A beginner’s guide to growing houseplants

Although outdoor gardens have always been an attractive feature for homeowners, it is a luxury not everyone can dream of in the limited and cramped spaces that our cities and homes offer. If you’re an urban homeowner with little or no access to an outdoor space, you can create an indoor garden and transform your home instantly. You can even grow your own fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers from the comfort of your own kitchen all year round.

Low-maintenance houseplants such as snake plants, spider plants and ivy are the first choice for interior designers to enhance and beautify a space. You can choose the type of indoor oasis you want depending on the aesthetic you are going for, your gardening experience, and the weather conditions you live in.

Not sure where to start? Read our handy beginner’s guide to indoor gardening and build the green oasis of your dreams.

What is indoor gardening?

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Indoor gardening is essentially the cultivation and care of plants that you would normally grow outside in your home. Incorporating nature into urban environments not only improves visual appeal, but also offers a number of other benefits.

Indoor gardens can improve air quality, increase your productivity, and help you stay connected with nature. Plants also regulate humidity by releasing water vapor into the air, which can improve respiratory and skin health for people living in colder, drier regions. Caring for your plants can also help reduce stress and anxiety.

Whether you have a few potted plants in your doorway, on your desk, or a full-fledged vegetable garden, indoor gardening can be as low-key or as elaborate as you want it to be.

In addition, it is easier to control and regulate the temperature indoors and create favorable conditions for your plants to thrive. You just have to choose plants that are suitable for your indoor environment and the space available. Depending on the design aesthetic you are aiming for, you can choose from the many types of indoor gardens, including hydroponic gardens, terrariums, living walls, or fresh herb gardens.

Outdoor gardens are more dependent on the seasons and outside temperatures, which limits the number of plants you can grow year-round. When you have the right air, sunlight, and soil conditions, your indoor garden can bear delicious fruits, vegetables, and flowers regardless of the outside temperature.

Popular ways to incorporate a garden indoors

There are no restrictions on how you can cultivate your home garden. You can also work your greens into tight spaces in a sophisticated way. From tropical mini forests and edible gardens perfect for home cooks to hydroponic gardens and terrariums for plant parents on the go, there’s no shortage of ways to grow your own little green space at home.

Shared indoor gardens

living walls

living plant wall
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If you don’t have access to a decent horizontal garden space, why not get creative and build a vertical garden on one of your bare walls?

Green walls (also known as living walls, plant walls, or vertical gardens) are vertical planting systems that include an integrated substrate such as soil or coir, various types of living plants, and in some cases automatic irrigation systems. This system includes wall-mounted and pre-planted panels that can be made of plastic, expanded polystyrene or synthetic fabric. Pots and containers can also be used.

Plants such as moisture-tolerant ferns, shallow-rooted bromeliads, easy-care succulents and climbers, and edible herbs are all easy to grow in Living Wall Gardens.

Hydroponic Gardens

hydroponic garden
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The science of gardening without a traditional soil medium is called hydroponics. If the quality of the outdoor soil is an issue, you can opt for a hydroponic setup to grow the sustainable garden of your dreams.

Hydroponic gardens are cultivated in a mineral-rich water solution instead of soil and can thrive in little to no sunlight. They require less water than traditional gardening, which is ideal if you want to be eco-friendly and avoid dealing with pests and unwanted weeds. These gardens are a hassle-free way to grow quality herbs or vegetables year-round.

air plants

air plants
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With over 500 tropical species to choose from, air plants are epiphytes, meaning they don’t need potting soil to grow.

Belongs to tillandsia Genus that is part of bromeliad family, these flowering perennials absorb moisture and nutrients directly from the air through tiny scales on their leaves called trichomes. This feature also protects the plants from the scorching sun. Unlike soil-bound plants, air plants only use their roots for physical support or by clinging to pots or other plants.

terrarium plants

Indoor plants for terrariums
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A terrarium is like an aquarium for plants. It is a self-contained mini plant ecosystem grown in a glass container. This low-maintenance and slow-growing miniature forest can contain cacti, succulents or tropical plants and will thrive for years.

If you’re a novice gardener or a plant lover short on time, terrariums are the ultimate shortcut to making your home greener.

Moisture loving bathroom plants

bathroom plants
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Bathrooms serve as the perfect backdrop for some lovely moisture-loving houseplants. They can spice up the decor of the room and even act as a stress reliever, perfect for those long and relaxing baths after work.

Three factors to consider when choosing plants for a bathroom corner are low light, high humidity and temperature fluctuations. Houseplants such as asparagus fern, elegant peace lily, bamboo plant, pothos, begonia, snake plant and spider plant are best suited to bathrooms and their dark surroundings.

Edible gardens (herbs, fruits and vegetables)

Herb garden
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Perfect for decorating the sunny spots in your home, you can grow fresh herbs and vegetables indoors at any time of the year. Some herbs you can grow at home are basil, rosemary, thyme, and oregano.

Fresh herbs make the best houseplants because they provide an endless supply of flavors year-round and are easy to propagate. Just take cuttings from their stems and let them sit in a jar of water next to a sunny windowsill and you’re good to go.

Required conditions for the cultivation of indoor gardens

The conditions needed for your indoor garden to thrive will depend on the type of garden and the species of plants you plan to include. In general, your plants need varying degrees of sunlight, soil, water, and fertilizer.

soil and other substrates

soil indoor plants
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Houseplants, hydroponic gardens and air plants aside, need an airy, high-quality, and fast-draining potting mix. A good all-purpose potting soil for houseplants can include compost or vermicompost, coir or peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and some coarse sand or store-bought potting soil.

This type of potting soil absorbs moisture quickly and works wonders for drought-tolerant plants like aloe vera, agave, bougainvillaea, sage, rosemary, lavender, and jade plants. Moisture loving plants like ferns may need a differently formulated soil with water retaining properties.

sunlight

Sunlight for indoor plants
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All plants have different light requirements and react accordingly to their environment. Finding the perfect spot in your home for your houseplants can be a fun exercise that all plant parents love. While apartment owners need plants that can survive in dimly lit spaces, a few sun-loving plants can be squeezed in to absorb the sunlight that shines through a south-facing window.

You can choose sun-loving species like the snake plant, geranium, fiddlehead fig, and basil if you live in a home that gets a lot of sunlight. Conversely, if you have plants that need shade, keep them away from direct light. As a rule of thumb, avoid bright, direct sunlight for all houseplants, as it can scorch their leaves.

temperature and humidity

temperature and humidity
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Humidity between 40 and 60 percent is good for most indoor plants. Because we can adjust and optimize the temperature and humidity in our homes, a wide variety of crops can be grown year-round.

If you choose tropical plants that grow best in a humid environment, you can use a humidifier or build a mini garden in your bathroom. Indoor greenhouses or terrariums are also great options that allow for temperature and humidity control.

water and repotting

Water indoor plants
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The most common mistake new plant parents make is overwatering their houseplants, which leads to root rot and other problems. Be sure to research plant care thoroughly and note any specific requirements to ensure their health. Always water your plants with room temperature distilled water for best results.

It is advisable to move your plants to larger pots once a year or when the roots have run out of room to grow. The pots or planters should have proper drainage holes at the bottom to avoid root rot. This is important for plant health and long growth.

fertilizer

fertilizer
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Unlike soil-bound plants, houseplants don’t have access to a constant flow of nutrients from the soil as they are confined to pots or planters. The nutrients present in the potting soil will be depleted over time, jeopardizing the health of your plants. Slow release fertilizers are a great way to combat this problem and will last for many months before reapplication is needed. If you use quality fertilizers on your plants, you will notice a sheen on the leaves and a healthy growth pattern.

If you’re looking to set up an indoor garden, here are our top picks for indoor plants

(Main and featured image: Huy Phan/Pexels)

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