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Our favorite is the AeroGarden Harvest Slim for its versatility, ease of use, and sleek design.
Interested in growing your own veggies but lack the necessary outdoor real estate? Or, simply want to skip the soil and sweat? With hydroponic gardening you can grow plants in nothing more than a Keurig-sized pod and a simple solution of water and nutrients, and many of today’s ready-made “smart” kits allow you to do so inside the comfort of your own home.
“Urban and suburban gardeners alike can benefit from indoor garden systems,” says Leslie Halleck, pro horticulturist and author of Gardening Under Lights: The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers. They’re for “just about anyone,” she says: “those who want to grow plants but lack adequate outdoor space, those who want to grow small amounts of veggies, microgreens, and herbs year-round, or those who just want to get a jump on the planting season.” Plus, “they’re also useful for anyone with mobility limitations that keep them from heavier outdoor gardening activities.” You also skip the weed maintenance, minimize the risk of pests, garden with less space and less water, and have fresh ingredients on hand year-round.
Our top pick is the AeroGarden Harvest Slim, which is ideal for the average indoor gardener who simply wants a steady supply of fresh kitchen herbs and salad greens on hand. It also keeps things cleaner (i.e., less algae build up) and is easier to clean than countertop-sized competitors.
Find more of our indoor gardening system recommendations below, and keep scrolling for answers to all your indoor gardening questions.
AeroGarden Harvest Slim
Best Overall Indoor Garden System
Who it’s for: The average user who wants to grow a few favorite herbs or salad greens, and those who want a small, non-intrusive system that takes up minimal counter space.
Who it isn’t for: Those fully committed to growing most of their own produce.
For people who want to grow a steady supply of select staple herbs or salad greens on their kitchen counter, the AeroGarden Harvest Slim is a reliable pick from one of the OG companies bringing indoor hydroponics gardening to mass market. The Harvest Slim can hold up to six plants, and buyers can choose from three free seed pod kits, including gourmet herbs, salad greens, or even whimsical cascading petunias. (Users can also buy their own preferred individual pods to mix and match.)
The 20W LED lights are moved by an adjustable arm with a range of 12 inches, allowing your plants to grow tall with less risk of burned leaves. AeroGarden products also mitigate algae and mold buildup better than other countertop-sized competitors, and they come apart more easily for convenient cleaning. While less tech-y than other larger models, this system provides water and food reminders and is extremely intuitive to use. This sleek little unit comes in four colors: white, black, pink, or sage.
Price at time of publish: $165
Best Budget Indoor Garden System
Who it’s for: Budgeters and beginner gardeners.
Who it isn’t for: Experienced or curious gardeners who want a more hands-on, involved approach.
Indoor gardening beginners and those on a budget can still grow an impressive garden with the AeroGarden Sprout, a 3-pod capacity countertop kit. With this budget model, users sacrifice only quantity (number of pods), not quality. Just like the 6-pod AeroGarden, this 3-pod model grows plants five times faster than a soil medium. With effortless setup and minimal cleaning requirements, the Sprout is more convenient than similarly small budget options, and the oxygenating water pump minimizes mold and algae buildup. Automated timed lights and a plant food reminder indicator make the Sprout incredibly intuitive to use.
Price at time of publish: $100
Best Design Indoor Garden System
Who it’s for: Those who value high design appeal and smart features.
Who it isn’t for: Those who want a kit that comes with an extensive seed catalog.
Few indoor gardens could function as a handsome centerpiece for your table, but the Edn SmallGarden could. Made of real walnut wood and anodized aluminum, this gardening kit is serving greens and candy…eye candy, that is.
The real wood and beveled edges allow this kit to blend seamlessly with both modern and farmhouse aesthetics—but this kit isn’t simply sharp; it’s also smart. With the app, you can control your Edn SmallGarden from anywhere and receive notifications when your plants need water. Gardening newbies will also appreciate the in-app tips. Choose from three potential sets, including a flower set, an herb set, or a variety set, or choose from their list of individual seed pods.
Price at time of publish: $300
Size: 16 x 6 x 11 inches
Plant Capacity: 10
WiFi Compatible: Yes
Rise Gardens Single Family Garden
Best Large Indoor Garden System
Who it’s for: Those who want a system that visually coheres with their home furnishings, and those who want a modular system that can be expanded at a later date.
Who it isn’t for: Those who can get away with a simple countertop model or those who want indoor/outdoor functionality.
Rise Gardens offers some of the best-looking, least obtrusive indoor gardening systems on offer today. The Family Garden systems from Rise look more like furniture than a utilitarian gadget or wacky science experiment. They span the width of your average bookcase and include built-in cabinet storage for corralling gardening accessories like plant nutrients and extra seed pods. (So they not only cohere better with most living spaces, they also help to control clutter.)
The Family Garden comes in three potential sizes: The 1-tiered Single Family Garden holds 12 plants, the 2-tiered Double holds 24, and the 3-tiered Triple holds 36. Technically, you can grow even more per tier if you swap out the 4-hole trays (included) for 12-hole trays (sold separately). Not sure what’s best for you? No worries. Rise’s modular system allows you to start small and add more layers later.
Rise units are equipped with in-app advice and reminders; it’s less involved in the minutia of gardening than other systems that made our roundup, but it’ll ensure you never miss a necessary window for watering or fertilizing. One standout feature is voice-control, which allows you to lean on Alexa to control lights, check water levels, and more.
Price at time of publish: $679
Lettuce Grow Farmstand
Best Vertical Indoor Garden System
Who it’s for: Those who want the ability to grow a large variety of plants; those who want a modular system that can grow with them; those who prefer starter plants to seedlings; and those who want a system that can be used indoors and out.
Who it isn’t for: Those who want to experiment with growing just a few veggies and herbs.
The Farmstand from Lettuce Grow is one of the most versatile vertical indoor garden systems on the market. It’s available in five potential sizes ranging from 3 feet 8 inches to 6 feet 1 inch, and it hosts anywhere from 12 to 36 plants. (Suddenly the name “farmstand” seems quite apt!) The tower is also modular, so you can start small and level up at a later date if you decide you want a taller tower. Curate your own collection of individual seedlings or choose from pre-selected bundles if you prefer to experiment or expedite the process. The Farmstand operates both indoors and out, though an indoor kit requires the addition of the Glow Rings.
The good news is that no green thumb is required. Unlike some companies that offer mere seeds, Lettuce Grow offers pre-germinated seedlings (aka starter plants), so even beginner gardeners can see immediate success. The app also offers all the harvesting tips you need, and the maintenance load couldn’t be lower: Just adjust water and add fertilizer once per week and clean the system once every 3-4 months (about once per season).
Price at time of publish: From $679
Size: 22 x 44, 51, 58, 65, or 73 inches
Plant Capacity: 12-36
WiFi Compatible: No
Gardyn Home Kit 3.0
Best Indoor Garden System for Vegetables
Who it’s for: Beginner gardeners and those who can benefit from generous advice and prompts.
Who it isn’t for: Those who aren’t ready to commit to a large system and subscription service (though subscriptions are optional).
The Gardyn Home Kit 3.0 shares many of the benefits of other hydroponic towers. With a small footprint (just two square feet), it grows about 30 plants at once—the same amount of produce as a 1,300-square-foot outdoor vegetable garden. Like The Farmstand from Lettuce Grow, its closed-loop water circulation system reduces water consumption by 95 percent compared to traditional gardening methods.
What really makes Gardyn the best indoor gardening system for vegetables is Kelby, the in-app garden assistant that works in tandem with Gardyn’s sensors and cameras to ensure optimal health for your plants. Kelby alerts users to necessary adjustments of water, light, and even the humidity levels in your home. The in-app assistant also informs users about schedules and methods for pollinating, pruning, and harvesting. (Real talk? Kelby makes a green thumb obsolete.)
The other thing that makes Gardyn unique is its Hybriponic technology, which combines the strengths of aeroponic and hydroponic technologies to eliminate the threat of entangled roots. This makes cycling out your desired produce easier than ever. What does Gardyn 3.0 have over its predecessor, Gardyn 2.0? It’s engineered for even easier cleaning.
Price at time of publish: $999
Click & Grow Smart Garden 3
Best Indoor Garden System for Herbs
Who it’s for: Those who want a wide variety of seeds to choose from.
Who it isn’t for: Those fully committed to growing most of their produce at home.
Those who love to cook involved meals at home know the all-too-familiar struggle with plastic packs of herbs from the grocery: Either the herbs practically wilt before you can get them home, or you get to the grocery, only to discover they don’t carry the exact Wasabi Mustard you need to complete your dish. An indoor gardening system with an extensive catalog of herbs and flowers eliminates these sad prospects.
The Click & Grow system has 75 plant varieties to choose from, including popular herbs like mint, dill, lavender, and a large variety of basil. It also comes with an app with reminders and helpful tips to make you the best cultivator of all your favorite herbs, and comes at a much lower price compared to similar systems.
Price at time of publish: $100
Overall, we recommend the AeroGarden Harvest Slim, which stands out for its compact size, ease of use, and relatively low cost. It’s a fantastic option for beginners who just want to grow a few different plants, and is very easy to keep clean.
How to Shop for Indoor Garden Systems Like a Pro
When selecting the size of your indoor garden, the most obvious consideration is the amount of indoor real estate that you can allot to it, but a few less obvious things to consider are your expertise level, your maintenance preferences, and the plants you hope to grow. Many smaller countertop models include only water and nutrient indicator lights, and they’re best for growing small, hardy, low-maintenance plants like herbs that can thrive in low-intensity lighting. With this system-plant combo, you’re not going to be worried about pollinating or harvesting, and the small size of the unit greatly simplifies routine cleaning (because you’re working with fewer pieces and a smaller surface area).
On the other hand, those who want more hands-on experience growing a greater variety of produce will probably get more enjoyment out of a larger system. Most of these systems are designed as compact, vertical towers with a small footprint, so they’re still compatible with many small living spaces.
The variety and type of plant shipped to you—seeds, starter plants—differ by system, so before choosing an indoor gardening system it’s good to have an idea of both what you want to grow and your own patience levels.
While all of the tall tower systems we included in our list allow you to grow up to about 36 plants, available plants will vary by brand. Some setups are specifically geared towards herbs and greens, while others are engineered to facilitate the growth of larger produce. Even among the units that can support larger plants, the breadth of plants on offer varies by brand. So if you’re, say, a connoisseur of spicy peppers, you’ll want to comb through the produce catalogs before making your final choice. As of this writing, Lettuce Grow offers the greatest variety of seedlings: 200 of them.
Most indoor gardening systems come with features such as self-watering containers, grow lights, auto timers, and nutrient indicators. The sophistication of these functions varies by brand and price point. Basic starter models may simply remind you it’s time to add more food, while pricier systems can monitor your plants for periods of optimal fertilization, harvesting, or changes to the water’s pH. (Of course, those using a beginner model to grow a few low maintenance herbs wouldn’t need as much outside input anyway!)
The features that truly set some models apart are “smart” functions that monitor your plants and provide real time in-app advice about pollinating and harvesting. Some of these systems also allow for in-app or voice (Alexa) control over core system functions (like turning the lights on or off). Whatever your specific needs, there’s a model for you.
Questions You Might Ask
What can I grow with an indoor garden system?
You can grow anything from herbs and salad greens to produce or houseplants with an indoor garden system, but it all depends on the type of system, says Halleck. “Small countertop growing systems have a very small footprint and limited height space for growing, so you’ll want to match the mature size of the plant you’re growing to the area covered by your grow light,” she explains.
Halleck recommends starting with compact herbs, lettuces, and other small leafy greens. “Too often I see hobbyists trying to grow dill or other very large herb species that quickly outgrow the unit and end up burning against the grow light. These small countertop systems also use lower intensity grow lighting, so don’t expect to grow big-fruited tomatoes!”
If a countertop system is all you’ve got room for, don’t lose hope: “There are some systems that can support dwarf fruiting cultivars of cherry tomatoes or peppers, or certain strawberries (alpine strawberries are great),” says Halleck. “Just don’t expect the types of yields you’d get from higher-intensity grow lights or a full sun location outdoors.”
If you want to grow larger species of herbs and fruiting crops indoors, you’ll want to opt for a tower-type unit—but it’s not just about greater growing space, says Halleck. “It’s the amount of light delivered that determines which plants grow and produce best.” Ultimately, she says, it comes down to this: “If you’re using small systems with low intensity lighting, stick to leafy greens and herbs. If you step up to high intensity lighting, you can grow more fruits and veggies.”
Do indoor garden systems require maintenance?
“Passive hydro, hydroponic, and aquaponic units will require some regular cleaning as well as water and nutrient replenishment and potentially some pH monitoring and adjustment,” says Halleck. “In general, the larger the system, the more monitoring and maintenance it requires,” she adds. On the plus side, Halleck notes that some units “do the monitoring for you and let you know when it’s time to add the nutrients or pH buffers they include with these systems.”
Of course, the system itself is only half the story; your plants will need you to show them some love too. “Always make sure to scout your plants regularly for possible pests, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies,” Halleck advises. And don’t forget about harvesting! “The best way to keep herbs and greens compact enough to thrive (and not burn) in small units is to prune them for harvesting regularly.”
What are the benefits of an indoor gardening system?
Where do we begin? You can garden year-round, or, alternatively, use the system to get an early start on the outdoor growing season. You can garden with only a fraction of the water required by outdoor gardening (95 percent less with some systems). You can avoid many (not all) pests and diseases seen in outdoor gardens, as most of these originate in the soil. And you can skip the sweat and stooping that accompany digging in the dirt. Additionally, beginners and those with black thumbs can benefit from the extra monitoring and in-app advice offered by some of the larger tower-type units.
Take Our Word for It
This article was written by Leslie Joblin, who is herself a gardener living in hardiness zone 7b and a writer with two years of experience writing lifestyle content. Her work has appeared in The Spruce, MyDomaine, and Brides. To complete this roundup, she dove deep into the research and reviews on the top-rated outdoor planters and solicited advice from Leslie Halleck, pro horticulturist and author of Gardening Under Lights: The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers.
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