Indoor indirect light culinary herbs?


I’ve got no gardening space, but I do have a big window with a nice wide windowsill… that only gets reflected light. There is a big white-painted building across the street from me. What can I grow?

A bit of googling says that curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves are out. So sad.


I think without direct sunlight, it is difficult, house plants or orchids might be easier. If you get yourself some serious grow light in LED, I think you can plant pretty much everything.

For a few winters, I took the lemons plants indoor for winter. They weren’t doing well with the big window without much direct sunlight in winter. And they like humidity, the interior was too dry for them. Either they lost slowly all leaves, or the leaves had fungus problem. They were much happier outside in the cold (but not too cold).

I usually start my summer vegetables like tomatoes, basils from seeds indoors, in front of the big window with some direct sun at the late afternoon in end of winter and spring (maybe 2 hours) and I have a lamp with fluorescent tubes to help the germination. Usually they are doing fine for the first month, but they start to become tall and leggy if they stay too long indoors even with the light.

(John Hartley) #3

Most herbs are sun lovers, so the windowsill is unlikely to be a good spot. The only one I can think of that prefers some shade is mint


Green onions. Cut and enjoy the green leaves from a bundle of store bought ones. Stick the white parts in water. Enjoy new green onion leaves.

(For the Horde!) #5

I can give it a try. Not all windows are the same. Some block more light than others.

Regardless, your plants will get a less light because it can only get sunlight from one direction (window). Still, most plants do ok indoor. So I say give it a try.

(Robert Sacilotto) #6

I agree w/ naf; LED lights are the way to go. You can grow lettuce, arugula, herbs all year. I’m trying out some Viparspectra 450 watt equivalent lights, which can illuminate about a 3 x 3 foot space with intense light, a larger space if growing, say lettuce (less light needed). The above lights were about $119.00 each, but should last for years and consume very little power. Always set up plant lights with no flammable materials nearby. There are forums you can search, if you want to make your own LEDs for cheap.

I have Curry Tree (Murraya koenigii) and Thai Lime (Citrus hystrix) growing in south-facing, Virginia windowsills, for the winter. The curry leaf sits mostly dormant, since it likes hot weather. It doesn’t grow until it gets put outdoors, when it’s warm.

The lime does grow well and is about 3 feet across. I have to prune it each year to bring it inside. I take the excess leaves and put them in a mason jar with Vodka to make a flavored tincture. After 2-3 weeks, the leaves are strained out and the tincture frozen. To use, add the tincture to some water and simmer to remove the alcohol; add coconut milk, etc. and cook. Since the leaves don’t keep their flavor well either frozen or dried, this method helps and reduces the space needed. I tried the same tincture method w/ Lemon grass-it did not work; the tincture soon turned dark and smelled “off”. I wonder id cooking these w/ sugar water or coconut milk and freezing those would stabilize their flavors. The issue is “boom and bust”; everything gets hacked back to a manageable size in the fall, so the plants will fit indoors.


How about parsley and cilantro? Mine never seems to like direct sunlight.

(Robert Sacilotto) #8

Parsley grows outdoors in full sun in Virginia, but it can get crown rot from water in the crowns or from being too wet. Giant Italian is a fairly sturdy variety, but all parsley prefers cool weather, below 90 degrees F. Unlike cilantro, parsley is biennial, taking about a year, and a cold winter, to bolt, go to seed. Cilantro goes to seed when days are long-spring and summer. Under lights, you can use shorter “day” lengths, say 7-8 hours, to trick the cilantro to resist bolting (winter is coming). Also, home temperatures are good for both. If your plant lights are on for 12 hours, your parsley will do great for a long while and the cilantro will go to seed and die. If you live in a hot climate, try east sun and afternoon/evening shading. Outdoors, cilantro is best as a fall crop. An LED setup, in a basement, can grow fine cilantro, parsley and even Wasabi, which drops dead in heat. Lettuce, spinach and Arugula can thrive under LEDs, too. You have to match the hours the light is on with the best “day length” to keep things leafy and not going to seed.