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Eight commandments for gardening in small spaces

Gardening shutterstock_109529939

By Arar Han, Co-CEO


Are you downsizing to a home with no yard? Do you want to have a garden at your condo, townhome, or retirement community?

Now you can. Even if you're living with limited space, there are plenty of options when it comes to growing plants indoors. Having greenery in your home doesn't need to be difficult or take too much time - there are plants for every skill level.

Here are my eight commandments for bringing nature indoors.

  1. Thou shalt not starve your plants of sun. 

Most houseplants prefer indirect but bright sunlight. Choose a room with lots of windows. Check in on your plants regularly when you first bring them home – you might need to adjust their position if they’re not happy. If you notice your plant turning yellow or brown, move it into the shade. You might need to adjust their placement throughout the year as the light changes.

  1. Thou shalt not let your plants shiver.

Most houseplants prefer warmer temperatures, so avoid cold rooms or porches during winter if there's a risk of freezing. Don't place your plants near an air vent or fan as these will dry out your plants.

  1. Thou shalt water your plants – but not too much.

Watering is the most important thing for keeping plants alive and healthy. But while you have to remember to water them, don't water them too much. For most houseplants, let the plants dry a bit first before you water them again. Dig your finger into the dirt about an inch to test the moistness.

  1. Thou shalt give growing plants nutrition.

Your plants get their nutrition from their soil. When replanting, go with store-bought potting mix. If your plants are in bloom, you can help them with their brilliant displays by giving them food once a month. Find a commercial houseplant food and dilute it with water to half the strength. Water the plant first, and then give it the food. Then watch them grow.

  1. Thou shalt give your garden its own place.

Place your plants where you will see them and enjoy them the most. And where you will remember to water them.

Consider how you’ll arrange your plants. Grouping them is always an attractive option. A small open shelving unit is an easy way to display their greenery. Try playing with the placement – you can use their different heights and textures to create a focal point in the room.

Other great locations are the traditional windowsill, or simply scattered on shelves, ledges, and tables throughout your space.

No floor or table space? Not a problem. There are planters that hang from the ceiling and others that perch on the wall and have pockets to hold your plants. No extra space required.

  1. Thou shalt choose the right plant for you.

Choosing new plants is one of the best parts of gardening. Do you love succulents? Would you like something edible? Or would you prefer something that flowers?

No matter your interests, there’s a plant that’s perfect for you. Here are some of my favorites:

    • African Violets: There's a reason African violets are one of the most popular houseplants. They’re compact and will easily provide you with flowers all year long. They prefer warm and bright, filtered sunlight, and they like their soil to be kept moist.
    • Aloe: You know of aloe's skin-care properties, and now you can grow it for yourself. The gel inside the plant is great for cuts and burns – just break off a piece. Aloe is a hardy plant that is happy in warm temperatures and fine with humidity. It's okay if you forget to water it occasionally – it actually might prefer it.
    • Lavender: A thriving lavender plant will release its soothing signature smell into the air and brighten up the room with its purple flowers. Lavender works best in a larger pot and needs regular trimming. It loves the sunlight and will thrive on your windowsill or patio.
    • Peace Lily: The Peace Lily is a tropical plant that you will never forget to water: it sags to tell you when it gets thirsty. A little drink and it perks right up – it's very forgiving. The Peace Lily has unusual white flowers and big, frilly green leaves. As an added bonus, NASA has recognized it for its air cleaning capabilities – it breaks down toxic gases like carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. It's more than just a pretty flower.
  1. Thou shalt remember each plant is an individual.

Each species of plant has its own personality. Keep their individual needs in mind and they will thrive. They should come with instructions on their care, and you can always check online or ask the gardeners at the store.

  1. Thou shalt enjoy your garden.

As your plant collection grows – and you know it will – you can experiment with different species and different ways of displaying them. Plants have been proven to improve your mood and clean the air in your home. But really, they are simply fun to take care of and have around. Enjoy your very own “secret garden.”

Copyright 2014, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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Nick L

Thanks for a great article. It's great to remember that you don't need a big yard to enjoy gardening. I particularly like the reminder to choose plants that are right for you. I still haven't found any that survive with me. Maybe cactus next?

Agnes c

Amen to these!


Great suggestions! Looks like I don't have an excuse any more to only keep fake plants around my house :)

Jackie Oakley

Amen! I highly recommend an herb garden. I use mine all the time. My grandchildren love some fresh thyme and oregano!


Great thoughts on how to be a plant lover in a small space. People in apartments with or without a balcony should definitely read this!

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