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How to Plant a Prolific Indoor Herb Garden

overhead view of small tray of basil plug plants with small terra cotta pots, twine, and pruners against white wood background

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Cooking with fresh, fragrant herbs is one of the most delicious ways to take your favorite recipes to the next level. Planting your own indoor herb garden is one of the easiest (and most affordable) ways to get your hands on them.

Growing your own herbs indoors is super simple, beautifies your space, and reduces waste. You can snip a sprig or two when you need them without even leaving the house rather than buying a whole bunch that goes bad before you can use it.

Before you go planning the indoor herb garden of your dreams, ensure that you've got adequate sun to help them thrive: at least six hours per day in a bright, sunny window, ideally with southern exposure. You can also supplement the sun with a few well-placed grow lights if needed or experiment with creative ways to display potted herbs in your space.

Meet the Expert

Alexandra Jones is a certified master gardener in Philadelphia. As an indoor and outdoor gardener, Jones is an author in topics like gardening, climate, urban farming, and sustainability.

  • Working time: 1 hour
  • Total time: 1-2 hours
  • Skill level: Beginner

When to Plant an Indoor Herb Garden

You can grow herbs indoors just about any time of year as long as you can give them the right conditions. However, the easiest time to grow your indoor herb garden is spring or early summer. That's also when you're most likely to find plentiful herb seedlings at plant shops and garden centers.

closeup of white person's hands picking thyme plant growing in white pot with scissors in background

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Spring and early summer are also the best times to propagate herbs from cuttings or divide existing herb plants to make new plants. You can root soft-stemmed herbs like basil, peppermint, oregano, and lemon balm easily in a glass of water on your windowsill. Transplant divisions of healthy mature plants into smaller pots to bring them indoors.

Choosing the Right Herbs

The best herbs to plant in your indoor herb garden will depend on your personal preferences as well as the conditions in your space.

If you love pesto, for example, you'll want to pot up a couple of Italian basil plants. If you enjoy cooking Southeast Asian cuisine, look for varieties like Thai basil and holy basil. Want to make your own herbes de Provence blend? Pick up varieties like thyme, rosemary, marjoram, tarragon, and summer savory.

You can use your homegrown herbs for more than cooking. Medicinal plants like calendula, lavender, peppermint, and lemon balm can be used in aromatherapy, bath and body products, or soothing salves for skin.

Note that summer herbs like basil will require warmer temperatures and lots of sun, so they might not be the best option to grow in a north-facing windowsill or a drafty enclosed porch. However, hardier herbs like rosemary, sage, lavender, and thyme will grow back after spending harsh winters outdoors and can thrive even in less than ideal conditions in your home.

overhead view of potted herbs including opal basil, mint, parsley, rosemary, basil, thyme, and fennel in purple pots on white windowsill

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Tools and Supplies You Will Need

Before you begin, gather the following materials:

  • Plugs, seedlings, or divisions of herbs like basil, cilantro, thyme, oregano, lavender, lemon balm, mint, chives, catnip, stevia, rosemary, sage, or tarragon
  • Small plant pots with holes in the bottom and corresponding drip trays (one of each for each plant you're potting up)
  • Potting soil
  • Gardening gloves (optional)

Step 1: Add Soil to Pots

Fill each of the plant pots about halfway with potting soil.

Step 2: Plant Herbs in Pots

Gently remove plugs or seedlings from their containers and loosen the soil around the roots with your fingers. Position each seedling in its pot so that there will be about an inch between the rim of the pot and the base of the stem.

Step 3: Fill Pots With Soil

Add soil to each pot so that there's about an inch between the top of the pot and the soil line. Gently press down the soil with your fingers to secure the plant in place.

Step 4: Water Potted Herbs

Water the newly potted herbs deeply so that the soil is thoroughly moist and water runs out the holes in the bottom of each pot. If you're working indoors, it's easiest to do this in the sink. If you're working outdoors, a hose or watering can works well.

Step 5: Care for Your Indoor Herb Garden

Place the transplanted herbs in a bright, sunny window, ideally with a southern exposure. Water frequently enough to keep the soil evenly moist. Once you see new growth, the plants are established.

Step 6: Harvest Your Herbs

Harvest culinary herbs just before flowering for the best flavor, as some, such as chives, can develop off-flavors after flowering. Harvest flowering herbs like calendula as soon as blooms are fully open.

Once plants are mature, you should be able to harvest up to 50 percent of the foliage and it will grow back. Use herbs as soon as possible in your favorite recipes for best flavor.