Indoor gardening tips from our experts

Herbs growing in pots

Got gardening ambitions but no outdoor space? Become an indoor gardener and bring nature into your home. From sunny window ledges to cool dark corners, a variety of plants thrive indoors. Green is the colour our brains can process most easily, so more or less any plant we can fit into our homes can be a healing balm for the mind.

Choose your indoor plants wisely and not only will they brighten and fragrance your home but up the ante on organic eating. If you manage to grow a productive plant, it will add that freshly-picked taste to your culinary creations and prove less of a pinch on your pocket.

While indoor growing is ideal for those with no outdoor space, it’s also a great way for those with outdoor gardens to extend their space. More importantly, indoor growing allows everyone to get gardening whatever the weather. 

Rosa boscobel at Mount Stewart, County Down
Rosa boscobel at Mount Stewart, County Down
Rosa boscobel at Mount Stewart, County Down

Where to start?

With the plants you love and suit your lifestyle best, as this will reap the best rewards for the time and investment you make. Think about what you or your family like to eat. What herbs you reach for most? Which vegetables are the staples in recipes? Which colours lift your mood? Which scents do you want to fill your home?

How to start?

We’re here to help. We asked our gardening experts to share some tips on what works well.

Food for thought

Did you know that tomatoes, chillies and peppers can all be grown indoors? What's great about these choices is that they are stalwarts in many of our most popular recipes. Andy Dainty, Senior Gardener at Castle Ward confirms that vine vegetables and leafy greens are top choices.‘

'When it comes to salad leaves, many will grow well in a window so have a go. Try rainbow chard, a relative of beetroot. Tomatoes will grow from seed on a sunny window. Chillies and peppers will also grow on a window sill and ripen well in a sunny spot. They will need your support as they grow so tend to them regularly so don’t forget to turn the plants regularly to ensure the sun light or UV rays can get to both sides of plant. This will ensure healthy and vibrant growth.'

Here's a recipe to try with your home-grown produce.

How about herbs? Tim Stapleton, Propagator in the nurseries of the Mount Stewart gardens thinks they are a great place to start as they are an asset to your kitchen as well as your home. ‘The great thing about growing herbs in your home is that they are ideal for growing under cover as this will produce lots of fresh, young growth. Most herbs are suitable for container cultivation.  Chives, rosemary, thyme, sage, lemon balm and mint can all be grown indoors. Be wary of mint though, while it might make your home smell great, it will also grow like crazy.’

Grow chocolate mint at home
Grow chocolate mint at home
Grow chocolate mint at home

Tim's top tip is to save the seeds. ‘Yes you can grow your own plant from the seeds or core of used fruit or vegetables. In fact there are likely to be at least a few you will be able to grow and pick more fruit from. It is loads of fun to have a go at and discover what you can achieve with leftovers.’

Andy agrees that growing plants from pips is a fun and cheap way to test your green fingers. ‘Charming small plants can be grown from fruit pips like avocado, pears and apples.' His top tip when it comes to growing your own avocado is to 'Soak it in water for 48 hours as that will help it germinate quicker. Place it large side down in a glass. Make sure the base of the seed is touching the water and then once the roots have formed plant it into a pot.’ 

Time to design

When it comes to flowers and plants that will brighten your home, Andy Senior Gardener at Castle Ward recommends colourful plants like fuchsia which also require little watering. ‘Alongside a baby geranium, which is ideal for a window, they will flower all year.’

Famed by forgetful waterers, the classic cactus is ideal for trendy tropical flair and those the easy-going seeking quick care. Aloe vera is a popular choice with medicinal benefits which thrives in snug conditions. Pot in a terra cotta pot and place in bright, sunny spot or it will stop growing.  For something more stylish and colourful, place an orchid on a side board or sunny window. Got limited light? Monkey mask works well in a dark room and even bathrooms.

When it comes to caring for plants Tim recommends focusing on the basics. ‘It may seem obvious, but plants in containers need food and water, being very limited on how far their roots can reach. Even desert plants only survive because their roots grow long enough to find a water source.’

A watering can hangs from the sheds at Stoneywell, Leicestershire

Many house plants only need water a couple times a week. Add water from the bottom and this way the plant will only take the water that it needs. Using use old teabags also gives plants a nitrogen source.

Andy Senior Gardener at Castle Ward also recommends supporting drainage by using any small stones or broken crockery at the bottom of the pot. This will also allow you to use less compost, which can be hard to source at the moment. When potting plants, you can ration out your compost by using a ratio of two-thirds garden soil to one-third compost.

Become an indoor gardener

Space it out

When space is really limited, Tim’s top tip is to look up. ‘A little wall space on a balcony can create a lovely vertical garden. Outside your door you can let plants climb canes or moss poles. Indoors you can even trail from shelves.’

Maximise your space by utilising all the sun traps in your home. Use floor standing plant holders, shelves and the obvious window sills. According to Tim, if you can’t get to the garden centre, ‘window boxes can be simply made with homemade holders’.

Essential gardening tools from the National Trust online shop
Essential gardening tools from the National Trust online shop
Essential gardening tools from the National Trust online shop

So don’t let a lack of space stop you from growing a love of gardening. Make the most of the space you have, get creative and experiment indoors.