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Houseplants vs Other Types of Gardening

Houseplants are different from other types of gardening in that they are almost always in some kind of pot or container. Houseplant gardening is basically container gardening with an emphasis on indoor plants—although there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor houseplants on porches, decks, patios, and in hanging baskets. It’s important to know about the differences between container and in-ground plants because they can have a big impact on how you care for houseplants vs other types of home gardening.

What Makes Houseplants Different from Other Types of Gardening?

The Plants

Many types of traditional and popular houseplants do better in pots, especially if it means they don’t have to face the hard winter freeze. That said, there are also many plants, like hydrangeas and violas, that are popular choices for outdoor container gardening. For houseplant arrangements or adjacent plants in your traditional garden bed, it’s also important to seek out combinations of plants that are companions not competitors.

The Location

In-ground plants are grown outdoors. Houseplants are mostly grown indoors, or at least they are brought inside during the winter. But that’s not the only difference. In-ground plants can become very low maintenance, but potted houseplants are easier to design and easier to control. Looking for the perfectly sized decoration in the corner of a porch, deck or patio? A potted plant is a great choice to match a specific location or decorating scheme. Looking to create a garden bed that will look good year-round? In-ground plants are surely your best bet. 

The Soil

The difference between topsoil and potting soil is a big one. You should always use topsoil for in-ground plants and potting soil for container plants. Topsoil is what we commonly think of as dirt. Even with sand but especially with clay-heavy dirt, the soil is much denser and retains water and nutrients better than potting soil. Topsoil will drown and suffocate most potted plants. Potting soil isn’t dirt so much as a combination of organic nutrients that give the plant easy access to nutrients and aerators (perlite) that keep the soil from retaining too much water. So, while there is usually no immediate risk or danger to using potting soil for in-ground plants, it won’t do as good of a job providing your in-ground plants with nutrients for the entire growing season. Read the label before buying. These different bags of soil are clearly marked on the packaging at most every home and gardening store.

Vulnerabilities: Some types of outdoor plants can successfully winter over by growing deep roots that reach warmer ground soil. This is not possible with pots or containers which invariably freeze outside in cold-season weather. Some types of plants, especially citrus trees, can survive the winter indoors under grow lights and then be placed outside in their pots during the warmer months. In contrast, pots and containers allow for more control over the soil’s composition. Weeding is a lot easier if it’s necessary at all. In fact, growing plants in containers will eliminate or greatly reduce all types of competitor plants. At the same time, you never have to worry about a sprawling plant invading nearby beds when it’s in a container. Fast-growing mint is a great choice for outdoor potted plants. 

Houseplants vs Other Types of Gardening

From pots and containers to traditional gardens to raised-bed planter boxes, there are several ways to build indoor and outdoor gardening areas throughout the home. Knowing how to choose plants and what to expect for maintenance and care is a huge part of houseplant and other types of gardening. Search for specific types of plants as part of creating your home gardening plan.

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