Monday, February 28, 2011

How to Plant Herbs Indoors?

The grow-your-own movement is all well and good if you’ve got a great yard, but tons of people don’t have access to an outdoor space. So we spoke with gardening experts to figure out what it takes to grow herbs indoors.

Part I: How to grow herbs indoors?

Make sure you have a sunny windowsill or other place indoor where your herbs will survive. A south or southeast window would be perfect if it gets at least 5 hours of sun per day and is away from drafts.

Purchase some of your favorite small herb plants from your local nursery.

Get a container that is at least 6-12 inches deep. You can plant multiple herbs in a wide or long container or use at least a 6" pot for individual plants.

Use a soilless potting mix to avoid soil born diseases. Be sure the mix is light and will be well draining.

Put a 2-3 inch layer of potting mix into the bottom of your container.

Position your herb plants in the container.

Finish filling in with the potting mix, firming gently around the plants. Leave about an inch at the top of the container for watering.

Water sparingly. Herbs don't like to sit in wet soil.

Feed once a month with a fertilizer labeled for use on edibles.

Allow the plants some time to acclimate. Once you see new growth, you can start using your herbs.


1. Choose herbs that don't grow too wide or tall. Chives, basil, lavender, parsley, mint and thyme are good choices.

2. Fluorescent lights can be used if you don't have a sunny window. They will need to be placed close to the plants (18") and kept on for about 10 hours/day.

3. Snip and use your plants often to encourage them to grow full and bushy.

4. Never trim more than 1/3 of the plants foliage.

What You Need:

- Herb plants
- Pots or containers
- Soilless potting mix
- Fertilizer

Part II: What Kinds of Herbs that Suitable for Planting Indoors


Oregano is one of the most popular herbs for Italian cooking. It goes well in soups and pasta dishes. If you are buying oregano for cooking use, purchase Greek oregano rather than common oregano. The common type has attractive flowers but offers no real flavor. Oregano grows only 6 to 8 inches tall, making it ideal for indoor growing.

Bay Tree

A very slow grower. Be sure you pick up a Laurus nobilis, cautions Rose Marie Nichols McGee, coauthor of Bountiful Container and co-owner of Nichols Garden Nursery in Albany, Oregon; the Laurus nobilis is best for cooking with. Bay tree can become infested with scale if it gets too dry --- use dishwashing detergent to wash off the leaves, then rinse them thoroughly.


Basil leaves are a main ingredient in pesto sauce and are prized by gourmet cooks. Indoor herb gardeners can choose from many varieties to grow, such as lemon, anise or cinnamon flavored basil. Basil can be harvested as soon as the plants have a few sets of leaves on them, and harvesting the leaves actually encourages the plants to get bushier and sprout more leaves.


Doesn’t require as much light as some other herbs. The Grolau variety was bred for growing indoors.


Sage is a perennial that produces leaves that are tasty in omelets, sausage dishes and stuffing. The woody-stemmed plant can grow up to 2 feet tall. The gray-green leaves make an attractive contrast with brighter leaves of other herbs. Gardeners who want a smaller plant can grow the "Compacta" variety which only grows 10 inches tall.

Kaffir Lime Tree

Kaffir lime leaves are often used in Thai cooking. Be sure you give this plant special citrus food.


For foodie gardeners who are interested in creating their own herbal teas, mint is a worthwhile addition to the indoor garden. Mint is so easy to grow that many gardeners insist on only growing it in containers, as it has a habit of taking over an entire garden otherwise. Mint growers have a large variety from which to choose, such as peppermint, spearmint, apple mint and pineapple mint.


A good way to cheat, because it requires no soil; you can just use a stalk you get at the market. Make sure it has a good amount of stem and the bottom is intact; trim the top and put it in a container with a couple of inches of water. Connie Campbell, a New Hampshire–based master gardener, says, “It will send out roots and new sprouts and many, many new stalks from the bottom, and you can just cut those off and use them.”

Vietnamese Coriander

Almost identical in taste to cilantro, says Campbell, and “very, very reliable.”


Cilantro is the name for the stems and leaves of the coriander plant. It often bolts, meaning it starts growing flowers and seeds instead of leaves. Leslie Land, gardening columnist and blogger, sows coriander seeds in a shallow flat (a plastic tray), then eats them as sprouts, root and all. “Sow the coriander seeds quite thickly, like almost paving but not quite. Only let seedlings get about four to five inches tall, then pull them up, roots and all, and wash them.” To make this economical, she says, just pick up coriander seeds in bulk at a health food store.

However, growing anything isn’t easy (and yes, you may kill off a few plants before you get the hang of it); just start with the simple stuff. Even if you won’t be able to brag about your heirloom tomatoes, you can still feel the satisfaction of putting your own basil in a cocktail or stir-frying with some fresh lemongrass.

You can bring your herb garden indoors for the winter, by planting a windowsill garden. Many herb plants grow quite easily in containers and require only minimal care. You'll be snipping fresh herbs in your kitchen throughout the winter.

* Original post: The Garden of Eden for Gardeners

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