10 Herbs to Grow Indoors All Year

fresh herb plants in small terra cotta pots on sunny windowsill

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Being able to grow herbs indoors, as well as in the garden outdoors, is a huge plus for a number of reasons. In the northern United States, where growing herbs outdoors is largely out of the question for almost half of the year, it means you can still grow your own herbs (rather than having to pay money for them at the supermarket) all year long. Most herbs are aromatic, and having them indoors means being able to enjoy their fragrances whenever you want. And their presence indoors also means easier access when you wish to cook with them.

All of which begs the question, why don't more people grow herbs indoors? Many people refrain from the practice because they think that it is too difficult to grow herbs indoors. They may assume that grow lights are needed, for example. While it is true that most herbs are easier to grow outdoors than indoors, the main things you need for success in growing many herbs indoors are simply a sunny window, a pest-free plant (inspect seedlings carefully before buying), and a little knowledge about plant needs.

Here are 10 herbs you can grow indoors all year long.

Tip

A rule of thumb is that herbs native to a region warmer than yours (and many herbs do come from the Mediterranean) need a south-facing window in the winter, while herbs that like it a little cooler can survive in a west-facing window in winter. Some herbs aren't fussy at all; they can be placed in either type of window in winter. Even those that like south-facing windows in winter need to be moved to cooler spots in summer.

  • 01 of 10

    Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

    Basil growing in pot.

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    Whether it is to make pesto or a tomato-based sauce, many gardeners who love cooking Italian food find sweet basil a must to grow. As a bonus, this annual can have ornamental features, too. Some types sport a deep purple foliage color and/or leaves that are ruffly. As soon as your basil reaches 6 inches tall, start pinching it often to keep it from blooming and fulfilling its life mission.

    Grow basil in a large, deep pot. A large pot is especially important if you will be growing multiple basil plants in the pot: Basil is susceptible to fungal diseases, which can be controlled by providing good air circulation through sufficient spacing (12 inches). For the same reason, avoid overhead watering. A deep pot will allow you to strike the required balance between good drainage and moisture retention.

    • Mature height: 18-24 inches tall and wide
    • Sun exposure: south-facing window in winter
    • Soil needs: Basil needs good drainage, but not so sharp that water drains through immediately; it likes evenly moist soil. Use high-quality potting soil. Feed it with an all-purpose fertilizer.
  • 02 of 10

    Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

    Closeup of catnip plant.

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    When selecting plants to include in an herb garden in the home, do not forget the needs of the family cat. Catnip, a perennial which grows like a weed outdoors, is also easy to grow indoors (much easier than basil, for example).

    Once catnip puts on some height, pinch it early and often to prevent flowering, and give the pinchings to your grateful feline friend.

    • Mature height: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide
    • Sun exposure: west-facing or south-facing window in winter
    • Soil needs: good drainage; minimal fertilization needed; low to average water needs
  • 03 of 10

    Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

    Chive plants in bloom.

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    The chive plant, another easy-to-grow perennial, has a light onion flavor. Indeed, It is related to the common onion. Its grass-like leaves are popular in soups and salads. It also has one of the more attractive flowers among the culinary herbs.

    Chives will multiply over time. When your chives form a good-sized mass, consider dividing them. If you dig underneath them, you'll find bulblets and a dense mass of roots. You can easily break off a clump (consisting of three or four plants) and transplant it to another pot.

    • Mature height: 10 to 15 inches tall and wide
    • Sun exposure: can survive in a west-facing window in winter
    • Soil needs: good drainage; feed with an all-purpose fertilizer; average water needs
  • 04 of 10

    Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

    Lemon balm plants growing in windowbox.

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    Added to soups or salads, lemon balm gives them a citrusy flavor. Or use it in potpourri to scent your home naturally. Susceptible to fungal diseases, care for this perennial as you would for basil.

    • Mature height: 1 to 2 feet tall, 1 to 3 feet wide
    • Sun exposure: south-facing window in winter
    • Soil needs: good drainage; minimal fertilization needed; average water needs
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum)

    Oregano plants just starting to bloom.

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    A classic seasoning for Italian dishes, sandwiches, and pizza, this drought-resistant perennial is easy to grow indoors, but err on the side of giving it more, rather than less sunlight than you think it may need in winter.

    Not as fussy about humidity as rosemary, oregano can still profit from having a little extra humidity. An easy answer is to place its pot on a tray filled with moistened pebbles.

    • Mature height: 2 feet tall, 18 inches wide
    • Sun exposure: south-facing window in winter
    • Soil needs: good drainage; use an all-purpose fertilizer; low to average water needs
  • 06 of 10

    Parsley (Petroselinum crispum neopolitanum)

    High angle view of parsley growing in pot.

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    Parsley, a biennial, falls into two categories. The curly type, P. crispum, has more ornamental value. But the flat-leaf type, P. crispum neopolitanum, has more culinary value, lending a stronger flavor to your Italian dishes.

    • Mature height: 9 to 12 inches tall and wide
    • Sun exposure: can survive in a west-facing window in winter
    • Soil needs: Parsley needs good drainage, but not so sharp that water drains through immediately; it likes evenly moist soil. Use a high-quality potting soil. Minimal fertilization required.
  • 07 of 10

    Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)

    Rosemary growing in a pot.

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    This drought-tolerant perennial becomes relatively large and woody over time, so give it a big pot. Its harvested leaves are commonly used in dips and drinks.

    Like basil, rosemary is just a bit fussier to grow indoors than most of the other selections here. This is mainly because it likes high humidity, a condition that many Northern homes lack in winter. To address this challenge, build a tent around your rosemary to trap moisture.

    Simply install (at a height greater than that of the plant) stakes in the pot, and drape clear plastic over the stakes. Lift up the plastic to gain access when watering, then replace the plastic. As the water evaporates, the tent will trap it and increase humidity.

    • Mature height: 2 to 6 feet tall, 2 to 4 feet wide
    • Sun exposure: south-facing window in winter
    • Soil needs: sharp drainage; minimal need for fertilizer; low to average water needs
  • 08 of 10

    Sage (Salvia officinalis)

    Sage plant in pot.

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    Known for its use in poultry stuffing, in particular, this perennial is related to the Salvia flowers with which you are familiar from shopping at garden centers, such as Salvia sylvestris 'May Night.' There is also an ornamental sage (Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor') that sports three colors on its foliage. Sage has only moderate moisture needs, so be sure not to overwater it.

    • Mature height: 2 to 2.5 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
    • Sun exposure: south-facing window in winter
    • Soil needs: sharp drainage; minimal need to fertilize
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Spearmint (Mentha spicata)

    Spearmint plant foliage.

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    Herbs in the mint family are especially easy to grow, even indoors. Known for its use in flavoring drinks, teas, and jelly, this perennial likes its soil to be kept evenly moist.

    An extra benefit of growing this herb indoors, rather than outdoors in the garden, is that it is invasive. Being contained in a pot on your windowsill, it has nowhere to go.

    • Mature height: 18 to 36 inches tall, with a narrower spread
    • Sun exposure: west-facing window in winter
    • Soil needs: good drainage; minimal fertilization needed
  • 10 of 10

    Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

    Thyme plant growing in pot.

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    Thyme is great for flavoring a variety of types of meat. In addition to the kinds of thyme used mainly for culinary purposes, there are also versions of this perennial used in landscaping as a ground cover. Under the right conditions, red mother of thyme (Thymus serpyllum 'Coccineum'), so-named for its flower color, can be quite showy.

    Thyme is the opposite of rosemary in one respect: It likes low humidity. So save the windowsill in the kitchen (a room that tends to be more humid than most) for your rosemary and find a sunny windowsill in a drier room for your thyme. Thyme is drought-tolerant and can actually be harmed if it gets too much water.

    • Mature height: 6 to 12 inches tall and wide
    • Sun exposure: south-facing window in winter
    • Soil needs: sharp drainage; minimal fertilization needs

    Tip

    If you decide to try growing herbs indoors, know that it is best to plant them in separate pots, such that your basil, for example, can grow in its own area apart from your thyme; the latter wants a lot less moisture than the former. By growing them in separate pots, you can gear your care to the specific needs of each herb.

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