Herb Garden
Published October 10, 2023 by Nicole Burke

How to Overwinter Herbs Indoors

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herb garden
winter garden
indoor gardening

Bring Your Herb Garden Indoors

Your thyme is thriving, your rosemary has produced the prettiest little light blue flowers, and your mint is taking over. But winter is coming. What do you do?

With the exception of basil, many herbs can survive a mild winter. My Rooted Garden clients in Houston, for example, continue to grow herbs like sage, rosemary, and oregano throughout their colder months.

Those of you in colder zones with a period of frost or snow will need to provide frost protection for cold-hardier herbs and bring less tolerant herbs indoors. Some of your herbs, like chives, will die back and then return in the spring (their blossoms will be all the more beautiful for the cold weather).

One of the best things about herbs is how easy they are to care for, and that includes growing herbs indoors, as well. That means you can pot your herbs up, bring them inside, and never miss out on that garden-fresh flavor during the long winter months.

How to Overwinter Herbs Indoors - Nicole Burke of Gardenary

What Are the Best Herbs to Overwinter Indoors?

Missing the evergreen nature of my Houston garden once I moved to Chicago, I learned to bring in my herbs each fall to prepare for the brutal winters. I found the most success with bringing sage, rosemary, thyme, and lavender inside to keep growing until the ground thaws in spring, when I move them back outdoors. I also keep bay laurel in a pot permanently for easy moving in and out.

These herbs won’t necessarily produce lots of new leaves, but they'll continue moderate growth if you keep the soil moist and place them in the sunniest spot you have in your home.

It's not worth trying to pot up annual herbs like cilantro or dill. Let these herbs go to seed in your garden and start again next season.

how to plant indoor herbs for winter

5 Steps to Pot Up Herbs Before Winter

Step one to overwinter herbs indoors

Before your first frost, dig your herbs up if they're in the ground or in a raised bed, taking care not to overly disturb the roots. Use a long, thin trowel or hori hori to dig a wide circle and go an inch deeper than the plant's roots before you pull it from its home. Try to keep as much of the soil it's currently growing in as possible.

(Another option would be to take cuttings from your mature plants and propagate them indoors. Here's how to easily propagate rosemary, mint, and basil. Your baby herbs will be ready to plant in your garden come the spring. Just note that you won't get leaf harvests over the winter while the plants are developing roots.)

which herbs can grow indoors for winter

Step two to overwinter herbs indoors

Check your herbs carefully for pests so that you don't have any unwanted house guests for the winter. Prune damaged or discolored leaves. If you see any pests, pick them off or spray the plant with a mix of soap and water.

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Step three to overwinter herbs indoors

Choose containers that are deep enough to accommodate the roots of your herbs (at least 6 inches deep). I like to use terra cotta pots for moisture control. Another great option is a wide metal tub made by Behrens, which allows you to plant several of your favorite herbs together. You can find these easily at hardware stores, but you'll have to drill your own drainage holes. You need at least one good drainage hole in the bottom of your container or pot.

Line the bottom of your containers or pots with landscaping cloth or burlap to prevent your soil from spilling out the bottom every time you water your herbs.

Fill the bottom of your containers or pots with a mixture of potting soil, coarse sand (like paver sand), and compost.

how to overwinter herbs indoors

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Step four to overwinter herbs indoors

If you're using small pots, plant one herb per pot. Wider containers give you more freedom to plant multiple herbs in the same space (except for mint, which will try to take over and should be given its own pot). Fill in the space around the root ball of the herb with your soil mix.

Give your plants a nice watering.

herbs to grow indoors include bay laurel

Step five to overwinter herbs indoors

Bring your herbs inside and set them somewhere that receives a lot of sun, maybe a kitchen window if you have one. (Bonus: herbs are always at your fingertips for easy harvests.) I'm lucky to have a large picture window that faces south to house my herbs all winter. I keep a blanket under the pots and their saucers to protect the wood surface underneath.

Your plants will slowly adjust to reduced light indoors. If older leaves wither from transplant shock, prune them. Water your plants sparingly, only when the top two inches or so of their soil feels dry.

Once your garden soil is workable, you can transplant most of your herbs back out to your garden (wait for warm weather for basil).

best herbs to grow indoors

Time to Pot Up Some Herbs!

Your potting up efforts will prove worth it when you're cutting little sprigs of rosemary and oregano all winter long.

If you end up with more herbs than you know what to do with, here's how to make a dried herb wreath that's a beautiful holiday gift for friends and neighbors (and so much better for the planet than fake, plastic wreaths).

I hope you and your herbs stay warm this coming winter!

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