How to Pick the Best Indoor Garden for Your Space
No home is complete without plants, and an indoor garden makes plants possible anywhere. Grow, baby, grow!
The humble indoor garden is trending big right now, and for good reason: In addition to prettying up your space, studies show that indoor gardens—think indoor herb gardens, vertical gardens, hydroponic gardens, and more—come with myriad health benefits. For one, plants have many positive effects on air quality, such as reducing pollutants, removing carbon dioxide, and increasing humidity—overall improving your breathing. Some studies even show that plants can help improve your productivity and concentration.
There’s also a direct connection between plants and mental health. Simply incorporating a few indoor garden ideas throughout your space can help induce a feeling of calm. The concept of biophilia, or the intuitive draw we have toward nature, is why we feel good walking out in the woods, or when the sun hits our skin. When you incorporate plants into your space, you tap into that.
“Plants help create a sanctuary space that feels more healthful and connects us to another living being,” says Rebecca Bullene, founder of botanic design company Greenery NYC. “As humans, we seek out those connections.”
When it comes to care, plants are lower-maintenance than, say, a cat or dog—with many requiring mere minutes of attention a week. Plus, greenery in the form of an indoor garden adds dimension and character to your home. With lots of health and aesthetic benefits to reap, many people are starting their own indoor gardens or attempting container gardening. There are a few big components to take into consideration before you begin, though.
“The top two factors [to consider in your space] are light and temperature, and depending on the plant, humidity levels can be a factor, too,” says Erin Marino, director of marketing for Manhattan-based plant shop The Sill. That said, “The key to indoor gardening is creating an environment that feels really healthy and happy,” she says.
With those things in mind, we’ve rounded up the best kind of indoor garden to suit your space, based on those elements. Grab your gardening gloves, trowel, and watering can and dig in.
Best for a High-Rise Apartment: Container Garden or Succulent Garden
Even the smallest of residences can usually accommodate plants like African violets, which only grow to about 12 inches wide, or some foliage plants like philodendrons or begonias, says Gay Austin, incoming president of National Garden Clubs, Inc. Some container gardening ideas can help aspiring indoor garden caretakers figure out what configuration might work well within the home.
Because a high-rise apartment usually means a high-light environment, indoor succulent gardens also do well, especially in units with direct south-facing windows. “Succulents are marvelous plants for the right space, and when they get adequate light they’re incredibly easy to take care of,” says Bullene.
Best for a Garden-Level Apartment: Indoor Hydroponic Garden
An indoor hydroponic garden is a good way to incorporate a lot of plants with a small footprint, says Bullene. A garden- or ground-level apartment that doesn’t get much direct sunlight is good for hydroponic indoor gardens, as too much sun can heat the water and actually burn the plants, says Austin. However, as they require regular care and cleaning, they’re not for someone who travels a lot or just doesn't want to invest a lot of time in a garden.
Best for a Small Space with High Ceilings: Hanging Indoor Garden
In a very tight space where floor space is at a premium, you can maximize your vertical reach by adding a collection of hanging planters or even installing a simple IKEA shelf to hold a group of planters with ferns cascading down, says Bullene. An indoor hanging garden is beginner-friendly, as well, as it also works well for vines, which are typically very simple to care for.
Best for a Larger Home with Lots of Light: Tree Garden
Bringing in large plants, when you have ample space to do so, can make a statement. “For big, sweeping spaces, I love to incorporate tall trees—they provide a canopy and are really transformative,” says Bullene. In this type of situation, she creates a garden effect by adding mixed plantings beneath it to give the feeling of a cohesive ecosystem that feels natural.
Best for Any Home with Pets: Non-Toxic Garden
If you share your space with furry friends (who might be prone to nibbling), choose plants that are certified non-toxic by ASPCA. Marino recommends pet-safe plants such as calathea, ferns, and peperomia (sometimes called a baby rubber plant), but you can search ASPCA’s entire directory of toxic and nontoxic plants to be certain.
Best for Outdoors (Sorry): Indoor Herb Garden
One type of plant collection that likely won’t do well inside? An indoor herb garden.
Despite your dreams of having handfuls of lush parsley, rosemary, and thyme to toss into your pasta dishes, herbs are very tricky to grow inside, says Bullene. With the exception of mint, herb plants nearly always require supplemental grow lights to thrive, especially during fall and winter, and without proper lighting, they can become susceptible to disease and pests. So if you have space for an outdoor garden, go wild with herbs there—but if not, stick to picking them up at the farmer’s market.
No matter what kind of indoor garden you decide to grow, know that practice—not luck—makes perfect. “Having a green thumb is a myth,” says Marino. “You learn how to care for plants through experience, so embrace it—test out new plants and care routines in your space to find what works.”