The Joys of Indoor Gardening

16 September 2021

From window boxes to silk trees, a lack of outside space doesn’t have to stop you enjoying the colours and aromas of nature inside your home.

Most people appreciate the colour and character provided by a well-maintained garden, but not everyone has the ability to keep their outside spaces looking attractive. From money to mobility, there are plenty of reasons why maintenance-free gardening is desirable – if you have a private garden at all. Many flats overlook communal outside space, which can be beautifully landscaped, but is designed and managed by developers or specialist factors.

With a little time and effort, even a top-floor flat can provide a home to greenery and scenery. Indoor gardening is growing in popularity among the over 55s in particular, bringing life into a property without having to endlessly battle pests and weeds. These are some imaginative ways to add nature and colour into your home, even if your only outside space is a windowsill or a Parisian balcony…

Window boxes onto the world

Choose a window box which will fit the available space, and be easily accessible. Although it’ll be close to a tap, kitchens are often a bad location for window boxes, since worktops may get in the way of pruning and planting. Choose sustainable wooden boxes rather than plastic or metal, which could stifle roots; clay boxes are surprisingly heavy once you add in soil.

Put pebbles or gravel in the base of your chosen window box and then grow a mixture of seasonal and perennial plants. Herbs are a fragrant addition, while you can attract flying insects with pollinating plants that contribute their own pleasant aromas. Invest in nutrient-rich soil, water it lightly but regularly, and position planters at south or west-facing windows.

Fancy plants

Many plants are charming and characterful, despite requiring negligible amounts of space. Mini succulents can be combined in a trough or tray, while cacti are a pricklier alternative best kept in a glass bowl if you have pets or small grandchildren. Bonsai trees can be succulent-sized or reasonably large, meaning there’s always a tree that’ll fill a favourite pot.

While it may seem like cheating, artificial plants are a labour-free alternative to real flora and fauna. They eliminate the need for bags of compost, watering sprays, trowels and other paraphernalia which might be hard to store in a smaller home. Options include imitation bamboo, silk trees, faux succulents and even artificial ficus with real wooden trunks.

Patio magic

If you have a walk-out balcony or patio, there’s plenty of scope to add character. You could grow climbers up the railings, or hang flowering baskets from brackets. Decorative metallic sculptures of butterflies and roses are widely available, suitable for intertwining with existing climbers or serving as a standalone feature.

Water features require mains power from an adjacent apartment, providing a point of interest and a soothing soundtrack. On a similar note, wind chimes and dreamcatchers work well suspended from the ceiling. Compact rockeries may be endlessly fettled with beachcombed shells, glass beads, pebbles and rocks; they look particularly good surrounding alpine plants.

Grow your own

You don’t need a vegetable patch to grow your own food. Good-quality soil and a plentiful supply of sunshine and water will allow anything from tomato plants to lemon trees to flourish. Multi-tier planters minimise floor or worktop space while providing different-sized troughs to support a variety of plants; some planters even water themselves automatically.

One of the best things to grow indoors is a selection of herbs, which can thrive despite not being outside. These hardy little plants grow out of seeds or cuttings, replenishing quickly and adding delightful aromas to your chosen room. Blend different varieties – basil and mint, rosemary and thyme, chives and parsley – according to your culinary preferences.