Our experts explain why mint, basil, and oregano among others thrive in the shade.
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Credit: Con Poulos

Herbs, like many plants, thrive in sunlight, which can make apartments-often known for their interior, windowless kitchens and lack of natural light-a tough place to grow them. Gary McCoy, Lowe's gardening expert, offers this grim outlook for herbs grown in darker apartments: "If your home lacks natural indoor light, the growth of your herbs could easily be stunted-and without light, your plant will starve and remain unable to produce food." If your indoor herbs are growing slowly, or are producing small, pale, or yellowing leaves, they could be falling victim to the downsides of apartment dwelling, says Susan Brandt, co-founder of gardening education website Blooming Secrets. But there is hope for growing herbs in your apartment-especially those that can survive in partial shade, such as mint, chives, basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, and rosemary-our experts say. Here's how to do it.

Give your herbs the light they crave one way or another.

If the place where you keep your herbs-a windowless kitchen, perhaps-doesn't provide adequate sunlight, move your herbs to a windowsill or sunny spot for three to six hours during the day, McCoy suggests. If you don't want to move plants back-and-forth, then you might consider adding artificial light to where they live. "LED lights are a great alternative to help plants vegetate and flower at all stages if you lack sunny windows in your home," McCoy says, and suggests the GE 65-Watt Dimmable R30 Grow Incandescent Light Bulb. Alternatively, an all-in-one LED hydroponic system-such as the AeroGarden Sprout LED Hydroponic System-can provide the perfect lighting and watering for you, McCoy says.

Keep herbs in separate containers.

Planting different herbs in a single pot can hasten their demise, says Jennifer Morganthaler, clinical instructor in the Department of Environmental Plant Science and Natural Resources at Missouri State University. Herbs have different watering needs, Morganthaler says, "and aggressive growing herbs can crowd out the slower growing herbs." By giving each kind of herb its own pot-mint in one, basil in another, for example-you're giving it it's best shot.

Don't bring outdoor herbs inside.

Purchasing or replanting herbs that have been grown outside only to bring them indoors is not a good idea. "The shock of bringing plants indoors can cause growth problems and even death, so it is best not to purchase plants that have been grown outdoors," Morganthaler says.

Water them the right way.

When you water your indoor herbs, be sure to wet the soil-not the herbs' leaves, Brandt warns. "Watering the leaves can promote fungus," she says. What's more, don't succumb to the temptation to over-water your herbs. "The biggest mistake that gardeners make is to overwater their herbs," Brandt says. "Many herbs don't like too much water." If you spot pale or yellowing leaves, that's a sign you've over-watered your herbs, she says.

Cut yourself some slack.

Even if you've done everything to help your herbs thrive in a less-than-well-lit apartment, they may still kick the proverbial bucket before you'd like. "Herbs do not have the same life as a house plant," Morganthaler says, which means that "you will often have to plant or purchase more herbs to replace those that have gone to seed or outlived the container."


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