11 Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Herbs Indoors

A bit indoor herb backyard is aesthetic and handy, however it could not at all times prove how pictures look on Pinterest. When rising herbs indoors, it’s straightforward to make a number of errors that stunt or kill your vegetation.

Most culinary herbs have totally different necessities than houseplants, and a few require main changes to transition from an out of doors surroundings.

In case your indoor backyard is struggling, listed below are 11 frequent errors we’ve all made and methods to repair them.

Lack of Daylight

Poor lighting harms herbs, particularly finicky ones.

Inadequate lighting is the commonest mistake throughout all indoor gardening strategies, however it’s particularly problematic for herbs. Whereas it could appear good to brighten up a darkish nook with some greenery, herbs (and most houseplants) are inclined to endure with out brilliant daylight

Basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, chives, rosemary, and lavender are significantly finicky about their lighting wants. These vegetation want 6-8 hours of daylight day by day, ideally from a west or south-facing window.  

Selecting the Flawed Species

Close-up of three potted herbaceous plants Oregano, Rosemary and Thyme on a light windowsill. Plant pots are small, brown. The rosemary plant is young, small, branched stems covered with small needle-like leaves. The oregano plant has thin, flexible stems covered with oval green leaves.
For a hassle-free indoor herb backyard, select adaptable species.

Some vegetation simply aren’t meant to be grown indoors. It’s not that they’re unimaginable to develop in your house; fairly, they’re tough to please in a windowsill container. You probably have further time, house, and supplemental lighting in your arms, give these vegetation a go! However if you’d like a lowkey indoor herb backyard, choose species that willingly adapt to rising inside. We’ve got a listing of 15 herbs you must keep away from rising indoors, together with:

You might have some luck if you happen to begin these vegetation in outside containers and produce them inside for winter. The avid indoor grower can actually pull off rising the above species, however newbies ought to go for simpler indoor herbs like:

Typically, the finest herbs for rising as houseplants have these attributes:

  • Compact measurement
  • Tolerate decrease mild circumstances
  • Present steady harvest
  • Get pleasure from average room temperatures

Selecting the Flawed Pot Measurement

Close-up of female hands planting a rosemary plant in a large clay pot, in the garden, on a large wooden table. Also on the table there are potted basil plants, a large clay bowl of potting soil, and a gray watering can. Rosemary has upright, slightly woody stems covered with thin, needle-like leaves.
Container measurement issues; too large can encourage root rot, and too small suffocates the foundation system.

Container measurement is totally essential for profitable indoor vegetation. If you choose a pot that’s too giant, the soil can maintain extra water and trigger root rot. However if you happen to use a pot that’s too small, the herb can rapidly suffocate and turn out to be rootbound. A cheerful medium is important, and chances are you’ll must up-pot on a semi-regular foundation to maintain your vegetation completely satisfied.

A pot ought to usually be 1.5 to 2 instances the scale of an current plant’s root ball. This enables ample house for the roots to increase with out making a soggy, waterlogged mess of extra soil.

If you’re rising from seed, it’s finest to start out small. You’ll be able to at all times up-pot later, and most herbs are tolerant of transplanting.

Lack of Drainage

Close-up of two upside down plastic pots in the garden. The pots are black, rounded, with many drainage holes.
Select pots with drainage holes to keep away from overwatering and poor soil drainage.

There are tens of millions of lovable pots and planters in the marketplace in the present day. The issue is that a lot of them don’t have drainage holes. To efficiently develop herbs indoors, it’s essential to begin with containers that may drain water out of the underside. And not using a drainage gap, water has nowhere to go and may pool up within the pot’s base.

As you’ll see, this error is intently intertwined with overwatering and improper soil choice. All three of those components can spell catastrophe on your windowsill backyard. Solely buy pots with a number of drainage holes within the backside.

Basic terracotta pots with saucers are nice for windowsills. When you discover a container you like that doesn’t have a drainage gap, take into account drilling one with a diamond-tipped drill bit. Relying on the fabric, you must be capable to modify the container to stay useful on your herbs whereas nonetheless matching your inside decor.

Planting within the Flawed Soil

Close-up of a gardener in blue gloves, pink shirt and jeans, pouring potting soil into a clay pot with a spatula, in the garden. On a wooden table, there are a large bowl of potting soil and potted basil and rosemary plants.
Use well-drained potting soil to stop issues like overwatering and poor drainage in container-grown herbs.

Most container-grown vegetation require further well-drained potting soil. As a result of the roots are confined in a smaller house than they might be within the floor, the soil wants to empty water extra effectively. 

When you plant indoor herbs in heavy or poorly drained soil, chances are you’ll discover:

  • Yellowing leaves (an indication of overwatering)
  • Droopy or lifeless leaves
  • Slime or mildew rising on the soil floor
  • Mildew rising on the leaves
  • A rotten odor from the roots (an indication of root rot)

If there isn’t a pest or illness challenge, most vegetation may be saved by repotting with a high quality soil combine. Search for blends that embody:

  • Perlite: That is probably the most precious useful resource for an indoor gardener. This puffed volcanic mineral improves drainage.
  • Vermiculite: Like perlite, this materials improves aeration and can assist fluff up soil combine.
  • Compost: Compost improves drainage whereas concurrently serving to the soil maintain onto water. General, it’s an excellent texturizer.
  • Peat moss or coco coir: This shredded natural materials provides extra air house between soil particles and slowly releases water into the foundation zone.
  • Vermicompost: Worm castings are nice for herbs like basil or oregano that take pleasure in an additional nutrient enhance.
  • Pea gravel and sand: These gritty supplies are finest for Mediterranean herbs like thyme, lavender, or rosemary. 


Close-up of watering potted rosemary plants with a metal watering can on a light windowsill. Rosemary has upright woody stems covered with grey-green narrow needle-shaped leaves.
Keep away from overwatering by watering solely when it’s really crucial fairly than on a schedule.

It’s straightforward to present your vegetation a bit of an excessive amount of love. Overwatering is an excellent frequent mistake sometimes brought on by misinformation. Many individuals assume irrigation ought to occur on a set schedule (for instance, a rule that claims, “Water your cilantro each different day”), however that’s not how vegetation work.

As a result of mild, humidity, temperature, and development patterns at all times change, you’ll be able to’t reliably water herbs along with your calendar. Watering with out checking the soil sometimes results in overwatering and a bunch of different points. 

Overwatering can appear to be:

  • Droopy, wilted leaves (it appears counterintuitive, however extra water suffocates roots, which suggests much less water can attain the leaves)
  • Yellow leaves (particularly between the veins)
  • Stunted development (your herbs simply gained’t get larger)
  • Soggy, water soaked lesions on leaves
  • Mould or mildew ailments
  • A foul odor within the soil
  • Tremendous darkish coloured soil
  • Fungus gnats hovering close to the soil floor
  • Root rot (slimy, mushy roots)

Herbs strongly dislike sitting in waterlogged soil (most vegetation do except they’re wetland species). However container vegetation are particularly prone to overwatering since you don’t at all times know what is occurring to the water within the backside of the pot. 

To keep away from this error:

  • All the time verify your soil earlier than watering.
  • Stick your finger 2-3 inches into the soil within the pot.
  • In case your finger comes out clear and dry, it’s time to water.
  • In case your finger comes out coated in soil or damp/moist, don’t add extra moisture.

After all, the watering wants will rely upon the precise plant. However usually, potted herbs shouldn’t be watered excessively. Solely irrigate till water comes out of the underside of the pot into the saucer, after which cease.

Alternatively, you’ll be able to “backside water” by putting pots in a saucer or shallow bowl of water for a short while and permitting the roots to suck up moisture from under. If doing this methodology, restrict the time the pot is spent sitting within the water to an hour or much less. This prevents the soil from absorbing an excessive amount of moisture!


Close-up of a dried potted rosemary plant in a black pot, on a gray background. The plant dried up due to insufficient watering. The plant has upright woody stems covered with thin, narrow, needle-like leaves that are green and brown.
Don’t neglect to water your herbs, as underwatering can result in wilting, dry leaves, yellowing, drooping stems, and extra.

The alternative of the overzealous indoor gardener is the plant father or mother who fully forgets about their herbs. When you go on a weekend journey and return to miserable wilted herbs, it’s in all probability as a result of underwatering.

Crops in small pots dry out extra rapidly than these in giant pots or these rising within the floor. Relying on the soil sort, herb species, humidity, and air circulation in your house, some species are particularly vulnerable to dropping moisture. 

Underwatering can typically appear to be overwatering, however vegetation usually tend to perk up after a drink. Signs embody:

  • Wilting
  • Dry, crispy leaves
  • Yellowing leaves (ranging from tricks to middle)
  • Leaves dropping off the plant or lifeless leaves
  • Drooping, withered stems
  • Leathery, brown leaves
  • Dry, dusty soil
  • Compacted soil

To keep away from underwatering, verify your kitchen herbs each couple of days by sticking your finger within the soil. Any time you harvest just a few sprigs of thyme for soup, it’s a good time to make sure all of your herbs have the water they want.

Neglecting Pruning and Harvest

Close-up of a woman's hands cutting basil leaves in a pot with black scissors. The basil plant has large cupped bright green leaves with a glossy smooth surface.
Recurrently pruning herbs like cilantro, basil, chives, and extra encourages bushier development and higher harvests.

Recurrently pruning your herbs promotes bushier development and extra harvests. In case your herbs appear leggy (elongated, wimpy stems) or aren’t placing up new development, it could be since you’re not harvesting them sufficient. 

As soon as cilantro, parsley, basil, chives, thyme, oregano, mint, and others attain a sure measurement, they really profit from being harvested. Don’t be afraid to snip leaves each week! A haircut retains the plant wholesome and prevents it from going to seed.

Harvest stems close to a node (the place leaves meet the stem) to encourage faster regeneration and bushy development. For chives, merely minimize throughout the highest with kitchen shears, leaving a minimum of 3-4 inches of development on the base.

Poor Air Circulation

Close-up of four potted herbaceous plants on a light windowsill. Plants such as rosemary, basil and thyme. The pots are wrapped in brown craft paper. Rosemary consists of upright settles covered with narrow green needle-like leaves. Basil produces upright stems with large, cupped leaves with a glossy texture.
Sufficient airflow prevents fungal ailments and overcrowding, selling wholesome herbs.

If the air round your herbs is stagnant or the leaves are crowded collectively, it may possibly rapidly break your seasoning harvests. Correct airflow prevents fungal ailments like powdery mildew from contaminating your herbs. Many kitchens don’t have ceiling followers, so it’s useful to sometimes open a window or activate the vent above your range.

Pruning and spacing are two different vital methods to keep away from this error. In case your vegetation begin to look overcrowded inside their pots, or your pots are crammed intently collectively, it’s time to unfold issues out and let air circulation by way of to maintain them wholesome.

Improper Fertilization

Close-up of a woman's hand adding granular fertilizer to potted rosemary. Granular fertilizers are round, small, bright yellow. Rosemary has upright stems covered with narrow, thin needle-shaped grey-green leaves.
Indoor herbs want added vitamins as a result of container limitations.

In contrast to herbs grown outdoors within the backyard, indoor herbs can’t entry the pure minerals in your native soil. Vitamins deplete extra rapidly in containers and have to be replenished often.

Some vegetation can get by on simply the natural materials from compost, however others profit from a slow-release balanced natural fertilizer that may present vitamins over time. Below-fertilized herbs might develop slowly, seem yellow or pale, or look boring and unhappy.

Alternatively, an excessive amount of nitrogen could cause extreme leafy development with out a lot taste. That is particularly annoying with aromatic leafy herbs that we develop exactly for his or her aroma and style in our favourite dishes. Over-fertilizing may result in salt buildup inside containers, probably killing vegetation over time.

Ignoring Pest Issues

Close-up of aphids on the stem of a basil plant. Basil stem purple: covered with fine hairs. Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects with a translucent, green, pear-shaped body.
Indoor vegetation can nonetheless entice pests like fungus gnats, aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, mealybugs, and thrips.

In a great world, our properties could be shielded from the pesky bugs that assault outside vegetation. However alas, indoor vegetation are nonetheless prone to pests. When you neglect to verify for pests often, they will rapidly unfold between containers and contaminate your total indoor herb assortment.

The most typical potted herb pests embody:

  • Fungus gnats (intently linked with overwatering or soggy soils)
  • Aphids (they hang around beneath leaves)
  • Whiteflies (they fly within the air while you shake an infested leaf)
  • Spider mites (nearly invisible, however trigger yellow leaves)
  • Mealybugs (hand around in leaf axils and stem joints)
  • Thrips (trigger discoloration and distorted leaves)

Monitor your vegetation intently and take away leaves or stems the place you discover pests. If issues get exceptionally out of hand, think about using a do-it-yourself neem oil spray or a horticultural cleaning soap to take away them. 

Whereas these are natural measures, chances are you’ll need to wait every week or so after software to make sure the pests and the remedy are gone. Wash your herb leaves completely after harvesting. Neem doesn’t style superb in basil pesto! 

Closing Ideas

Many frequent houseplant ways crossover into the edible herb gardening realm. As common guidelines of thumb, guarantee your herbs obtain 6-8 hours of daylight, well-drained potting soil, and persistently moist soil that’s by no means soggy. Take a look at our develop guides for particular particulars about every distinctive species. Most significantly, don’t overwater or maintain your herbs at midnight!

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