Bring fresh flavor into your kitchen year-round. We have our six favorite versatile herbs that will survive and thrive no matter where you live, and we’ll share the best way to grow them indoors.
With an indoor herb garden, not only will you have fresh ingredients for your cooking year-round, these ingredients cost next to nothing and are attractive to display in the kitchen.
Where Do I Grow My Herbs?
When growing anything, most plants need an adequate amount of sunlight to grow properly.
Natural light: South-facing windows have the brightest light and receive more sun exposure during the short, cool winter days. The best plants to choose for these locations are plants that come from tropical and semi-tropical climates, such as rosemary, thyme, basil, bay laurel and oregano.
East and west-facing windows receive bright sun for only six hours in the morning or afternoon, the eastern windows being slightly cooler. Mint, parsley, chives and chervil are good choices for these windows because they thrive with less intense light and prefer the cooler temperatures.
Grow lights: Full-spectrum grow lights are ideal for all herbs. Place plants within a foot of the bulbs or follow the instructions provided with your lights. Start by having the lights on for 12 to 16 hours a day for bright-light plants, and adjust as necessary.
How to Care for Your Herbs
The key to watering herbs indoors is to allow the pots to dry out somewhat in between watering. Test the soil using your finger, and if the soil is dry about two inches below the top soil then it is time to water. The soil dries out on the top first, so don’t worry that it is too dry because there may still be moisture at the bottom of the pot. In order to encourage a strong root system, the goal is to make the roots to grow downwards as they search for water.
Make sure that you plant the herbs in well-drained soil. This is important to assure the plants won’t retain too much water. Make sure to place a small saucer, cake pan, or plate under your pot to catch any water that drains out.
Also, you’ll want to be sure to use a good quality potting soil. Herbs need vitamins, too. Giving them quality soil to grow in will provide vitamins and minerals that will boost their chances of surviving and thriving. Many herbs, especially those native to the Mediterranean climate, must have loose, fast-draining soil. In cooler winter temperatures, soggy soil can be fatal to these plants. Plant rosemary, thyme, oregano and bay laurel in a blend of equal parts of cactus mix and regular potting soil. Other herbs grow well in regular potting soil. Keep soil slightly moist, but not soggy, and fertilize once or twice a month with a liquid houseplant fertilizer.
Tips for Fresh Herbs
Place your herb containers near the sunniest window you can. Put the die-hard sun lovers in the center and others off to the sides. Of the five herbs we recommend for indoor culture, oregano requires the most light.
By planting herbs in separate pots, you can manage the water and sunlight for each.
Snip and use your plants often to encourage them to grow full and bushy. Once the plants are at least 6 inches tall, don’t be afraid to use your herbs. The more you snip, the bushier they’ll become.
Our Favorite Herbs
A critical herb in cuisines around the world and a favorite pairing for tomatoes, basil is easy to grow indoors. Pinch off individual leaves and add to salads, sandwiches and sauces. Make your own pesto. Plant seeds or purchase small plants and pot them in rich, organic potting soil. Basil loves heat and bright light, so give it a southern or western window or use a grow light. Avoid cool, drafty spots, especially in the winter. Basil is not a long-term houseplant. It can be kept and used for several weeks until the stems start to grow woody. To ensure a steady supply, plant a new batch of seeds every few weeks.
Mint has many wonderful uses, including tea and other dishes. If you love mint, you might want to grow it. With dozens of flavorful varieties available, you could devote an entire garden to mint. Choose from peppermint, spearmint, chocolate, orange, apple, banana and more. Snip leaves and sprigs for tea and mixed drinks, salads and desserts. Mint plants usually grow rambunctiously, and their trailing fragrant stems make them attractive houseplants. Keep the soil moist and give them moderate to strong light. Most are hardy perennials that can tolerate temperatures into the 30s.
I am a huge fan of oregano. I use it a lot when I cook. It tastes great in chicken stew. I love it in my spaghetti sauce. Plus, it is great for garnishing dishes as well. This would be handy to have growing indoors as well. A must for Italian, Mexican, Central American and Middle Eastern cuisines, oregano is member of the mint family. Strip the leaves from snipped stems and add to tomato sauces, meat, casseroles, soups and stews. Dried leaves are more pungent than fresh. Grow oregano as you would other mints. Water when the surface of the soil is dry, and don’t let it dry out completely. Give the plants moderate to strong light.
Dill is easy- it can be grown from a seed or bought pre-grown. This herb requires a lot of sunlight and moist soil at all times. Dill grows taller indoors than outdoors. Try dill with dishes like fish tacos or smoked salmon.
Consuming dill or dill oil is good for your bones and boosts the immune system. It can ease muscle cramps and soothe aches, while reducing inflammation. Dill inhibits fungal infection and can also calm hiccups.
Sage is a popular herb used in numerous dishes, and a small amount of this herb goes a long way. I love to use it when making homemade sausage, and I also love it when I’m cooking turkey, chicken or pork dishes. It has several medicinal uses that include oral hygiene, treating a sore throat, and pain and itching relief for bug bites.
Sage seeds germinate between seven and 21 days. Its preferred sandy soil means that sage grows best in its own container, and some pruning is necessary to prevent flowering.
On a cold, wintry day, the earthy fragrance from a few crushed rosemary leaves can transport you to warmer climes. The needled leaves are among the “must-adds” to chicken, pork, lamb, soups, potatoes and olive oil. It’s also delicious in tomato and cream sauces. Snip 1-4″ sprigs and toss into soups or strip the leaves and mince. 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.