Indoor Herbs 101 - Tips for a Successful Harvest

Posted by Amber Givens on

Gardeners who love to cook love the convenience of using fresh herbs at home ... nothing could be easier than clipping a sprig of fresh parsley as a garnish from your windowsill herb kit. Even if you live in an apartment without outdoor space, you can grow beautiful herbs indoors.

The best place to grow herbs is in your kitchen, but it's possible to grow them in any sunny room of your home. Here are some tips on how to grow herbs well indoors:

Choose the Right Spot for Light

Herbs need as much natural light as possible. Place your herb kit in a sunny spot near a window that gets at least four hours of sunshine daily. Windows in your home that face south are best, but you can usually provide enough light for those sun-loving plants in an east or west facing window as well. North facing windows will rarely provide enough light and your herbs will turn leggy as they strain for sunshine.  

One good way to determine if a window provides enough light is to turn out all the lights in your home and periodically check the amount of natural sunlight your chosen windowsill gets. If you get at least four hours of sunshine – your herbs should thrive!

Indoor Herbs Need Good Drainage

This herb kit uses layered rocks for improved drainage.

One of the biggest challenges with growing herbs indoors is providing appropriate drainage. Too much water can cause the roots of your herbs to rot. Make sure there is either a moisture liner inside your planter to hold extra water or a saucer or drain pan outside your planter. Internal trays are nice in that you can enjoy the beauty of your herb box without detracting with an ugly tray.

Dryden Trading Company makes a great wooden box with a hidden internal tray. It is important not to over-water herbs that have an internal tray since that tray can hold a limited amount of water. If you are concerned about watering your herbs too much, consider placing a thin layer of gravel down before adding potting soil to your planter. The extra water can pool around the gravel and the roots of the herbs are safely nestled in the soil above the gravel.

Indoor Herbs Grow Best with Moderate Temperatures

Many cooks reach for indoor herbs more often in the winter when outside plants are dormant. Indoor herbs prefer the same temperatures that people do – 65 to 70 degrees – so your plants will usually be comfortable if you are. Remember that temperatures closer to the window fluctuate more so when it is really cold out; make sure that the foliage doesn’t touch the glass.  

Basil is delicious in Italian recipes and is one herb that likes life a little warmer. Don’t let your herb kit with basil sit on a cool windowsill or the leaves will droop and fall.  Aim to keep your basil plants comfortable at 70 degrees or more.

Dry weather from heating and air conditioning units is tough on indoor herbs. Consider giving your indoor herbs a little shower with a spray mister once a week to keep them healthy and happy.

Don’t worry if your indoor herbs are a little stretched out or leggy compared to outdoor plants. They will still provide fresh and delicious clippings for your favorite kitchen creations.

Related: The 6 Herbs You Should Start Growing in Your Kitchen


About the Author

Amber Givens has loved and studied herbs for over 30 years, using these incredible plants to serve her family in the kitchen and the medicine cabinet. A mother of 4, Amber keeps a number of herb gardens around her property in the woods above Dryden, Wash., as well an assortment of farm animals and traditional gardens. She writes for the The Herbalist when she has a new herbal discovery to share.