Research shows that indoor plants may help brighten your mood, reduce stress and clean the air too. All you need is a sunny window. Growing herbs indoors allows you to enjoy homegrown produce whether you're short on garden space or just want to add a dash of green to your interior. For newbies, it can also serve as a low-stakes entry into more substantial edible gardening. Whenever you need some, clip a few sprigs to use in a recipe or as a pretty garnish. But before you pot up your first plant, ensure your success by following these surefire strategies.
Most herbs can be grown indoors, but those that tend to thrive inside include no-fuss picks like basil, chives, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme. You can start herbs from seed or cuttings (a branch of an existing plant cut at the node and soaked in water until new roots sprout), but will find it much easier—and faster—to begin with seedlings from the garden center.
You can plant herbs in virtually any container, so long as it has some type of drainage and something to protect the surface underneath, such as a saucer or round plastic protector (available at garden centers). If you are using nontraditional planters such as mason jars, place a layer of pebbles in the bottom to catch excess moisture. You can use any size container you like provided the plant fits, but realize that the smaller the vessel, the sooner you'll have to repot.
Your indoor herb garden will need at least six hours of sunlight per day to thrive. Place plants as close as possible to your brightest window. Avoid setting them in the center of a room or near a window with a northern exposure, neither of which will offer enough light. Growth may be slow and leggy during winter months; consider investing in a grow light or waiting until spring.
You'll be surprised by how little water it takes to sustain a small herb. Keep soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. A small watering can or a drizzle under the sink will suffice. If the leaves begin to wilt or turn yellow, scale back the H20.
Harvest a few sprigs with kitchen shears or by pinching leaves off with your fingers. Bonus: Regular cutbacks encourage new growth. Avoid removing more than a quarter of the plant at a time, which will cause distress and could even kill the plant.
Related: Guide to Cooking with Fresh Herbs
Indoor herb plants are not forever. The good news/bad news is that if you do it right, your herbs will eventually outgrow their containers and need more space. If you see roots coming out of the drainage holes, growth seems to have stalled or the plant starts to flop over, it's time to transplant.
In most climates, perennial herbs such as lavender and mint can be started inside and moved into the ground after the threat of frost has passed. Annual herbs can be moved outdoors through the end of the growing season. When cold weather approaches, you can either bring the pots back indoors or leave them outside, but be sure to take cuttings before the first frost so you can start the whole indoor herb garden process over again.
Both annuals and perennials can be moved into larger pots within your home at any time; just keep them close to a light source.
Try these clever, stylish indoor herb gardens, perfect for those who can only dream of a big window right over their sink.
This stunning chalkboard planter from Williams Sonoma lets you grow edible art that looks good and tastes good. If you have a blank wall near a window, tuck your favorite herbs into the 10 cubbies and label to your heart's content. An added bonus—watering is easy. Fill the irrigator on top with water and moisture trickles down slowly to keep your plants hydrated. (There's a tray at the bottom to collect excess.)
Fake a windowsill with this wall-mounted grow light from Food52 that turns any nook into the sunniest spot in your home.
Fill mason jars with your favorite herbs and house them in a vintage milk crate for easy transport from a window-side table to the sink for watering. Add chalk labels to help you remember what's what. See an easy DIY mason jar herb garden from Better Homes & Gardens.
No windowsill? No problem. These adorable planters developed by blogger Stephanie Rose from Garden Therapy stick directly to the glass. A complete kit takes the guesswork out of selection with six different types of seed, plus a marker so you can write right on the window.