The best herbs for growing on a windowsill

Katja
Katja
Katja
Katja

I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

Having your own windowsill herb garden is not just an essential for seasoned home cooks, the fragrant herbs add a refreshing touch of greenery to any kitchen!

Herbs in pots on windowsill
Many culinary herbs can be grown indoors on the windowsill [Photo: Yala/ Shutterstock.com]

Since space, light and soil are limited for herbs on the windowsill, there are a few important steps to follow when caring for them. In theory, however, most herbs can be grown indoors, where they are conveniently within arm’s reach for cooking.

Culinary herbs on the windowsill

The delicious aroma of fresh herbs adds the finishing touch to any dish. You might be delighted to hear that you do not need to have a balcony or garden to have your own herb garden. Many herbs thrive on the windowsill. It should be noted, however, that plants do not receive the full spectrum of light through today’s double-glazed and coated windows that they would outdoors, so they grow a little slower. Unlike greenhouse glass, the wavelengths important to plants cannot pass through the windowpanes in homes. So, it is important to place the herbs in as bright a spot as possible. A windowsill in another room might even be more suitable than the one in the kitchen. Below are some of the best herbs for cultivating in pots on your windowsill.

Basil growing inside
Sufficient light is particularly important for herbs on the windowsill [Photo: ANATOLY Foto/ Shutterstock.com]

Chives

In terms of light, chives (Allium schoenoprasum) don’t need as much as some other herbs so they can be grown almost anywhere. However, as not all rays of light can penetrate the window, the brightest windowsill is best. Regular watering and fertilising are important for windowsill chives. As the chives grow bigger, repot the hungry plants in nutrient-rich soil. Our Plantura Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost, for example, is ideal for this as it provides the herbs with an optimal supply of nutrients. As the chives grow bigger, repot the hungry plants in nutrient-rich soil. When harvesting, cut off the stalks right at the base and they will quickly sprout back because chives are perennial herbs.

Tip: Our Plantura Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost is also perfect for mint, basil, parsley and coriander, as these herbs also love plenty of nutrients.

Growing chives on the windowsill
Chives can be harvested continuously [Photo: kay fochtmann/ Shutterstock.com]

Mint

Mint (Mentha) comes in a variety of species, with peppermint (Mentha piperita) being one of the most popular in the kitchen. It grows quickly and rapidly spreads and becomes established in a pot. Place the mint in a partially shaded spot and water and feed it regularly. This herb needs a lot of nutrients and nutrient-rich soil, such as our peat-free Plantura Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost.

growing mint on the windowsill
In shade or full sun – mint actually likes all light conditions [Photo: Linda Hall/ Shutterstock.com]

Garden cress

Garden cress (Lepidium sativum) can be grown in any growing medium and is almost always successful. A shallow container is perfectly adequate, as you will harvest the seedlings. Sow the garden cress densely because the seedlings grow straight up and require little space until they are harvested. This herb grows in both full sun and partial shade and only needs watering occasionally. However, if the garden cress is kept in a very bright and warm location, you will need to water it more frequently.

growing garden cress on windowsill
Peppery garden cress grows pretty much everywhere [Photo: vivooo/ Shutterstock.com]

Basil

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) should have a place in every kitchen because nothing beats the taste of fresh basil. Always cut off the stem above a new pair of leaves when harvesting to encourage the plant to branch out and form new leaves there. This herb requires a sunny location, nutrient-rich soil, and consistent watering and feeding. When watering, however, it is important to find the right balance. Water the basil as soon as the leaves begin to droop, but never keep it submerged in water. Basil develops more stable shoots and tastes more aromatic when grown in nutrient-rich vegetable soil than when grown in nutrient-poor herb soil.

growing basil on the windowsill
When it comes to watering, basil is a bit picky, so you need to find the right balance [Photo: Olga Miltsova/ Shutterstock.com]

Parsley

Growing parsley (Petroselinum crispum) in the kitchen is also worthwhile because it tastes far more aromatic fresh than dried. Parsley prefers a bright location, but out of direct sunlight. It must also be warm in order for the herb to thrive. Water and feed your parsley plant regularly as it needs a lot of nutrients. This biennial herb will sprout again the following year, but will soon go to flower. Use a high-quality, nutrient-rich soil that can hold plenty of water, such as our Plantura Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost.

growing parsley on the windowsill
Fresh parsley makes a delicious garnish sprinkled on lots of different dishes [Photo: shadesofquartz/ Shutterstock.com]

Coriander

Although not everybody loves this herb, those who do enjoy coriander (Coriandrum sativum) can easily grow it in their kitchen. For a successful harvest, place the coriander plant on a sunny and warm windowsill and water regularly. Coriander is an annual plant that must be replanted each year. Coriander seeds are also used as a spice in the kitchen. Like the other herbs mentioned above, coriander prefers a nutrient-rich soil.

growing coriander on the windowsill
Coriander looks similar to parsley [Photo: Badon Hill Studio/ Shutterstock.com]

Rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is one of the easiest kitchen herbs to grow and its aroma enhances a variety of dishes from hearty stews to roast veg and soups. Keep the herb in a sunny spot. Watering and fertilising are rarely required because rosemary, being a mediterranean herb, is drought and heat tolerant. Rosemary grows best in a low-nutrient soil, such as our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost. Our organic peat-free compost produces truly aromatic herbs and is also ideal for growing herbs from seed. It is also suitable for the other shrub herbs listed below. When harvesting, simply cut a few branches from the base; the rosemary will sprout again on the windowsill.

Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost
Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost

Peat-free & environmentally-friendly: for aromatic herbs, as well as sowing seeds, planting cuttings & transplanting seedlings

Tip: Rosemary actually grows as a shrub and needs a larger pot after three to four years to give it more room for its roots.

rosemary and other herbs
Rosemary, like other herbs, loves a spot on a sunny windowsill [Photo: Christine Bird/ Shutterstock.com]

Sage

Sage (Salvia officinalis) tolerates drought and direct sunlight well. If you want to keep sage indoors, place it on a south-facing windowsill and water it when the top layer of soil is dry. A finger test is an easy way to check this. Sage does not need a huge amount of nutrients, so it should be grown in a low-nutrient soil, such as loose herb compost. Alternatively, you could use an all-purpose compost mixed with 30-40% sand.

growing sage on the windowsill
Sage can be grown both indoors and outdoors [Photo: David Jalda/ Shutterstock.com]

Thyme

Like rosemary, thyme (Thymus vulgaris) prefers a sunny spot and does not need a lot of nutrients. This Mediterranean herb also does not need a lot of watering. Although thyme grows best outdoors in the fresh air, it can also be kept on a windowsill. Thyme feels most at home in a nutrient-poor soil, such as our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost. Our herb soil contains perlite to give it a loose structure and a balance of nutrients that is ideal for thyme, promoting healthy root and aromatic leaf growth.

growing thyme on the windowsill
Thyme can be harvested straight from the kitchen windowsill [Photo: Pixel-Shot/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Soft and tender herbs like basil and parsley are best enjoyed freshly sprinkled on top of food or mixed in after cooking. Hard and coarse herbs, such as sage, rosemary, or thyme, can be added to the food earlier to allow their aroma to infuse into the dish.

What to look out for when caring for herbs on a windowsill

It is quick and easy to set up a small herb garden on the windowsill. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind when it comes to care.

Light

Due to the slightly limited light spectrum indoors, the herbs grow more slowly and tend to suffer from “etiolation”. This means that, as a result of inadequate light exposure, the plants grow long, weak stems with few and small leaves and are more susceptible to disease. Therefore, it is good for the herbs to spend some time outdoors, if possible. When the weather is nice, why not place your potted herbs on the other side of the window?

Growing herbs on exterior windowsill
Herbs benefit greatly from being on the outside of the window [Photo: Photokrat/ Shutterstock.com]

Planters

As windowsill space is very limited, small pots are usually the only option. In small pots, plant only two to four individual plants of each herb species to ensure that the individual plants develop properly. Separate purchased herbs as they are usually too dense. The kitchen herbs featured here do not tolerate waterlogging at all, so choose pots with drainage holes and add a drainage layer of pebbles or expanded clay to allow excess water to drain away easily. Also use good quality soil so that water and nutrients can be stored for a long time. The right balance of soil composition varies from herb to herb.

planting herbs in pots
It is important to separate and transplant densely sown or purchased herbs [Photo: encierro/ Shutterstock.com]

Overwintering

Since perennial kitchen herbs like perennial basil, thyme, rosemary, and sage are adapted to growing with the seasons, they need a period of rest in the winter so that they can continue to grow well the following year. Place the herbs in a room with little light and temperatures around 0°C. During this time, water them less frequently and do not apply any fertiliser.

winter hardy rosemary covered in frost
Rosemary is hardy and needs a cold period to stimulate good growth the following year [Photo: gyongyver/ Shutterstock.com]

Repotting

Repot your herbs every spring, especially those on windowsills. There is only a limited amount of soil and nutrients available in the small pots, so this should be replaced annually. When the plant becomes root bound, divide the herbs or plant them in a larger pot.

Pests and diseases

Since herbs on the windowsill grow very close together in a small space, pests such as spider mites and aphids can spread more quickly here and infest all of the plants. Herbs that grow indoors and get less light form longer weaker stems. Pests are also more likely to attack such stems. Because of this, it is important to inspect your herbs for pests on a regular basis. An infestation is not uncommon, especially during the winter, when the plants are weakened and the air is dry.

Repotting herbs in spring
It is important to repot herbs regularly to keep them thriving [Photo: Shironagasukujira/ Shutterstock.com]

Harvesting and pruning

Last but not least, it is important to harvest whole stems from your herbs on a regular basis to ensure healthy growth. Harvesting and pruning allows the plants to branch out and produce more foliage.

Herbs receive little light indoors. Find out which aromatic shade-loving herbs are particularly well suited for growing either in shaded spots in your garden or indoors.

Plantura's Garden-Mail Newsletter