An Easy Apartment Gardening Guide for Beginners

Who said you needed a backyard to start a garden? In recent years, renters have embraced apartment gardening as a hobby—and for good reason. Plants add color, texture, and good vibes to any home. No, seriously, one study suggests that interacting with indoor plants can improve mental health by reducing stress!

The good news is you can easily cultivate a lush, thriving garden in your apartment, whether you prefer an indoor system or a balcony sanctuary. Read our blog to learn the basic steps to start an apartment garden as well as other renter-friendly apartment plant care ideas.

Looking for the perfect apartment for your plants? Check out our available floor plans to see why plant enthusiasts love living at Doud Apartment Homes!

How to Start an Apartment Garden from Scratch

If you’re new to apartment gardening, follow these beginner-friendly gardening steps to get 

started:

1. Pick What You Want to Grow

When deciding which plants to get, it’s important to consider your lifestyle and commitment level. Are you someone who might forget to water their plants for a week or two? A low-maintenance and drought-resistant houseplant may suit you. Do you want to grow edible plants like herbs, vegetables, and fruits? Edible plants require more water, light, and attention than non-edible plants. If you have pets, are your plants pet-safe?

Whichever you choose, be sure to review general care instructions online or consult with a gardening expert for guidelines.

The best indoor apartment garden plants for beginners include: 

  • Herbs – basil, mint, parsley, thyme, dill
  • Vegetables – cherry tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, sprouts
  • Fruits – mulberries, alpine strawberries, blackberries
  • Succulents – jade plants, hoyas, echeveria, cactus
  • Vining Plants – pothos, philodendron
  • Low-Maintenance Plants –  ZZ plants, snake plants, spider plants
  • Flowers – African violets, orchids, peace lilies

The best outdoor balcony garden plants for beginners include all of the above, and: 

  • Vegetables – squash, cucumbers, lettuce, kale, cabbage, beans, carrots, radishes
  • Flowers – geraniums, marigolds, pinks, lobelia

2. Find a Sunny Location

Most plants need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day, but the brightness level depends on the type of plant. Some plants need bright, direct light, while others prefer consistent indirect light. The best places to grow plants indoors are near windows, on balconies, and in sunny corners. South-facing windows receive the brightest light throughout the day, while North-facing windows tend to yield weak light.

Before purchasing plants, observe how the sunlight filters into your apartment throughout the day to identify the right spots. Then, stick to plants that adapt well to your apartment’s light conditions. If you have limited natural light, automated grow lights can help create the right growing conditions regardless of your space.

3. Purchase Seedlings

Beginners often have trouble growing plants from seeds. Unless you’re using an apartment gardening kit, you’ll likely have more success starting with a seedling or small plant. We recommend sourcing plants from a trusted plant nursery. This allows you to check for pests and ask their experts for specific apartment gardening advice.

3. Use the Right Soil

Good soil is crucial for healthy plants, but some mediums are better for plants than others. In general, a high-quality indoor potting mix is enough to get started

Garden centers also sell potting mix for specific types of plants:

  • All-Purpose Indoor Mix – Many plants grow well (or tolerate) all-purpose indoor potting mixes that are rich in organic matter and drain water well.
  • Cactus Mix – Succulents and other desert plants prefer a cactus blend, a sandy potting medium that drains water quickly.
  • Orchid Mix – Some tropical flowering plants, like orchids, grow best in an orchid or tropical soil mix, which is looser and contains more pieces of bark.
  • Fruit & Vegetable Mix – Fruits and vegetable soils promote rapid plant growth. They typically contain fertilizer granules that slowly release nutrients as you water.

If you’re not transplanting your seedlings into gardening beds or larger pots, you might not need soil right away. But it’s still good to have on hand for future care. You can also combine soil types or mix in perlite to improve aeration and drainage.

4. Purchase Planters

Aesthetics aside, a good planter should have drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. A plant with no holes combined with low-draining soil can cause root rot and kill the plant. Self-watering planters are great options for those who prefer a low-maintenance method.

Many gardeners also prefer to keep their plants in plastic nursery pots and use the planters as decorative covers. If you want to change planters, you can simply move the plant in its nursery pot into a new home without repotting. It’s also easier to water plants in planters.

5. Water Regularly When the Soil is Dry

How often you water your plants depends on the plant, light levels, soil type, and season. Different plants have different needs, and sticking to a one-size-fits-all watering schedule can lead to improper watering. Succulents don’t need frequent watering, while more delicate plants may need multiple watering sessions.

The general rule of thumb for indoor plants is: 

  • Plants require more water during the growing season in spring and summer and less water in the winter and fall.
  • Underwatering a plant is less damaging than overwatering.
  • Water your plants thoroughly to soak the soil thoroughly. It’s OK if some water comes out of the planter’s drainage holes. Only moistening the topsoil results in shallow roots because the plant isn’t digging down to get water.
  • Many plants prefer their soil to dry out completely between waterings. Check the plant care instructions to confirm.
  • You should check your indoor plants weekly to see if they need water. Try downloading a plant care app to track your watering and get reminders.

Look for signs that your plant is thirsty:

  • Examine the stems and leaves. The plant may need water if the leaves are drooping, wrinkled, or dried out.
  • Stick your finger in the soil to feel if it’s dry. If the soil is still wet, you may want to wait before watering.
  • Pick up the plant to check the weight. If the plant feels deceptively light, it’s a good indicator that you should water it. Moist soil weighs more than dry soil.

6. Use Fertilizer as Needed

As plants grow, they consume the nutrients in the soil. Adding fertilizers (also sold as plant food) during the growing phase in spring and summer can help replenish nutrients and encourage robust foliage. Look for water-soluble plant food or liquid fertilizers that you can mix with watering. Organic options like compost and fish emulsion are also excellent for plants.

If you prefer a set-it-and-forget-it approach, you can sprinkle worm casting on the top layer of soil during the growing season. As you water your plants over time, the castings will release their nutrients gradually into the soil.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Prune

Pruning helps plants grow stronger by encouraging the plants to push new growth beneath the cut and bush outward. This keeps plants from getting “leggy,” which is when they have long sections of thin stems that can’t support the weight of the plant. Think of it like a haircut! Regular pruning keeps the plant healthy and in shape.

  • First, use clean pruning shears or a sterilized garden knife to cut off browning or dead branches.
  • Then, cut off leggy stems at an angle, cutting close to the previous node (the part where a stem or leaf grows).
  • Cut off less than a quarter of the plant per pruning session to avoid excessive shock.

Finally, don’t throw away all of the cuttings you’ve removed! You can propagate each cutting by letting the wound dry before putting them in soil or water. Successfully propagated cuttings will grow into individual plants, a cost-effective way to expand your apartment garden!

8. Harvest Your Apartment Garden

Similar to pruning, harvesting edible plants improves their health. When plants grow fruit or flowers, they dedicate their energy toward maintaining the fruit. Pick fruits and vegetables when they’re ripe to encourage the plant to focus on new growth. For herbs, prune the tips regularly to promote bushier growth and more yield.

Indoor Apartment Gardening Kits Are Perfect for Any Environment

If your apartment lacks the right conditions, you can still grow an impressive garden with apartment gardening kits. Indoor gardening kits package most of the necessary apartment gardening tools in one, including soil, plant food, and sometimes grow lights. This makes them perfect for beginners.

Countertop Hydroponic Gardens

Hydroponic gardens are a space-efficient and soil-free option for apartment dwellers. These systems use nutrient-rich water solutions to grow plants, often resulting in faster growth and higher yields. They can be set up indoors with minimal space and are perfect for growing herbs, leafy greens, and certain berries.

Vertical Gardens

Garden towers are vertical gardening systems designed to maximize space in small areas. These towers can hold multiple plants in a small footprint, making them ideal for apartments with balconies or sunny indoor spaces. They often come with built-in irrigation systems, making maintenance easier. Just fill the water tank, prune, and harvest!

Microgreen Kits

Microgreen kits require minimal space and can be grown on a windowsill or countertop, providing a constant supply of fresh, flavorful greens. They typically include a tray, growing medium, and a selection of microgreen seeds such as arugula, radish, or broccoli. Microgreens are ready to harvest in just a few weeks, making them a quick and easy addition to your apartment gardening routine.

Indoor Mushroom Growing Kits

Indoor mushroom kits are a low-maintenance option for growing mushrooms in your apartment. They usually come with a substrate, such as a log or a block, already inoculated with mushroom spores—all you have to do is add water! 

Mushrooms thrive in indirect to low-light areas, so keep them out of direct sunlight. Varieties like oyster, shiitake, and lion’s mane are popular choices. 

Indoor Apartment Garden Ideas to Decorate Your Space

The easiest way to make a luxury apartment feel that much more upscale is to integrate plants into your home. Use these apartment garden ideas to elevate your space!

Display Your Plants on a Window Sill

Sunny window sills are the perfect spot for small plants that require bright, direct light. We recommend collecting your plants into small groups of three or four to create visually compelling moments in your living room

Vary the plants based on the color of their planter, the leaf texture, and the height. You can hang small pots on the window frame using renter-friendly command hooks and string.

Cultivate a Plant Shelf

Incorporate your plants with books, artwork, and other apartment decor on floating shelves and bookcases. You can build visual contrast by layering your plants on top of items or create a lush apartment garden by dedicating a full bookcase. Try draping vines over the edge of the shelves for a dramatic effect.

DIY the Greenhouse Cabinet Hack

High-maintenance tropical plants usually require high humidity and light conditions to flourish. Savvy renters have hacked glass display cabinets with grow lights, humidifiers, and mini fans to recreate the tropics indoors. A greenhouse cabinet helps contain plants from curious pets while creating an eye-catching display.

Hang a Plant Wall

Grouping renter-friendly wall-mounted planters adds a unique verdant flair while drawing your eye upward, making your room feel even larger. You don’t have to commit to a full wall of plants, which can feel daunting to water and prune. Hanging a few vining plants is enough to get started, or you can opt for lightweight fake plants.

Apartment Gardening at Doud Apartment Homes

Whether growing edible plants or filling your home with nature, starting an apartment garden can be incredibly rewarding. Our tips are perfect for beginners who want to dip into indoor apartment gardening. 

Having said that, most of the above methods also work for outdoor gardens. Each Doud apartment has access to a private balcony or patio, allowing our renters to grow beautiful plants year-round! Learn more about our luxury apartment amenities by talking to our leasing office.

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