The Best Herbs for Growing Under Lights

Fresh herbs are far superior to their dried counterparts, and one way to ensure that you always have fresh herbs available is to grow them under lights indoors. Not all herbs are suitable for growing indoors, but many varieties will grow and thrive in artificial light. A 4-foot fixture that holds two fluorescent bulbs is adequate for growing most varieties of culinary herbs. Provide a way to raise the lights as the plants grow so the plants remain a few inches below the level of the lights.


A tender woody perennial herb, Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) is widely grown under lights as a potted plant during the winter months. It is a slow growing plant and takes several years to grow too large to fit on a plant light table. Pot rosemary in well-drained, indoor potting soil. Place it so its topmost leaves are about 6 to 8 inches away from artificial lights. Do not over water rosemary, but do not allow it to dry out. Water when the soil is dry just below the surface. Do not fertilize it from November through March. When frost-free weather arrives, rosemary will benefit from being moved outdoors for the summer. Put it in the shade for a few days to accustom it to the higher light levels outdoors, then move it into full sun. If grown in a clay pot, the pot can be sunk to its rim in the garden, which will help keep it from drying out. Potted rosemary whose soil dries out completely does not survive.


Native to the Mediterranean, basil (Ocimum basilicum) is widely used as a seasoning with tomatoes. The fresh leaves are far superior to the dried ones, and growing this plant indoors under lights will provide you with leaves for seasoning all winter long. Plant seeds of basil in regular indoor potting soil mixed at the rate of two parts potting soil to one part coarse sand; basil prefers sandy, well-drained soil. Water well, and place the pot under lights. When the basil germinates, position the pot so that the tops of the plants are about 3 to 4 inches from the grow lights. Adjust the height of the lights as the basil grows so the lights remain about 3 to 4 inches from the tops of the plants. Water basil when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch, but do not over water. Do not fertilize basil. It will produce more essential oil, and hence be more flavorful, if it is not fertilized.


A tiny, perennial version of scallions with a mild onion flavor, chives (Allium schoenoprasum) form a clump of hollow grass-like leaves, which are cut down to soil level and used as a seasoning. They are easy to grow from seed and will grow well under lights, as long as you cut them back regularly. Position chives so that the tops of their grass-like leaves are about 4 to 5 inches from the grow lights. When growing chives indoors, cut them back when they reach a height of about 6 inches. If they grow any longer, the base of the plant will grow spindly because of a lack of bright light. Water chives so their soil remains moist, but not saturated.

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About this Author

Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a freelance writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.