The Best Plants to Grow in a Greenhouse – Gardener Corner

The Best Plants to Grow in a Greenhouse

When it comes to choosing the best plants to grow in your greenhouse, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Choosing the right plants is a very personal decision. You’ll be spending a lot of time caring for your precious plants, so you need to choose specimens that really interest you and motivate you to get out there and do the required work.

Before you dive in, spend a little time thinking about what types of plants interest you the most – and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Do you love to cook? If so, there are many edible plants that would be right at home in your greenhouse. Think about having fresh ginger, turmeric, and tomatoes all year long. You can even grow dwarf fruit trees. Are you and herbalist? Then think about growing medicinal herbs. Or if you’re drawn to beautiful flowers and their delicate scents, ornamental plants may be the best choice for you.

Figure 1 – Photo credit: jinxmcc via / CC BY-ND

Two Tricks for Choosing the Perfect Greenhouse Plants

Every square inch of space in your greenhouse is precious real estate, and you should use it wisely. Here are two tricks that will help you to get the most mileage out of your available greenhouse space.

Trick #1 – Think Vertical

If you grow only seedlings and cuttings, and they are all kept on the floor, you will be wasting the top 90% of the available space in your greenhouse. Don’t make this classic mistake. Plan your space in three dimensions – include short plants, tall plants, and vining plants that can hang from the ceiling. If all of the plants you want to grow are short, utilize tables and shelves to make the most of your available floor space.

Trick #2 – Choose Plants with Similar Requirements

If all of the plants you choose have similar requirements, you will have a much easier time keeping them all happy. Think about light, humidity, air circulation and watering needs. If you grow tropical plants that prefer low light and high humidity alongside desert succulents that prefer intense light and very low humidity – one of the plants will suffer. Choose plants with similar requirements, and you will have more success with less effort.

Figure 2 – Photo credit: MarilynJane via / CC BY

The Best Plants to Kickstart Your Greenhouse

Here is a list of five plants that will fill your greenhouse with lush, beautiful growth as quickly as possible – and with minimal effort on your part. These plants have similar requirements for light, water, air circulation and humidity; and each of them should be relatively easy for you to find.

We took several factors into consideration in choosing the plants below.

First, we made sure that all of the plants on this list are easy to propagate. That means that you will be able to quickly multiply your stock of plants and create a greenhouse that is full of lush, green growth in minimal time.

Next, we recommended only plants that anyone can care for easily. If you make sure that they receive ample light and water, you will succeed with each of these plants. They are not susceptible to pests or disease, and none of them requires any special care.

Finally, we selected only plants that are popular as common low-care houseplants. Because, if you’re planning to multiply your plants, you will eventually need to sell or give away some of your stock. There is always a market for these five plants, and it will be easy to find a buyer for them. If you are planning to give them away as gifts – these are plants that your friends and loved ones will be able to keep and grow with ease. No green thumb required!


Figure 3 – Photo credit: tarjeplanta via / CC BY-NC-SA

Pothos, also widely known as devil’s ivy, is a popular houseplant all around the world – and for good reason. This beautiful plant grows quickly with minimal care and accepts a wide range of moisture and lighting conditions, making it one of the best plants to grow in a greenhouse. For the fullest and most vigorous growth, provide bright indirect light, consistently evenmoisture and regular fertilization.

Pothos can be grown in any container, and is often found in hanging pots and baskets. It grows as a vigorous vine. It can be allowed to cascade down out of its container or trained to grow upward on stakes and trellises. The pinnate leaves of pothos are rubbery, flexible, and waxy to the touch.

Several cultivars are available with subtle differences in coloration. The most common form, called ‘Golden’ (pictured above) has deep green leaves heavily variegated with a creamy yellow. ‘Glacier’ is another popular variety that features green leaves with crisp white variegation. The ‘Jade’ variety boasts solid, dark green leaves. ‘Neon’ also has solid green leaves, with the newer growth showing off a bright, chartreuse color.

Pothos makes an excellent greenhouse specimen, because it can quickly fill any greenhouse with lush green growth. In terms of the space it consumes, pothos is especially flexible due to its ability to grow up from the floor – or down from the ceiling – depending on your preference. It is without a doubt one of the best plants to grow in a greenhouse.

Figure 4 – Photo credit: Happy Sharry via / CC BY-NC-ND

Propagating pothos is fast and simple. Cuttings can be rooted in potting soil or in water. Several cuttings can be rooted together in one container to quickly create a full and lush potted planting. Alternately, a layering technique can be used to transform one vine of pothos into several separate plants.

The ASPCA classifies pothos as being toxic to both dogs and cats, so care should be taken to keep the plant out of reach of your household animals. Ingestion can cause oral irritation and vomiting. Luckily, pothos does very well in hanging baskets which can easily be situated at a safe height – outside the reach of cats and dogs.

Philodendrons (Philodendron spp.)

Figure 5 – Photo credit: paleo_bear via / CC BY

The philodendrons are alarge family of tropical plants that includes some of the best plants to grow in a greenhouse. These plants got their name because some of them are epiphytes – meaning they don’t need soil to grow – and grow in the forest canopy among the tree tops. The Latin name philodendron roughly translates to “tree-lover.”

Philodendrons come in all shapes and sizes. The popular tree philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) regularly grows to 5 feet and taller, with individual leaves being 2-3 feet long. Several varieties, including ‘Winterbourn’ (Philodendron Xanadu) and the copper philodendron (Philodendron x) are more compact – staying in the 2 to 4-foot range. Some philodendrons are climbing vines. The heart leaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens) and velvet leaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum) are commonly grown in hanging baskets or on stakes and trellises.

Figure 6 – Photo credit: cliff1066™ via / CC BY

With all of the different types and sizes that are available, philodendrons are a great choice for any greenhouse. Generally, these low-maintenance plants will thrive in bright indirect light and rich soil that is consistently kept evenly moist. Direct sunlight is a bad idea for philodendrons, and often causes discoloration and scorching of the leaf edges.

Many of the philodendrons are forgiving and will tolerate some neglect. If left to dry, their leaves will become saggy and droop down dramatically from their stems. As soon as water is applied, the leaves will spring back up within minutes and stand erect again.

Figure 7 – Photo credit: Starr Environmental via / CC BY

Multiplying philodendrons is easy, fun and educational. The vining philodendrons can be easily propagated from cuttings or by layering. Many of the upright philodendrons can be multiplied by division – cutting the smaller stems away from the parent stem while making sure to leave some roots attached to the pup. Epiphytic philodendrons like the tree philodendron can be multiplied by air layering. When the exposed stem of these plants is scored by a knife, roots will often develop without any soil contact.

Because of their beautiful appearance and low maintenance, philodendrons are highly sought after as houseplants. You will have no trouble finding a home for your extra philodendrons, whether you choose to sell them or give them away. Their diversity of appearances, ease of growing, and high demand make philodendrons one of the best plants to grow in a greenhouse.

Some species of philodendron are listed as toxic to cats and dogs by the ASPCA. These species contain toxins that cause oral irritation and vomiting. If your animals eat houseplants, make sure that toxic philodendrons are located well outside of the animals’ reach.

Zanzibar Gem (Zamioculcaszamiifolia)

Also known as the ZZ plant, the Zanzibar gem is certainly one of the best plants you can grow in a greenhouse. Native to southeastern Africa, the Zanzibar gem is one of the easiest plants you could ever hope to find.

Figure 8 – Photo credit: Starr Environmental via / CC BY

Its unusual growth habit makes this plant a popular choice with people who are looking for a unique plant to add interest and variety to a room. As a houseplant, the Zanzibar gem is hard to beat. Few other plants can tolerate neglect, dryness, and dark rooms as well as this one. In fact, you are more likely to have trouble as a result of watering this plant too much, rather than not enough. It will make a great gift for any of your friends who have a “black thumb.”

As an added bonus, the Zanzibar gem is an excellent air purifier. A 2014 Study funded by the University of Copenhagen found that it can effectively remove several volatile organic compounds from its environment.

The smooth, succulent leaflets of the Zanzibar gem grow alternately along upright stems that are typically 18 to 36 inches long at maturity. Beneath the soil the plant develops a large rhizome that stores water and resembles a potato – a big part of the reason why this plant is as tough as it is.

Figure 9 – Photo credit: Rusty Clark – On the Air M-F 8am-noon via / CC BY

To keep your Zanzibar gems green and strong, water them sparingly and protect them from direct light. Any degree of indirect lighting will be fine. This plant does not appreciate a lot of fertilizer, and you will have better results if you fertilize lightly and infrequently. During the winter months, Zanzibar gems have been known to enter a dormant phase. The plants should only be watered about once a week, and should never be fertilized, while they are dormant.

In commercial nurseries, Zanzibar gems are typically propagated by leaf cuttings. Individual nodes are separated from the leaf stems by cutting, and the node is lightly buried with one lone leaflet left above the soil. This approach allows for a high volume of new plants, but the time required is prohibitive for many small greenhouse owners. A faster method is to propagate by division. Separate an outer leaf from the core of the plant by pulling it away gently, and use a sharp knife to sever any tissue that will not release. Allow the severed leaf stem to dry out in a dark place for several hours, and then insert the bottom of the stem into a loose potting soil or rooting medium. Only bury the stem as deep as is necessary to keep it upright – shallow is better to avoid rotting. A new tuber will form underneath the soil at the base of the leaf stem.

Because the Zanzibar gem tolerates low light, it is ideal for growing on or near the floor of your greenhouse – underneath tables, shelves, and hanging plants. Its beauty, ease of care, and popular demand make this one of the best plants to grow in a greenhouse.

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieriaspp.)

The sansevierias are most commonly called mother-in-law’s tongues, although they are also known as snake plant and devil’s tongues. There are 70 species in the genus, and they are generally native to Africa, Madagascar, and southern Asia.

Figure 10 – Photo credit: Michael Khor via / CC BY

The beautiful, upright leaves of this plant give it a distinctive appearance that is right at home among both modern and traditional decors. Mother-in-law’s tongues have earned a reputation for being among the hardiest house plants. Their succulent leaves retain water, and the plant’s thick rhizome makes it capable of surviving long periods of drought. When the plant is actively growing, especially during the spring, it will appreciate regular moderate watering. These plants do best with bright indirect light, although they can tolerate some direct light.

While there are approximately 70 species of sansevieria, only a handful are cultivated commercially. The most popular is Sensevieriatrifasciata, pictured above. The leaves of this slow-growing succulent regularly reach 2 to 4-feet in height. Another tall species is Sansevieriahyacinthoides, often referred to as snake plant, which is similar in appearance but does not usually have the variegated margins that are common on S. trifasciata. Several smaller varieties are also popular, including some dwarf varieties of S. trifasciata. You can see the guide for caring for another variety, the beautiful Sansevieria cylindrica, or African Spear.

This plant’s popularity and durability make it ideal for growing in a greenhouse. The only major drawback is the slow rate of growth. Its slowness is tolerated by many growers because mature specimens fetch a good price, and the upright habit means that it does not consume much shelf space.

Figure 11 – Photo credit: Ahmad FuadMorad via / CC BY-NC-SA

The easiest, and fastest, way to propagate mother-in-law’s tongue is by division. As the rhizome grows, suckers will appear around the margins of the pot. When a sucker has enough root material to survive on its own, it can safely be separated from the mother and potted in its own container. In commercial growing operations, mother-in-law’s tongue is typically separated by individual leaf cuttings. A leaf is cut at soil level, and the separated leaf is then divided into sections that are 2 or 3 inches long. These thin strips are placed into a rooting medium in a shallow container and kept humid while they root. If you attempt this method at home, be sure to mark or remember which side of each strip was the top side – they will not root if they are placed upside down.

These plants have a special significance in many different cultures around the globe. In China, they are kept in traditional pots adorned with dragons and phoenixes. In Barbados, they are called “money plant” and are believed to bring money to the plant’s keeper. In Korea, mother-in-law’s tongue is often given as a gift at the beginning of important occasions and meetings. This popularity means that the plant is always in demand, and that is one reason why it is one of the best plants to grow in a greenhouse.

Mother-in-law’s tongue is listed by the ASPCA as being toxic to cats and dogs. Indoor specimens should be kept on tables and shelves out of the reach of family pets.

Expanding Your Greenhouse Plant Selection

These are a few of the best plants to grow in a greenhouse. As you gain experience and become more familiar with each of these plants, you will learn to recognize which you enjoy growing the most, and your selection of plants will naturally expand from there.

If you love the vining abundance of the pothos, you can explore other vining ornamentals that grow in a similar fashion. If you are especially fond of the succulent sansevieria, you will find a whole world of similar succulents to explore.

After you get familiar with the daily ins and outs of watering, monitoring temperature and humidity, and controlling common greenhouse pests – you will enjoy a lifetime of discovery as you continually add more and more plants to your repertoire in the greenhouse.

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James G. Craig

James G. Craig is a gardening enthusiast who splits his spare time between growing vegetables, preening his flower gardens, and blogging about his experiences at the Gardener Corner.

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