Ultimate Guide to Apartment Gardening

No yard? No problem!

If you live in a concrete jungle, transform your apartment into an actual jungle—or at least add a few plants! You can grow so many plants in your apartment, including tons of houseplants, bold blooms, fresh herbs, and even veggies. They’ll lift your spirits, connect you with nature, and contribute irresistible flavor to dinner, too. Plus, if you have a balcony, it can serve as the platform for even more plant possibilities. It all comes down to this: If you’re an urbanite with the itch to garden in the city, apartment gardening is not only possible, but it’s also pretty darned easy with the right plants, products, and care. Ready to become an ace at apartment gardening? Read on to learn about the best types of plants, pots, and more for your particular apartment set-up.

Indoor Apartment Gardens

Apartment gardening success hinges on working smarter, not harder. Choosing plants that thrive indoors and placing them in the right growing conditions can make the difference between ambiance-lifting lushness and Charlie Brown Christmas tree lookalikes.

Best Plants for Indoor Apartment Gardens

Houseplants

There’s a houseplant for virtually every space and taste, but lighting should be one of the main factors in your decision. Plants with serious lighting needs won’t thrive in dark corners, and plants that like low light will find a sunny windowsill too bright.

- Low Light. Grow these if you have indirect light or 4 hours a day or less of direct light (the usual case with north-facing windows):

- Bright Light. Choose these if you have sun-filled spots in your home, such as south-facing windows that offer bright light all day:

For more info, check out How to Select Houseplants.

Herbs

Nothing brightens a meal—or your kitchen’s mood—like fresh herbs. When selecting plants for your indoor herb garden, lighting is your most important consideration. If you have a grow light, you can grow virtually any herb year-round. If not, choose the herbs you grow based on the sunlight you get. South-facing windows with lots of bright light are good places to grow sun-loving herbs like rosemary and basil. Windows that get less light are better suited to herbs that can take a bit of shade, such as parsley, thyme, and mint—but they still need several hours of daily sun. Pro tip: Put your indoor herb garden to immediate use by planting ready-to-go Bonnie Plants®. Visit Grow Herbs Indoors for more helpful tips.

Fruits and Vegetables

When it comes to growing vegetables indoors, stick with smaller, more manageable plants like lettuce, kale, and compact tomatoes. (Save the big boys for your balcony or community garden plot.) Indoor-grown fruits and veggies—especially sun worshippers like tomatoes and peppers—need as much light as you can give them, so again, south-facing windows are best. Plant-wise, strong young starter plants from Bonnie Plants® are an excellent choice, as you’ll already be well on your way to harvest.

If you want fresh herbs and greens grown right in your apartment year-round without having to get soil under your fingernails, hydroponics (aka water-based growing) may be the perfect solution. In a hydroponic system, plants grow in water under grow lights and get their nutrition from plant food. Here’s one to try: the Miracle-Gro® Twelve™ system, which doubles as a stylish end table. It’s Bluetooth-enabled and connects to an app that controls the grow light, plus tells you when it’s time to feed or replace your plants.

The Best Pots for Indoor Apartment Gardens

When selecting containers for your plant babies, consider things like:

  • Plant size: How large will the plant be at full size? Are you OK with repotting if it outgrows its current vessel, or are you looking for its forever home? Be sure to check the mature size on the plant tag, then read How to Pick the Best Kind of Pot for Your Plant for guidance.
  • Space: How wide is your windowsill or table? Do you need to be able to place other items there, or can the pot take up the whole space? Would it make more sense to put up a hanging basket? These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself!
  • Watering: This is a big one. You need a pot that allows water to drain…just not all over your apartment. Make sure you put a tray or saucer under each pot to catch excess liquid before it reaches those hardwood floors. In general, potted plants need to be watered more frequently than their in-ground counterparts. Stick your finger in the soil every few days—if the top inch is dry, it’s time to water. Pro tip: Terra cotta dries out faster than glazed pottery, so unless your plant likes life on the drier side (such as a succulent), glazed will likely help you cut down on watering.
  • Good looks: Obviously this is the most important factor. After all, you’ll be laying eyes on this green friend every day!

Indoor Apartment Garden Care Tips

Once you’ve selected the perfect plant and planter, there are a few crucial care tips to keep in mind.

  • Fill pots with the right stuff. Regular garden soil is too heavy and dense for containers. Your potted plants need a light, fluffy premium quality potting mix filled with lots of organic matter to snack on. Well-draining and enriched with aged compost, Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose Container Mix checks all the boxes here.
  • Let there be light. Consult your plant’s tag to see how much light it needs, then stake out the optimal spot in your apartment. (Psst! You may need to relocate plants as light shifts with the seasons.) Generally, southern exposure will offer the most light—assuming, of course, that neighboring buildings aren’t getting in the way. If your plant turns yellow and starts dropping leaves, chances are it needs more sun time. On the other hand, if it appears dried out or singed on the tips, it may be getting too much sun, so move it farther away from the window.
  • Remember to hydrate. Some plants prefer a consistent level of moisture while others like to dry out between waterings. If the leaves are dry and crispy, you’re probably not watering enough. Limp leaves, though, usually indicate it’s time to dial back on the H2O.
  • Feed ‘em when they’re hungry. Plants need regular boosts of nutrition as they grow, but that doesn’t mean you have to devote precious cabinet space to a bunch of different fertilizers. Instead, use a single, stellar plant food like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose Plant Nutrition that you can mix in your watering can to instantly feed all your apartment plant babies.

Apartment Balcony Gardens

If we’re being honest, your balcony is probably the default storage area for your bike and other awkwardly sized items. But what if you made it your place for respite in the middle of a bustling city, complete with mood-boosting greenery and a few of your favorite vegetables? One caveat: Before you start balcony gardening, double-check your lease or association rules to make sure it’s allowed. Plus, you’ll want to make sure that your balcony can handle a bit of weight (big planters filled with damp soil can be heavy!). Take a moment to think about climate, too. Is your balcony shady? Baking hot in the summertime? Breezy? A wind tunnel on blustery days? Be sure to take all of things into account when choosing what to grow.

Best Plants for Balcony Gardens

Once you have a strong sense of your balcony’s microclimate, you’ll be better equipped to pick plants that will thrive there. Here are some to consider:

  • Succulents, which can withstand wind with their low profile and ability to retain moisture
  • Anything with a coastal vibe, meaning it’s designed to thrive amid high winds and temps—think sea holly, sea kale, and cordyline
  • Herbs, selected based on your balcony’s lighting
  • Dwarf or small-sized shrubs and trees that will grow well in containers, such as boxwood, lemon tree, bay laurel, and hydrangea
  • Trailing vines in planting boxes or window boxes that can spill over the railing, like morning glory, clematis, and bougainvillea
  • Fun, colorful annuals like canna and hibiscus
  • Produce that grows well in containers, like bush tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, and greens

The Best Pots for Balcony Garden

Have you ever tried to move a huge ceramic planter filled with soil? If not, let’s just say it’s probably heavier than you think! Even if your balcony can handle a heavyweight pot, we recommend going as light as possible to make it easier to lug the container outside—even better if they’re weather-resistant so you can leave them out year-round. Pro tip: Skip the terra cotta planters. Not only are they heavier than plastic or resin pots, but you have to water them more often, too. Also, don’t forget to put trays underneath your pots so you don’t accidentally shower your downstairs neighbors when you water your plants.

Don’t feel like you have to stick with traditional pots, either. Look for containers designed to go over railings, consider going vertical, and don’t forget about hanging baskets!

The Balcony Garden Care Tips

These handy tips will help keep just about any balcony garden (including yours!) productive and looking beautiful.

  • Pick a premium soil. Like their inside counterparts, balcony plants will be right at home in well-draining, nutrient-rich Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose Container Mix. If you’re using a large container for shallow-rooted plants like annual flowers, lighten up the load with one of our favorite hacks: Remove your plants from their plastic containers, lay the plants gently on newspaper until planting time, and place the now-empty containers upside down in the bottom of the planter to take up space. Cover them with potting mix and you’re ready to plant.
  • Know your light. Don’t forget that it’s super important to study your balcony’s unique lighting situation so you can pick plants that will thrive there.
  • Water, water, water. Livin’ on the edge can be dehydrating for a plant! Balcony plants are often whipped by the wind and scorched by the sun, causing them to lose water quickly. Be water-wise by selecting plants that need less in the H2O department, then check daily to make sure they don’t dry out.
  • Feed with ease. The Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose Plant Nutrition you use on your inside plants will work just as beautifully on your balcony.

For more info on growing in tiny spaces, check out How to Plant a Small-Space Organic Garden.

See? Whether you have a single sunny windowsill or an entire balcony just waiting to be planted, you can easily bring the world of plants to your apartment and create your very own urban oasis!

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