Indoor Gardening vs. Outdoor Gardening: 14 Key Distinctions

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

If you don’t have a garden yet, you are probably wondering what the best option is: indoor or outdoor garden. It’s understandable that you might toy with both ideas as both styles come with perks and challenges that are unique to each of them. The only way to decide is to understand what the differences are between indoor gardening and outdoor gardening.

At the end of the day, your reasons for gardening will determine what type of gardening you do. Are you gardening to grow food and veggies to feed the family, or are you merely gardening as a hobby to act as an outlet for your creativity and relieve stress? Perhaps it will be easier to determine whether indoor or outdoor gardening is for you by taking a closer look at the differences. 

Below are just 14 ways in which indoor and outdoor gardening differ. 

Indoor gardening and outdoor gardening differ on:

1. Plant species

One of the most recognizable differences between indoor and outdoor gardening is the type of plant species that you will work with. Some plants thrive indoors, and others don’t; much the same as some plants thrive outdoors in the heat while others don’t. You cannot just bring any outdoor plant indoors and expect it to grow and thrive. You have to put a considerable amount of research into which plant species are best suited to living indoors.

2. Climate control

When indoors, you can control the climate that your plants are exposed to. You can turn on the air conditioning on a hot day, turn on the heater on a cold day, draw the curtains if it’s extremely sunny, and open the curtains for more light to come in. Indoor plants aren’t exposed to wind, rain, and storms.

Outdoors, plants are exposed to the raw climate with no respite. If it’s a scorching hot day, your plant has to find a way to survive. If it’s freezing cold, it too has to find a way to survive. 

3. Space requirements

If you live in a home with an outside garden space, you can create a garden without worrying about limitations. On the other hand, if you live in an apartment and don’t have a yard, you won’t be able to do much gardening outside. Indoor gardening requires far less space than outdoor gardening does. With indoor gardening, you can keep a few house plants around the home or on the balcony if you don’t have a yard. 

4. Lighting 

Outdoor gardening doesn’t offer much opportunity for the gardener to control the amount of light that plants receive. Of course, you can put up structures and strategically position plants in the garden according to their lighting requirements, but with outdoor gardening, lighting can be a challenge.

With indoor gardening, you might have more control over the lighting that your plants get, but this will require some effort. You will need to place the plants in the right spot in the home, and you may have to move them around to ensure that they get enough sunlight without burning. 

5. Pest control

Outdoor gardening exposes your selection of plants to possible pest infestation. In the outdoors, this can be quite challenging to control. There are environmentally friendly pesticides available on the market, or you could make your own to solve the problem. With indoor gardening, there is no guarantee that your plants won’t get infested, but the chances are less, as the home is generally closed to free-roaming insects and bugs.

6. Watering

Plants growing outside are exposed to the elements and may need a bit of extra watering than those inside. If you want to simplify your gardening efforts, you can install an irrigation system and even set it on a timer, so that your setup basically waters the garden for you. 

There are solar-powered tap timers that can ensure your garden’s watering needs are fully taken care of. When you are out of town, your garden will be just fine. With indoor plants, things work quite differently. The plants are in pots and will require water, yes, but probably not as frequently as your outdoor plants. Each plant is quick and easy to water with a spray bottle or a jug. 

While it’s a bit easier to water plants indoors, there’s a bit of an inconvenience when you need to go away on vacation or be out of town for several nights. You will then need to hire a plant sitter to come in, water the plants, and ensure that they get enough sun and airflow.

7. Soil preparation

When gardening outdoors, you have to ensure that the soil is nutrient-rich and of good quality. You may need to spend time preparing the soil before planting. This could include weeding, loosening the soil, and adding organic matter to increase the nutrient value of the soil.

Indoor gardening provides an opportunity for you to fully control the soil conditions by planting your plants into pots with potting soil. There’s no need to loosen soil, weed the area, or add much in terms of organic material, and because the plants are indoors, the soil quality can be better preserved. 

8. Convenience

When it comes to convenience, an outdoor garden can pale in comparison to an indoor garden. Indoor gardens tend to be much smaller and more controlled, which means that there is very little demanded of you. 

With an outdoor garden, there is far more time and effort required from you. You will need to set a weekly schedule for tending to the garden and ensure that you stick to it. While an outdoor garden will allow you to be more creative and can be very rewarding, it is not the more convenient of the two options. 

9. Fertilizer

Outdoor gardens need fertilizer every so often to boost them to good health and help the plants grow. Fertilizer is not a once-off thing or a very rare thing for an outdoor garden. Indoor house plants require far less fertilizer. In fact, if your potting medium and soil are fresh, you won’t have to fertilize much, or at all.

10. Effort required

Outdoor gardens take a lot of work. There’s no way around that fact. You will need to do various chores such as mow the lawn, water the plants, cut back hedges, rake up leaves, pull out weeds, fertilize, and generally tend to the garden. With indoor gardens, there’s a lot less effort required. There’s no lawn to mow, no leaves to rake up, and no hedges to cut. When it comes to effort, indoor gardening requires far less than outdoor gardening. 

11. Tools and equipment

Outdoor gardening requires a selection of tools. You don’t need to buy them new, but you do need to have decent tools. In my experience as a gardener, I have found a great selection of tools online and from family and friends who no longer had a need for them. Outdoor gardening tools include: wheelbarrow, rake, spade, hand trowel, leaf blower, lawnmower, hosepipe, secateurs, and hedge pruners, to name a few. 

Indoor gardening may require a small hand trowel and fork, secateurs, and a pair of scissors. There’s no need for much else in terms of equipment for an indoor garden. 

12. Physical demands/requirements

When gardening indoors, you may need to lift and move your plants from here to there, but there’s not much else required from you physically. Indoor gardening is not considered a physical workout, whereas outdoor gardening can be used as a form of light to medium exercise.

Outdoor gardening requires a lot of walking around, pulling the hose, pushing the wheelbarrow, carrying heavy items, stretching and reaching, squatting and standing up, and so on. In terms of physical demands, outdoor gardening is more demanding on the body than indoor gardening. 

13. Easy to relocate

I have personally been in a position where I have spent months creating a beautiful garden only to find out that I have to relocate. While I could move some of the plants successfully, relocating the entire garden was impossible. 

Outdoor gardening is not ideal if you might need to relocate at some point. Indoor plants, on the other hand, are extremely easy to relocate. There’s no need to uproot them or put them through too much distress when you move. Indoor gardening is a viable option for people who may need to relocate at some point in the coming years. 

14. Vitamin D

If you want to ensure that you get your vitamins without taking supplements, outdoor gardening is far better suited than indoor gardening. Direct sun exposure for at least 15 minutes a day will ensure that you get enough Vitamin D. Alternatively if you opt for indoor gardening, you can get your Vitamin D from supplements. 

To conclude

When it comes to indoor gardening vs. outdoor gardening, the choice really comes down to how much space you have, how involved you want to be, and what sort of value you want to get out of the garden (aesthetics or food security). Either way, I support the choice for both outdoor gardening and indoor gardening – both are great options. 

JC Franco

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.