The 10 Best Herbs to Grow Indoors

Updated on August 22, 2019
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Paul has been passionate about growing and cooking his own food for many years. Born in the UK, he now lives in North Central Florida.

Basil, one of my favorite herbs to grow indoors.
Basil, one of my favorite herbs to grow indoors. | Source

I've been growing my own herbs for many years. It is fun to do, economically beneficial, and can provide a ready supply of herbs for much of the year, if not all year round.

In general terms, there are three ways to grow herbs.

  • From young plants that you buy at a garden center
  • From cuttings.
  • From seeds.

You need a reliable source of light, such as a sunny window, or a grow lamp. I personally strongly recommend putting the plants in separate pots, rather than growing them all together, as it's easier to cater for each herb's individual needs—things like soil and lighting preferences can vary considerably.

The 10 Best Herbs for Growing Indoors

Here, in no particular order, are my 10 suggestions.

  1. Basil
  2. Rosemary
  3. Thyme
  4. Oregano
  5. Chives
  6. Parsley
  7. Mint
  8. Cilantro
  9. Bay Laurel
  10. Chervil

I will discuss each of the chosen herbs in more detail below.

Basil
Basil | Source

1. Basil

Uses

Basil brings out the taste of tomatoes and is used extensively in Italian cookery. You can pinch a few leaves off the plant whenever you need them. Basil plants are fairly easy to grow in my experience, but tend to go straggly after a while (see below)

Grown From

You can buy young plants from garden centers, but generally I would recommend growing this herb from seeds. Another alternative is to grow basil from cuttings.

Light

These plants like lots of light and warmth, so I would recommend placing them in a southern or western facing window, or using a grow light. They don't like drafty places or cool air.

Soil

Basil likes rich soil.

Longevity

This herb has limited endurance. After a while, you will notice that the plant's stem goes woody and the plant becomes straggly. For best results, you are generally best starting a new batch each month from seeds.

Rosemary
Rosemary | Source

2. Rosemary

Uses

Rosemary is a very versatile herb with multiple uses. It works well with olive oil, and can enhance lamb, chicken, pork, or potato dishes. You can either mince up the leaves or use a sprig.

Grown From

This herb is easiest to grow from young plants.

Light

As long as the light is strong, rosemary will tolerate hot summers and appreciate cool winters. They like 6 to 8 hours of light per day. A south facing window is ideal

Soil

Most varieties of rosemary like well-drained, loamy, slightly acidic soil with a pH that is between 6.0 and 7.0. A good method for determining if the plant needs water is to dip your finger into the soil. If the top 1 to 2 inches of soil feels dry, it's time to water. Never let the pot sit in water.

Longevity

Rosemary plants can grow fairly large, but will last for a long time if looked after well.

Thyme
Thyme | Source

3. Thyme

Uses

Thyme is a versatile herb that's used a lot in Italian cookery. It is delicious in soups and stews, as well as with poultry, lamb, pork, and beef. It is also great when combined with other herbs, such as basil, rosemary, oregano, sage, and garlic.

Grown From

It's easiest to grow thyme from young plants bought at a garden center, but growing plants from seeds or cuttings works fine too.

Light

These plants like plenty of light. I have had most success growing thyme on an east facing windowsill. As far as temperature goes, thyme is hardy and can thrive at anything between 50˚F and 80˚F.

Soil

This herb needs a light, airy, fast-draining soil mix and should be watered when the soil surface is dry.

Longevity

Like with basil, thyme plants go woody after a while, so you will need to buy or grow new plants to replace the older ones.

Oregano
Oregano | Source

4. Oregano

Uses

Oregano is a member of the mint family and is widely used in Italian, Mexican, Central American and Middle Eastern cookery. It is also used by some cultures for medicinal purposes ranging from treating infections to repelling insects

Grown From

It's easiest to grow thyme from young plants bought at a garden center, but growing from seeds or cuttings works too.

Light

Oregano likes moderate to strong light. A southern facing window is ideal, or a grow lamp.

Soil

This plant requires excellent drainage. I would recommend a soil mix that is equal parts potting soil, sand, peat moss and perlite. Oregano should be watered only when the soil surface is dry.

Longevity

As with most herbs, you should keep this plant from flowering, as this will reduce the lifespan of the plant.

Chives
Chives | Source

5. Chives

Uses

Chives have a mild onion flavor and are great for salads and sandwiches, or used with eggs, potatoes, omelettes, and soups. Leaves can be clipped with scissors when this herb is needed, though at least 2 inches of growth should be left so that plants are able to resprout.

Grown From

This herb can be grown from seeds, but are generally easier to grow from young plants.

Light

Chives like bright light, requiring at least four to six hours of sunlight per day. A south facing window is best. Alternatively, grow lights will work too.

Soil

This plant requires rich, organic soil.

Longevity

There are two main varieties of chives, Common Chives (Allium Schoenoprasum) and Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum), both are perennials.

Parsley
Parsley | Source

6. Parsley

Uses

Parsley comes in curly and flat-leaf varieties—both are excellent for adding color and flavor to salads soups, and sauces. Its fresh taste is also popular in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Grown From

My advise would be to grow this herb from seeds. This plant doesn't transplant well due it having a long tap root.

Light

Parsley likes four to six hours of direct sunlight per day. I would recommend a south facing window for this herb. You should turn the pot every few days so that the plant doesn't lean.

Soil

I would advise good quality potting soil with some sand added to improve drainage.

Longevity

These plants are biennial which means that they live for two years. At the end of the second growing season, they flower and produce seeds.

Peppermint, one of the most common forms of mint.
Peppermint, one of the most common forms of mint. | Source

7. Mint

Uses

Mint comes in many flavorful varieties, including: peppermint, spearmint, orange, and chocolate. The leaves can be used in salads, desserts, tea, and cocktails. It's also an attractive and fragrant houseplant. .

Grown From

My advise would be to grow this herb from a young plant, there are many varieties, so you will need to pick your favorite or a selection. You can also grow mint from cuttings relatively easily.

Light

Mint likes full sunlight, but doesn't mind some shade. A windowsill that faces north can work well, as the mint receives morning sunshine along with afternoon shade.

Soil

The ideal soil for mint is moist, well-drained, and rich with organic matter.

Longevity

These plants are hardy perennials and aggressive growers.

Cilantro
Cilantro | Source

8. Cilantro

Uses

Cilantro is related to parsley, and used in Indian, Mexican, Latin American, Chinese, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean, and Thai cuisines. This herb can be a little more difficult to grow indoors than some of the others in my list, but it's worth the extra effort, in my opinion.

Grown From

Cilantro should be grown from seeds or starter plants.

Light

This herb needs direct sunlight for four to five hours per day.

Soil

A mixture of good quality potting soil plus sand to aid drainage is advised. Cilantro grown indoors also requires additional nutrition, as the root system range is limited and the plant is unable to access as much soil for nutrients as it would growing outside.

Longevity

It's fair to say that this herb grows less abundantly indoors than when grown outside. If you pay attention to light, soil, and watering, though, and don't harvest too aggressively, you will be rewarded with a ready supply of this herb all year round.

Bay leaves
Bay leaves | Source

9. Bay Laurel

Uses

The thick, flavorsome leaves of this plant make soups and stews delicious. It is often combined with other herbs such as thyme, sage, rosemary, and tarragon. You can pick off individual leaves as needed, or harvest a number of them and dry them for future use.

Grown From

The plants take a long time to germinate from seed and are difficult to propagate from cuttings. I would recommend growing them from young plants. .

Light

Bay laurel grows best in a bright east- or west-facing window. It likes bright sunshine, but also appreciates some shade.

Soil

This plant need soil that drains well, but are versatile when it comes to soil types. Ideal pH range is 6–7, but the plant can tolerate a range of 4.5 to 8.3.

Longevity

Bay laurel is essentially a slow growing tree. It needs to be pruned regularly, if grown inside, but will last a long time if cared for.

Chervil
Chervil | Source

10. Chervil

Uses

Chervil is one of the four herbs used to make the traditional fines herbes blend (the other three are parsley, chives, and tarragon), which is used extensively in French cooking. Chervil has a delicate and subtle taste and is sometimes known as gourmet’s parsley. It goes well with eggs, especially omelettes and scrambled eggs. It is also used in salads.

Grown From

I would recommend growing this herb from seeds. It is tap-rooted and does not transplant well.

Light

Chervil does not like hot summer heat and sun, preferring light shade and cool temperatures instead.

Soil

This herb likes to grow in rich, organic soil. Keep the soil moist but don't allow it to go soggy.

Longevity

This plant is a perennial.

The Worst Herbs for Growing Indoors

Some plants simply don't lend themselves to being grown indoors, I would not recommend the herbs listed below:

  • Dill: These plants grow too large for indoor suitability. If you want dill, you should consider growing it outside.
  • Chamomile: Getting this plant to flower is essential if you want to use it—this can be difficult to achieve indoors, especially if you are relying on natural light.
  • Fennel: This has similar issues to dill, it is too large for indoor growing.
  • Garlic: Growing garlic indoors is possible, but I wouldn't recommend it. It takes a long time and effort compared to most other herbs. You are better off growing it outside with the vegetables.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Paul Goodman

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