How Long do Indoor Herbs Take to Grow?


In today’s busy society, many people would prefer to purchase herbs from the local grocery store, farmer’s market, or order them from the many online stores that exist.  But there is nothing like growing herbs in your own indoor garden.  Not only is it economical, but you get herbs directly from the soil that has not been tainted with pesticides or other chemicals.  If you have ever done any gardening, or if you understand the concept of seedtime and harvest, you know that growing seeds is a process that takes time and patience.

How long do indoor herbs take to grow?  Most seeds germinate within 10 – 14 days, but you must take into consideration environmental factors such as sunlight, temperature, and maintenance.

Germination is the time it takes for an organism to sprout from a seed.  Before we look at the growth rates for indoor herbs, let’s consider three main requirements for an indoor herb garden to be successful.  

Steps to Help Grow Herbs More Effectively

An indoor herb garden is not difficult to grow, but there are three essential conditions required for a successful yield of herbs.

Plenty of Sunshine

The location of the garden is key.  It must be in a spot where there is as much natural light as possible for a minimum of 6 hours daily.  Indoor light is good, but it does not have the intensity of natural light and is not enough for herbs to flourish.  Healthy doses of sunlight add to the flavor of herbs.

South or west-facing windows are ideal spots for your herb garden.  Although nothing replaces natural sunlight, some people use a grow light which mimics natural sunlight.  A grow light is an artificial light designed to stimulate the photosynthesis process in plants.  These lights are helpful during the winter season and on less sunny days.  

Good Drainage System

One way to ruin herbs is to allow the roots to sit in water, which will cause them to rot.  Use a potting mix for extra drainage instead of soil.  Outside dirt is much too compact and will not enable the roots to breathe.  Also, outdoor dirt carries parasites and bugs that can cause harm to the herbs.  

When choosing a potting mix, most labels will indicate if the mix is suitable for indoor plants. A good potting mix will hold the right amount of water and allow the rest to drain.  Be sure to choose potting mix and not potting soil. Potting mix is lighter and contains perlite, which is little white stones in the mix.  

The containers you select should also have a good drainage system.  It is best to grow each herb in a separate pot with a saucer under it.  The saucer protects surfaces such as windowsills or counters when water is draining. It is also important to get a pot with adequate draining holes. 

Drainage holes will keep the herbs from standing in water too long, which will interfere with the growth of your plants. Clay pots are good choices because they are porous and have many holes through which water can drain, but they also dry out quickly. When using clay pots, often check to ensure your herbs are maintaining proper moisture. 

Plastic containers are a better choice, especially when first starting your seeds. Choosing herb pots can be fun as there are some great designs in the marketplace well suited for your indoor herb garden! 

Extra Tip

*Tip:  One way to test your pot is to fill it with water before adding soil or herbs and watch how fast or slow the water drains. If it drains too slow, you can put pebbles in the bottom to help absorb the water.

Temperature 

Try to keep your indoor temperature between 60 – 70° as this is an ideal setting for most herbs.  There are some exceptions for herbs like basil which does better in warmer temperature and will quickly wilt if it gets too cold.  Generally, herbs are as comfortable as you are with the average indoor temperature.  Try to keep plants from touching windows as air by windows is usually hotter in the summer and colder in the winter. 

Once these three conditions are in place, you are on your way to experiencing a wonderful, fragrant, beautiful array of greenery in your home.  Of course, proper maintenance throughout the life of the herb plants is necessary to receive the full benefit.

Growth Rates for Indoor Herbs

Now that you have the right location, a good drainage system, and the right temperature, you are ready to plant your herbs and watch them flourish.  Usually, it will take approximately 1-2 weeks before you start to notice seedlings. Some herbs take longer to germinate than others.  Below is a table with the approximate times for many common herbs to sprout.

HerbGermination Time
BasilOne of the fastest – can germinate within 4 days
ParsleyCan take up to 4 weeks
SageCan take up to 21 days
DillWithin 1-2 weeks of sowing 
Cilantro7-10 days
ChivesWithin 10 days of sowing
Thyme2-3 weeks
Oregano80-90 days

Perennials and Annuals 

There are two types of garden herbs: perennial and annual.  Knowing which category your herbs fall into will help with planning your garden.  Annuals only last for one year and must be replanted every spring. Generally, annual herbs complete the cycle of germination to the production of seeds in one year, after which the seeds die. There are a few herbs such as dill that can reappear each year without replanting. 

Perennial herbs do not need to be replanted every year. The top of the plant will often die, but the crown will lie dormant in the winter and sprout again in spring.  Some perennials are considered cold-hardy or woody perennials (evergreen), meaning they can adapt to cold climate once they are established. These herbs develop stubby, woody stems and tend to stay green throughout the winter season. Knowing these characteristics may help you decide which herbs to grow in your indoor garden or which herbs to grow outside in pots then transfer indoors during harsh winters. 

Perennial HerbsAnnual HerbsEvergreen Herbs
ChicoryBasilBay
FennelChervilHyssop
GingerCilantroLavender
Lemon BalmCorianderRosemary
Lemon GrassSummer SavoryThyme
OreganoDill 
TarragonBay Laurel 
Marjoram  
Mint  

Is There Such a Thing as an Indoor Herb and an Outdoor Herb?

Herbs can be planted indoors or outdoors, but some are better suited for the outdoors because of their large root systems and need for adequate sunlight.  Herbs with large root systems require huge containers which are not always practical for indoors.  The type of container you choose can limit the full growth of these herbs.  Perennials tend to have deeper root systems, while roots for annual herbs are much finer.  

Several factors must be considered when deciding whether to maintain your herb garden indoors or outdoors.  Many people use both.  Some choose to start their herb garden indoors, then transplant the herbs outdoors once the risk of frost has passed.  Also, many plants must be brought inside during winter months in order to survive.  Some herbs can live outside year-round, but they must be established first.   

In general, herbs do well with plenty of sunlight and good soil drainage.  But keeping in mind the root structure and growth potential of the herbs, some are more suited for outdoor gardens.

Herbs that are easy to start growing indoors include:

  • Chives
  • Cilantro 
  • Basil
  • Bay laurel
  • Chervil
  • Chives
  • Mint 
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

You may find a mixed consensus on whether it is easy to grow some of these herbs indoors, but that is based on individual experience and if the right conditions are present.  For the most part, the herbs on the list provided are the most commonly named. 

More Tips for Maintaining Your Indoor Herb Garden

Aside from the basic requirements of sunshine, adequate soil drainage, and proper temperature, there are other things you can do ensure a healthy indoor herb garden.  

Watering Your Herbs

You should not have to water your herbs daily because you can overwater them.  Two to three times a week is enough.  If you find that the herbs are consistently drying out, it could mean:

  • The sun is too hot.  If you see leaves wilting, you may have to move the plants away from the window a bit. Often the sun can dry out pots quickly.
  • The moisture level indoors is too low
  • The pot is too small.  Check roots.  They could be taking up too much space which means it’s time to move the plant to a bigger pot.

If the soil feels dry on the top, it does not mean the plant needs watering.  Soil dries from top to bottom.  The best way to check the moistness of the soil is by sticking your finger into the topsoil.

Use a Fish Based or Seaweed Fertilizer

These fertilizers contain a high concentration of nitrogen which helps the leaves grow strong. While herbs are actively growing, especially in summer, it is a good idea to fertilize once a week.  During less active growth periods, once a month is enough.  Some fertilizers have a blend of fish and seaweed, and others have micro-nutrients and amino acids which also promotes healthy growth.

Flush Herb Pots with Water

When you consistently fertilize your plants, it can result in a build-up of salt residue.  Salt can also be transferred from tap water into the plant.  You will know if there is salt buildup if you see a white substance around the rim of the pot.  This means that the salt is also in the soil, which can damage the herbs if left untreated. 

Don’t fear!  There’s an easy solution.  Every few months hold the pot under the tap in the sink and allow the water to run over the plant and through the soil entirely until the water drains from the bottom of the pot.   Make sure the water is fully drained before putting the pot back in place.

Air Circulation

Plants need room to breathe so that they can grow healthy.  If the air is not flowing or stagnant, it can result in the spreading of disease among the herbs.  Be sure that your plants have enough space between them.  You may want to use a fan from time to time to help air circulation in the room.  

Using a fan will also help prevent dampness and cold and hot spots condensation. Condensation often builds up around windows, causing the air to become humid and stuffy.  It is a good idea to rearrange your plants periodically.   

Good Old Fashioned Tender Loving Care

My mom had a green thumb, and as a young girl, I loved to watch her care for her plants.  She was a singer, and she would talk and sing to the plants.  I always thought it was funny, but it was awesome to see how the plants thrived.  They seemed to respond to that personal touch! 

Some people think it is far-fetched, but plants respond to being stroked or the sound of your voice.  There is carbon dioxide released when you speak, and plants convert that to food.  The movement of your hand on the plant mimics movement of wind which helps strengthen the stems.

Herb Usage

Herbs are some of the oldest living plants in existence, dating back as far as 5000 BCE.  They have been used throughout history for medicinal, culinary, and even spiritual purposes.  In general, herbs refer to the flowering or leafy green part of a plant; however, the roots, bark, seeds, and resin are considered for spiritual and medicinal uses. Whether sipping on a cup of hot tea, savoring a succulent dish, brushing your teeth, or nourishing your skin for a soft, smooth, glow, you have most likely encountered one or more herbs.   

Now that you have a good working knowledge of what you need to start an indoor herb garden, and how long it takes to grow, let’s look at some common herbs and their uses and benefits.

Basil

Basil comes in many varieties, the most common being sweet basil.  It is used in dishes around the world.  You will often find it paired with tomatoes.  Basil can be used in pesto, stews or salads as well as an assortment of other dishes.  It is said that ancient Hebrews used basil for courage and strength. Basil has been used for stomach spasms, intestinal and kidney conditions, fluid retention, head colds, warts, and worm infections.  However, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of basil for these conditions. 

Sage 

The leaves of sage are mainly used for medicinal purposes. Sage was used by ancient Romans and Egyptians for sore throats, digestive issues, and memory loss.  The word is derived from the Latin word “salvia” which means to feel healthy. It is also used for stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, depression, high cholesterol, and diabetes.  It can be applied directly to the mouth for gum disease, cold sores, and swollen tonsils.  Sage is also commonly used as a spice in food.

Mint

There are many flavorful varieties of mint including two favorites: spearmint and peppermint.  These leaves can be used in teas, desserts, salads, and mixed drinks.  Mint is a perennial that can withstand colder temperatures.  It is used in many beauty products and toothpaste, having one of the highest antioxidant capacities in food.  If used properly in cooking, it can help decrease sodium intake.  

Oregano

This is a popular Mediterranean herb in Mexican, Italian and Middle Eastern dishes.  It can be used in meats, soups, stews sauces, and casseroles.  The word oregano comes from the Greek words “oros,” which means mountain and “ganos” which means joy.  It contains the chemicals limonene, thymol, carvacrol, ocimene, pinene, and caryophyllene which give it that unique smell.  Active ingredients in oregano may one day help treat cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis.   

Rosemary

Rosemary is an evergreen herb used for cooking and to make bodily perfumes.  It is a member of the mint family and is a good source of calcium, iron and Vitamin B-6.  A perennial plant, rosemary was traditionally used to improve memory, boost the circulatory and immune system, stimulate hair growth, and alleviate muscle pain.  You can recognize this herb by its needle-like leaves and woody smell.

Parsley

Many times, you will see parsley used as a garnish for the presentation of a dish.  But it does more than just look good on a plate.  It also provides nutritional benefits to the immune system and bones.  Parsley is an annual herb with bright green leaves and erect stems.  It has traditionally been used to treat many ailments including colic pain, insect bites, lice, and contusions.  It has also been used to treat diseases of the following:

  • liver
  • spleen
  • prostate

An indoor herb garden can be very rewarding once you take the time to plan.  Not only are the herbs aesthetically pleasing, but the fragrance of these unique plants can bring about a sense of positive well-being.  

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