et’s face it -- there are plenty of reasons to live in an apartment, but ample green space usually isn’t one of them. Even if you have a couple of apartment-friendly plants -- a few succulents living happily on desks or windowsills, an aloe plant just in case next summer is a scorcher -- the overwhelming gray of city life can leave you feeling green with plant envy. But what’s there to do about it?
Apartment gardening is a surprisingly easy way to transform your living space into a lush urban paradise. And there are plenty of reasons to go green: bringing nature indoors is proven to help lower stress levels and improve productivity, and growing vegetables and herbs puts nutritious whole foods at your fingertips.
Not sure how to get started? Not a problem. We’ll be going over everything you need to know to start apartment gardening:
- Things to consider before becoming a plant parent
- Best plants for a balcony or fire escape garden
- Best plants for an indoor apartment garden
- Apartment gardening tools to stock up on
Tips for New Plant Moms + Dads: Things to Consider Before Starting Your Apartment Garden
Ah, yes. It’s one of the great milestones in adulthood -- taking care of a Living Thing. It can be intimidating. Your apartment garden will only thrive if you are able to dedicate the time and energy to keeping it healthy, but how do you know if you’re ready? It can be intimidating.
Even if you’ve successfully been keeping green things alive for a while now -- or maybe you even jumped right into the deep end with a fur baby (or a human baby!) -- it’s important to consider whether or not apartment gardening fits your lifestyle before you hit the gardening store.
Consider a couple of things before jumping into plant parenthood:
- Do I have enough room for the apartment garden of my dreams?
- Do I need potted plants or hanging plants? Do I need shelves or other space?
- How much light does my space get? Is there room for plants or my balcony or around the windows?
- Could any of the plants I’m considering be toxic to my pets or kids?
- Who will take care of my apartment garden if I’m away?
Balcony Gardens 101: Best Plants + Vegetables for Outdoor Apartment Gardening
There’s a reason the heroes in books and movies are always sitting on the balcony or fire escape of their apartment gazing dreamily out at the city -- spending some time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life is very necessary sometimes. Creating a beautiful garden escape on your balcony just requires the right plants and a little bit of know-how.
Apartment Gardening Tip: Plants for balcony gardens need to be hardy. No matter what the weather is like where you live, the best plants + veggies for your balcony garden will thrive in full to partial sun and should be sturdy enough to survive drought or bouts of rainy weather.
Vibrant Flowers to Brighten Up Your Balcony
Sunlight: ☀️-⛅️ | Water: 💧💧💧| Fertilizer: All-Purpose | Difficulty: Beginner
Pansies are colorful cool-weather flowers that are perfect for beginner apartment gardeners. The name “pansy” comes from the French penseée, which means thought. It’s easy to see why -- pansies are said to look like they have faces. Their edible flowers are the perfect way to add an elegant touch (and a subtle mint flavor) to salads and desserts.
Easy to care for, all that pansies need to thrive on your balcony is a cozy pot, regular potting soil, and plenty of water. Pansies do well with all-purpose fertilizer -- nitrogen-heavy fertilizer won’t hurt your pansies, but it will cause them to get leafier and may prevent blooms. Pansies prefer cooler weather, so they make good spring and fall balcony plants. They can survive a frost, but prefer to avoid hot summer days and dry soil.
Apartment Gardening Tip: Pot balcony plants that prefer cool weather in portable containers -- 12” or so -- so that when the weather gets warm they can easily be moved inside and away from hot balconies or windowsills.
Aromatic Evergreen Herb with Delicate Bluish Flowers
Sunlight: ☀️ | Water: 💧💧| Soil: Loamy, slightly acidic | Difficulty: Moderate
Known for its sweet, resinous flavor, rosemary is a staple in many kitchens, which makes it a great balcony plant choice for apartment gardeners with a bit of culinary flair. Rosemary prefers warm air, lots of sunlight, and well-drained soil. Under the right conditions, a rosemary plant can quickly grow into a shrub 4 ft tall or more, but in cooler conditions rosemary makes for an excellent potted balcony plant.
Rosemary should be pruned regularly, but don’t just throw out the clippings: rosemary tea is said to be great for improving your memory.
🌼 Red Cascade Roses
Miniature Climbing Roses to Add Some Romance to Your Balcony Garden
Sunlight: ☀️ | Water: 💧💧💧| Soil: Magnesium-rich, slightly acidic | Difficulty: Moderate
Balconies and roses seem to be a natural fit -- “a rose by any other name,” and all that. These classic flowers are notoriously difficult to grow, but luckily apartment garden-friendly miniature rose varieties tend to be much easier to care for than their larger counterparts. Red cascade roses are a type of climbing balcony rose that is ideal for hanging baskets, railing planters, and taking up vertical trellis or railing space.
Miniature roses aren’t just nice to look at -- their colorful 1-2” blooms can be brewed for tea or a gentle, pore-cleansing aromatic steam.
🥗 Ornamental Pepper Plants
Brightly-Colored Peppers Will Give Your Balcony Garden and Your Chili a Kick
Sunlight: ☀️ | Water: 💧💧💧| Soil: Moist + cool | Difficulty: Moderate
Brightly-colored ornamental chili peppers are an attractive addition to any balcony garden. They’re slightly more finicky than their bell pepper counterparts, and while they are edible, they are known less for their flavor than they are for their spice. If you’re looking for a way to warm up your balcony garden with some color, ornamental pepper plants are an excellent choice.
Ornamental pepper plants need a little help to hold the weight of their fruit. Consider netting or a tomato cage if your plants need some extra support.
Colorful, Easy-to-Grow Apartment Balcony Flowers
Sunlight: ☀️-⛅️ | Water: 💧💧| Soil: Well-drained | Difficulty: Beginner
Think you know your geraniums? You may not! The flowers we typically call “geraniums” are actually classified under the genus “Pelargonium.” Flowers in the genus “Geranium” actually have a different petal shape and number of stamens. A case of mistaken identity in the early 18th century is responsible for the mix-up.
Geraniums are a favorite of gardeners anywhere because they are colorful, smell wonderful, and are a great flower for beginners.
Crisp, Cool, and Refreshing: The Perfect Balcony Plant for Summertime
Sunlight: ☀️ | Water: 💧💧💧 | Soil: Well-drained, slightly acidic | Difficulty: Beginner
Vining plants such as cucumbers are a natural fit for balconies -- railings and trellises make a perfect support system for them to climb. Cucumber plants don’t like to be constricted. They prefer roomy containers with loose, air-permeable soil and plenty of room to vine.
Protecting cucumber plants from bugs tends to be the biggest challenge for balcony gardeners. It’s also important to make sure your cucumber plants are properly hydrated -- otherwise, the cucumbers may become bitter.
🥗 Spinach (or Kale, or Swiss Chard, or Arugula, or…)
Salad Greens are Hardy, Easy to Grow Balcony Garden Plants
Sunlight: ⛅️ | Water: 💧💧💧| Soil: Moist | Difficulty: Moderate
Salads are the quintessential health food, and salad greens are an easy-to-grow addition to any apartment garden. Most are shallow-rooted cool-weather plants that thrive in the spring and fall, and they grow quickly -- just 4-6 weeks after seeding, your salad greens are ready to harvest and enjoy. Salad greens grow best in areas with full morning light and filtered afternoon light for a total of 3-4 hours of sunlight per day.
Exotic, Tropical-Looking Flowers for Your Balcony Paradise
Sunlight: ☀️ | Water: 💧💧| Soil: Cool, neutral | Difficulty: Moderate
Unlike many flowers, snapdragons are relatively easy to grow from a seed if planted in early spring. These tall, colorful flowers have narrow stalks of blooms, making them a perfect fit for small balcony gardens. Snapdragons are tropical flowers that like to be pampered with warm air and sunshine (but not too much sunshine!)
Snapdragons come in a variety of eye-catching colors: red, orange, yellow, or pink. Even their leaves have a bit of flair -- their foliage might be green, bronze, or even variegated.
A Perennial Rainbow for Your Apartment Garden
Sunlight: ☀️ | Water: 💧💧| Soil: Well-drained, neutral | Difficulty: Beginner
Jewel-toned chrysanthemums are a popular fall flower -- stop into any gardening store in August or September and you’re sure to see a rainbow of blooms. Chrysanthemums come in a wide variety of colors, from soft lavenders and pinks to vibrant reds and bronzes (and everything in between!)
Chrysanthemums need lots of nutrients to thrive -- be sure to fertilize monthly with a balanced formula. Once flower buds emerge, chrysanthemums don’t need to be fertilized anymore.
Indoor Apartment Gardening: Easy Plants + Herbs for Your Indoor Garden
Apartments with lots of plants have become exceptionally popular on social media. We’ve all seen the pictures: crisp white bedrooms canopied with lush green leaves, sunlight spilling through huge windows onto a floor crowded with pots, kitchens with a tangle of vines and utensils hanging overhead. Veritable jungles within the concrete jungle.
Luckily for apartment-dwelling plant-lovers everywhere, you don’t need a balcony or a blue checkmark next to your Instagram handle to grow your indoor garden.
Apartment Gardening Tip: Take advantage of vertical space! Containers on the floor might make for good photos, but trying to tiptoe around your plants all day can quickly make an already tight space feel tighter. Consider hanging or stacking plants whenever possible, and look for container plants with a low profile.
🌱 Spider Plant
Easy-to-Grow, Attractive Houseplants That Look Amazing in Pots or Hanging Baskets
Sunlight: ⛅️-☁️ | Water: 💧💧| Soil: Moist, well-drained, neutral | Difficulty: Beginner
Spider plants -- also known as spider ivy or ribbon plants -- are a classic houseplant that have been popular since the Victorian-era. Their long, thin foliage gives spider plants an elegant appearance. They may also produce tiny white flowers and tiny offshoots called “pups.”
Spider plants prefer bright to moderate indirect sunlight -- it’s important to keep them out of direct light because overexposure to sun can cause the delicate tips of their leaves to turn brown and burn.
🌱 Devil’s Ivy
Hardy Tropical Vine with Heart-Shaped Leaves
Sunlight: ⛅️ | Water:💧| Soil: Loamy, sandy | Difficulty: Beginner
Looking for an easy plant to jump start your apartment garden? Look no further! Devil’s Ivy (or Pothos) is a famously forgiving houseplant loved by apartment gardeners the world over. This plant likes warm air and doesn’t require elaborate care, making it an ideal choice for beginners.
Vining plants are great for balcony gardens, but Devil’s Ivy (or Pothos) is considered an invasive species in most of the US. For that reason, it should be reserved for indoor apartment gardens only.
Devil’s Ivy is also mildly toxic, so it should be grown beyond the reach of children or pets who may be tempted to take a bite of its heart-shaped leaves.
Not Your Average Apartment Garden Plant, But Worth the Work!
Sunlight: ⛅️ | Water: 💧💧| Soil: Light, porous, fast-draining | Difficulty: Challenging
Orchids have a reputation for being difficult to grow -- that’s because they require very different things than most plants an apartment gardener might encounter. Specifically, orchids require circulating air and should be watered only when their soil is dried out. Orchids shouldn’t be potted in normal potting soil because it’s too dense -- they should be potted in light, porous soil that drains quickly.
Orchids come in a number of colors and varieties. Phalaenopsis orchids -- which have beautiful spotted or striped flowers in white, pink, yellow, or red -- are the best variety for beginners.
🌳 Fiddle Leaf Fig
Striking Statement Apartment Garden Plant with Large Leaves
Sunlight: ☀️ | Water: 💧| Soil: Fast-draining | Difficulty: Moderate
Native to western Africa, fiddle leaf fig trees are a popular flowering houseplant related to mulberry plants and figs. Their large, uniquely shaped leaves make them an excellent statement piece for your indoor apartment garden.
The key to successfully caring for a fiddle leaf fig is moderation. Fiddle leaf figs need to be watered regularly, but they prefer to dry out slightly between waterings. They do best with bright, filtered sunlight, but too much sunlight -- for example, being placed in a south-facing window -- may burn their leaves.
🌱 Purple Leaf Shamrock
Low-Maintenance and Colorful Indoor Apartment Garden Plant
Sunlight: ⛅️ | Water: 💧| Soil: Well-draining potting mix | Difficulty: Beginner
Purple shamrock (otherwise known as Oxalis regnellii) is an excellent way to add a bit of excitement to your indoor apartment garden. With triangular leaves that range from dark pink to deep purple, purple shamrock will stand out from other green, gold, and variegated members of your apartment plant family.
Purple shamrock prefers cooler temperatures, partial shade, and for the surface of its soil to dry out between waterings. Native to Brazil, purple shamrock also thrives in relatively humid environments (50% or higher, if possible).
Delicate, Fragrant Flowers to Make Your Apartment Garden Smell as Good as it Looks
Sunlight: ☀️-⛅️ | Water: 💧💧| Soil: Average, moist, well-drained | Difficulty: Moderate
Jasmine is known for its fragrant clusters of delicate white flowers. It is a vining plant that does well in hanging baskets or draped across shelves. Jasmine flowers have a heady scent that is frequently included in perfumes, and brewed into tea, jasmine is known for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic powers.
Turn Scraps into Scallions in Your Windowsill
Sunlight: ☀️ | Water: 💧💧💧| Soil: Fine, well-drained | Difficulty: Beginner
Scallions (otherwise known as green onions) are a handy ingredient to have around your kitchen, and luckily, they aren’t difficult to grow. They can be grown from seeds, but growing them from scraps is also common. Just submerge the root ends discarded when cooking with scallions in water, and in just a few days your scraps will regrow into scallion plants ready to use in your next recipe.
Simple to Grow Seedlings Perfect for Small Indoor Gardens
Sunlight: ⛅️ | Water: 💧💧💧| Soil: Loamy, slightly acidic | Difficulty: Beginner
What are microgreens? They’re just vegetable seedlings! Microgreens are easy to grow and quickly ready to harvest. Microgreens can be grown hydroponically, but most varieties of microgreen prefer a combination of compost and potting soil.
Microgreens make a great addition to salads, pestos, pizza, burgers, you name it. There are plenty of ways to get creative with your microgreens.
🌱 Corkscrew Albuca
A Unique + Attractive Addition to any Indoor Apartment Garden
Sunlight: ☀️-⛅️ | Water: 💧💧| Soil: Sandy, loose, well-drained | Difficulty: Moderate
Corkscrew albuca (also known as Frizzle Sizzle!) is a unique grass-like plant with distinct spiral leaves. Frizzle sizzle does its best in sunlight, warm temperatures, and well-drained soil. Under the right growing conditions, your corkscrew albuca may even sprout small yellow flowers that smell like vanilla and butter.
Aromatic, Warm-Weather Herb Perfect for an Indoor Garden or a Summer Balcony Garden
Sunlight: ☀️-⛅️ | Water: 💧💧| Soil: Well-drained, neutral | Difficulty: Beginner
Pesto lovers everywhere will be happy to learn that basil is an easy-to-grow container plant. The most common variety of basil grown in apartment gardens is sweet basil, but purple basil, Thai basil, and lemon basil are also great choices.
Simply set up a well-draining pot with neutral potting soil, and away you go! Basil likes warm weather, moist soil, and sunshine (although not too much sunshine -- if you live somewhere particularly toasty, your basil plant might prefer afternoon shade). When the weather starts to get frosty, be sure to bring basil inside so that you can continue enjoying fresh herbs all winter long.
Popular Aromatic Herb with Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Sunlight: ☀️ | Water: 💧💧💧| Soil: Rich, moist, well-drained | Difficulty: Beginner
Mint is an excellent choice for beginning apartment gardeners -- it practically grows itself! Mint will grow in sun or shade as long as it is kept at a moderate temperature. In a traditional outdoor garden plot, mint is known as a bully. It has a tendency to roam, so keeping it in a container in an indoor apartment garden is an excellent option.
Mint leaves can be used to flavor beverages like lemonade, water, and tea. It has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used to relieve indigestion and mild congestion.
Fragrant, Hardy Perennial Herb to Add to Your Apartment Herb Garden
Sunlight: ☀️-⛅️ | Water: 💧| Soil: Loamy, sandy | Difficulty: Beginner
Another popular cooking herb, thyme is a great plant for novice apartment gardeners. Native to the Mediterranean region, thyme is drought-tolerant and doesn’t require much water to thrive. Thyme loves heat, so it would happily make a home on a sunny windowsill.
Growing thyme from seeds can be tricky, but it’s quite simple to grow from cuttings. If you have an insect problem in your home, burning some thyme can help get rid of them.
Apartment Gardening Tools Every Plant Parent Needs
Like any kind of gardening, there are certain tools that will make planting, potting, and caring for your apartment garden go more smoothly. To minimize mess in your apartment and ensure your indoor apartment garden or balcony garden thrives, consider grabbing a few apartment gardening essentials:
- Contractor mixing trays or rubber boot trays for potting, watering, moving plants, etc.
- Pots + planters (consider railing planters, vertical wall planters, hanging planters + hardware, glass jars… don’t be afraid to get creative!
- Dry bins for soil and fertilizer storage
- Potting scoop
- Hori hori knife
- Watering can
You don’t need a huge yard or even a balcony to reap the benefits of growing a garden. As long as you’re realistic about your space and skill level, apartment gardening can be a rewarding hobby for anyone. So get out there, gear up, and get ready to grow 🌱
Main image courtesy of 6sqft.