When you don’t have a backyard or a balcony to grow edible plants like vegetables and herbs, having an indoor garden in your home is a great way to not give up your gardening dream and still reap the benefits of fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs. They are mostly affordable plus offer the advantage of growing produce year-round, even during winter months.
“Indoor gardens, whether they are large house plants or herb/veggie kits, can bring a connection to nature, creating peace and inspiration in your interior spaces,” says Amy Hovis, principal at Eden Garden Design and owner of Barton Springs Nursery in Austin, Texas. “Not only does it make cooking more fun (when you are growing your own herbs and have them already in the house ready to use), but it allows individuals to bring nature into their living spaces, fostering an overall sense of tranquility and well-being. My house is surrounded by plants and they bring us so much joy.”
To find the best indoor gardens, we tested 18 options over six weeks, evaluating them on size, capacity, maintenance, plant type, growing system and other features. In addition to Hovis, we also consulted Autumn Hilliard-Knapp, a horticulture specialist at Perfect Plants Nursery in Monticello, Florida.
The InBloom Smart Garden is our top recommendation because it comes at a great price and it’s beginner-friendly, so it is easy to use regardless of skill level. We loved that it had a self-watering system with consistent water flow, so we never had issues with molding. Plus, it came with LED grow lights that turn on and off by themselves. The lights featured 20% more red light, which causes plants to grow faster and yield more harvests. The kit comes with seven types of seeds: basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, mint, cilantro, and dill.
We found the instructions to be self-explanatory and had no issues setting up the system. All of our seeds sprouted (some as soon as a week after planting) and became healthy plants. Just keep in mind that it takes time because you have to soak the coco coir soil pods for two hours in water before planting the seeds in them. The kit comes with everything you need including seeds, grow baskets, plant foods, labels, and humidity domes. It required minimal effort when it came to watering, and we only needed it to refill the tank every few days as the plants grew. It can hold five pods, which is compact and ideal for those living in apartments or with limited space. (This may not be the best pick if you need to feed a family.) The cherry on top was that the planter was so chic, and we got many compliments from others who glimpsed it sitting on our sink.
Growing System: Hydroponic | Growing Options: Herbs, fruits, flowers, vegetables | Size: 6.3-17.3 inches tall | Capacity: Up to 5 plants
This is a soil-based kit, so it will require daily watering. Plus, the peat pots are not very durable.
Fancy having a thriving herb garden year-round? The Spade To Fork Culinary Herb Seed Kit makes it possible to grow and harvest herbs for salads, casseroles, and more from your kitchen countertop. The set features USDA organic seeds and soil discs as well as plant markers and five compostable peat pots for planting. You can grow five kinds of herbs: Italian basil, cilantro, parsley, sage, and thyme.
Although you don’t have to have any gardening experience, you do need to carve some time out each day to make sure the plants have enough water and sunlight. To help, it comes with a growing guide and has a video to watch so you know how to take care of them properly. We recommend they go on a sunny spot in your home like a windowsill to get optimal light. Our seeds sprouted in two weeks—roughly the same time. But, they didn’t grow at the same rate, so we couldn’t harvest them all at once. We noticed that the pots were not all that durable and could break if waterlogged.
Growing System: Soil-based | Growing Options: Herbs | Size: Five 6-inch peat pots | Capacity: Up to 5 plants
The Smart Garden 3 is easy enough for anyone to set up and maintain—even if you’ve never grown a garden, herb, or houseplant in your life. This indoor garden kit is about a foot wide and can fit on any tabletop in your home. It comes with LED lights that turn on and off in a 16-hour cycle to mimic natural light and a self-watering kit that lets you know when to add more water to the tank. If your kitchen is dark or doesn’t have a window, this kit is ideal for those low-light environments.
It comes with three basil seed pods, but you do have the option to buy more later. You can grow over 70 types of plants and herbs including strawberries, basil, lavender, thyme, and more. We loved how easy it was to grow herbs: all seeds sprouted within a week, and in less than a month we had healthy plants. Even though it is not a smart garden kit, it does come with an app. But, we didn’t find the app to be useful because we still had to adjust settings manually on the planter. Also, it would have been nice if the kit came with a variety of plants, not just basil.
On the upside, the basil that was harvested was absolutely delicious (especially in our lasagna). It was well worth the money and we would definitely buy this as a gift for family and friends who want a starter garden kit. This kit is available in three colors: white, gray, and beige.
Growing System: Hydroponic | Growing Options: Herbs, flowers, vegetables, fruits | Size: 11.8 x 8-18.5 x 4.7 inches | Capacity: Up to 3 plants
Having fresh herbs on hand elevates your cooking and can save money at the grocery store, both of which are great reasons to consider the AeroGarden Harvest Elite. You’re able to grow up to six different types of herbs without soil and with way less maintenance than growing herbs outdoors. The kit features Genovese basil, curly parsley, dill, thyme, Thai basil, and mint seed pods, which you can drop directly in the planter to start growing. It also comes with a humidity dome to control temperatures and offer the best conditions for germination. We found this indoor garden kit easy to maintain thanks to its self-watering system that continuously waters the plants, as well as its automatic grow lamp. You can adjust the grow lamp’s height up to 12 inches to accommodate growing herbs. It comes with a water level sensor, which alerts you when the water tank is low, and a timer that reminds you when to give your plants plant food. (A bottle of plant food is included.)
Each herb came with an estimated sprouting time range, which was accurate as we saw that most of them sprouted within the time allocated. The exception to this was parsley, which sprouted a week later. Overall, we were pleased with how healthy the plants turned out. Besides a few withering leaves, they grew well and looked robust. However, we found the grow lights too bright, and might be hard to find a place for it that won’t be disturbing to others.
Growing System: Hydroponic | Growing Options: Herbs, vegetables | Size: 10.5 x 17.4 x 6.3 inches | Capacity: Up to 6 plants
Seedlings have room to grow up to 2 feet tall, making this ideal for tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables.
An indoor garden could be a great option for those who want to have fresh vegetables handy for cooking and preparing meals. With the AeroGarden Bounty Basic, you can have a mini vegetable garden in your kitchen without pesky issues like bugs or lack of sunlight to worry about. And since the planter is hydroponic, you don’t have to deal with having dirt on your floor or under your fingernails. It comes with a 20-watt LED light with a timer that turns it on and off at sunrise and sunset, simulating natural sunlight. The AeroGarden will notify you when it’s time to water and fertilize it, plus has a vacation mode which keeps your plant healthy when you’re not home.
You can grow up to nine plants at a time, so you can grow all your salad vegetable faves. But if you prefer more variety, you can buy other herb, veggie, and flower seed kits separately. Seedlings can grow up to 2 feet tall in this planter which gives you plenty to harvest from.
While it didn’t take us long to set it up, getting a hang of the grow light system was confusing, so we had to spend extra time learning how to set it up. It is also expensive, but justifies its cost with its many advanced features.
Growing System: Hydroponic | Growing Options: Herbs, flowers, vegetables | Size: 17.3 x 34 x 11.3 inches | Capacity: Up to 9 plants
More nutritious than greens like lettuce and kale, microgreens are a great source of antioxidants that don’t take long to grow. Our microgreen seeds sprouted within 24 hours after sowing them in the planter, and in a week we had 3 inches of aromatic and flavorful greens that were ready to eat—exactly as advertised.
This growing kit features three microgreen pads with red cabbage, mustard, and radish seed pods. However, in reality, we didn’t know what we got as the pods were unmarked so there was no way to tell what we were going to grow. The kit is soilless and comes with 15-watt grow lights for faster growth. The planter is ceramic and is designed for function and style. It comes in soft mint, rose, beige, and black colors to blend in with your home’s decor.
Other than checking in from time to time if the plants needed water, we didn’t do much else to keep them healthy. Just be aware that you cannot sow regular seeds in it and must use the seed pods that come with it.
Growing System: Hydroponic | Growing Options: Microgreens | Size: 16.5 x 5 x 10.3 inches | Capacity: Up 3 plants
With the AeroGarden Bounty Elite, you’ll quickly realize that having an indoor garden does not have to be difficult. In fact, it can be downright effortless, especially because this garden system takes care of its water and light requirements by itself. It works with Wi-Fi and is compatible with Alexa, so you can monitor the garden’s growth right from your phone. It also has a touchscreen on the front that shows important info such as water level, plant types, and how long they’ve been planted. You don’t need any soil, as the seeds are in seed pods and only need water to grow. There is also a vacation mode which rations the water over an extended period so your plants will still thrive even when you’re not there. Whether you grow herbs, vegetables, or flowers it is entirely up to you—the kit holds up to nine different plants.
It features a strong 50-watt grow lamp which can be adjusted up to 24 inches in height for growing most veggies and herbs. It also comes with a self-watering system with a large water bowl that doesn’t need to be refilled often. The garden system itself is large and holds up to nine plants. It was much bigger than we expected and would be better on a table or countertop rather than a window sill. We were pleased that within a month, all the herbs we grew were green and healthy. Final assessment? We loved that we didn’t have to do a lot of work to have fresh herbs all year long.
Growing System: Hydroponic | Growing Options: Herbs, vegetables, flowers | Size: 17.3 x 34 x 11.3 inches | Capacity: Up to 9 plants
For those who have a sunny spot in their home to grow fruits, veggies, and herbs, go back to basics with this stackable planter. The planter can be used inside and outside and comes with plastic pots that you can put on top of each other. It consists of five planting pots in terracotta and off-white, each holding up to 15 plants. When fully assembled, the planter is around 2 feet tall. It is not a complete garden kit and does not come with potting soil or seeds. The planter comes with soil separators that you can put beneath each tier to help circulate air. Plus, there are drainage holes at the bottom of the pots to let water drip down to the pots below.
Unless you’re ready to dedicate time to water the plants and ensure they get enough light, this might not be the best option if you’re new to gardening.
Growing System: Soil-based | Growing Options: Herbs, vegetables, microgreens, flowers | Size: 12.5 x 24 x 4 inches | Capacity: Up to 15 plants
Small and compact, the iDoo Hydroponics Growing System Kit is a way to grow your favorite garden greens if you don’t have much space. This planter is ideal for those with small kitchens and living in apartments. Despite it being small in diameter, you can grow up to eight seedlings in the planter, plus its height is adjustable, allowing plants to grow up to 15 inches. You can grow eight plants at a time, including veggies, fruits, herbs, and flowers. This is not a smart option and comes with no app to control the lights and timers. But it comes with everything else such as a hydroponic system and automatic grow lights that turn on and off based on a 16-hour growing cycle.
Most seeds sprouted in 10 days, with fruits taking the longest to sprout at two weeks. It’s also reasonably priced, so it’s a good option for those who are just learning about gardening. The instructions can be confusing, so just be prepared to take it step by step so you won’t get overwhelmed. And note that you’ll need to purchase seeds separately.
Growing System: Hydroponic | Growing Options: Herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers | Size: 10.8 x 10.2-20.5 x 6.5 inches | Capacity: Up to 8 plants
Perfect for those who live in an apartment or have no yard space, the Rise Gardens Personal Garden and Starter Kit is akin to having a salad bar on your countertop. It’s super convenient because you can use your phone for various functions and it comes with a custom LED panel, plus has a self-watering system for the plants. It features voice control and notifies you when to fill up its water reservoir. Compared to other garden kits on this list, we found it to be more complex to install. The frame is about 18 inches long and 16 inches high and comes with eight pods, which should be good for anyone who likes cooking with veggies. We also think this is a great pick for family meals.
We saw that the seeds sprouted roughly at the same time, about one to two days after planting. All plants were healthy and none had brown or withered leaves.
The fact that we could grow plenty of greens without bugs munching on them is a huge plus in our eyes. Just keep in mind that though it’s relatively spacious for an indoor garden, it’s not height adjustable.
Growing System: Hydroponic | Growing Options: Herbs, vegetables, greens | Size: 18 x 16 x 11 inches | Capacity: Up to 8 plants
The Bottom Line
Our top pick is the InBloom Smart Garden because it’s reasonably priced and makes gardening convenient. This kit comes with a water tank so you don’t have to water it every day and automatic grow lights. It also has a wide selection of seed pods, domes, and other accessories so you can get growing ASAP. For an even cheaper option, check out the Spade To Fork Culinary Herb Seed Kit. It’s a soil-based system that includes certified organic seeds and soil at a great price.
Our Testing Process
We tested 18 indoor gardens over a six week span and evaluated each based on setup, ease of use, design, performance, quality, and value. We used seeds provided by the manufacturer, and in cases where it didn’t come with any, we planted basil seeds. We cared for our plants according to manufacturer instructions, making sure they got adequate sunlight and water. We checked in on the seeds at three weeks and again at six weeks to measure growth. We also checked the various features of each indoor garden such as grow lights, timers, and apps to see how easy they were to use and determine how well they worked. Finally, we tasted the herbs we grew to see how well they tasted in the meals we cooked.
More Indoor Gardens to Consider
AeroGarden Sprout: This indoor garden came with everything we needed to harvest a fresh supply of herbs including seed pods, grow lights, and plant food. Plus it has its own water tank so you don’t have to water it yourself. Not only was it easy to maintain, it looked sleek on our countertop. Our only gripe was that adjusting the grow light was a little confusing.
Gardyn Home Kit 3.0: Similar to a greenhouse, the Gardyn 3.0 is a hydroponic indoor garden that grows up to 30 plants at the same time. We found it to be very high-quality and also easy to maintain. This indoor garden features AI technology and has cameras on the tubes so you can check on your plants at any time. At $900, it is the most expensive indoor garden on our list, which is no surprise considering its advanced technology and the number of plants you’re able to grow. We also noticed that the plants on it grew slowly, taking up to six weeks to reach maturity.
Tips for Choosing the Right Indoor Garden
Type of Growing System
When it comes to indoor gardening kits, there are different types of growing systems available, says Hilliard-Knapp. “The most common and versatile type is container gardens, which involve using pots or containers to grow plants. Container gardens are suitable for a wide range of plants, including herbs, vegetables, and flowering plants,” she says.
There are also hydroponic indoor gardens available that don’t use any soil for the plants. These gardens only use water and typically are self-watering, meaning that you don’t have to water them every day. Instead, it comes with a water tank that has to be refilled periodically. According to Hilliard-Knapp, hydroponic gardening kits are usually space-efficient and have faster growth and increased yields compared to traditional indoor gardens that use soil.
Don’t think for a moment that you won’t be able to get much out of an indoor garden. This is definitely not the case as you can grow a wide variety of plants from herbs such as mint and basil to leafy greens like lettuce and kale as well as microgreens with an indoor garden. “The variety of plants that can thrive indoors is impressive,” says Hovis. She notes that if you have the right growing conditions, flowers, succulents, and even dwarf fruit trees can also be grown in an indoor garden.
Size and Capacity
Most indoor garden kits can accommodate at least six seed pods and range in size to suit different indoor spaces. However, most indoor garden kits won’t take up more than 3 feet of space, and can easily fit on a table or kitchen countertop. That said, there are also free-standing options like the Amazing Creation Stackable Planter or the Spade To Fork Culinary Herb Seed Kit, which feature stackable pots or small peat pots that you can set on your window sill. “Compact countertop models are ideal for small apartments, while larger, freestanding systems can cater to more extensive gardening ambitions,” says Hovis.
Indoor gardens are typically low maintenance and come with water tanks and built-in grow lights that turn on and off automatically. These gardens are ideal for busy people who don’t have a lot of time to care for a garden but still want access to fresh greens and produce any time of year. However, they do require some attention and need to have their water tank refilled or daily watering and the right amount of light to grow. “Taking care of an indoor garden system involves tasks like ensuring proper light exposure, watering plants according to their needs, and providing appropriate nutrients,” says Hilliard-Knapp. “Keeping the growing area clean and pest-free also contributes to a thriving indoor garden.” Almost all indoor garden kits come with instructions on how to set up and care for the plants which you should read carefully if you want to have a green and healthy garden inside your home.
If you don’t have a lot of time to tend to a garden, look for features like a water bowl to maintain moisture levels, timers, and grow lights that make growing herbs and greens more convenient. But, if you don’t mind watering plants daily and having sunny spots in your home, you can opt for indoor gardens that don’t have these features. Just be aware that you might have to buy your own soil too. Some indoor gardens also come with apps that feature voice control, track how long you’ve been growing the plants, and send you alerts when it’s time to add water to the water tank. “The lighting system is crucial,” says Hovis. “So make sure the system provides sufficient light for plant growth or allows for the addition of supplemental lights if needed.”
Hilliard-Knapp adds, “It’s also essential to choose a system that aligns with your gardening experience and time commitment, with some systems requiring more maintenance and care than others.”
Questions and Answers
Where is the best place for an indoor garden?
Although indoor gardens are typically found in kitchens and living rooms, where you put it is entirely up to your preference and decor style. Wherever you decide on placing one, we suggest putting it in a sunny spot like a windowsill or countertop that has adequate light. But, if it comes with its lighting system, you have more versatility and can have them in areas that are not near a window or don’t have much natural light.
How much maintenance do indoor gardens require?
Many indoor gardens come with grow lights that automatically turn on and off in a 16-hour cycle, mimicking natural sunlight, plus self-watering systems so you don’t have to do much other than filling in a water tank required every few days. Some also come with apps that track plant growth plus notify you when to refill the water tank and schedule grow light timing. Low-tech and no-tech indoor gardens need daily care, and you may have to buy soil for them as well as make sure they have enough water and sunlight just like a regular garden.
Are indoor gardens expensive?
Some indoor gardens can be expensive, but that’s not always the case. You can find affordable indoor gardens like the Spade To Fork Culinary Herb Seed Kit that can hold around five plants for as little as $35. As a general rule, the price goes up when it’s packed with more features such as apps, smart functions, water reservoirs, and LED lights.
Why Trust Southern Living?
Nor’Adila Hepburn is a writer based in North Carolina who specializes in writing product reviews. To determine the best indoor gardens, we tested 18 options and evaluated them on setup, ease of use, design, performance, quality, and value. She also spoke to Amy Hovis, principal at Eden Garden Design and owner of Barton Springs Nursery in Austin, Texas, and Autumn Hilliard-Knapp, a horticulture specialist at Perfect Plants Nursery in Monticello, Florida.