How to Grow Herbs Indoors on a Sunny Window Sill

Always have fresh herbal flavors in reach when you grow these aromatic plants in your kitchen.

Few plants can turn everyday cooking into gourmet fare like freshly harvested herbs. These versatile aromatic plants also have the power to soothe our moods, help with healing, and even make your home (and you) smell wonderful. It's easy and inexpensive to grow these useful, beautiful plants yourself, even indoors. Like any group of plants, herbs have varying needs, but most aren't too demanding about their basic care. Whether you want to grow herbs indoors in winter or have a little window sill herb garden year-round, these tips will help you start your plants off right and keep them thriving.

herb planters hanging in window from pipe
Carson Downing

Best Herbs to Grow Indoors

It may be tempting to jump in and grow a wide variety of herbs at first. However, you'll likely have more success if you focus on just a few that you know you will use regularly. Basil, chives, cilantro, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme are among the easiest herbs to grow indoors.

Tips for Growing Herbs Indoors

Once you've decided which herbs to grow indoors, you'll need to provide the right amounts of light, water, and care to help your plants thrive.

Light

Outside in the garden, herbs grow best in full sun. To grow herbs indoors, place them by the sunniest window you can. A south- or southwest-facing window that lets in direct sunlight is best. Supplement natural light with an LED grow light ($10, Walmart) as needed to give your herbs a total of 12-14 hours of light. Without a grow light, your herbs may look a little leggy, but the leaves will still add bright flavors and colors to salads and cooked dishes.

Test Garden Tip: Give potted indoor herbs a quarter-clockwise turn once a week to expose all sides of the plant equally to sunlight. This will encourage more even growth.

Watering

Water is both a friend and an enemy of herbs. Plants obviously need water to grow, but too much water rots the roots. To determine when to water your potted indoor herbs, insert a finger into the soil up to your first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, it's time to water. If it feels moist, hold off for another day or so and check again.

Humidity

A window sill above a kitchen sink offers a little extra humidity, which can be especially helpful during winter when the air in a heated home gets very dry. You can also boost humidity by placing pots on a pebble-filled, waterproof tray and allowing pots to drain into the tray when you water the plants. Water evaporating from the tray will raise humidity right around the plant. Another alternative is to use a humidifier nearby.

Temperature

Herbs like the same temperatures that people do, roughly 65 to 75˚F. To keep an indoor herb garden thriving during a cold winter, be sure the leaves of your herb plants don't touch the windows. Most herbs don't mind if the temperature in your house drops into the 50s at night, but basil is especially sensitive to cold temperatures. Keep basil in a spot that stays about 70˚F.

Fertilizer

Because indoor herbs can't get nutrients from garden soil and rain, they need a little bit of a boost from fertilizer. Choose a balanced, all purpose plant food ($27, Walmart), or a liquid fish emulsion ($11, The Home Depot). Apply the plant food at half the recommended rate every other week only when herbs are actively growing. It's better to give your plants too little fertilizer than too much.

Herbs in terra cotta pots with signs
Adam Albright

Best Containers for Indoor Herbs

You can get creative and grow herbs in just about any container you like. However, plastic and ceramic containers hold more moisture than terra-cotta, which is porous and breathable. Herbs often do better when grown in clay pots. Always make sure the container holding your herbs has a drainage hole. If you have a saucer underneath, pour off any extra water that collects there to avoid waterlogged soil.

Along with the right container, a potting mix designed for cacti and succulents ($5, Target) is ideal for growing herbs because it allows water to pass through the soil better. Garden soil is too heavy and doesn't have enough air pockets between particles.

Updated by
Viveka Neveln
Viveka Neveln Headshot

Viveka Neveln is the digital garden editor at Better Homes & Gardens. Before moving to Des Moines, Iowa, for this position in 2019, she spent 14 years serving as an editor for The American Gardener magazine, published by the American Horticultural Society in Virginia. She holds a B.S. in horticulture from Iowa State University and an M.P.S. in plant pathology from Cornell. Viveka loves getting people excited about the botanical world and feels happiest with dirt under her nails.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles