A Guide To Gardening Indoors

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Many gardeners bring their gardens indoors in the winter. The cold winter months are the perfect time to start seeds and raise transplants for the spring garden. Tender plants can be protected from freezing temperatures by being brought indoors. But, winter isn’t the only reason to garden indoors. Houseplants have a beneficial effect on indoor air quality. Apartment dwellers who do not have outdoor living space can grow houseplants to bring nature indoors. There are many reasons to garden indoors and only a few requirements. Armed with a good soil mix, plenty of light, carefully selected plants and regular water, anyone can successfully grow an indoor garden.

The Best Soil For Indoor Gardening

Container grown plants need a well-drained soil mix. Some plants, such as cactus and orchids, require soil that is specially formulated to fit their needs. For most ornamental and flowering plants, a general purpose soil mix will perform well. Vegetables and herbs will grow in a general purpose soil mix but may see better growth if planted in a potting mix formulated for vegetables and flowering plants.

Selecting Plant Containers

Containers for indoor garden plants should have holes in the bottom for drainage and be placed on a tray to catch any excess water. Place a shallow layer of pebbles or gravel in the bottom of the container before filling with potting mix to provide added drainage.

Providing Adequate Light

Many houseplants enjoy low light conditions. Ferns, pothos, peace lily, philodendron and dracaena will happily grow when located away from a window or in a north facing room. Other plants require significant amounts of sunlight. Orchids prefer to be placed near a window. Vegetables and herbs require 6 to 8 hours of sun each day. If it isn’t possible to provide houseplants with adequate natural light, fluorescent or full spectrum grow bulbs can supplement the available light.

A Guide To Gardening Indoors A Guide To Gardening Indoors


Choosing the Right Plants

The selection of plants that will grow indoors is endless. Houseplants brighten a room with luscious greenery and colorful flowers. Cooks will enjoy having a window full of herbs in the kitchen. An enclosed porch or sunroom is an excellent space for growing small trees or raising vegetable plants. When selecting indoor garden plants, match the light requirements of the plant to the light conditions of the room

Caring for Indoor Plants

Most regular houseplants will require water and fertilizer on a regular schedule. The amount of water a plant needs will depend on the type of plant. Most ornamental houseplants have light water needs. Vegetables and herbs will need water on a more frequent schedule. Fertilizer needs vary on a plant by plant basis. Some flowering plants, such as African violets, require a specially formulated fertilizer. Other houseplants will thrive with a general purpose fertilizer.

The Best Plants to Grow Indoors

To create a tropical atmosphere indoors, decorate a room with small palm trees and bamboo plants. There are many varieties that thrive in low light conditions and can be kept in medium sized pots.

When lush green foliage plants are desired and low maintenance is a necessity, there are a number of easy care options:

  • Pothos can survive a bit of neglect. It is a vine with heart shaped leaves that come in white, yellow and green.
  • Spider plants are prolific and produce shooting sprouts of small spider plants. It prefers medium light and will help clean the air.
  • Boston ferns tolerate a variety of light levels and prefer dry conditions.

Flowering plants add color to any living space. These low-maintenance flowering plants can brighten any room:

  • Bromeliads have extremely long lasting flowers and long narrow leaves.
  • Orchids are a diverse group of plants. Orchids require bright light and humid conditions.
  • African violets come in hundreds of cultivars. Water the plant from the bottom. Keep the leaves and stems dry to prevent crown rot and leaf spot.

Many vegetables can be grown indoors in containers. Seeds for small root crop vegetables, such as short carrots and radishes, can be planted in small “bunches.” Sow seeds in a pot for a single harvest or enough for a couple of meals. The vegetables will mature at the same time and can all be harvested together. For larger vegetable plants, such as eggplant and tomatoes, two plants in a container will support each other.

The trick to successfully growing houseplants is to be consistent. Houseplants need water and fertilizer on a regular schedule. Light and temperature levels should remain consistent. Regular care will also go a long way in maintaining the health of indoor plants:

  • Check for pests and diseases daily
  • Remove dead leaves and flowers
  • Keep dust off leaves

Indoor gardening is an extension of the outdoor garden. Not only can an indoor garden add beauty to a home, it can purify the indoor air and bring a love of nature into a home.

Last Updated: February 23, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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