Indoor herb garden

We Spent Months Testing Indoor Herb Gardens to Find Out Which Ones Worked Best

Most herbs can be grown indoors, but those that tend to really thrive inside include no-fuss picks like basil, chives, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme.

Your Ultimate Guide to Growing Herbs Indoors

Indoor herb gardens not only provide fresh herbs at your fingertips but also fill your home with fragrance and greenery. Learn how to grow herbs indoors, including what herbs to grow indoors, tips on care and lighting, and indoor herb garden ideas.

As a former BHG garden editor, Kelly Reilly has spent the past decade creating approachable, inspiring content for gardeners of all levels, with a special emphasis on those trying their hand at planting for the first time. Whether it’s a deep-dive into a complex topic, a helpful how-to, or a roundup of the best plants hitting the market this year, Kelly writes articles that empower readers to turn their gardening and outdoor ideas into I-did-its.


Growing herbs indoors allows you to enjoy homegrown produce, whether you’re short on garden space or just want to add a dash of green to your interior. For newbies, it can also serve as a low-stakes entry into more substantial edible gardening—all you need is a sunny window.

It also makes cooking at home easy—whenever you need some herbs, just clip a few sprigs to use in a recipe or as a pretty garnish.

But before you pot up your first plant, ensure your success by following these surefire strategies for your indoor herb garden, even if you don’t have a green thumb.

1. Pick the Right Plants


Most herbs can be grown indoors, but those that tend to really thrive inside include no-fuss picks like basil, chives, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme.

You can start herbs from seed or cuttings, which is a branch of an existing plant cut at the node and soaked in water until new roots sprout. However, you may find it much easier and faster to start your indoor garden with seedlings from a garden shop.

2. Select a Container with Drainage


While there are dozens of herb pots you can buy, you can plant herbs in just about any container so long as it has some type of drainage. The pots also need something to protect the surface underneath them like a saucer or round plastic protector, which you can find at garden centers.

You can use any size container you like provided the plant fits, but realize that the smaller the vessel, the sooner you’ll have to repot. If you are using nontraditional planters such as Mason jars, just make sure to place a layer of pebbles in the bottom to catch excess moisture so your potting soil doesn’t get saturated.

3. Choose the Sunniest Spot


Most herbs prefer a lot of sunlight. That means you’ll want to give your indoor herb garden at least six hours of sun per day to thrive.

To maximize their exposure, place plants as close as possible to your brightest window—the bright light of a south-facing window is best. Avoid setting them in the center of a room or near a window with northern exposure—neither will offer enough light.

Growth may be slow in the winter when there isn’t much natural light. During those months, consider investing in a grow light or LED light while you wait for spring to arrive.

4. Water—But Not Too Much


You’ll be surprised by how little water it takes to sustain a small herb. To make sure your plant grows, keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. A small watering can or a drizzle under the sink will suffice. If the leaves begin to wilt or turn yellow, scale back the water.

5. Harvest a Little at a Time


Harvest a few sprigs with kitchen shears or by pinching leaves off with your fingers. Bonus: Regular cutbacks encourage new growth. Avoid removing more than a quarter of the plant at a time, which will cause distress and could even kill the plant.

6. Transplant When Ready


Indoor herb plants are not forever. The good news/bad news is that if you do it right, your herbs will eventually outgrow their containers and need more space. If you see roots coming out of the drainage holes, growth seems to have stalled or the plant starts to flop over, it’s time to transplant.

In most climates, perennial herbs such as lavender and mint can be started inside and moved into the ground after the threat of frost has passed. Annual herbs can be moved outdoors through the end of the growing season. When cold weather approaches, you can either bring the pots back indoors or leave them outside, but be sure to take cuttings before the first frost so you can start the whole indoor herb garden process over again.

Both annuals and perennials can be moved into larger pots within your home at any time; just keep them close to a light source.

Indoor Herb Garden Ideas That Don’t Need a Windowsill

Try these clever, stylish indoor herb gardens, perfect for those who can only dream of a big window right over their sink.

1. Chalkboard Wall Planter

Wall planter

This stunning chalkboard planter from Williams Sonoma lets you grow edible art that looks good and tastes good. If you have a blank wall near a window, tuck your favorite herbs into the 10 cubbies and label them to your heart’s content. An added bonus—watering is easy. Fill the irrigator on top with water and moisture trickles down slowly to keep your plants hydrated. (There’s a tray at the bottom to collect the excess.)

2. Grow Anywhere Herb Growbar


Fake a windowsill with this wall-mounted grow light from Food52 that turns any nook into the sunniest spot in your home.

3. Vintage Milk Crate Herb Garden

Vintage Milk Crate Herb Garden

Fill Mason jars with your favorite herbs and house them in a vintage milk crate for easy transport from a window-side table to the sink for watering. Add chalk labels to help you remember what’s what.

4. Window Herb Garden


No windowsill? No problem. These adorable planters developed by blogger Stephanie Rose from Garden Therapy stick directly to the glass. A complete kit takes the guesswork out of selection with six different types of seed, plus a marker so you can write right on the window.

5. Macrame Hanging Herb Garden

Herb garden

Wendy Robbins from My French Twist created crafty wall-mounted macrame holders for indoor herbs. See the complete instructions to make your own.

We Spent Months Testing Indoor Herb Gardens to Find Out Which Ones Worked Best

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you’ll be able to use our winners.

Irvin Lin is a contributing writer for Serious Eats. He’s written and created content focusing on food, travel and lifestyle for over 10 years.

three indoor herb gardens growing herbs

Straight to the Point

Our favorite indoor herb garden is the AeroGarden Harvest Elite. It has a digital display that gives you instant information, allows you to set various light modes, and is simple to clean. We also like the iDOO Hydroponics Growing System for its customization and more hands-on experience. For an aesthetic option, we recommend the chic Click and Grow Indoor Herb Garden, which is easy to use and takes up little countertop space.

Confession: I do not have a green thumb. Years ago, back when I had a day job, a co-worker shamed me when they found out I didn’t have any plants in my home. So the following weekend, my husband and I went to the local plant shop and told the clerk, “We’d like a plant we can’t kill.” Spoiler alert: it lasted about a month before it died.

But indoor herb gardens are supposed to be foolproof, and if anyone can put that claim to the test, it’s me. Now, I love fresh herbs. However, I rarely use up the entire clamshell or bundle of store-bought herbs before they go bad. Indoor herb gardens offer a solution, allowing you to harvest the herbs you need (and only the amount you need!)—year-round.

To find the best indoor herb gardens, I tested eight of them. I sought out models that grew efficiently but were also customizable and easy to clean and maintain.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Indoor Herb Garden

AeroGarden Harvest Elite with Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit

AeroGarden Harvest Elite with Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit

The AeroGarden Harvest Elite can grow six different plants at once. Setup was easy and involved literally just popping a pod into the machine and adding water and plant food. The digital screen in front makes it mostly foolproof, telling you how long ago you started your garden as well as when to add more water or plant food. And, unlike other cheaper AeroGarden models, it also gives you a variety of options for different types of plants and a “vacation mode” that uses less water and light when you’re away for extended periods of time.

The Best Indoor Herb Garden for Customization

iDOO Hydroponics Growing System

iDOO Hydroponics Growing System

If you are a budding gardener, but don’t have the outdoor space, or just want to grow specific plants that don’t come pre-packaged in pods, the iDOO Hydroponic System is the indoor garden for you. It was one of the more complicated models we tested, but also the most satisfying, since you can use any seeds. It’s also a great way to germinate and sprout seeds, allowing you to kick-start plants and then move them to a garden or pot.

The Most Aesthetic Indoor Herb Garden

Click and Grow The Smart Garden 3

Amazon Click and Grow The Smart Garden 3

If you live in a small apartment or by yourself and don’t need an abundance of fresh herbs, the Click and Grow Indoor Herb Garden is the best option. It was easy to use and maintain and had a slim profile, with only three pods.

The Tests

a measuring cup pouring water into an indoor herb garden

  • Herb Test: We set up each indoor herb garden, following the manufacturer’s instructions, and took note of the difficulty of installing, maintaining, and harvesting herbs. We recorded how long it took for the herbs to grow, as well as how easy it was to add water and/or plant food. We also cleaned each unit after an entire grow cycle was completed.
  • Usability Tests: We evaluated displays, buttons, and how easy it was to know when to water the herbs. We tested any apps that came with units and we researched what sort of additional pods or plants were available for each model.

What We Learned

All of the Herb Gardens Were Easy to Use

The indoor herb gardens we tested were all surprisingly easy to use; they’re the garden equivalent to a Keurig or Nespresso machine, where all you need to do is pop a pod or cartridge into the machine, add water, and plug it in. (Others allow you to add seeds of your choosing.) Some do require a little more work, like adding plant food every two weeks. And, occasionally you need to clean the tank and prune the plants. But the amount of work required is minimal, with some units even alerting you via a flashing button, screen, or mobile app notification when water or plant food is needed.

How Do Indoor Herb Gardens Work?

a closeup look at aerogarden herb pods

Indoor herb gardens claim to be foolproof, and they mostly are. But you can’t just set up the machine and forget about it. You do need to maintain them, albeit pretty nominally. Most indoor herb gardens work by providing pods with seeds already planted in them.

To use them, place the pods into the machine, cover them with the humidity domes, and then add water to the base. Plug the garden in and it’ll automatically start the growing cycle, with light and water circulation. Some gardens require plant food added to the water at regular intervals (two weeks), while others have the plant food built into the pods themselves. Most machines also have you clean them once a month, otherwise, algae or mold can grow, damaging the plants.

Once the sprouting starts, it’s pretty fun to watch the plants grow. But pruning is important, as faster-growing plants will hog the light. Once you get the hang of things, it’s like you’re actually gardening, albeit in a totally low-key manner without the weeding, bugs, and sweat. The result is fresh herbs or small vegetables (like cherry tomatoes) grown inside with minimal work.

Finding the Right-Sized Garden for Your Home (and One With the Right Features)

three indoor herb gardens

Depending on your household, getting a big indoor herb garden might not be the best choice. Larger units like the AeroGarden Bounty Elite and Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 offer numerous pods to grow lots of plants, including small vegetables. The AeroGarden Bounty Elite is the size of a regular toaster oven, taking up even more vertical space when the light is extended fully. The Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 is about twice as large as the Bounty Elite, at two feet wide—the width of the inside of a standard oven. But not everyone needs or wants bountiful amounts of various herbs. nor might they have the space for these behemoth models. For those with compact kitchens, opt for smaller units like the Click and Grow. Its slim, 5-inch profile is thinner than a loaf of grocery store sandwich bread.

As far as features, if you travel a lot, pick a garden like the AeroGarden Harvest Elite, which offers a vacation mode that stalls plant growth by limiting water and light exposure. And if you want to plant and grow your own selection of herbs or vegetables, opt for the iDOO so you can grow from your own seeds. (You can also purchase the “Grow Anything” kit for your Aerogarden for this purpose.)

Light Height Was Important

a white indoor herb garden

All of the indoor herb gardens had adjustable light arms. This allows you to lower the lights closer to the seeds, which helps them germinate faster. Then, as the plants grow, you can move the lights higher to accommodate them. But some lights start off fairly tall, like on the Veritable, and taller lights meant less intensity and slower growth. The Veritable garden took an extra week to germinate, and the plants took nearly twice as long to grow as tall as other indoor gardens. If you’re impatient, choose an herb garden that has adjustable lights that are set low at first, like the AeroGarden Harvest, Harvest Elite, or Bounty Elite. These had some of the faster-growing plants, like dill and basil, sprouting in less than a week. Otherwise, a little patience will result in growth, regardless of the height of the lights.

No Indoor Herb Garden Was 100%

a hand removing a pod from an indoor herb garden

When we mentioned that the gardens were mostly foolproof, we meant that they were pretty easy to use. But we did experience minor fail rates, mostly due to user error, with a few pods across all the brands. For example, a few plants sprouted but then withered and died because adjacent plants hogged the light.

There could be environmental factors, like placing the unit too close to an open window or a hot environment like the stove or oven. Some brands, like Aerogarden and Click and Grow, have a guarantee that their pre-seeded pods will grow. If they don’t, you can contact their product support, send a picture of the pod that hasn’t sprouted, and they will send you a replacement.

The Criteria: What to Look for in an Indoor Herb Garden

an indoor herb garden on a grey countertop

The best indoor herb gardens sprout and grow quickly and are relatively easy to use. It’s also nice if they tell you when to prune and where to place herbs for best success (i.e., fast-growing herbs shouldn’t be right next to each other or they’ll block the light). Depending on what you’re looking for, consider the herb garden’s features, like whether you want to plant any seeds or desire a vacation mode. The herb gardens should also be easy to clean.