If you love cooking with herbs, it might be a great idea to plant your own, and the good news is that you don’t even need a garden or outdoor space to grow them. There are so many herbs, that thrive in containers and can survive in an indoor environment, making it a hobby anyone can take on.
The essential herbs that are easy to grow indoors include basil, mint, chives, parsley, cilantro, thyme, lemongrass, oregano, rosemary, and tarragon. These herbs are easy to grow, so it won’t take long before you can have them within arm’s reach when you’re cooking.
This article discusses why you should consider growing herbs at home. We also list out the 10 essential herbs that are easy to grow indoors, how you can use them, and how you can care for each of them.
Why Grow Herbs Indoors?
Growing an indoor herb garden is a practical solution for those who love to cook or experiment with herbs in the kitchen but do not have a garden or an outdoor space. Sure, there are always dried herbs sold in packets or bottles, but the fresh ones are still undoubtedly better tasting.
Just imagine living in a condominium or an apartment but still having pots of herbs by your window. You can just snip off some leaves or stems when preparing food or cooking something tasty.
Not only will your indoor herb garden be a convenient way to get herbs for recipes you want to try, but they will also add a touch of green to your living space. These herbs will also make good house plants. And the best thing about this is that many of the commonly used herbs are easy to grow.
Growing Herbs Indoors: The Essentials
For most herbs, the essential requirements for growing them indoors are a sunny spot, a well-draining potting medium, and an appropriately sized container.
You will need to give your herbs enough natural light, so it’s helpful to have space by a window. The ideal would be a south-facing window that is not blocked by shade and gets at least six hours of sunlight each day. Some herbs don’t require as much light, so a window that faces west or one that receives at least some hours of sunlight might work as well.
If you don’t have a bright and sunny windowsill or none of your windows get enough light, you can always get a grow light. A grow light mimics direct light from the sun and is an effective solution for this kind of problem.
When growing herbs indoors, you should learn how to look for signs when your herbs aren’t receiving enough sunlight. These signs include stems that grow abnormally long between sets of leaves, poor growth, leaves that are unusually small, and pale leaves and stems.
You will also need a well-draining soil or potting mix. You can use a ready-to-go commercial potting soil, or you can make your own. A homemade potting mix is a combination of vermiculite, peat moss, and organic matter. The potting medium will have to be pre-moistened before planting the seeds. It should be moist enough so you could form it into a ball without any water dripping. If you can’t form a ball, that means the soil is still too dry or too soggy.
Herbs also prefer pots that are neither too small nor too large and with adequate drainage holes. You may also consider pots or containers that are not too heavy, as you will be moving them around quite a lot, especially if you have a lot of herbs and would need to rotate them.
Pots six inches (15 cms) deep are great for small and shallow-rooted herbs such as thyme and chives. Those eight to 10 inches (20 to 25 cms) deep are great for almost all herbs. This size might limit the herb’s size but it will be enough for it to grow to its full potential. You can also use 12- to 18-inch (30- to 46-cm) pots if you want to plant multiple herbs in one container.
We’ll now go through the 10 essential herbs you should consider adding to your kitchen garden, and steps on how to grow them.
Chives are a pretty popular culinary herb, and one of the easiest to grow. Chives are versatile, low-maintenance, and high-yield herbs. They are also perennials, and they don’t die in the fall and winter; they just grow back in the spring.
Common chives consist of slender bulbs that grow in clumps and produce thin and tubular leaves. These leaves are blue-green and can reach 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 cms) tall. Depending on the variety, they will produce edible white, purple, red, or pink flowers. They should not be confused with another species of chives called the garlic chives, which look the same but have a flatter, greener, and taller leaves and have a mild garlic flavor.
These chives are characterized by a light onion smell and taste. You can cut their hollow leaves and add them to flavor your soups, omelets, salads, baked potatoes, and other dishes. Although chives are used a lot in French cuisine, they are versatile flavor-wise and can work with any recipe and any cuisine.
How to Plant Chives Indoors
To grow chives at home, follow the steps below.
- Start by preparing a small container or clay pot, preferably six inches (15 cms) deep.
- Fill it with well-draining soil or a potting medium. Your soil needs to be sufficiently moist before planting your seeds.
- Sow your chive seeds over your pre-moistened soil, press them lightly and cover them with a thin layer of the soil. The seeds should preferably be a quarter of an inch (0.64 cms) deep.
- Place your pot of chive seeds in a well-lit area.
- Keep the soil moist by spraying or misting it with water regularly and by feeding it with weak compost tea or diluted plant food solution until the seeds germinate. Germination usually takes place within a couple of weeks.
- Wait for the sprouts to grow about an inch (2.5 cms) tall and remove or transfer sprouts that are too close together. The sprouts should be around three inches or so apart. Thinning them out ensures that each plant has ample room to grow and thrive.
Caring for Your Indoor Chive Plants
Chives like their soil moist, but they can also tolerate dryness every now and then, so you should plan to water your plant once the topmost layer of soil is dry. These herbs also love the company of other pots and plants as this provides good humidity. You can also promote humidity by setting the pot on a tray with pebbles and water or by regularly misting the plant.
Rotate your plant every three or so days so it doesn’t bend towards the sunlight.
Mint is yet another well-loved herb. This perennial has fragrant, toothed leaves that possess a fruity and aromatic flavor. There are many mint varieties, and all of them are fragrant and have square stems. Mints can be vigorous and invasive, so you need to be careful when you plant them directly on the ground.
Mint sprigs can be used to make teas, flavor your mojito, give your dishes a fresh and minty flavor, or even just as a garnish. You can use it outside of your kitchen, too. Since it has an invigorating and energy-boosting scent, mint can be used in your foot soak, your bath, or as an addition to a homemade air freshener.
How to Plant Mint Indoors
The best method of propagating mint is through stem cuttings. You can take six-inch-long (15-cm-long) cuttings from stems with roots and place them into the soil. You can also cut five to six inches (13 to 15 cms) off the top of an established plant, remove the bottom leaves from your cuttings, and place them in a glass jar or bottle filled with water. They will grow roots in no time.
Make sure to place your cuttings on a sunny windowsill.
Choosing to grow your mint plants in water is great, as it requires less fuss with worrying about soil and fertilizer. However, mint plants don’t live long when using this method, so you’ll only be able to use them for a short period of time before they start to yellow and stop growing.
Caring for Your Mint Indoors
Mint plants love moisture, so keep the soil moist yet not too wet. Water it once the topmost portion of the soil is dry when you touch it. Mint plants also love humidity, so mist your plant regularly or set the pot on top of a tray with water and pebbles. Rotate the pot every few days as they tend to reach or bend towards the light.
You won’t need to fertilize your mint. However, you can give it an additional boost by feeding it with half a strength of fish emulsion or of a water-soluble all-purpose fertilizer. Remember that over-fertilizing your plant could negatively affect its flavor, so don’t go too crazy here.
Parsley is a biennial herb, and it belongs to the same family as dill. It has bright green leaves that are feather-like in shape. It has a sweet and robust taste, and it is used to add flavor to sauces, soups, salads, and many dishes, as well as a garnish. What’s more, parsley is rich in iron and vitamins A and C.
There are two main varieties of parsley:
- Flat-leaf: The flat-leaf varieties are used in cooking since they are easier to work with and have better taste. These are favored in Italian cuisine.
- Curly-leaf: The curly-leaf types have a lacy and frilly form and are used as a fancy garnish. Depending on their variety, these plants can grow one or two feet tall.
How to Plant Parsley Indoors
It is best to grow parsley from seeds that are planted directly in the pot because these plants have long taproots and therefore do not respond well to transplanting.
Sow parsley seeds one to two inches apart and a quarter inch deep into a well-draining potting medium. Place the pot of seeds in a brightly lit area, ideally by a south-facing window.
While waiting for the seeds to germinate, keep the soil moist by watering the soil regularly. You can expect sprouts to appear within three weeks. If you have too many sprouts, it is best to thin them out by gently pinching or clipping out excess sprouts to leave ample room for the remaining seedlings to grow.
Caring for Your Parsley Plants Indoors
Caring for your parsley plant is easy. The main thing you need to ensure is that the potting mix is slightly moist without letting the roots sit in water. You may need to mist it from time to time for some additional humidity. Your parsley plant will need lots of sunlight, too. You can also feed your parsley with half-strength liquid fertilizer or fish emulsion every couple of weeks.
Basil is a fragrant herb that loves warm weather. It is the herb most commonly associated with pesto and Thai curry but can be used in other recipes too. There are different types of basil, and they have different flavor profiles. These include sweet basil, which possesses a sweet taste; Thai basil, which has a licorice flavor; lemon basil, which has a lemon flavor; and there’s purple basil, which is less sweet compared to the common basil (Genovese basil).
Basil plants tend to grow to about 12 inches (30 cms) tall. There are also varieties that can grow 16 to 24 inches (41 to 61 cms) in height.
How to Plant Basil Indoors
Below are the steps you can follow if you want to plant basil indoors.
- Sprinkle the seeds in to a pot with a slightly moist medium.
- Cover the basil seeds with a fine layer of soil and gently tap it with your fingers to firm the soil. The seeds should be about 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cms) apart and a quarter of an inch deep.
- Gently water or use a sprayer and place your pot in a bright area, preferably one with southern exposure.
- Keep the soil moist while you wait for germination to occur. Most varieties of basil germinate in five days at 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27degreesCelsius). The lower the temperature, the more time the basil seeds will take to germinate.
Caring for Your Basil Plants Indoors
Basil is a sun loving plant, so make sure to give it at least four hours of exposure to full sun. And while it loves the sun, it also loves moisture, so keep the plant moist by misting it regularly. You can also use a diluted liquid fertilizer weekly during its growth period.
Once the plant is established, you can start cutting off its leaves and using them in the kitchen. Basil, after all, responds well to pruning. You can expect the plant to form flower buds around 75 days after you planted it. You may want to snip off these buds to prolong the vegetative phase of your plant. That’s because the taste of the basil leaves will become stronger and more bitter as it flowers.
Cilantro or Coriander
Cilantro is an aromatic herb that grows fast and grows best in cooler weather, like spring and fall. It is also an annual plant, lasting only through spring until the weather gets warm and hot again. Cilantro is also known as Coriander in different parts of the world. You can use cilantro leaves as an herb when cooking or as a garnish. You can also use the seeds, which are typically ground and used as a spice.
How to Plant Cilantro Indoors
Cilantro is best planted as seeds, ideally in the spring. Here is a short guide on how to plant cilantro at home:
- Sow the seeds one to two inches apart in a pot of light, well-draining potting mix.
- Keep the seeds moist by watering them regularly while you wait for them to germinate.
- Regularly water your cilantro seedlings throughout the growing season, too. They prefer having about an inch of water every week.
- Thin the seedlings out and leave them six inches apart to give them ample room to develop healthy leaves.
Caring for Cilantro Indoors
When your cilantro is already established, you won’t need to water it as much. Just keep the soil moist without overwatering it. Water only when the topmost layer of the soil is dry to the touch. And remember that more important than frequent watering is thorough watering.
You can also fertilize cilantro plants a couple of times during the growing season. Use liquid fish emulsion, weak nitrogen or a 20-20-20 fertilizer.
Thyme is a low-growing and hardy herb characterized by a pleasant clover flavor and a pungent scent. This perennial has many different varieties, including culinary ones called fresh and English thyme. You can use their small fragrant leaves to give your grilled meats, soups, and vegetable dishes a savory note.
These plants can grow up to six to 12 inches (15 to 30 cms) tall.
How to Plant Thyme Indoors
Thyme doesn’t grow easily from seeds because germination takes place slowly and unevenly. So, if you’re thinking of growing a thyme plant at home, it is more practical to get a seedling or plant from a nursery or garden center, or to ask for some stem cuttings from a friend.
Plant the cuttings or the young plants in pots with well-draining soil. Do not touch the cuttings until they are well-rooted.
Caring for Your Thyme Plants Indoors
Thyme is a drought-friendly herb, so it does not require too much watering. In fact, it doesn’t tolerate overly wet root conditions, so allow the soil to dry out in between waterings. Place your pot in a window with southern or western exposure.
Fertilize your thyme using liquid seaweed or a weak solution of fish emulsion. Dilute the amount by half every couple of weeks.
Lemongrass is an essential herb in East and Southeast Asian cuisine, especially Thai and Vietnamese dishes. It smells and tastes good, and it is effortless to grow. The herb has a citrusy scent and is used to add a mild lemon flavor to your food. The leaves can also be brewed and made into tea. Some even extract its oil and use it as a mosquito repellent.
How to Plant Lemongrass Indoors
Lemongrass can be quickly grown from stalks. You can buy them from Asian stores or supermarkets. When selecting the stalks, try and pick ones with their bulbs still intact and with the greenest stalks.
To plant lemongrass at home:
- Prepare a glass container and fill three-quarters of it with water.
- Peel off dead materials from the store-bough lemongrass stalk and leave only the healthy leaves.
- Place the lemongrass stalks, bulb down, in the container and place it by a window that receives direct sunlight for six hours at the very least.
- Check the water levels frequently and make sure it never dries out. You would also need to change the water often to ensure that it is clean.
Roots will eventually start sprouting, and you can transplant your lemongrass in a pot with well-draining soil once the roots are long enough. Cut off the top of the stalk so that it can stand sturdy. Place the newly potted lemongrass in the same sunny spot.
Caring for Your Lemongrass Plant Indoors
Keep your pot of lemongrass in full sun, water it thoroughly, and feed regularly with organic fertilizer
Trim or harvest some lemongrass leaves frequently to ensure the plant’s healthy growth. You can cut leaves off up to the soil surface and use them for your cooking.
You can transplant your lemongrass into a bigger pot once it gets too big for its current container.
Oregano is a sun-loving perennial herb with a pungent smell, and its zesty and robust taste is reminiscent of thyme. The leaves are commonly used to enhance flavors, especially in Italian dishes. You can also make oregano tea, a herbal remedy that can help settle an upset stomach or relax nerves.
Oregano plants can grow as tall as eight to 31.5 inches (20 to 80 cms) high, and their leaves can grow as big as 0.38 to two inches (one to four centimeters) long.
How to Plant Oregano Indoors
You can grow oregano from seeds or propagate them from leaf cuttings.
Plant the seeds deep enough in well-draining soil, place them in a sunny area, and wait for them to germinate. If you have a wide seedling container, make sure to plant your seeds several inches apart to make ample room for the plants to grow and develop leaves. If you are using cuttings, plant the cuttings and wait for them to root and form new sprouts.
Caring for Your Oregano Plant Indoors
When your oregano plants have grown about four inches (10 cms) tall, trim the leaves lightly as this will encourage them to get bushier and denser. Trim your oregano plant’s leaves regularly and allow your plant to branch out even more.
The plant also does not need as much watering as other herbs. Instead, let the soil dry out a little in between waterings. Or you can water it when the topmost portion of the soil feels dry to the touch.
You can fertilize your oregano using diluted water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks.
Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen shrub that is notable for its sweet, resinous taste. Its tiny but long, almost needle-like leaves are used to add flavor to poultry, stews, lamb dishes, and soups. The plant can grow up to a few feet tall, depending on environmental conditions. In fact, the plant can grow so vigorously that it can become quite challenging to manage.
Rosemary is a robust plant, so once you have it growing, it can last a lifetime!
How to Plant Rosemary Indoors
You can grow rosemary from seeds, but its germination rates are relatively low, and its seedlings also grow very slowly. So, if you’re a little bit short on patience, you may want to try a faster propagation method using cuttings or buying a rosemary plant from your garden center.
If you want to grow from seeds, sow them in well-draining soil and make sure they are sufficiently spaced. Germination takes two to three weeks.
If you want to use cuttings, make sure to take them from the healthiest looking and youngest branch. Cut stems several inches long and remove the leaves at the bottom part of the stem using pruners. Dip the bottom in rooting hormone and place the cuttings in a jar of water under bright light. Just make sure the part submerged in water is the one where leaves have been removed.
Refresh the water frequently. Plant the cuttings in well-draining soil once its roots have grown.
Caring for Your Rosemary Plants Indoors
Place your plant somewhere that gets plenty of sun, preferably by a south-facing window. You should water the pot only when the topmost part of the soil feels dry to the touch. In other words, don’t let the soil dry out completely. This plant also prefers less humidity and make sure to prune your plant regularly to keep it from going lanky.
Tarragon is a half-hardy herb with long, pointy leaves that are light green in color. They produce tiny yellowish white or greenish flowers. This perennial comes in two different varieties: French and Russian tarragon. French tarragon is used mostly for cooking, while the coarse-textured Russian tarragon, which is less flavorful yet has a bitter aftertaste, is less preferred as a culinary herb.
Tarragon has a faint licorice-like taste and light anise flavor. It gives your cooking a refreshing kick without being overpowering and is excellent with seafood, poultry, and meats. Tarragon leaves also add a unique taste to your sauces, marinades, and dressings.
Tarragon plants can grow up to three feet (91 cms) tall.
How to Plant Tarragon Indoors
French tarragon cannot be grown from seeds because they produce flowers that are sterile, so you will have to buy a French tarragon plant from a garden center or ask a friend with an established plant to separate one for you. Transplant your tarragon in a deep pot with well-draining soil. Wait for your transplant to get established in its new pot and to grow new stems.
New plants will also grow from root or stem cuttings.
Caring for Your Indoor Tarragon Plant
Place your tarragon in a well-lit spot that gets a minimum of six hours of sunlight. Make sure to water your tarragon thoroughly but keep it on the dry side or let it dry out between waterings. You can also provide humidity by misting the plant every two days or so. Fertilize it every two weeks with a dilution of fish emulsion.
Prune your tarragon regularly, as it helps prevent it from flowering and keeps the plant at a manageable height. You can also keep your plant healthy by separating it out into different pots every three to four years.
Herbs are generally easy to grow indoors and can be an economic solution if you use them frequently while cooking. It’s always a great idea to have your plants by a sunny window inside your house so you can conveniently harvest them when you are cooking. If you have many different herbs indoors, you can experiment with different flavors as much as you like. And nothing beats the taste of fresh ingredients!
Here are Some of my Favorite Gardening Products and Tools
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful for growing some new plants in your home or garden. Here are some products I like that I hope you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, and I am compensated for referring traffic. But in all honesty, these are the exact product that I use or recommend to everyone.
Soil: For high-quality soil, I really like Fox Farm Ocean Forest. I do all my growing in containers and this soil has worked great for me. I like how they use nutrient-rich contents like earthworm castings, bat guano, and composted crab and fish.
Fertilizer: Currently I am using a seaweed-based organic fertilizer call Neptunes Harvest. This is a great milder fertilizer option if you want to use something organic. If you want a more powerful fertilizer, I recommend Fox Farm Liquid Nutrient Trio, lots of people have had great growing success with this product.
Pruning Shears: Pruning shears are one of the most useful gardening tools to have because it’s important to prune your plants to keep them healthy. The pruning shears I recommend are the Gonicc 8’’ pruning shears. I like them because they are built sturdy and work both on bigger and smaller plants, so you don’t need to have multiple pruning shears.
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