Growing Herbs Indoors

Growing herbs indoors is easy and convenient. All you need is a sunny window, well-drained potting mix, and somebody that likes to cook (and preferably knows how) who will snip away. If you aren’t a cook, you can still grow them for their aromatic purposes (rosemary, mint, marjoram) and their foliage (lavender, oregano anPlaced thyme). Here’s what you’ll need.

A Sunny Window

Herbs need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. We dream of our favorite herbs lining our kitchen windowsills, but if that window is facing north, look for a south facing or southwestern exposure for the best results. Some herbs (cilantro, lemon balm, mint, parsley, and tarragon) can tolerate less light so try your eastern or western exposed windows with those. If you’re unsure how much sun your window gets, spend a day with the lights off and keep track of the amount of natural sunlight shining through. Do an hourly check. Full spectrum grow lights will work, too. Place the herbs about a foot away from the bulbs and follow the instructions for the light.

If all windows were created equal, we’d all have this set-up for our herbs. Direct sun, charming and extra room. Since most of us don’t have this, try a window shelf for more space.

Excellent Drainage. Water & Small Pots

Herbs do not like wet feet, i.e. sitting in soggy soil. Use a potting mix, not potting soil in your containers. Potting mixes do not contain soil, but do contain organic ingredients necessary for growing plants in containers. Container grown plants need lofty, “soil-less” mixes to maintain good drainage, which allows for ample moisture, and air flow. Oxygen is essential to the roots of the plants and heavy soil mixes are too dense for containers, constricting air flow and oxygen. Soil is easily compacted in pots and should only be used for landscape purposes. Add it to raised beds, and filling in low spaces in lawns. Bottom line: Do not go into the back yard and dig up dirt for your pots. Do ask our staff for help in getting a professional potting mix.

Terra-cotta pots that wick away moisture are a favorite for herbs, but any pot will do. Get creative, but make sure there is a drainage hole in the bottom. Smaller pots are fine so long as they allow for root growth (depth) and bulk (width). Indoor herbs perform better with one herb per pot, making cultural care easier as each herb has specific needs.

When watering your herbs, water from the top down when the top soil feels dry to the touch (push your finger down into the soil to be sure). Do not let herbs sit in a saucer of water. If possible, take the pots to the kitchen sink and water until water is flowing out the bottom. Avoid getting the leaves wet. Allow them to drain overnight and then return using cork pads under the pots to ensure against water stains on windowsill or furniture.

Small clay pots are perfect for growing herbs indoors. Get ones that fit on your window sills or consider hanging pots to accommodate growing more herbs. Since herbs are consistently snipped for cooking purposes, smaller pots are fine.

Small clay pots are perfect for growing herbs indoors. Get ones that fit on your window sills or consider hanging pots to accommodate growing more herbs. Since herbs are consistently snipped for cooking purposes, smaller pots are fine.

Keep Those Thermostats Where They Are

Herbs are good at normal household temperatures—65 to 72 degrees. Don’t put them near heat or air conditioning vents and do keep some humidity flowing around them. (Kitchen sinks are perfect for adding humidity.) If they’re in windowsills expect nighttime temperatures to be cooler and notice which herbs don’t like that and place them a few feet away (basil). That said, most herbs don’t mind the day-to-night fluctuating temperatures.

Lightly Fertilize & Snip Away

The point of growing your own herbs is to use them. Snip regularly for culinary purposes and remove any leggy growth or blooms. Fertilize lightly (a diluted mix of liquid fertilizer is best) once a month. Herbs are drought-tolerant plants that don’t require much fertilizer but in containers nutrients are leached out with each watering so a small amount of fertilizer is good.

Written by Cinthia Milner, garden coach and blog writer.

B.B.Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and Tennessee.