If like us you enjoy eating fresh herbs all year round then being able to grow them indoors will really help beat the Winter weather! I also find that having a kitchen windowsill full of tasty and tempting herbs will help encourage me to get a bit more creative in my cooking! We have put together a list of the herbs we grow either in the kitchen or the conservatory.
When growing herbs indoors you have two main areas to focus on; watering and sunlight. It is important to have adequate drainage to prevent your herbs from sitting their roots in water. Generally only water once the top of the soil is dry. Many herbs will require a minimum of 6 hours Sunlight a day, therefore a sunlight may be needed.
Tips For How To Care For Herbs That Grow Indoors
- Grow a mixture of perennials and annual herbs. This will keep costs down over the years.
- Be sure to protect surfaces like your windowsill, use a drip tray under your pots
- Herb pots should all have drainage holes in them, some prettier ones don’t always have them, so make your own holes!
- Herbs may prefer to grow on a sunnier windowsill than your kitchen! So be prepared to have a living room/ bedroom taken over!
- Do you have a sunny porch or conservatory? Not all herbs you can grow indoors will stay small, so think ahead and plan for a rosemary shrub in your porch to brush past on your way indoors!
- Know which herbs are drought tolerant and do not drown them!
- Make sure to empty drip trays of water as you do not want your roots sitting in water
- Make sure to harvest regularly to keep the shrubs healthy and to encourage new growth.
- Don’t let lack of space put you off, you do not need a balcony or acres of land to grow your own herbs!
- Grow herbs you actually like to eat! This may sounds a simple one but we have put hours of effort into herbs that we have never cooked with before, only to be disappointed.
- Get the kids involved with every stage! From decorating pots to harvesting the herbs.
- Why not think about growing micro herbs? Just the same as you would do for micro greens, with all of those amazing health benefits!
Which Herbs To Grow Indoors
- Bay laurel can be a useful herb in meat dishes and tomato based sauces alike. Take a leaf or two at a time and remove from dishes before serving. It adds a sharp pungent flavour to dishes and a little goes a long way. You can buy an ornamental Bay double twisted stem tree and it will look lovely in your patio or conservatory. We have a pyramid bay tree which we keep compact by annually cutting back it’s root ball and repotting in the same size pot. Water once the top of the soil is dry and always to the base of the tree, not over the leaves. Feed regularly during the growing season. Bay is an evergreen perennial so harvesting leaves all year round is possible, although drying them for gifts is also possible.
- Basil has a taste like a peppery mint and can be refreshing in both savory dishes and cocktails. We think of basil as being quintessentially Italian, however it originated from India and is popular in many Thai dishes. The herb basil can be easily grown from seed or from supermarket bought plants that have been repotted or propagated from cuttings. Basil will need in excess of 6 hours sunlight a day and so can be trickier to keep growing all year round indoors. We get around that by using an LED growing light, fitted under a kitchen unit and allowing the most sunlight dependent of herbs to grow 365 days a year. Basil will benefit from regular pinching out of new leaves, creating more of a basil bush than the simple stems you can buy in stores. Water when the top of the soil becomes dry to the touch, make sure that the pot sits out of the water. Harvest the fresh leaves by pinching out just above a node, this will encourage new healthy growth and a bushier plant, even indoors.
- Coriander is not always the easiest herb to grow outside so having a temperature controlled environment indoors can be massively helpful. The taste of coriander is all down to aldehydes and how our genes allow us to register them. I have the soapy gene, I taste coriander and cannot understand why anyone would add it to a lovely curry dish. The rest of my family love it, so we grow plenty of it. If you are using pots on the windowsill make sure to label them up as someone like me would hate to get cilantro when she was expecting flat leaf parsley. Good drainage is key here as coriander has soft stems and will easily rot if left in cold wet soil. You can easily grow coriander from supermarket living plants as well as seeds. harvest by cutting the stems and leaving enough for a cut and come again herb. Coriander is the perfect indoors herb as it is so prone to damage by the evil slugs and snails.
- Parsley is a real star in our kitchen. It has a taste like a gentle bitter fresh taste so that it kind of awakens your taste buds, making everything else taste better! Perfect as a garnish or salad leaf. Parsley is a biennial and will grow back after you have cut it. Make sure to grow in an area with sunlight but not too much direct sunlight. Water when the top of the soil is dry and do not let it sit in it’s own water. Therefore having a drip tray is key, but empty it and do not think that the roots will absorb it back up. You can grow parsley from seed, or from division of younger plants. In fact parsley benefits from being transplanted. We grow parsley outside in summer months and indoors all year round. If you have a suitable windowsill then why not fill it with this nutrient rich herb?
- Mint can be varied in flavour, but the one we are looking at most closely today is your mentha mint. Those flavours that are associated with chewing gum and breathe fresheners. Really mint is so much more than this and a handful of leaves put in when boiling new potatoes can really lift the dish. We also love mint in a our herbal teas that we seem to invent as we go. Mint will grow well indoors and in this respect we can at least keep it under some sort of control. Mint is invasive and will take over any outdoors space. Keeping mint in pots is perfect. Make sure to pinch out new growth to encourage a bushier plant and maintain new growth, avoiding that straggly look. We love the variety of mint available and would recommend using a trusted nursery to source your plants, then propagate as you like! There are so many uses for mint, just make sure to give it plenty of light and water when the top soil is dry to the touch. Growing mint indoors means that you can have a fresh aroma all year round. So plant in pots that are large enough to take root growth and make sure to have a mixture of varieties.
- Lemon Balm is an unsung hero and one which is really useful in culinary dishes. A gentle lemony aroma and taste. Lends itself to fish dishes or as a garnish for heavier dishes. We love lemon balm in salads with fennel and parsley. From the mint family, lemon balm has a distinctive earthy, mint and lemon taste. Very easy to grow indoors or outdoors. You may find that looking for a smaller, more compact variety will help out with a crowded windowsill as lemon balm can grow to quite a substantial bushy herb. You can grow from seed, but I would recommend using a good nursery for younger plants and then propagating as you wish to, or use division of the larger plant.
- Tarragon is a perfect herb to grow indoors. Tarragon has an aniseed taste, but somehow it works very well in savory dishes. We match it in warming winter stews, or with fish. It works very well with a little sorrel and kale, sauteed together with some chives and a little salt and olive oil! The reason that tarragon works so well grown indoors is that too much sun ca make it bolt and flower before you have harvested those leaves. We recommend that if you are growing Russian Tarragon, you can grow from seed. If, however you are going for the more gentle taste profile of French Tarragon, grow from plugs. We use Sarah Raven for herb plugs as we find they arrive thriving and ready to go! Very easy to grow in pots as they need ample space for root growth and will like a water once the top soil has dried out. We do not grow tarragon on a windowsill, instead choosing to grow it in larger pots in our porch. Although when it gets too hot in the height of summer we move it indoors. Tarragon is a perennial and growing it inside will avoid any worries about overwintering.
- Thyme is an absolute must for any keen cook! It tastes like a savory earthy mix of lemon and pine, but also a little musty. Perfect with heavier dishes and to give a good base of flavour to soups and stews. We love to grow thyme in pots with oregano and rosemary as they all have the same drought tolerant qualities and will thrive with the same amount of sunshine. Grow indoors in the conservatory, porch or even on a windowsill, just make sure to give them around 4-6 hours of sunlight a day. You can grow a mix of thyme flavours, not just what you find in the supermarket and using the leaves fresh or dried can also impact the taste and aroma. we love lemon thyme as it has the cutest little flowers, move it outside if possible when it does flower as the bees will love you forever! You can still harvest leaves after it has flowered.
- Oregano tastes like authentic Italian cuisine to me. However it is used in both herbes de provence and Italian Seasoning. It gives you that earthy, Mediterranean taste that can be quite pungent and minty at the same time. You can’t think of a good pizza sauce without having that oregano taste. The leaves can be used fresh or dried and it offers a nice windowsill display. Oregano need plenty of sunlight as well as sparse watering. Leaving the pot in a full drip tray will be enough to kill it off. Once you notice rust spots on the leaves you should cut back immediately. Oregano can be grown from seed, although we would recommend buying from a supermarket and then separating or using propagation to grow new plants. When you want to get a bit more advanced and try new varieties of oregano and marjoram, look to your online nurseries that specialise in herbs. If you have a small balcony herbs can be easily grown, but if you have a sunnier spot indoors, herbs like oregano will reward you!
- Rosemary has to be one of my favourite herbs for its versatility alone. The flavour is pungent, bitter with a pine taste that can also be said to have mint notes. It pairs well with most meats and roast vegetables like squash! Mint is a perennial evergreen shrub and will grow to be four feet in height. I have a great love for rosemary as it requires very little in terms of work from us as gardeners. It will reward you with months of flowers to attract the bees as well as fresh leaves. You can harvest and dry leaves or use fresh. To grow indoors can be a bit tricky as you will need a sunny spot that you can afford to place such a voracious plant. Rosemary will grow to fill the pots you place it in, so keeping it trim is essential. If you do intend to keep it small in a pot, repotting each year and trimming the root ball down will help. Your reward will be year long fresh leaves. Be sure to not over water rosemary. You may choose to grow indoors and then plant out after a few years, this works well and positioning in a sunny spot with good drainage will help a lot.
- Chives are a surprising perennial in any garden. We grow them on the windowsill all year round and they are some of the nations favourite herbs. From the allium family chives are a family favourite as a replacement for onions, mainly when the smaller humans are cooking. It saves a lot of tears and chives can be quickly added to dishes as a last minute pick me up! That onion taste is much less strong in chives and the flowers can be added to salads and cocktails alike. The stems are always useful in garnish and soups alike. Grow from seed or purchase young plants from your local nursery or specialist seller. Having some Parlsey, chives and basil on the windowsill will mean year round oomph in your cooking.
My main advice is to get started. You don’t have to be a great horticulturist to grow herbs, just don’t over water them! There is such a thing as being too caring for your indoor plants.