What type of herbs can I grow in my garden?

What type of herbs can I grow in my garden?

People of old age often take care of plants as part of their hobbies. When people were ordered to stay at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, many people turned to growing and caring for plants indoors to help them cope with the change in their environment.

Exposure to nature has always been known to have a therapeutic effect on our well-being. Activities that allow us to immerse ourselves in nature like a stroll outdoors, nature camping and hiking, and even going to the beach, make us appreciate the special relationship between man and nature. The effects can be physical, when gardening becomes your form of exercise; mental, when caring for your plants helps you relax; and sometimes even spiritual, when you feel a moral sense of fulfillment by caring for nature.

The moral obligation part weighs heavily when you consider that scientists across the world have a consensus that climate change is a serious problem. The World Economic Forum gathered the take of 40 fire and forest ecologists living across the Western U.S. and Canada and formed a consensus that in the Western North America Region alone, seasonal wildfires though a part of the natural processes in the area, have been observed to have worsened over the years. And you guessed it - climate change is the largest contributor!

Among different means to counteract the effects of such phenomena is by planting. Plants help decrease carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere because it is required in photosynthesis. So planting and gardening can help address this huge problem.

For a more direct effect of planting and gardening, Thompson (2018) reported that exposure to plants and green space, and particularly to gardening, is beneficial to mental and physical health. The physical activity required to personally attend to each plant you are growing can be viewed as a form of exercise. While seeing the progress you’ve made from growing a plant from a seed and seeing them blossom provides satisfaction, doesn’t it?

You might have already prepared your gardening equipment or you might be thinking to to start planting indoors already – but where do you begin? Short answer, we recommend you start with herbs!

The term ”herbs” has many definitions. Botanists and horticulturists define it as a plant that does not produce a woody stem, unlike a tree.  Another definition of a herb by the nationally recognized horticulturist, consultant, and educator Holly Shimizu states that:

“Herbs are defined as plants (trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, biennials or annuals) valued historically, presently, or potentially for their flavor, fragrance, medicinal qualities, insecticidal qualities, economic or industrial use, or in the case of dyes, for the coloring material they provide."

This provides you more freedom in choosing which plants to grow right? To help you narrow down your choices, we will provide you with examples of herbs that you will be comfortable growing indoors. Do note however that here are

Factors To Consider in Growing Herbs Indoors

As with any living organism, plants must meet their nutritional requirements in order to grow properly! Understanding the process of Photosynthesis is essential to growing plants. Basically, it is the food-making process of plants. To recap, the important factors that drive this process in plants are light and water.

So ensuring that your plants have an adequate supply of sunlight and water should be your priority, regardless of which plant you aim to grow. Different plants require different amounts of sunlight and water though. For example, you can expect cacti to grow under harsh sunlight longer than say another plant that is fleshy or has broad leaves.

Additional factors should also be taken into your consideration - especially your location. If you are staying in a particular place, it might be better to place herbs in a cardinal direction where you know sunlight will hit. Those in the northern parts of the country will catch more sunlight if they place their plants southwards.

Hentges and colleagues (2020) of Oklahoma State University suggested that installing a south- or west-facing window may be suitable for herbs to get enough sunlight. If direct sunlight is a problem, you can make use of fluorescent or LED light, make sure that they are red and blue lights since these are the parts of the visible light spectrum that plays a role in photosynthesis. If space is an issue, try vertical farming.

Another thing you should consider is that the day length varies over the course of a year. You can expect that as the year approaches the winter season, the days will become shorter. To help you with this, the USDA created a guideline to help gardeners and growers determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location.

This Plant Hardiness Zone Map was created based on the average annual minimum winter temperature. There are currently 13 zones, each being separated by a 10 °F difference. Zone 1 (-60 °F to -50 °F) is the coldest and Zone 13 is the hottest (60 °F to 70 °F).

Gardeners in the Western US often get confused when met with this USDA zonation as they are used to the 24-zone climate system established by Sunset Magazine. The USDA zone map is only a guideline and should not be considered exact when planning which herb to grow. In addition, because it is solely based on winter temperatures, those maps by Sunset Magazine are considered more precise than that of USDA in the West, since they factor in not only winter minimum temperatures; but also summer highs, lengths of growing seasons, humidity, and rainfall patterns.

In addition to light, you need to make sure that the herbs you intend to grow will have sufficient water. The type of water too can also influence your herbs. If possible, try to get gardening water from natural sources since treated water may not contain as many minerals that plants can also use (chlorinated water for example).

Unless you have a hydroponic setup at home, the most convenient way for you to regulate water drainage would be to choose the best combination of soils to help retain water. As a quick reminder, sand and pebbles are the largest soil particles and silt the smallest. The larger the particle, the more likely that water will flow in-between the spaces separating particles.

If you simply use silt, however, you risk retaining too much water that the plant is unable to suck the water through transpiration (so the roots of plants require a bit of air basically). This may also cause microorganisms to grow and fester on the roots ultimately killing the herb. So a good combination of different soil types can help you manage water flow. If you would like to learn more about how the soil contributes to plant growth, this FAQ sheet of the Royal Society can help you!

Importing Herbs to Grow?

The nation is home to many first-generation Asian immigrant communities and their successors. Data from the Pew Research Center reported that in 2019 alone, the top two metropolitan areas that house many Filipinos belong in California - LA and San Francisco. People of Chinese descent follow in second in these same urban centers.

If you have recently emigrated from an Asian country, you might be interested to grow plants from Asia in your new home country. The following herbs are recommended based on their various established medicinal properties:

  1. Garlic (Allium sativum)
  2. Nagal Camphor (Blumea balsamifera)
  3. Ringworm Bush (Cassia alata)
  4. Mint (Clinopodium douglasii)
  5. Scorpion Bush (Ehretia microphylla)
  6. Guava (Psidium guajava)
  7. Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia)
  8. Silver Bush (Peperomia pellucida)
  9. Rangoon Creeper (Quisqualis indica)
  10. The Five-leaved Chaste Tree (Vitex negundo)

The medicinal properties of these herbs were determined by the Philippines’ Department of Health. Though these plants were studied in the Philippines, they should grow in similar biomes - regions which share similar climate conditions as the Philippines.These would include other nations in Southeast Asia and could reach as far as Continental India.

Before you try to import these plants into the country, be mindful of state regulations and policies. Invasive herbs, for example, should be regulated properly by putting them into separate containers than planting them in the open. For California, here is a link to CDFA which manages and regulates which specific plants or animals can enter the state. Always check with authorities in your respective area to avoid legal sanctions.

Now, why should you grow your own herbs? Here are

The Benefits of Growing Your Own Herbs

We mentioned the benefits of gardening on your well-being earlier, but here are additional reasons why you should consider growing your own herbs:

Most herbs are used for seasoning or other culinary purposes. Fresh herbs ensure that their full flavor can be used to enhance what meal you are preparing compared with dried or processed herbs. This can be used to make your picky-eaters like their vegetables more! Growing your own herbs is economical and it can help you save money from buying herbs and the cost of travel to the nearest grocery store. Having your own nearby herb garden also frees up time for you to explore and test new recipes.

Herbs To Consider For Your Indoor Garden

Many herbs grow well indoors. They may not be able to reach the fullness or height that they would compare with planting them outdoors, but they still provide beauty and abundant leaves - complementing your aesthetic with regards to certain home decor.

Herbs are versatile in that they can be grown on a table next to a window, in hanging baskets, in a terrarium, and in pots or tubs. Your imagination is the limit. The common name of an herb can refer to any plant, so we will provide scientific names to specific examples - if applicable.


There are many kinds and uses of mint. Other herbs listed here belong to the Mint family but we mostly refer to the genus Mentha when we mean the mint plant.

There are at least 12 different mint varieties but here are some common examples:

  1. Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) has purplish stems
  2. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) has sharply pointed leaves and has a milder flavor than peppermint
  3. Bergamot or orange mint has dark green, broad leaves, rounded with little yellow dots and touched with purple. It has a citrus scent and flavor.
  4. Apple mint has round leaves with a slight apple scent.

You can grow mint from underground stems and runners. Fall or spring is ideal for propagating the plant. Mints should only be grown in partial shade planted on rich, moist, well-drained soil. They can also grow well in containers. Frequent cutting will encourage stems to branch out while keeping flowers pinched back will encourage bushy growth. In winter, you must protect it with mulch material such as straw or pine needles.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

There are three varieties of Parsley you can grow:

  1. Flat-leaf or plain-leafted (Italian)
  2. Curly-leaf (French)
  3. Parsnip-rooted (Hamburg)

Parsley is grown from seeds but you have to soak the seed in warm water overnight to hasten the sprouts. Seeds are ideally sown in spring and placed shallowly in well-prepared soil. It is a bit difficult to transplant. The herb grows in full to partial shade and should be planted in moderately rich, moist, and well-drained soil. It also does well in pots and window boxes.

Dill (Anethum graveolens)

Dill is an annual herb that can grow to 3 feet tall. It should be planted in full sun and friable soil. Pots should be fairly deep and must have holes in the bottom to provide good drainage. Stake dill indoors because it will be taller and spindlier as it looks for sunlight.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

There are many species and varieties of basil you can grow, each having different uses:

  1. Sweet basil (O. basilicum) grows to 2 feet tall with shiny green leaves that are 1 to 2 inches long. This is the most popular variety used for cooking.
  2. Bush basil (O. basilicum minimum) unlike sweet basil, has compact growth. Leaves are smaller and the edges curl inwards towards the center vein of the leaf.

Basil can be grown from seeds sown directly in warm soil; root cuttings can also be used to propagate the plant. In taking care of the herb, pinching the stem frequently will make it bushier and full. You don’t need to fertilize the plant but keeping it watered properly can help in keeping it succulent.

Thyme (Thymus species)

There are many different species and varieties of thyme. The one used for seasoning is the common thyme (T. vulgaris). Lemon thyme and oregano thyme also have culinary use. Thyme can be easily propagated by stem cuttings, division, or layering. Clip the tips to restrain the plant. Established herbs can be divided every 4-5 years.

These are some of the most common herbs you can begin planting indoors. To help you plan to grow them here are

General Guidelines for Growing Your Herbs

PennState University Professors Elsa Sanchez and Kathy Kelly provide the following tips for growing herbs:

  • Most herbs need six hours of direct sunlight.
  • Keep herbs in rooms that have temperatures of at least 65 to 70°F during the day and 55 to 60°F at night.
  • Herbs require a balance between humidity and adequate air circulation. Containers should be grouped together to create a humid environment, however, the closer containers are, the more likely air will not be able to properly circulate through the plants.
  • Herbs should be grown in containers with a drainage hole and in a potting mix that will aid water drainage.
  • Fertilize herbs with a low dose of water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks.
  • Herbs should be repotted when roots grow through the drainage hole. The best time to repot is in the early spring so that herbs can grow into the new medium during the growing season.

These should guide you in planting herbs indoors but these are

Things to Look Out For When Growing Your Herbs

Visual cues related to nutrient deficiency in plants can help you address problems. Matson and Merrill (2016) provided the following specific example for Basil when their nutrient requirements aren’t met:

  • Nitrogen deficiency leads to chlorosis or yellowing of old leaves. This can be observed two weeks after the deficiency started.
  • Phosphorus deficiency is evident on small purple spots on old leaves, three weeks after becoming deficient.
  • Potassium deficiency will be shown within two weeks with necrotic spots observed in the veins of the oldest leaves.
  • Calcium deficiency begins with necrotic spots towards the base of young leaves which are present within three days since becoming deficient.
  • Magnesium deficiency begins as faint chlorosis between recently mature leaves. This is observed after two weeks of being deficient.
  • Sulfur deficiency symptoms manifest within two weeks. The entire leaf will become yellow and all leaves are affected.
  • Iron deficiency will cause the young leaves to be yellowish and the mature ones to remain green. This can be observed 4 weeks after becoming deficient.
  • Boron deficiency begins as a necrotic region in the veins of young leaves and is noticeable after 3 weeks of becoming deficient.

Again this is for Basil so if you would like to learn how these nutrients are used in general by plants themselves, this reference by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture provides you with a rundown of those elements. This guide by the University of Arizona also provides a table for nutrient deficiency symptoms.


Planting and gardening have many benefits to your well-being. With the recent pandemic, indoor gardening has provided comfort and coping mechanisms for many individuals affected by being kept indoors. Though you are free to grow plants indoors, herbs provide the easiest entry to indoor gardening.

Herbs are diverse and can be any form of flora but they are usually associated with their function both as a food source or for other uses. Though you can also use herbs from outside the US it is generally a good idea to ask permission or coordinate with local authorities or plant experts before trying to grow any herb in the state you are residing in!

Adequate sunlight and water are the main drivers of growth of all plants but there should be other considerations when it comes to growing herbs If you feel like something might be wrong with the plant, you can check for visual cues for nutrient deficiencies. Don’t let these small setbacks stop you from pursuing indoor planting! So, are you ready to… “Grow forth and multiply”?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best way to have an herb garden?

The best way to have an herb garden is by starting with a small pot or container. Fill the pot or container with a drainage hole and in a potting mix that will aid water drainage. Fertilize herbs with a low dose of water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks. Herbs should be repotted when roots grow through the drainage hole or the potting mix dries quickly. Once you get experience in growing herbs, you can move to different herbs and grow them inside and outside of the house. Those individuals who have experience tend to create a greenhouse.

How much experience do I need to grow herb plants?

You do not need a lot of experience to grow herb plants. If you have never grown plants before, it is recommended that you start with a small pot or container. Fill the pot or container with a drainage hole and in a potting mix that will aid water drainage. Fertilize herbs with a low dose of water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks. Make sure to sow seeds when planting them and create a small space in between seeds.

What are the easiest herbs to grow?

The easiest herbs to grow are basil, chives, cilantro, and mint. These herbs do not require a lot of attention or care. Additionally, some individuals like to grow lemon verbena, purple basil, hardy perennial, French tarragon, and other herbs. Other individuals like to grew certain culinary herbs like oregano, thyme, and sage.

What herbs can I grow for traditional medicine purposes?

There are many herbs that can be grown for traditional medicine purposes. These herbs include aloe vera, lavender, peppermint, and rosemary. Some of these herbs can be used to make teas, while others can be used in ointments or oils. Some herbs that are used for tea include German chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, and mint. Peppermint can also be used to make teas and oils. Rosemary can be used to make teas and oils. Rosemary, along with oregano and basil, are great herbs as pizza herbs. Thyme is also a good pizza herb.

How can I start a kitchen garden?

If you want to start a kitchen garden, you can start off small with growing a few herbs in a small pot. You can grow different types of herbs and slowly begin to grow other kinds of kitchen type foods. For example, you can start off by growing Chinese parsley, which is one of the most popular herbs. Then you can start to grow different type of garlic family plants. As you progress, you can grow herbs, vegetables, and other plants. If you love to cook, having a kitchen garden add beauty to your kitchen. Some individuals like their gardens next to a sunny kitchen window, or have some at a sunny spot with part shade. However, this depends on the types of plants and herbs that you grow indoors.

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