Indoor Gardening: A Beginner's Guide

Stylish composition of home garden interior filled a lot of beautiful plants, cacti, succulents, air plant in different design pots

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If you don't have access to suitable outdoor space but still want to cultivate a selection of veggies, herbs, or other plants, you might want to create an indoor garden instead. What you include in your indoor garden will depend on the purpose of growing the plants, your experience, and the available conditions.

Learn more about what is involved in indoor gardening in this beginners guide.

What is Indoor Gardening?

More than just one or two plants in pots on a windowsill, indoor gardening still doesn't need to be anything overly elaborate or complicated. It is generally regarded as growing a selection of plants inside that you would typically grow outside—whether that be fruit, vegetables, herbs, or flowers.

If you have the right space and set up indoors, it can be less time-consuming and more successful to cultivate a garden indoors. It is easier to regulate the temperature and manage conditions to ensure your plants can thrive. You just need to make sure you select plants suited to the place you plan to grow them.

If you get the conditions right, it also means that you can have access to things like veggies or herbs year-round, unlike in many outdoor gardens when the temperature determines the growing season.

Common Types of Indoor Gardening

Many plant enthusiasts use indoor gardening as an opportunity to get creative and nurture a wide variety of different plant collections—whether that's a tropical jungle or an edible garden. However, some of the common types of indoor gardens include:

  • Hydroponic designs. Perfect if the outdoor soil is not workable, you don't have time to manage weeds and pests, or you want to conserve water. Hydroponic setups allow you to produce high-quality herbs or veggies year-round.
  • Herb gardens. If you have a sunny spot somewhere in your house, it will be the perfect place to nurture a collection of fresh herbs, even during the winter.
  • Air plant collections. Decorative tillandsia are epiphytic plants that don't grow in soil and get their nutrients from the air and moisture in their surroundings. They are well-suited to being cultivated in an indoor garden, and there are over 500 species to choose from.
  • Terrariums. If you want to grow a selection of humidity-loving plants without taking up a lot of space, try a glass terrarium. You can select plants that are low-maintenance while still visually appealing.
  • Living walls. If you have limited floor or shelf space or just want to liven up a bare wall in your home, creating a vertical living plant wall could be the way to go. Just make sure you select plants with similar care requirements as you will water them all together.

Indoor Garden Plant Care

The conditions your plants will require vary depending on the type of indoor garden you want to cultivate and the individual species you select. Here are some general tips to consider when it comes to their care.

Light

Where you position your indoor garden will depend on the light requirements the plants have. Plants grown indoors will never have access to the same direct bright sunlight they could get outdoors; even sunlight streaming through a window is less intense than it is outdoors. You may need grow lights to help create the right conditions for major sun-loving plants indoors or if you don't have any natural light in an apartment. Conversely, if you have true shade-loving plants, keeping them away from windows will be important.

Soil

If you aren't opting for a hydroponic setup or collecting air plants, your indoor garden will generally be best grown in a loose, well-drained potting mix. The mix can be tailored depending on what you grow, but it is often composed of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. This combination absorbs moisture quickly and doesn't become easily compacted. However, it will dry out quickly, so it won't work for moisture-loving plants, like ferns.

Water

Of course, every plant grown indoors will have differing requirements in terms of watering. However, one of the biggest common problems for indoor gardens is overwatering. Many indoor plants die as a result of root rot.

Always research what the plant species you are growing needs. It's also a good idea to water your plants with distilled room temperature water. Cold tap water can sometimes shock your plants.

Fertilizer

Ensuring your indoor garden plants receive enough nutrients is important for long term success. Although some potting soils have nutrient enhancements, the plants will use them up after a couple of months. Slow-release fertilizers are popular as they can last several months before another application is required.

Temperature and Humidity

Being able to control the temperature and humidity in an indoor environment is one of the key benefits of indoor gardening. The ideal humidity levels for many indoor plants ranges from around 40 to 60 percent humidity.

If you have moisture-loving plants that need high humidity or your living space is particularly dry during the winter months when the heating is on, you could invest in a humidifier or set up the garden in your bathroom. You can also use indoor greenhouses or terrariums.

Repotting

Repotting your indoor garden plants annually, or when they are becoming root bound, is vital for long term growth and health. Make sure the pot is big enough for future growth.

indoor gardening

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Plants for Indoor Gardening

Certain plants are known for being well-suited to being grown indoors. These include:

  • Veggies. Some veggies grow particularly well indoors. These include carrots, hot peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes.
  • Herbs. Basil, chives, mint, parsley, and thyme are just a few herbs that do well in a sunny position indoors.
  • Low-Light plants. If you are looking to create a low-maintenance tropical jungle in a shady area in your home, opt for low-light species like spider plants, snake plants, and certain ferns.
  • Humidity-loving plants. If you want plants for a terrarium or to grow in a bathroom, consider things like begonias, ferns, and peace lilies.