If you love fresh herbs, growing them on your own is a great way to save money and get your hands on unique flavors you can only find at the farmer’s market. There are many different plants that are perfect for indoor growing because they aren’t picky about light or soil type. Best of all, homegrown herbs are free from chemicals and pesticides! Here is a quick guide with 15 ways to help keep your indoor potted herbs alive and thriving.
- Give them light.
- Water correctly.
- Feed them.
- Keep out of drafts.
- Keep away from heat vents.
- Use a bigger pot.
- Level your pots.
- Remove dust.
- Avoid moving.
- Prevent temp changes.
- Check for pests.
- Use mulch.
- Grow in the right temps.
- Use a plant sitter.
- Prevent bolting.
Growing herbs indoors in pots is a great idea, but essentially you are taking plants out of their natural environment and trying to grow them in an artificial environment. It is completely possible to grow herbs successfully indoors, but you will have to give them what they need in order to not only survive but thrive. Our tips for keeping your indoor herbs happy and healthy will get you off to a great start and show you how to keep potted herbs alive indoors.
1. Make Sure They Get Enough Light
Light, especially natural sunlight, is an important ingredient to keeping your potted herbs healthy and strong.
Most plants need somewhere between 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day. Some plants need a lot of direct sunlight, while others will do well with smaller doses. Keep your indoor potted herbs near a window on the sunny side of your house, where they get at least some direct sunlight in the day.
Plants use certain wavelengths of light in their photosynthesis process to convert nutrients that they absorb from the soil into usable food for the plant. This is why the right amount of the right kind of light plays a key role in how to keep your indoor potted herbs alive.
If the plant does not have enough light or the right kind of light, the plant will be weak, unhealthy, and could die. If you notice your herbs beginning to look pale and not their normal vibrant green, they may be in need of some sunlight.
If you have access to a patio or a balcony, it can be a good idea to take them out in the early morning for some sunlight and then bring them back indoors before the sun gets too hot.
2. Water Them The Right Amount
Water is the second ingredient that is crucial to your indoor herbs’ survival. There are a few problems associated with watering the indoor plants that you will need to get right in order for them to be healthy.
Watering plants too much is as bad for them as not watering them enough. Infrequent watering can also be a problem for some varieties. You need to get into the Goldilocks zone with your indoor plant watering routine; not too much, not too little, but just the correct amount.
Incorrect watering is the most common reason why your indoor herbs keep dying. Different plants require different amounts of watering, so it is worth your while to do a little research into each herb that you grow indoors and establish what their watering requirements are.
Generally, the rule-of-thumb is that the medium that your plants are growing in feels dry to the touch, then they need some watering. However, this is a generalization, and it is best to establish the ideal frequency of watering for the plants that you keep and give them exactly what they need rather than guessing.
This may sound like a chore, once you get into the rhythm, it becomes an easy schedule and regimen to keep up.
3. Feed Your Potted Herbs
Nutrients are the third most important factor in the triangle of good plant health. Usually, the plant will source these nutrients directly from the soil that they are in. When your herbs are captive in a pot, so to speak, you need to supply them with some nutrients from time to time.
The nutrients in the potting medium that your herbs are rooted in will become depleted as the plant uses them, and they get washed out by watering. You will need to add nutrients or food to your potted plants from time to time to replenish their food supply.
You can get a commercial plant food that is in the form of pods that you push into the soil from time to time. My preference is to use organic fertilizers that I know are free from harmful chemicals, especially on plants you are going to consume.
You can even make your own fertilizer in the form of keeping a worm farm, which you can also keep indoors. The castings from the worms will produce a nutrient-rich fertilizer that you can feed to your herbs from time to time. It is also a way to recycle your organic kitchen waste into useful plant food.
4. Don’t Place Them In A Draft
You may think that placing your potted herbs in an open window would be an opportunity for the plants to get some fresh air in the form of the breeze coming in through the window. You may be surprised that a draft can have the opposite effect on your herbs.
Herbs are often delicate plants that can be bruised or broken by a strong breeze. Stronger plants such as basil may be able to tolerate more wind. A draft will also accelerate the drying out of the potting medium that your plants are in, causing the roots to dry out and the plant to die.
While air circulation is good and healthy for plants, placing them in a draft will not do them any good. Rather have a fan in the room that will circulate air around the room but not blow directly onto your plants.
5. Don’t Place Potted Herbs Near Heating Vents
You may think that placing your potted herbs near a heating vent will help to keep them warmer on cold winter days or nights, but you may be doing them more harm than good. The problem with placing them near a heating vent will cause the plants some problems.
It is not good to place potted herbs near a heating vent because the hot air flowing from the vent will dry out the potting medium and also desiccate the plants themselves. The hot, dry air will suck the moisture from the plants, and the heat may be too much for them to handle.
It is fine to have the plant in the same room where the heating vent comes out, but just don’t place the plant close to the heating vent. Away from the vent, the plant will still benefit from the warmth, but without the added problem of drying out.
6. Give Them A Bigger Pot
Many people try to keep potted herbs in their original pots for the duration of their life. A plant is a living organism that grows and expands. At some point, the plants will outgrow the small starter pot that they are in and need more room to expand.
Potted herbs that have been growing in one pot may become rootbound, which means there is no longer enough room in the pots for their roots to expand. This limits the plant’s nutrient uptake as it grows and can stunt growth or even kill the plant. Re-pot the herb into a larger pot.
A larger plant pot will give the plant more room to expand its root system in order to absorb enough nutrients for the growing plant. Do not plant the herb into a pot that is too big, as this may also be detrimental to the plant. The extra space could cause the soil to become too wet, or the plant may not be able to access the water deeper down in the pot.
7. Level Your Pots
This may seem like it won’t matter much and not be a contributor as a reason for why your indoor herbs keep dying, but a little thought about moisture levels in the pot will help you to see the light.
The pots your herbs are planted in should be level because the moisture content in the soil will always seek a leveling point. If the pot is not level, moisture can drain from one side of the pot to the other, leaving roots on the opposite side to dry out and be unable to absorb nutrients.
Roots that dry out can cause those roots to die, and if they are not able to absorb nutrients, the plant could suffer, have stunted growth, and possibly even die off from lack of nutrient absorption.
8. Keep The Leaves Dust Free
The leaves and green parts of the plants above the ground are where the chlorophyll is located in the plant to work in the process of photosynthesis. The plants need to absorb light through their leaves and green stems to activate this chemical process.
Plants with dust on their leaves will have their light absorption capabilities reduced. This will limit their food production resources and limit their moisture control processes which are done through pores in the leaves. Leaves can be gently wiped down with a damp cloth or spritzed with water.
Indoor plants do not have the luxury of rain to wash dirt and dust from their leaves. This means that you will need to provide this service for them so that they can continue to produce the food that they need efficiently.
9. Avoid Moving Them Around Too Much
Moving plants around to different locations indoors will result in a constant change in the environment that the plant is used to, which may cause problems for your potted herbs.
Moving plants to different locations indoors will constantly change the micro-climate that they have grown accustomed to. Some plants, especially the more delicate herbs, may be sensitive to these changes, and it could cause them to grow poorly. Do not change their position too often.
While it is fine to take plants outside for some sunshine, when you return them indoors, it should be to the same location that they have grown accustomed to. New positions will require an adjustment period for the herbs, which may slow their growth and cause them to struggle.
10. Protect From Temperature Fluctuations
If you keep your plants in a room where the temperatures go to extremes, such as very warm mornings but cold afternoons and nights, this may be a problem for your potted herbs.
Many herbs and other indoor plants cannot tolerate vast temperature and humidity fluctuations. Plants take time to adapt to these conditions, which they may not have time to do in a room where the temperature fluctuates dramatically. Rather move them to a location that has more stable temperatures.
Plants often use seasonal temperatures to balance their lifecycles, and if the temperatures fluctuate too dramatically, it could confuse the plant as to what season it is in, which will result in less than desirable growth and health of the plants.
11. Remove Indoor Plant Pests
Many people think that pests on a plant are more of an outdoor plant problem rather than an indoor plant problem. While this is generally true, your indoor plants can become infested with pests, especially if you have brought in a new plant that is already hosting these nasty little creatures.
Inspect your indoor potted herbs regularly for pests such as aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale. These plant pests can damage your plants and cause them to become unhealthy and not grow well. Catching the problem early and quick eradication is the key to preventing pests becoming a problem.
Periodic inspection for these plant ailments is the best way to monitor these invaders. Fortunately, many herbs are actually deterrents for these pests because of their pungent smells. This is, however, no guarantee that you will remain infestation-free. If you discover pests, research organic methods on how to get rid of them safely.
12. Use Mulch to Prevent Drying Out and overheating
Mulch is a measure that is often used for outdoor plants that help to give plants a good growing environment. The same principles of mulching provide the same benefits to indoor plants, and you should consider using much on your indoor potted herbs to help them grow well.
Mulch is useful on potted herbs to reduce moisture loss through evaporation, prevent soil temperature fluctuations, and also acts as a food source for your potted herbs if organic mulches are used. Examples of organic mulch are straw, wood chips, dried leaves, or even cardboard.
Considering that your potted herbs are indoors, you may want to use a mulch type that adds some visual appeal to the pots, such as wood chips rather than cardboard.
13. Make Sure The Temperature Is Right
The native environments that plants, including herbs, originated in provide the ideal and optimal environment for them to grow in. If you can emulate those conditions for the plants, you can be ensured that your plants will grow as well as they can.
Different herbs and plants require different growing temperature ranges. Making sure they have the optimal temperatures will make sure you have healthy plants that will give you a good harvest. Make sure you plant indoor herbs that can manage your normal seasonal temperatures.
Some plants do better in warmer climates and others in cooler climates. The type of environment that you maintain in your home, including temperature, may dictate the type of herbs that you will be able to grow successfully indoors.
You may be able to manage some of the herb’s environmental needs by providing artificial heating and cooling, but this will require some experimentation.
14. Use A Plant Sitter When You Go Away
Plants are like pets, and just because you need a vacation does not mean you can put your plant care on hold. Your plants will need to be taken care of during your absence. There are a number of ways that you can approach this issue, but the bottom line is that you will need to continue the plant care.
To make sure your plants are taken care of while you are away, you can ask a friend or neighbor to continue taking care of your plants while you are away. Make sure you give them a detailed list of which plants should be watered when. You could also invest in an automated watering system.
Taking the time to make arrangements for your plant care while you are away can mean the difference between returning to healthy plants or a potted herb nightmare where the majority of your crop has withered.
15. Don’t Let The Plants Bolt
Some plants are perennials, which means they can live for a few years, while others are annuals, which means that the plant will only live for one year. Plants that have reached maturity or detect that the right climate conditions have been reached will start to bolt. This means that they are getting ready to flower and produce seed and indicates the end of their life.
With planning and management of your herbs, you can prevent them from bolting too soon or delay their bolting by controlling their environment or harvesting from the plant regularly. Once the plant bolts, its flavor normally changes, and it is less succulent, and it dies back after flowering.
When a plant bolts, it flowers and produces seed, which normally means that it has reached the end of its maturity or its growing cycle. In annuals, you will then need to re-seed, or in the case of perennials, wait for the plant to bounce back in the next season.
With a little research into each herb that you want to grow and providing the right environment for the plant, you can easily grow a successful potted herb garden indoors.
Most of the problems experienced with these plants are not enough light, incorrect watering, and failure to feed the plants. Get these three main aspects right, and you are well on the way to growing healthy herbs indoors. The other steps you can learn as you go along!