Bringing Herbs Indoors for the Winter
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Angela Hoffort
Posted on: October 15, 2007

What is a standard procedure for overwintering potted herbs indoors? Namely, I have lemon grass, rosemary, lemon thyme, stevia, bay laurel, tamarind, apple mint and some Thai pepper plants. All have been growing beautifully outside. Now I am bringing them in for the winter. I know they must sit in the shade for a week or two, but what else needs to be done? Should I cut them back before bringing them in?

Yes, cut them back. Set them in your brightest window - if possible onto moisture trays. These trays are a pan half filled with pebbles on top of which you set the plants. Make sure the water level in the tray is never over the top of the pebble level. The plants should sit over but not in water.

What is more important for their long term survival, cool temperatures or light requirements?

High light is the most important factor for most of the plants. Stevia must have cool temperatures.

Should I water less during the winter?

Yes, unless the plants sit over a radiator and dry out very quickly. Keep them a little drier than in the summer. But be sure to never let rosemary get dried out.

Should I expect any of these plants to die back only to return in the spring (I don’t want to accidently throw something out)?

Lemon thyme and apple mint can over-winter out of doors as long as you do not live in a zone that is colder than what they are rated for.

Can I continue to harvest through the winter?

Certainly, but make sure you never harvest more than one third of the height of the plant. They will grow slower in the lower light.

Also, I have three different basils that I am going to bring in as well. How long can basil plants survive and can I do anything to help them grow well indoors.

Most basils are annuals and you cannot expect them to last all winter indoors. I would suggest that you harvest the tops and throw the rest out and for your winter supply start some plants from seed while you can still give them the heat they need to germinate. Grow the plants in an unobstructed South facing window or under strong artificial lights. Give them lots of heat as well.

What about fertilizers? Where is a good place to buy grow lights and such (I live in Canada)?

Fertilize a little less than out of doors, because chances are that you cannot give them as much light as they got out of doors. To buy lights and such, go to a hydroponic grower supply store. If you can give the plants some natural light, then special grow lights are not necessary and you can buy the fixtures and tubes at Canadian Tire or Home Depot. Four foot, two fluorescent tube light fixtures are the minimum I would suggest.

I have looked for the answers to these questions in your Q&A section. There are a few suggestions, but nothing very thorough about bringing plants indoors for the winter.

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