16 Herbs You Can Grow Indoors All Year Long
If you have an empty windowsill that gets plenty of sunlight, you have the perfect place for an indoor herb garden, a handy hub for snipping fragrant leaves and flavorful stems for use in the kitchen. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, “The word ‘herb’ applies to any plant that, at some time in history, has been valued for seasoning, medicine, fragrance, or general household use.” We love herbs in our kitchens and in our gardens for just these reasons. These plants are lovely when grown small-scale in pots on a windowsill or in a window box herb garden. So swing by your local garden shop for pots and soil, and read on to make a list of the herbs you’d like to plant this year.
With each of the plants included here, it’s important to position them so that they receive plenty of sunlight every day. You should also ensure the herbs receive adequate watering and are planted in well-drained soil to keep root rot at bay. After they're established, most of these herbs require only occasional watering. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, “Exceptions are basil, chives, mint, and parsley, which prefer evenly moist soil.” And if you ever choose to transplant your windowsill garden outside, the Garden Book warns: “Keep an eye on mint—it’s naturally invasive.”
16 Herbs You Can Grow Indoors All Year Long
Basil, an easy-to-grow, easy-to-love herb, plays well with sauces and salads, particularly those that pair acidic tomatoes and creamy cheeses. It’s also a must for homemade pesto. The herb has aromatic green leaves and tiny white flowers, and it thrives in full sun when watered regularly in well-draining soil. Try planting the citrusy 'Mrs. Burns' Lemon' or the pesto-perfect 'Genovese.' (The Grumpy Gardener calls it “the easiest herb.” Find out why.)
Bay is a slow-growing herb that’s native to the Mediterranean region. Its long, green, fragrant leaves are used in a wide variety of cuisines, and it’s great for containers. Bay grows densely and needs only occasional watering in well-drained soil. Plant 'Little Ragu' for golden-green leaves—but be sure to clip, because in the right conditions it can reach over 50 feet tall—or try 'Saratoga' for a planting with big, aromatic leaves.
Chives are known to thrive in containers, and they grow best with full sun and in rich soil with a high pH (between 6.0 and 7.0). In the late spring and summer, they bloom out with showy white and purple flowers. Because common chives (Allium schoenoprasum) taste subtly of onion, and garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) have a distinct garlicky flavor, they’re a versatile ingredient when used in the kitchen. (Three cheers for chives!)
Cilantro leaves come from a plant that’s also called coriander or Chinese parsley. They’re an ingredient that’s known to cause heated debate amongst dinnergoers, as not everyone loves the taste of raw cilantro. The herb is a bright, distinctive addition to dishes, and it’s often paired with tomatoes, onions, and avocados when preparing salsas and guacamoles. It grows best in well-drained soil with regular watering, and gardeners often choose to stagger planting so that they can harvest the herbs’ leaves over an extended period of time.
While the leaves of Coriandrum sativum are called cilantro, the fragrant seeds of the plant are called coriander. Coriander seeds are used in a variety of dishes, including sausages and stews. To grow, you can use the seeds sold in grocery stores. Plant them in pots with plenty of well-drained soil, and expect them to grow quickly. To keep coriander growing, snip the flower clusters regularly, and keep the plant in partial shade.
Growing dill in a pot indoors will ensure its within reach for all your favorite dill-infused dishes. The herb produces very fragrant leaves and seeds as well as groupings of small yellow blooms. It requires full sun and regular water to thrive; it is relatively easy to grow, and its leaves can be used as a garnish or as a seasoning in salads and sauces. Its seeds are also useful in the kitchen and can be employed in vinegars and pickling processes.
One species of fennel, a dill look-alike, has long, thin green leaves and bright yellow flower clusters. Both the seeds and leaves can be used in the kitchen, and the leaves are especially popular as a garnish for fish preparations and salads. Another form, Foeniculum vulgare azoricum, is known as Florence fennel or finocchio and produces edible bulbs that are treated as vegetables and can be cooked or eaten raw.
Lavender is an hardy herb with a sweet fragrance that’s often used in perfumes. In the kitchen, lavender is most often employed in its dried form. It has long, narrow, gray-green leaves with spikes of flowers that vary in hue, though purple is the most familiar. Plant Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ for intense fragrance with vibrant flowers, and plant ‘England’ for a compact herb that produces soft foliage with a downy texture. According to The Grumpy Gardener, ‘Phenomenal’ is “good for cutting, making sachets, and so forth […] high oil content makes it perfect for use in baking, cocktails, and other delectables.”
Lemon balm is known to spread quickly, making it a good candidate for containment in a pot or window box. The fragrant leaves of fresh lemon balm are often used to garnish dishes. They add strong citrus flavor when muddled in drinks, and they lend a lemon-perfumed aroma to mixes of dried potpourri. Lemon balm grows best in rich soil with occasional pruning. If an intense aroma is what you’re after, plant 'Citronella.’
Use it in: Lemon Balm Simple Syrup
Don’t blink: Mint grows quickly and spreads rapidly, which is why it’s an ideal plant for a pot. Plant this hardy herb and set it somewhere it’s guaranteed to receive full sun to partial shade. Mint is thirsty, too; it needs regular water in moist soil to thrive. Mints noted for flavor include golden apple mint (Mentha x gracilis), peppermint (Mentha x piperita), and spearmint (Mentha spicata).
This hardy, drought-tolerant herb (also known as wild oregano) requires full sun and light-to-moderate watering to produce its small flowers and flavorful foliage. Try planting sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) for more aromatic foliage, plus a complex, sweetly spicy flavor. Italian marjoram (O. x majoricum) has a distinct oregano taste, minus the sweetness. Pot marjoram (O. onites) also provides savory flavor.
With regular water and partial shade, you’ll be able to grow a pot of parsley indoors. This popular herb has dark green foliage that comes in two styles: One is curly-leafed and the other, Italian, is flat-leafed and thought to be slightly more flavorful. Both are used in cooking and as garnishes to a variety of dishes.
Rosemary thrives with moderate watering and exposure to full sun. It produces small, narrow, fragrant leaves that are often used as a seasoning or a garnish. Rosemary also produces clusters of blossoms in varying shades throughout the year. Most species can grow thick and tall, but they can also be cultivated to smaller forms in containers with regular pruning. Plant ‘Blue Boy’ for deep fragrance and distinctive flavor, and plant ‘Majorca Pink’ for pink flowers and fruity aroma.
Salvia officinalis is a species of sage traditionally used as a culinary or medicinal herb. It produces fragrant oval-shaped foliage and flowers in spring and summer. It requires full sun, especially when grown indoors. Once established in a container, sage needs only occasional watering when the soil dries out, as it is a relatively drought-tolerant plant. Its leaves are enlisted for flavor and fragrance in the kitchen, especially in poultry dishes and traditional holiday recipes.
This species of tarragon is also called French tarragon or true tarragon. It thrives in containers and produces shiny, fragrant leaves, the springs of which can be cut and used for seasoning—either dried or served fresh. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, “plants grown from seed are not true culinary tarragon,” so if gardeners intend culinary use, they should purchase plants grown for this particular purpose.
Common thyme produces fragrant gray-green leaves and small lavender or white flowers in late spring and summer. It thrives when planted in containers with well-drained soil. Thyme requires occasional trimming in order to maintain shape and size, and its leaves are used as seasoning in countless kitchen preparations, including main dishes and desserts.