Do You Need a Grow Light for Herbs?


do you need a grow light to grow herbs indoors

I’ll always attest to the pleasures of growing my own herb garden at home, as I always have fresh herbs to garnish my meals. If you’re inspired to plant some thyme or dill in your own kitchen at home, you may wonder if natural sunlight will be enough or if you need to use a grow light for your herbs.

Do you need a grow light for herbs? You don’t need a grow light for most common herbs considering many only require six hours of light at most. That said, some herbs are more demanding and during winter or inclement weather when there is less daylight, a good grow light can make all the difference.

The world of herbs is a vast one, and even that’s an understatement. In this article, I’ll go over many of the more common herbs and discuss their lighting requirements. This will inform you of whether you need a grow light. I’ll even recommend a few herb-friendly grow lights, so keep reading! 

How Much Light Do Herbs Require?

Lighting Requirements5 Hours6 Hours8 Hours10 Hours
PlantsSpearmintAnise, peppermint, lemongrass, chervil, lemon balm, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, parsleyCardamom, caraway, lavender, tarragon, sage, dill, chives, basilThyme

Cardamom

The bright, zingy, spicy cardamom is one of the more demanding herbs I mentioned earlier. Cardamom prefers at least six hours in the sun, ideally eight hours if you can provide it.

Filtered, bright light is best. If you need a refresher, filtered light is that which passes through another medium before reaching your plant, such as a window or even a sheer curtain.

Caraway

The fennel-like flavors of caraway will come out best if this herb gets six to eight hours of light. Partial shade is okay too, but full sun is preferable.

Spearmint

Spearmint isn’t just a gum flavor, but an herb as well. It needs less light than some other herbs, only about five hours.

Anise

Six hours of sunlight will suit the anise, which does fine when exposed to the full brunt of the morning sun. By afternoon, filtered sunlight will protect this delicate herb.

Peppermint

The traditional peppermint herb will thrive with only four to six hours of light. Mix in some partial shade between the periods of full sun.

Lemongrass

Put your lemongrass in a sunny spot for six hours; any less than that and you will get growth, but it will be slow. This herb isn’t afraid of full sun.

Chervil

Augment your indoor herb garden with chervil, which needs four to six hours in indirect sunlight.

Lemon Balm

Like lemongrass, lemon balm likes bright, direct sun for six hours. Some shade is okay, but the more light this plant gets, the better.

Fennel

You can also grow fennel with some lemon balm and lemongrass in your herb garden, as it too needs six hours of bright, direct light.

Lavender

Relax with the aromatic lavender herb, which is a little more demanding considering it needs eight hours of light every day. Direct sun will encourage growth.

Marjoram

The next time a recipe calls for marjoram, you’ll have it, but only if you provide this herb full sunlight for six hours. Some partial shade outside of those six hours is also fine.  

Tarragon

The least amount of light you should offer the tarragon is six hours and at most eight hours. This herb can grow in partial shade, but full sun will bring out its depth of flavor better.

Sage

It’s the same story for sage, which likes between six and eight hours of bright light such as that from a sun-drenched window.

Dill

You might as well add dill to this group of herbs, as it also requires eight hours of light. That said, don’t necessarily open a window around your dill plant, as harsh winds can snap its developing stalks.

Thyme

Unlike the other herbs on this list, thyme needs as much daylight as you can get, 10 hours total. It prefers the brightness of the sun, so find a window that gets lots of light.

Rosemary

Full sun is also the friend of rosemary, but not for nearly as long as thyme. Rosemary only requires six hours of light.

Oregano

Position your oregano plant by a southerly window and then leave it there for six to eight hours.

Parsley

If you like the taste of parsley as well, parsley has much of the same growing requirements as oregano, right down to it doing best in a southerly-facing window for six to eight hours.

Chives

A bit of shade doesn’t hurt chive growth, but these herbs will sprout right up if they get six to eight hours of bright, direct sun.

Basil

Basil grows best in six to eight hours of daily direct light as well, and it’s also not too picky about some partial shade here and there.

Does Your Herb Garden Need a Grow Light?

Now that you’re much better acquainted with the daily light requirements of your favorite herbs, it’s time to determine if you need a grow light. In the spring, you get about 12 hours of daylight, which increases in the summer. By the time winter comes, it’s only around 10 hours of daylight.

Theoretically then, you should have enough light to grow any of the above herbs, even the ones that need 10 hours of direct light like thyme. I don’t know about you though, but winter can be pretty gray and sunless.

On those days when the sun just doesn’t show or only peeks through the clouds, a grow light can make up for the loss of light.

I suggest a grow light intended for herbs instead of full-sized plants. This will ensure you get the correct wattage and don’t accidentally scorch your poor plants. Here are a few of my recommendations.

GrowLED Herb Garden Grow Light

The GrowLED can provide light for three similar-sized herbs at a time. If you have herbs that all need the same lighting, you can group them as I suggested in the last section. According to GrowLED, it only takes three steps to put together their grow light system.

Right out of the box, the GrowLED is set to be off for eight hours and on for 16 hours. This is too much light for any herb, so make sure you change the timer or pull your herbs after they spend half the time under the grow light.

The LED light is 20 watts, which is soft enough not to burn your herbs yet bright enough to mimic the effects of direct sun. You can also set the height of the grow light so if your herbs are getting tall, there’s still room for them under the artificial glow.

Full Spectrum Dual Head Desk Clip Plant Light for Indoor Plants

Do you have an herb garden in a room without much light? Then something like the GrowLED won’t suffice, as it just doesn’t accommodate enough plants. You’ll need something like the Full Spectrum Dual Head Desk Clip Plant Light instead.

This dual-headed LED lamp includes rows of LED bulbs across each head that should last for 50,000 hours. With an Intelligent Timing Function, you can set the period of lighting for your herbs, which I like. You’re also free to adjust the positioning of the heads of this lamp due to its tubed gooseneck, which can move 360 degrees.

There are 72 LED lights in all, 24 of them blue and 48 red. Why does that matter, you ask? The different light hues can encourage plant growth in specific ways. For example, blue light helps your herbs germinate as they photosynthesize. The red light aides photosynthesis too while also assisting in fruit-bearing or flower-blooming.

TORCHSTAR Indoor Herb Garden Grow Light

Not everybody has huge indoor gardens. Besides the freedom to grow your own food, the second biggest benefit to starting an herb garden is that you need only a windowsill to do it. This indoor grow light from TORCHSTAR can accommodate your teeny-weeny herb garden, as it has room for three tiny plants or one long one.

The TORCHSTAR measures 16.54 inches by 11.42 inches by 5.43 inches and is made of ABS plastic in a smooth, bright white hue. Like the GrowLED before it, TORCHSTAR’s grow light is set to be off for eight hours and on for 16 hours when you first use it. You might want to tinker with the settings so your herbs don’t get too much light.

Despite the miniature size of this grow light, there are 21 lights in all. As an FYI, these lights aren’t colored, just simple, cool white LEDs.

FOLNG LED Small Plant Light

My last recommendation is the FOLNG LED Small Plant Light, a desktop grow light that’s also ideal for those without a lot of space to spare. Unlike the boxed grow lights, this one lets your herbs grow tall and free.

Clipping onto a desk, a table, or any other even, flat surface, this grow light includes a USB connector for attaching to any AC plug or USB cord. You even get an adapter with your purchase so you can get this light set up quickly.

You can select between 10 modes of light dimness so if your herb likes a bit of partial shade, you can mimic it accurately. With spectral modes (three) and light intensity levels (10), creating the exact effects of the sun is easy. There’s also an auto on/off timer.

The LEDs included with the FOLNG grow light are colored, with seven lights full-spectrum, four of them blue, and nine of them red for 20 lights in all.

Do You Need a Grow Light if You Have a Self-Contained Herb Garden?

What if you’re growing your herbs in a self-contained garden such as the AeroGarden? These hands-off gardens are beginner-friendly since they often include everything you need to get started.

From the herb seed kits to a control panel and reminders that tell you when to water your plants or when to add nutrients, it’s hard to go wrong with a self-contained herb garden.

These gardens frequently include their own LED grow lights so you can skip the above accessories. Here’s one example: the AeroGarden Harvest Elite. It has LED lights built right into this self-contained garden.

If by chance your AeroGarden doesn’t include grow lights or you need more than what it offers, you can always add a grow light panel like I did. Here is the model I added to my own herb garden earlier this year. AeroGarden 45w LED Grow Light Panel, which is 45 watts.

Of course, the AeroGarden is far from the only self-contained herb garden, but it is one of the better-known brands that I’ve used myself and loved, hence why I’m mentioning it. Even other products such as the Click and Grow Smart Garden 3  have grow lights.

So, do you need an extra grow light on top of what comes with your self-contained herb garden? More than likely, not. These self-contained gardens are designed to provide the lighting requirements for the specific herb seed kits included with your purchase. Bathing your plants in more light could burn them or stress them out.  

Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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is the natural light in your house or kitchen enough to be able to grow herbs without using a grow light? Do you need a grow light to grow herbs?