How to Create an Indoor Garden, Even if You Don’t Have a Green Thumb

Man re-potting a rosemary into a flower pot.
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Want an easy way to brighten up your household? Start an indoor garden!

Whether you live out in the country or in an urban apartment, you can find plants that will grow indoors and allow you to develop a green thumb. Here are tips to help ensure your success.

Scout for the Best Indoor Garden Lighting

Your indoor gardening success hinges mainly on one thing: how much light you get. Plants need to photosynthesize and will struggle — or even perish — if there’s not enough available.

Since indoor lighting is not as strong as natural light, assess your home to find the best possible locations. Observe the temperature to make sure it’s not too hot or too cold, and avoid drafty spots.

The direction that the window faces determines how strong the lighting will be. South is generally strongest, east and west are moderate and north is the weakest.

Depending on your situation and what you want to grow, you may need to supplement with a grow light. Choose LED lights since they will last longer and won’t put out much heat. Check out Freecycle, Facebook yard sale groups, ReStore and Amazon for cheap grow lights.

Find Discount Plants for Your Indoor Garden

Once you work out the lighting options available, it’s time to pick out the perfect plants for your situation. Know your lighting and watering requirements and other care details to ensure they will thrive indoors.

Get a Cutting from a Friend

Many houseplants feature the wondrous ability to reproduce themselves through cuttings or other asexual methods. Examples of such plants include spider plants, snake plants, African violets and jade.

Gather a few friends with their houseplants, break out the rooting hormone (a powder that stimulates the formation of roots) and trade houseplant cuttings. Water the plant, then enclose the stem in a plastic bag to create a humid environment. Within a few weeks, roots will sprout to create a new houseplant. You can then transplant it to potting soil.

Recycle Your Produce Scraps

You can also turn parts of many fruits, herbs and spices into houseplants. Easy options include pineapple tops, avocado seeds and ginger. The books Don’t Throw It, Grow It! and Growing Tasty Tropical Plants in Any Home, Anywhere detail specific tips and tricks for recycling scraps into live houseplants.

Scout the Clearance Racks

Many of the big box garden centers and independent nurseries have a clearance rack where they place plants that have been struggling. Many are simply the casualties of improper watering and can be revived with some TLC. I’ve seen markdowns as much as 80% off.

Watch for School Plant Sales

Colleges and universities (and some high schools) often have a horticulture department with a greenhouse. At least once a year, many of them hold a plant sale featuring the specimens that students grew as part of their studies.

potted plants on a wooden shelf in front of a window.
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The Best Containers for Indoor Gardening

Surprise! Almost anything that can hold soil can be turned into a container for your indoor plants.

The key factor is drainage; if your chosen vessel doesn’t currently have any holes, add a few to the bottom. Choose a container that has room for the plant to grow, but don’t choose one that is too big, as this can sometimes cause too much water to collect.

One place to check for containers is local restaurants. They buy bulk items that come in buckets, and these can be repurposed as planters. A production nursery may have extra pots available since each plant will go through several repottings as it grows.

Watering Basics

To prevent root rot from setting in, make sure your soil doesn’t stay soggy. Too much moisture can make it difficult for the roots to get the oxygen that the plant needs for survival.

You won’t need to water nearly as much as you would think, especially during the winter. Plan on watering when the top of the soil is dried out. Do it even less for plants like cacti and succulents, since they only need to be watered a little bit every week.

Watch for Insects and Diseases

Common troublemakers in indoor gardens include aphids, scale, mealybugs, and powdery mildew. Before you bring any new plants to your home, inspect them for any signs of trouble like wilting, yellowing, black spots or visible insects, and quarantine them if any are found. Clemson University has pictures and details about pests that you might see on your houseplants.

Good news: in many cases when you catch it early, a good spray off in the shower will be enough to curb the problem. But if the bugs persevere, try making one of these inexpensive bug sprays.

Turning your home into a garden paradise is easier than you think. Even the blackest of thumbs can turn green when you choose the right plants for your situation and practice your gardening skills. Round up some plants or cuttings, grab a few containers and start planting!

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. Adding these links helps us keep the lights on in The Penny Hoarder HQ, which makes it a lot easier to play shuffleboard after a long day of deal-seeking!

Nessa Myers is a horticulturist who blogs about her urban homestead at Upping the Planty.