5 Easy Steps for Moving Herbs Indoors for the Winter

Don't let cold weather ruin your herb harvests. Here's how to keep your plants happy until spring by moving them inside your home.

Winter doesn't have to mean the end of your herb garden. It's easy to bring your favorite herbs indoors and keep them going from year to year. The best ones to move indoors are the perennials which need protection from freezing temperatures to survive, such as lemongrass, ginger, and lemon verbena. Hardier types, such as lavender, tricolor sage, and thyme can overwinter outdoors in most regions. However, you can continue to enjoy these herbs through the colder months by moving them inside. Here's how to bring various kinds indoors, where you'll have easy access to their fresh flavors and scents all winter long.

Shelf on wall with herbs
Ann VanderWiel Wilde

1. Inspect and Transplant Garden Herbs

Before you bring any plants indoors, inspect them thoroughly for hitchhiking insects. Knock any bugs off the foliage with a blast of water from the garden hose. Then, anytime before the ground freezes, gently dig up the ones you'd like to bring indoors.

At this time, perennial herbs that grow in clumps, like oregano, marjoram, and mint, can be divided into well-rooted sections. Herbs that are woody and more shrub-like (such as sage and rosemary) can be awkward to dig up. Instead, if you plan to move them indoors and out again, it's best to grow these kinds of herbs in containers year-round. Annuals like dill and cilantro usually go to seed and naturally die in mid to late fall. If you spot some volunteer seedlings already sprouting nearby, you can move them into containers to bring indoors.

2. Pot Your Herbs

Select a container large enough to accommodate each herb's root ball, along with a little room for growth. Place a layer of potting mix on the bottom of the pot, then set the plant in and fill in the spaces around the roots with more potting mix. Press the soil down firmly around the plant's roots, leaving about an inch between the soil surface and the rim of the pot. After potting your herbs in their new containers, water until it drains out of the bottom of the pot.

3. Acclimate Plants to Indoor Conditions

When bringing your herbs indoors, they'll need a little time to adjust to their new surroundings. You might notice that they drop a few leaves and grow more slowly. Ease them into life on the inside by setting them in a spot with bright, but indirect, light (don't put them in a spot where the sun hits them). After a week, you can move the pots into a place where they'll get at least four hours of direct sun a day. If you don't have a window that provides enough sunlight, you can grow your herbs under fluorescent bulbs or with a grow-light setup.

4. Give Your Plants Some TLC

Turn pots once a week or so to help all sides of your plants get enough light. Water when the soil feels dry to a depth of 1 inch. Mist the leaves daily to boost the humidity level. You also can tilt the pots over the sink and gently rinse the foliage with water every once in a while to keep your herbs clean and deter any pests that might show up.

5. Take Cuttings Regularly

To make sure you always have access to fresh, soft-stem herbs, like basil, lemon balm, and mint, take cuttings of each plant throughout the winter. Place these cuttings in a small vase of water and they'll soon develop roots. When the roots are a couple of inches long, pot the cuttings to expand your supply of fresh herbs. Or you can snip sprigs whenever you need fresh herbs for your favorite dishes. Either way, this will encourage your plants to produce new growth and stay compact until you can move them outdoors again in spring.

With a little preparation, nearly all of your herbs can come indoors for the winter. Growing them in containers will give you a fresh supply for cooking all year long, and you'll be able to take them back outside and replant when spring arrives. Easy-to-grow herbs can also make a great addition to your houseplant collection, so you might even decide to keep some of them indoors year-round!

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