Growing Herbs Indoors
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Mary Halfhill
Posted: Before April 1998

I’ve just moved from Maryland, US south to North Carolina, US. In the new house I have a sunny bay window where I brought in the few herb plants I was able to get here in New Bern (on the eastern side of the state). I had a rosemary plant but it started drying out and finally got mold on the soil.
What are the things one needs to do with herbs in the house over the winter months? I have a kind of mind, yarrow, parsley and garlic chives.

I would like to order some herb seeds and try to grow them indoors for next year since the closest herb farm is 2 hours away. Any suggestions?

In general, herbs need lots of light, a lot more than most house plants. A bay window is good but unless it is facing the south it will not get enough light for herbs to do well. In many cases supplemental lighting is necessary to get really good success.

Bringing slow-growing woody herbs like rosemary from outdoor gardens requires extra care. These plants have a hard time adjusting to the lower light of indoors. Unlike fast-growing herbs like mint, these herbs cannot produce new "low-light" leaves quickly enough to adjust to the lower light conditions. They may *appear* healthy for a while, even a for a few months, but suddenly they turn yellow and die.

For such slower growing herbs we prefer to bring the plants indoors in a step-wise fashion. At first we pot up the plant and place it in a partly shaded location outdoors. The plant is still receiving much more light than it would if it were brought indoors right away. Then after the plant shows new growth then we move it to a more shaded location for a few weeks. Then finally we bring it indoors.

In the case of garlic chives and parsley we like to bring in plants from the garden. Even now after the plants have died down for the winteryou can dig up the roots and bring them indoors. They actually benefit from the cold exposure and you will find that the new growth will be
especially lush and tasty. Yarrow can also be brought the same way.

There are many herbs you could start indoors from seeds – too many to list here. You might want to invest in Tom Debaggio’s new book on propagating herbs for ideas (available from Richters). To generalize, you can start seeds indoors in March and April for late may plantings. Again, you will need excellent light for herbs to do well. You may need supplemental light if the young seedlings appears "leggy".

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