Best Smelling Herbs to Grow Indoors

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Are you looking for a natural way to freshen up your home and add some delicious flavors to your cooking? Look no further than indoor herb gardening! In this blog post, we’ll explore the best-smelling herbs to grow indoors and share some tips for cultivating and using them.

Growing herbs indoors is a simple and enjoyable way to bring the benefits of fresh herbs into your home, including their pleasant fragrances. Not only do these aromatic herbs add a delightful scent to your living space, but they also offer a range of health benefits and can be used to enhance the flavor of your favorite dishes.

From using basil in your pesto to enjoying fresh herbs for your tea, they can all help rid your home of bad smells while also having medicinal and culinary properties.

Artificial air fresheners may seem like a convenient solution to unpleasant odors in your home or workplace, but they come with several potential downsides that you should consider. This list of the best-smelling herbs to grow indoors will help you avoid those harsh chemicals in your home!

Instead of spraying lavender-scented room spray in your bedroom or burning mint candles in your kitchen, you can have those aromas naturally freshen your air from fragrant herbs. So, keep reading and get ready to fill your home with the sweet and spicy scents of fresh herbs!

potted herbs on a wooden table with text overlay 'Best Smelling Herbs to Grow Indoors'

Why do herbs smell so good?

Herbs are aromatic because they contain essential oils, which are volatile organic compounds that evaporate easily and produce a strong, distinct odor. These essential oils are produced by the plants to protect them from herbivores and pests, and also to attract pollinators. In other words, an aromatic herb that smells good to us smells terrible to garden pests!

Environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and soil conditions can also influence the production and composition of essential oils, leading to variations in aroma between plants of the same species.

Overall, the aromatic properties of herbs are a result of their unique chemical composition and the biological functions they serve in the plant’s ecosystem. And lucky for gardeners, fragrant herbs are pretty easy to grow indoors with a little bit of work.

Watering the kitchen herbs - Young woman pouring fresh water into pots with fresh herbs on her apartment's kitchen window

How to Create Your Own Indoor Fragrant Herb Garden

There are so many herbs that smell good that it is easy to just dive right in without much thought to the actual growing. But, you need to slow down for just a minute and plan out the actual indoor herb garden that you want to create.

First, I will share a few tips for growing herbs inside, then I will give you a list of some of the best-smelling herbs to grow in your indoor herb garden.

gardening, planting at home. man sowing seeds in germination box

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Step 1 – Pick a location

For the best success when trying to get herbs to grow indoors, choose a windowsill or counter that receives ample indirect sunshine. Your indoor herb garden will only do well with plenty of light. If you don’t have enough sunlight, consider investing in growing lights to give your herbs the best chance at thriving.

Fresh organic potted herbs in wooden crate on table with gardening tools

Step 2 – Choose a planting aesthetic

Decide what type of look you want for your herb garden. For example, consider using one large pot if you want a single statement plant, or use smaller pots to create an eclectic collection of herbs. Get creative. Upcycle an old teapot or use a small wooden crate to hold your pots.

There is no right or wrong way to grow herbs. Tuck a few fragrant herbs in between flowering plants. Weave trailing stems into a small trellis in a larger potted plant. Get creative with your space!

Step 3 – Amend your soil

Use quality potting soil to fill your pots and ensure that it’s free from any clumps or debris. You might want to add a soil amendment to it for increased nutrient availability.

Types of soil amendments:

  • Compost: good for plants that really need a boost of nutrients. Start your own small compost bin and you won’t have to buy it.
  • Perlite: acts as an aerator, helping the soil shed water.  Good for plants that like drier soils.
  • Vermiculite: helps the soil hold moisture.

You can actually use all three of these combined to give your soil the perfect balance of drainage, water retention, and nutrient availability. I prefer to use organic soil amendments whenever possible, especially for things you will be eating.

Step 4 – Choose your herbs

Nest, choose which aromatic herbs you would like to plant. I have included a list below of a few of my favorites.

Step 5 – Plant your herbs

Fill the prepared pots with soil and plant your herbs according to their individual instructions. Water them thoroughly, then place your potted plants in a location with plenty of indirect sunlight. Now, you just need to be patient and let them grow a bit!

Woman smelling a herb pot

13 most aromatic herbs for indoor herb gardens

Here is a list of fragrant herbs you might want to try growing in your indoor garden. Remember, most herbs like a lot of light so if you don’t have a sunny window, invest in a grow light or you won’t see abundant growth.

closeup of fresh mint

Mint:

This is a very popular herb to grow indoors due to its fresh, invigorating scent. It can be used in teas, cocktails, or as a garnish for desserts. There are many types of plants in the mint family to choose from.

A few mint varieties that I enjoy include spearmint, Chocolate mint, and apple mint. Sprinkle fresh leaves into a mug and top with hot water for a simple cup of mint tea. Or get creative and make my DIY mint sugar scrub with fresh mint.

fresh rosemary close up

Rosemary:

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) has a woody scent and is often used in cooking, particularly with roasted meats and vegetable dishes. Make your own rosemary salt with it to season your recipes.

Because it is so versatile, rosemary is one of my favorite aromatic plants. Make sure it has adequate drainage to avoid root rot. It prefers a lot of sun so if you have a window that gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight, your rosemary should do well.

If you choose to grow it outside, rosemary is a frost-resistant herb and should overwinter in many climates.

Blooming lavender. Pot of lavender. Provence interior

Lavender:

Not only does lavender have aromatic properties but it has medicinal purposes too. This herb has a lovely floral scent and is often used in aromatherapy for relaxation and stress relief. Try making lavender aromatherapy dough with it.

Check out my post on how to make lavender sugar if you are looking for ways to use it for culinary purposes.

Homegrown and aromatic herb thyme in old clay pot.

Thyme:

Thyme is seriously one of the best-smelling herbs to grow indoors. This herb has a warm, earthy scent and is often used in cooking, particularly with poultry, fish, and vegetables.

If you are new to growing herbs in an indoor herb garden, thyme is fairly forgiving, even when grown indoors.

Thyme has a unique scent which I classify as a bit spicy. Personally, I think it is one of the best-smelling herbs in my garden but it is not particularly ‘floral’ in nature.

basil in the pot

Basil:

This herb has a sweet, spicy scent and is a key ingredient in Italian cooking, particularly tomato-based dishes.

Basil plants definitely like full sun when grown outdoors so make sure you have some direct sunlight if at all possible. Make sure it has good air circulation around it to help prevent disease spread.

close up of sage leaf

Sage:

This herb has a slightly sweet, earthy scent and is often used in stuffing, sausages, and other meat dishes. Look for unique varieties like Pineapple Sage or Anise-scented Sage.

The full name of this plant is Salvia officinalis. In general, the term sage has been associated with cooking or medicinal uses and the term salvia has been given to the more ornamental flowering varieties. Despite this confusion, however, they are one and the same plant.

close up of sage

Lemon balm:

Lemon balm is one of the easiest herb plants to grow. Often known as Melissa officinalis, this herb has a citrusy scent and is often used in iced tea, cocktails, or as a garnish for desserts.

It’s a great herb to use in summer in naturally flavored water or use it in place of lemon peel to flavor sauces and vinegar.

Oregano in a clay pot on a dark background

Oregano:

This herb has a strong, slightly bitter scent and is often used in Italian and Greek cooking, particularly with tomato-based dishes, pizzas, and salads.

In my outdoor herb garden, I make sure oregano has its own pot since it likes to spread out. When growing indoors, it won’t get too out of control, however, don’t overcrowd your indoor plants or you risk them not thriving due to lack of root space.

close up of chamomile flowers

Chamomile:

One of the best-smelling herbs to grow indoors is chamomile. Not only does chamomile have a nice smell, but it also has many medicinal properties as well.

This herb has a light, floral scent and is often used in teas for relaxation and sleep. Trying using it to make my DIY chamomile hair rinse to lighten hair and soothe your scalp.

top view of bay laurel tree on a red clay pot

Bay leaves:

Otherwise known as Bay laurel, this herb has a strong, pungent scent and is often used in stews, soups, and other hearty dishes.

Bay leaves have been known to repel pests indoors so they are excellent herbs to dry and sprinkle in places where you see ants or cockroaches.

Bunches of anise hyssop Agastache foeniculum herbs hanging on red wooden rustic background

Anise hyssop

If you are unfamiliar with anise hyssop, you should give it a try. This herb has a sweet licorice scent and is often used to make teas, jams, and other recipes. It is a versatile, aromatic, culinary, healing herb. 

Anise Hyssop (Agastache) is not the same as Hyssop (Hyssopus). Anise Hyssop is Native to North America and a member of the mint family. Hyssop spp is a member of the carrot family and native to Europe. They are completely different plants so read the labels carefully.

Red geranium flowers in pots on the windowsill. Beautiful little geranium pelargonium flower. The concept of comfort and home gardening

Scented Geraniums

Scented geraniums are a great way to add fragrance to your indoor garden. These plants have fragrant leaves which come in many different aromas from citrusy, fruity, rose-like, and more.

These plants can be used as a garnish in recipes as well. They add a nice fragrance and flavor to teas and jellies.

Marjoram in flower pot for planting

Marjoram

Marjoram is one of the best-smelling herbs to grow indoors, although it is not as well known as some others. This herb has a slightly sweet, pungent scent and is often used in Mediterranean cooking, particularly with tomato-based dishes.

Marjoram can be somewhat temperamental when grown in an indoor herb garden so make sure it has good air circulation around it to prevent leaf spot and other diseases.

Aromatic herbs growing indoors on a windowsill

Don’t let these great-smelling herbs go to waste!

Aromatic herbs are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of creative ways beyond just cooking. Now that you have an indoor herb garden full of great-smelling herbs, here are a few ways to use them all.

Cooking:

This is probably the most obvious use for the abundance of your herb gardens. Whether you’re making a marinade, adding flavor to soups and stews, or creating a savory sauce, herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage can add an incredible depth of flavor to your dishes.

Dehydrating:

If you have an excess of herbs, you can dehydrate them to preserve their flavor for later use. Simply spread the herbs out on a baking sheet and place them in a low oven or dehydrator until they are completely dry. You can also buy a small dehydrator to dry your herbs.

Once dry, store the herbs in an airtight container and use them in cooking or to make herbal teas. Check out my post on how to dry basil leaves for more information.

Infused oils:

Infusing oils with aromatic herbs is a great way to add flavor and fragrance to your cooking. Simply add a handful of herbs to a bottle of oil (such as olive or grapeseed) and let it sit for a few days to infuse. Use the oil in dressings, marinades, or to sauté vegetables.

Enfleurage:

Enfleurage is a traditional method of extracting fragrance from flowers and herbs. To do this, you’ll need a glass jar with a lid, a layer of fat (such as lard or coconut oil), and your aromatic herbs.

Place a layer of the fat in the bottom of the jar, add a layer of herbs, and continue alternating layers until the jar is full. Let the jar sit for several days, stirring occasionally until the fat has absorbed the fragrance of the herbs. Strain out the herbs and use the fragranced fat in your beauty products or as a solid perfume.

Cleaning:

Aromatic herbs like lavender and rosemary can be used to make natural cleaning products that are both effective and fragrant.

Simply steep the herbs in vinegar or vodka, strain out the herbs, and use the solution to clean surfaces, floors, and windows.

Odor control:

Herbs like mint and lemon balm can be used to freshen up the air in your home. Simply simmer a handful of fresh herbs in a pot of water for a few minutes, then let the steam diffuse throughout your home. Alternatively, you can make sachets filled with dried herbs to place in your drawers or closets.

Some of the best-smelling herbs have multiple uses so remember, there are many creative ways to use aromatic herbs beyond just cooking.

Whether you’re making infused oils, using enfleurage to create fragrances, or using herbs for cleaning or odor control, the possibilities are endless.

Herb gardens are easy to grow. So next time you have some extra herbs on hand, consider trying one of these ideas to make the most of their fragrance and flavor.

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