How to grow a garden in a small apartment

Just because you live in a small apartment doesn’t mean you can’t grow your own garden. Learn how to choose the best plants for your space, and how to care for them. (Green thumb not required.)

plants on a table and in a woven basket with a blue background

Table of contents

Scout your location Amp up your lightBest plants for apartment gardeningContainers for apartment gardening4 Tips for maintaining a healthy apartment garden

Scout your location

The first step to choosing plants for your space is figuring out where they’ll live. Plants need light, so start by assessing all available light sources.


Where are the windows? Are they north-facing (less light) or south-facing (more light)? Do the windows receive full sun, or are they blocked by buildings or trees? 

Outdoor space

Do you have any outdoor space, such as a balcony, deck, patio, or roof access? Even a large window ledge or stoop counts! Most plants are at their best when living outdoors, especially fruiting and flowering plants that require pollination. A small outdoor area is also a great place to set up a compost pile, which will in turn feed your apartment’s garden. (For indoor composting, try a worm bin.) 

Temperature and humidity

Most indoor spaces have dry air, so it’s important to consider the humidity of your space. A tropical plant like an orchid might do well in a moist place like a bathroom, while a cactus or small tomato plant will thrive in the hottest part of the house. Misting with a spray bottle is a great way to produce humidity for those plants that need it.

Amp up your light

Even if your apartment has large, sun-drenched windows, you might not be able (or want to) crowd all your plants around one light source. Use these tricks to maximize the light in your space.


Mirrors are one of the easiest and prettiest ways to extend any light you already have. The best place for a mirror is usually opposite a window is usually best, but you can get creative with how you catch the light. 

Grow lights

Grow lights are light bulbs designed to help plants grow. Grow lights emit different colors of lights depending on the plants’ needs. (In general, blue light stimulates root growth and red light encourages stem production, flowering, and fruiting.) 

Regular lights bulbs

You don’t need a specialized grow light to increase your plants’ access to light. A regular lightbulb will work as well. Just make sure not to put the plants too close to the light bulb, or they may burn. 

Best plants for apartment gardening

Once you’ve created the ideal environment for plants to flourish in an apartment, it’s time to choose the perfect plants for your space. Here are some of the varieties of plants most successful for indoor gardening.

  • Succulents. Succulents are beloved low-maintenance plants: Since they store water in their plump leaves, they don’t need to be watered very often. 

  • Cacti. Cacti can also survive with less water, but they need plenty of sunlight and warmth. (Don’t leave them outside in the winter.)

  • Tropical plants. Tropical plants like monsteras, pothos, snake plants, anthuriums, and philodendrons are ideal for apartment gardening because they can tolerate shade conditions. 

  • Trees. There’s something about having a tree in your apartment that just makes it feel more alive.  All you need is some dedicated floor space. The ever-popular fiddle leaf fig tree prefers filtered sunlight—in front of a window with an obstructed view is a great spot. If you don’t have enough room for a full-blown tree, you can try a small tree, such as a dwarf citrus tree, a money tree, or an avocado plant grown from a pit.

  • Herbs. Everyone should have a kitchen herb garden. Not only are herbs small and easy to grow, but they add a ton of flavor to food and allow you to be less wasteful in the kitchen. (How often have you bought a whole bunch of cilantro when all you needed was a garnish?) 

  • Vegetables. You don’t need a backyard to grow your own vegetables: Many vegetables take well to container planting. Start your own urban mini farm on your stoop, balcony, or roof. Don’t have any outdoor space at all? Try planting lettuce in a window. Lettuce is a shade-tolerant plant, and if you harvest the leaves while they’re young, they’ll continue to form new leaves for a near-endless supply of salad greens. 

Containers for apartment gardening

Whether you have an outdoor space or not, you’ll likely want to stick to potted plants. Containers are easy to move around if you change your decor, move, or need to bring a plant indoors for the winter.

Window boxes

Apartment gardening is all about maximizing outdoor space, and window boxes are a great way to do this. Traditionally they hang outside a window, but you can also turn any railing—on a balcony or stair landing—into a garden by hanging window boxes off the side.

Hanging baskets

Hanging plants can be a great solution if you live in a small space, since they occupy the overhead space that’s usually empty. Typical hanging plants include the tropical, low-light-tolerant pothos and philodendron, which send out shoots that can hang down, adding visual interest to your apartment. If you have a balcony, consider planting hanging edible plants like flowering nasturtiums or cherry tomatoes.


If you’re not ready to transplant, but you don’t love the plastic pot you got from the nursery or hardware store, you can easily camouflage it by sticking the plant in a basket or more attractive pot that’s a little larger than the one your plant came with. 

4 Tips for maintaining a healthy apartment garden

Every apartment garden is different, so the best way to care for your plants is to pay attention: Research each plant’s needs, and adjust its location, light levels, and watering schedule when needed.

1. Create a watering schedule. 

It’s easy to forget if you’ve watered your plants. Luckily, you can check a plant’s moisture levels easily by sticking a finger in the soil. But a watering schedule is the best way to prevent over- or under-watering. 

Most houseplants prefer watering once a week. Snake plants, succulents, and cacti can be watered once a month. Yellowing leaves are often a sign of overwatering, while dried-out leaves (and bone-dry soil) can indicate underwatering.

2. Check your soil. 

The bag of potting soil you pick up from a nursery isn’t just dirt that’s been scooped into a bag—it’s a mix of lightweight growing media, such as peat moss, bark, and perlite, mixed with enough compost to provide nutrients for your plants. 

Container growing requires better soil drainage than in-the-ground gardening, so you shouldn’t use regular dirt from the backyard to grow your plants. As your plants absorb nutrients from the potting soil, you’ll need to re-up the nutrient levels by adding a little compost or organic fertilizer to the soil. 

Don’t recycle potting soil between plants—not only will it be drained of nutrients, but the old potting soil could contain diseases.

3. Start small. 

If you’ve just moved to a new apartment, your inclination might be to fill your space with as many varieties of plants as will fit in your home. But if you’re new to indoor plants, it’s best to stick to one plant at a time. It can take a while to find out what watering and light conditions work for individual plants, and those needs can get overwhelming when you have an apartment full of different plants with different requirements.

4. All plants are outdoor plants. 

Although some plants can live long lives indoors, it’s important to remember that an apartment isn’t the natural habitat of any plant. Don’t beat yourself up if a plant loses leaves or dies—just keep learning.

Looking for a home to share with roommates who share your passion for indoor gardening? Bungalow offers private rooms within shared homes in the best neighborhoods for less than solo living options. Unlike other coliving and shared housing options, Bungalow vets all residents and helps you match with roommates who share your living preferences and interests. Find a Bungalow near you.

Ready to find your next home?

Move-in ready homes and a built-in community so you can feel at home, together — wherever you are.

Suggested articles

loading spinner
Move in ready homes and a built-in community so you can feel at home, together — wherever you are.