Growing herbs indoors can be tricky, one solution is growing herbs in water. Read on to see how we do it and for easy tips to keep your fresh herbs healthy.
Note: you may also like learning how to grow an indoor herb garden using soil.
There’s nothing better than fresh herbs, but they’re not always available during the entire year. Sure, you can get most herbs dried, but they’re sometimes lacking in flavor and most always in nutrients. Fresh basil compared to dried basil? Nowhere near the same! And if you’ve ever tried to grow herbs indoors, you know it can be a challenge. Here’s a simple way to have fresh herbs all year, inside or out!
Growing Herbs in Water Indoors
The Growing Vessel
First, you’ll need a container to grow the herbs in. I’ve tried old jars, but if the roots grow into a large mass, they can be difficult to get out. One solution is a rocks glass. These are short glass tumblers often sold as a part of a set. They are usually around four inches tall and 3 inches across, sometimes decorative. I find mine at thrift shops for a quarter or so. These glasses are heavy on the bottom, making them perfect for herbs once they get larger. Smaller glasses may not be heavy enough for growing herbs in water once the plants start to grow.
The next most important thing is water. Spring or well water is best as it usually contains no chemicals, but has minerals that plants need to grow. You can also use rainwater, provided it’s collected straight from the sky. Some roofing material, such as shingles, have chemicals to retard moss and algae, and this can harm your growing plants. If you collect water and you’re not sure, it’s best to filter it.
The Best Herbs For Growing In Water
While many herbs will grow in water for a time, some will do better than others. Here is a list of some herbs that grow exceptionally well.
- Lemon Balm
- Mint (most all mints)
- Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Tip: did you know consuming mint boosts your memory?
The consumption of fresh or powdered herbs from the mint family in culinary doses can help boost memory.
Starting Your Herbs
When you select herbs for growing in water, look for a young branch with new growth. You’ll want about 6-8 inches. Remove the lower leaves and place in the water. You can usually get 3-4 cuttings in one glass, but as they grow, they’ll need more space. If you plan to take soft cuttings frequently, you can keep more cuttings to a container. If you plan to let the plants get bigger, one per glass is good. Place the glasses on a windowsill.
Maintaining Your Herbs Grown in Water
Once you start your cuttings, you’ll want to change the water once a week or so. They’ll start to grow roots within a week. If they don’t, you can add a rooting hormone or a few twigs from a willow tree. Willows contain a natural hormone that promotes root growth. Once the roots start to grow, you won’t need to change the water, or not change it as much. The roots will filter out excess plant waste.
If the water starts to turn green, or the roots turn green, you may need to block some of the light. Plants need light to survive, so blocking the bottom may be all you need to do. You can tape a piece of paper around the glass, or you can paint the glass before you use it.
Light for Growing Herbs Indoors In Water
During the winter, the light from the sun isn’t strong enough to help the plants to grow. There are several ways to fix this. One is to place the plants outside on a sunny day, but not long enough to burn them. Like you, plants can get sunburn.
Another way to get light when growing herbs in water is to get a shop light and use daylight simulated bulbs. These are available at pet stores and hardware stores. The one thing you need to be aware of here is that the bulbs will lose about half their intensity over time. You may not be able to see it with the naked eye, but you’ll see it in the plants. They’ll start to get straggly. Change out your bulbs when you see the plants starting to fail.
Putting Herbs By Windows
Windows are another consideration. You would think that if you put a plant by a window, they’ll get the light they need to survive. Years ago, that may have been true. But now, with the advent of triple pane UV resistant windows, that no longer holds true. The newer windows filter out harmful UV rays, but these are the same rays that the plants need, so they end up not getting enough sunlight. My Dad had an interesting solution. He installed an old door, one with very old glass, as a window in his new home. As a result, his plants are thriving.
Once you have your herbs growing, you can use them as you would any fresh herb.
Other Things to Grow Indoors
Have you tried growing herbs indoors? Now is the time to start!
- Agatonovic-Kustrin, Snezana et al. “Essential oils and functional herbs for healthy aging.” Neural regeneration research vol. 14,3 (March 2019): 441-445.