For saving space and soil, this method also has several
other benefits, including no soil-borne diseases, no
weeds to pull and no soil to till, run-of-the-mill side
benefits of soil-less gardening.

The Essentials of Indoor Gardening

By Jonathan Ya'akobi

Although the art of indoor gardening is not dry climate specific, the subject is particularly relevant to us arid country gardeners, as there's often greater scope for "going to town" in doors, than out. Growing plants indoors requires adopting a number of techniques which are different from those the home gardener may be used to when working in the outdoor garden, although there are things in common between the two. So here are some general points on the subject.

Hydroponics Guide

The principles of good design are the same whether indoors or out. Simplicity, variety, scale, balance, unity and emphasis, are issues that have to be addressed. Just as landscaping elements such as raised beds or water features are as an integral part of the outdoor garden as ornamental plants, so are the pots and containers one uses in the sitting room. Try to invest in decent looking pots and don't save money by buying plastic containers. Would you buy a plastic table for the sitting room for instance?

What are the differences then? These become apparent when one examines what plants need for healthy growth. Plants require adequate light in order to perform the most basic, energy creating function of photosynthesis. Plants that can be grown indoors are those that can tolerate low-level light intensity. There's no point trying to grow a rose bush in your living room! Therefore, the placing of your plants is crucial. Remember that the light levels drop exponentially the further the plant is from the window. In places without natural light, it's necessary to provide at the very least, the light of two 150 Watt bulbs.

All plants require water of course. Less obvious but no less crucial is the fact that the roots also require adequate oxygen for respiration. There are two main factors which determine whether the plant has access to the right balance between the two: One is the potting soil in which the plant grows and the other is the way the plants are watered. Never use ordinary soil in a pot. Always use an artificial potting medium. They are readily available at plant nurseries. Secondly, irrigate till excess water flows out of the drainage hole and then wait until the top 2 cm or so of "soil" have dried out before the next watering. The term "over watering" does not refer to excess water draining away, rather to a state whereby the potting mixture is perpetually saturated because of over frequent irrigating. Furthermore, watering to excess prevents an unhealthy salt build up in the soil, by the periodic leaching of the salts. This rule of thumb method holds good for most plants.

Plants grown in pots are absolutely dependent on fertilizer as a source of the mineral nutrient essential for their development. Excluding flowering plants perhaps, (which are not easy to grow indoors anyway) an annual feed with a 12 month slow release fertilizer is often enough.

So what plants are worth buying? The range of flowering plants is very restricted. African Violets are difficult to maintain beyond a year or two. Poinsettas are reasonably easy to grow. In my opinion, its better to create form and color interest by use of foliage plants such as Epiremnum Shefflera, Dracaena, Spathipyllum (also provides white flowers) and Aglaonema. For vertical emphasis one can try Ficus benjamina,(never to be planted out doors because of its aggressive roots) and palms such as Chamaedorea. Ferns, such as the mainstay Nephrolepis are effective when massed. They are particularly sensitive to the lack of humidity caused by heaters and air conditioners, so remember to spray them with water regularly.

An alternative method to ordinary containers (i.e. containers which allow water to drain out) is the hydroponic method, where the plants are grown in a sealed container. A specific water level is maintained in order to create the necessary balance between air and water. The primary drawback of hydroponics is the initial expense involved. However the ease of maintenance, especially regarding watering and feeding is such, that growing indoor plants hydroponically is well worth considering.

About the author - Jonathan Ya'akobi.

I've been gardening in a professional capacity since 1984. I am the former head gardener of the Jerusalem Botanical Garden, but now concentrate on building gardens for private home owners. I also teach horticulture to students on training courses. I'd love to share my knowledge and experience with you.

So you're welcome to visit me on


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