Indoor gardening doesn’t just provide oxygen, pleasant-smelling air, and a source of nutritious vegetables. It’s also a great hobby and an instant decor boost for your home’s interior. Many first-time indoor gardeners worry that their lack of experience will prevent them from planting and enjoying their own houseplants – but fortunately for all of us, it’s easy to get started. Here are fifteen easy tips that will help you to get your indoor garden planned, planted and looking great.
1. Plan Your Indoor Garden Layout
Before you go out and buy your pots, soil, tools – and plants of course – you’ll need to know how many potted plants can fit in your living space. Depending on the style of your home and your personal preferences, you may want to space out your plants into clusters or arrange them along a window area or on your balcony. However you choose to place them, knowing how many plants you need and what type and size they should be is the first step to indoor gardening success.
2. Make Sure You Have the Right Tools
An indoor garden doesn’t require that much equipment – but if you don’t have a watering can, gardening fork, mister and a good pair of gardening scissors, you’ll have a difficult time maintaining your plants. Fortunately, these items are affordable and widely available from your local gardening shop, some supermarkets and online vendors.
3. Know What Plant You’re Buying – and How to Care for it
If you’re new to the gardening game, don’t be shy to ask for help. Your local nursery or gardening shop is a great place to get advice on setting up your indoor garden for the first time, while neighbours who garden well and online resources are also excellent sources of information. When you buy a plant that you’ve never grown before, make sure you find out exactly how it should be cared for to ensure the best results. Watering frequency, light conditions, soil maintenance, and winter dormancy are all important factors that you’ll need to bear in mind, and we will be covering them later in this article.
4. Most Plants Love Neutral Conditions
Plants are extremely diverse, with some species adapted to wet tropical conditions while others thrive in the desert. However, the average houseplant you’re likely to buy from your local nursery will probably do best in neutral light, humidity and temperate conditions. Most plants require a few hours of sunlight a day, and do best when they are kept out of direct sunlight – this will avoid their leaves getting scorched. Average indoor humidity of 50-60% is excellent for most plant species, but if your home is air-conditioned or heated (especially during winter), you should mist your plants a few times a week to combat the dry air. Similarly, most plants thrive at average room temperature (22-23 degrees Celsius) and may grow slowly if temperatures are consistently cold. Hot temperatures may cause wilting and dehydration.
5. Water Your Plants – But Don’t Drown Them
Many people over water their plants because they are worried that they will dry out. This well-meaning action may result in your plants becoming waterlogged and even dying – a clear case of killing with kindness. To avoid overwatering, it’s essential to find out exactly how often each of your plants should be watered. You should also avoid watering plants by drenching their leaves and soil – rather place some water in the tray at the base of each pot or place a few ice cubes on top of the soil and let them melt slowly. This approach to watering allows your plants to “drink when they are thirsty” instead of forcing water into their soil when it’s not needed.
6. Don’t Worry About Low Light Conditions
If you’ve ever been to a forest, you may have noticed that a lot of sunlight is blocked by the branches of tall trees (the so-called forest canopy) while plants on the ground thrive in shady conditions. Plants inside your home can also thrive without direct sunlight – in fact, some of them do far better in shade and semi-shade conditions. UV lamps and other lighting devices may be suitable for greenhouse growing and hydroponics, but you needn’t use them on your regular houseplants.
7. Plants That Need Sunlight Like to Face North
If you do have some houseplants that require a lot of sunlight – especially tropical species – it’s best to position them in north-facing rooms with ample window space. While your other plants may find this location too hot and suffer as a result, sun-loving plants will thrive and create a vibrant atmosphere in your brightest, sunniest rooms.
8. There’s a Perfect Plant for Every Room of the House
Each room in your home tends to have its own climate, with the kitchen often being warm and dry and the bathroom becoming wet and steamy throughout the day. The number and size of windows in each room, and how often you open them, also has an effect on the humidity and fresh air content of your living space. Plants like ferns thrive in bathrooms, but not in dry rooms, while aloes, cacti and other desert plants can withstand the driest room – even if it’s air conditioned in summer or heated in the middle of winter.
9. Winter Dormancy is Natural for Plants
If your house plants seem a bit lacklustre in winter, or stop growing altogether, don’t be alarmed. There’s a natural period of winter dormancy that most plants go through during the colder months, and with regular watering and the usual care, your plants should start to perk up in spring when temperatures start to rise again.
10. Give Your Plants a Pot Upgrade Every Few Years
Indoor plants that are kept in the same sized pot forever seldom reach their full potential. Like someone wearing a pair of shoes that is too small, your plants will feel cramped and uncomfortable in a tiny pot and may stop growing. Tangled roots, which deprive plants of nutrients and lead to lower vitality, can also occur. To avoid these problems, and ensure that your plant grows to its fullest potential, make sure that you replant it in a larger pot every two to three years.
11. You Don’t Need to Stick to Plants Only
There’s nothing stopping you from growing delicious organic vegetables in your home – even if you don’t have a huge amount of space. Fortunately, potted vegetable garden kits and compact hydroponics systems that control the soil and water conditions perfectly for veggies to thrive are becoming extremely popular and affordable.
To start your own vegetable garden, you’ll need to have some idea what type of vegetables and herbs you’d like to grow. When you’re first starting out, you’ll want to choose fast-growing vegetables and everyday herbs that will produce tasty results in several weeks. Your local garden centre is the best source of information on the type, size, and growing requirements of your favourite seasonal vegetables.
12. While House Plants Love the Shade, Vegetables Need Plenty of Sun
The one main difference between house plants and vegetables is their sun requirement. House plants can usually do with an hour or two of direct sunlight a day, with some species growing quite successfully in the shade. Vegetables, on the other hand, need at least six hours of sunlight a day while they are growing, and low light conditions can result in small, tasteless and less nutritious veggies than those that grow in the sun.
13. House Plants Don’t Like Living in a Wind Tunnel
If possible, keep your plants away from air conditioning vents, heating units and other devices that produce constant drafts. Natural breezes from open windows can be beneficial to plants, but artificially heated and cooled air can damage their leaves and flowers and even disturb their growing cycle.
14. Experiment with Exotic Plants as You Gain Experience
At first, you may want to stick to the standard type of house plants that don’t require too much maintenance and have a great chance of growing successfully. However, as time goes by and your gardening skills improve, you may want to grow some impressive species from the tropics or beautiful, delicate orchids. Challenge yourself to plant something new, and you may be thrilled with the result.
15. Plan Your Indoor Garden in Years, Not Weeks
Like Rome, your garden can’t be built in a day – or even a month. As you add new plants, change your techniques, and learn more about the ins and outs of indoor gardening, your garden will grow organically. Over the years, your indoor plants will add character, colour and fresh air to your home and become a beautiful part of your everyday life.
From planning your indoor garden to buying the right plants and equipment and nurturing your garden to full bloom, we hope that these fifteen tips will give you the information you need to get started. As you progress from beginner to seasoned gardener, you’ll find a wealth of information online and a network of gardening enthusiasts in your area who will support you in a rewarding pastime that makes your home a pleasure to live in. Now that you know how to start your indoor garden, why not head down to your local nursery and explore the world of indoor plants that are out there waiting for you?
Indoor plants image by ShutterStock.