Here’s How the Pros Keep a Thriving Indoor Garden

No matter the season, it’s possible to grow inside all-year-round. Here’s how the pros keep their indoor gardens in tip-top shape.

Indoor Oasis

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Indoor gardening tips

Do you want to add a few houseplants to your living space, but don’t know how to keep them alive? Do you wish you could grow vegetables and herbs year-round? You don’t need an outdoor space to enjoy the benefits of gardening. In fact, indoors could be the perfect place to start cultivating your green thumb. We got in touch with various gardening experts to find out how they achieve indoor gardening success. Here are their top tips for keeping a thriving indoor garden.

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They Pick the Right Plants for their Space

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Right plant for right space

“Consider your environment before buying your plant,” says Desk Plants founder and plant expert Lawrence Hanley. Evaluate the physical conditions of the placement you're considering for the plant, ensuring there’s enough light to meet its needs. Hanley also warns against falling for oft-repeated plant wisdom, like that succulents are invincible. “If you choose a plant that is well-suited for the room and light conditions, then your plant will stand a very good chance at living a long life without much attention from you.”

How can you gauge whether a space meets a plant’s sunlight requirements? Maria Failla, founder of Bloom and Grow Radio, and self-identified CPL (Crazy Plant Lady), says that it’s essential to know your windows. “Southern-facing windows receive the strongest light,” although surrounding structures like buildings will impact sunlight levels. Failla has a handy Plant Parent Personality Quiz on her website to help wannabe plant lovers find the perfect plant match for their lifestyle and living space.

Related: 10 Houseplants That Thrive Where Others Die

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They Select Compact Edibles

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Compact edible plants

Amy Enfield, Ph.D., horticulturist for Bonnie Plants, explains that not all edible plants are ideal for indoor growing. Melon, for instance, isn’t her first choice. She adds that the best options for indoor vegetables are quick-growing plants like spinach, arugula, and lettuce. Compact varieties of tomatoes and peppers are perfect for indoor containers, and they won’t overtake your living space. A few available compact edibles from Bonnie Plants include Snackabelle Red Pepper, Little Sicily, Hot Burrito Pepper, and Fresh Bites Orange Pepper.

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They Dust Their Plants

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Dust houseplants

Plants have a reputation for cleaning the air, but they need a little help cleaning themselves. Kimberly Button, founder of GetGreenBeWell.com, points to the importance of cleaning houseplants. “Plants can attract dust, which can prevent them from thriving.” She explains all that’s required is to wipe them down with a damp piece of paper towel. A cotton swab will work for tiny leaves.

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They Use a Nursery for a Constant Supply of Edibles

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Indoor plant nursery

If you’re serious about growing edible plants indoors, you may want to invest in a hydroponic garden from Rise Gardens. Their vertical garden system uses tap water, specially formulated nutrients, and ready-to-unbox pods packed with vegetable and herb seeds that thrive with minimal care. The system even includes a nursery where you can give plant pods a place to germinate.

Rise Gardens “Master Gardener” Angelo Kelvakis explains that it’s important to plan your crop schedule to always have something growing, and the same concept applies even if you’re not growing hydroponically. To have a constant rotation of herbs, for instance, you’ll want to have several plants going at once, each at a different growth stage. “Look at the days to harvest and days to germinate on your seed packets, then using your nursery, make a timeline so that you can replace fully sprouted plants every time you harvest.”

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They Use Innovative Growing Methods

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Innovative indoor gardening methods

People are accustomed to potting up plants in dirt, but it’s not the only suitable growing medium, says Susan Brandt, co-founder of Blooming Secrets. Hydroculture—or growing plants in water—is easy and convenient. Not to mention it’s a lot less messy than dealing with soil. “One of our favorite plants to do this with is a spider plant,” adds Brandt. Other plants that do well in water are succulents, pothos, and philodendron.

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They Choose Self-Watering Planters

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Self watering planters

Watering is one of the most challenging parts of plant care. Some people forget to do it altogether, and others are overzealous waterers. Amber Adams, founder of KitchensReady, is a fan of self-watering planters (available on Amazon) because they reduce user error. “I would not buy a planting kit—especially for herbs—without a self-watering feature.”

Related: 7 Ways to Buy Yourself a Green Thumb for Under $40

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They Water by Weight

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Water plants by weight

Horticulturist, landscape designer, and home & garden blogger Tina Huffman doesn’t follow the usual watering advice. Instead of placing a finger in the soil to check for moisture, she opts to water depending on a plant pot’s weight. “Just lift the pot or lift one side if it’s a heavy one. You’ll quickly become an expert at determining if the plant is dry or not.” You’ll need to get acquainted with your pots' weight, but with a bit of practice, you’ll get the hang of it.

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They Use Extra Lighting

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Grow light for indoor garden

Erin Schanen, Troy-Bilt’s Brand Garden Expert and creator of The Impatient Gardener blog, explains that light is one of the most challenging aspects of growing indoors. It can take some trial and error before finding a spot with ideal lighting conditions for your plant. “If you find you can’t give a beloved plant as much light as it wants, you can get a clip-on grow light with a simple timer built in to help out a bit.” Thankfully, there are plenty of grow light options to help plant lovers living in low-light households.

Related: 12 Secrets for a Successful Indoor Garden

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They Have the Right Tools on Hand

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Indoor gardening tools

Andrew Gaumond, horticulturist, botanist, and Director of Content at Petal Republic, recommends that plant parents have a basic toolkit on hand to care for their indoor plants. Must-have tools include horticultural oil—preferably organic—water-soluble fertilizer, trimming scissors, a soil probe, and a good quality planter. How do you pick the right planter? It should be large enough to allow plant roots space to grow but not too big that watering adequately is difficult.

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They Never Overwater

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Don't overwater indoor garden

“Far more plants suffer due to overwatering than under watering,” says Erin Schanen. Too much water can lead to root rot and encourage pests to set up shop. To avoid this problem, Maria Failla always uses pots with drainage holes at the bottom. She also recommends watering thoroughly, but infrequently, and to never water a plant whose soil is still wet—unless it explicitly prefers consistently moist soil.

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They Understand the Importance of Humidity

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Indoor garden humidity

Your indoor environment is a lot drier than outside. It’s also a lot drier than most plants prefer. Venelin Dimitrov, Product Manager for W. Atlee Burpee Company, reminds those wanting to grow a kitchen herb garden that humidity is vital. “One solution is to perch their pots on a shallow tray of pebbles and water, but don’t let the pots sit directly in the water.” Many houseplants also thrive in high humidity levels and require frequent misting. Have a spray bottle on hand and make misting a habit.

Dan Jones of Terrarium Tribe says that terrariums are the way to go if you’re interested in growing tropical plant species. “One thing that many indoor plant owners struggle with is providing enough humidity,” says Jones. Instead of misting, he recommends glass terrariums to boost humidity levels.

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