Although all these herbs have similar environmental needs, they don’t all start the same. For example, mint doesn’t breed true from seed, and is better propagated by cuttings.
Tarragon seeds are sterile, and the plant is best propagated by dividing.
Basil can grow from seed or cutting. In other words, the best method depends on what kind of herb you are growing, but here are the general principles:
Growing herbs from cuttings is surprisingly simple, and is a good way to propagate a wide variety of herbs. If you have a friend with an herb garden, you may be able to start your own for free.
To grow herbs from cuttings, choose healthy plants that are in their growing cycle (spring or summer), and not yet flowering. Cut a healthy stem from an unbranched shoot that is about 6 inches long.
Remove side shoots and leaves from the bottom third of the stem, and place it in water. Keep the bottom couple of inches of stem submerged in water for a week or two, until healthy roots have developed.
The best herbs to grow from cuttings are:
Some herbs are best grown from seed, and can easily be germinated and moved to a larger pot when they are larger. To grow herbs from seed, prepare a tray or small pots with seed starting soil.
Place the pots in a warm room with ambient light, but away from direct sun, and cover them with plastic film to preserve moisture and humidity.
Plant 1-2 herb seeds per square inch of pot surface, and mist the soil regularly to keep it moist but not wet. Within 2-4 weeks, you will have little seedlings.
It’s best to keep the strongest half of the seedlings, and discard half of them that are smaller or weaker.
The best herbs to grow from seed are:
Parsley and cilantro are best grown from seed in large pots, because they do not react well to being transplanted.
Of course, the easiest way to start an indoor herb garden is simply to purchase healthy plants at the garden center, farmer’s market, or even at the grocery store.
Harvesting Indoor Herbs
Once your herbs are 4-6 inches tall, you can begin harvesting them. In fact, many herbs react well to periodic harvesting, which has the effect of pruning them and creating a more vigorous plant. In fact, if you aren’t harvesting, you should be pinching.
How to Pinch Indoor Herbs
Once a week, look over your herb plants and snip off the very tip of the growing stems. This encourages the lower leaves and stems to grow, and makes a thicker, more vigorous plants. For annuals like basil and cilantro, they will stop growing delicious leaves once they are allowed to flower, so frequent pinching keeps them growing for longer.
How to Harvest Indoor Herbs
It’s best to pinch and to harvest with clean, sharp scissors. Ideally, you would set aside a pair of scissors specifically for your herbs, so they don’t get other food or other contaminants on them.
You can harvest your indoor herbs whenever you like, by snipping a stem of rosemary to add to a stew, or clipping some leaves of basil to garnish a salad.
As a rule, don’t harvest more than about 1/3 of any given plant at once, so that it can recover and continue to grow.
And remember that herbs are more flavorful when they haven’t been over-watered, so that the essential oils and compounds in the leaves are more concentrated.
Herbs are incredible plants. They add flavor and nutrition to foods, produce lovely fragrance in the home or garden, and are excellent plants for pollinators and beneficial insects.
Growing your own herbs can also save you grocery money every week. Provided you have a sunny windowsill, you can start an indoor herb garden in just a few days, and be adding fresh herbs to your foods within a few weeks.
It’s great for you, your home, your budget, and the environment.