The 7 Best Indoor Growing Systems for Year-Round Gardening
By Corrie Pelc
Outdoor gardening is a hobby that many enjoy. Whether it’s growing beautifully colored flowers or harvesting fruits and vegetables just a few feet from your front door, gardening provides a great way to see all your hard work literally grow and flourish before your very eyes.
As the seasons change, outdoor gardening is not always possible—especially when it comes to growing vegetables and herbs. If you happen to live in an area with harsh winters or summers, certain plants struggle if the conditions are not right for them to thrive. Sometimes the winters are too harsh to start delicate seeds outside, other times there’s just no outdoor space for a garden.
In these instances, an indoor growing system can be your plant’s best friend. These systems help provide the correct conditions that plants need to grow indoors so that you can safely plant and grow vegetables, herbs, and more to enjoy all year.
Best Soil-Based Indoor Growing System: Click & Grow The Smart Garden 9A soil-based indoor garden system that uses pods to grow any seeds you wish.
Best Hydroponic Indoor Growing System: Moistenland Hydroponics Growing System Starter KitAn easy-to-use hydroponic indoor plant system with an LED grow light panel that offers two different lighting modes.
Best Aquaponic Indoor Growing System: Back to the Roots Water GardenA complete mini ecosystem that grows microgreens with ease.
Best Indoor Growing System Tower: Mr. Stacky Smart FarmA vertical aeroponic indoor plant system that grows a large variety of vegetables, herbs, and leafy greens.
Best Indoor Growing System for Beginners: AeroGarden HarvestA hydroponic indoor gardening system perfect for first-timers.
Best Indoor Growing System for Herbs: Click and Grow Smart Garden 3 Indoor Herb GardenA soil-based indoor plant system designed especially for growing herbs.
Best Indoor Growing System for Vegetables: Rise Gardens Single Family GardenA hydroponic indoor garden system for serious vegetable lovers.
How to Buy an Indoor Growing System
When looking to purchase an indoor garden system, there are a few things to consider:
System Type: Generally speaking, there are four main types of indoor gardening systems:
- Soil-based — This is the closest to a natural garden as it uses potting soil to plant your seeds and seedlings into.
- Hydroponic — Plants and seeds in this type of system are planted into a liquid (typically water) with all the nutrients they need to grow.
- Aquaponic — The same concept as hydroponic, except there are live fish in the water. Waste created by the fish helps stimulate plant growth.
- Aeroponic — Instead of soil or liquid, seeds and plants grow using air and a nutrient water spray applied to the plant's roots.
What Do You Want to Grow? If you hate tomatoes, you certainly don't want an indoor growing system that specializes in them. Not every indoor plant system grows every type of vegetable or herb, so make sure the system you purchase is the one that can grow what you want.
How Much Maintenance is Required? In general, indoor growing systems require some upkeep, whether that's making sure the included grow light is on for the time it needs to be or that the system has enough water or soil to keep plants alive. Make sure to read up on what the system requires of you before buying to ensure you have the time to invest in keeping it going.
Test Factors We Considered When Picking the Best Indoor Growing Systems
We used the following test factors to decide our list of the best indoor garden systems:
- System Type: What type of indoor garden system is this — soil-based, hydroponic, aquaponic, or aeroponic?
- Plant Type: What types of plants grow in this indoor growing system?
- Plant Starter: What type of plant starter does this system use — seeds? Seed pods? Seedlings?
- Plant Quantity: How many plants does the indoor garden system grow at one time?
- Light Type: What type of light does the indoor growing system use to provide imitation sunlight to the plants?
- Light Timer: Does the system’s light have a timer for automatically turning on and off?
- Monitoring: How does the indoor growing system let the user monitor things like water and soil levels?
- Warranty: Does the manufacturer back this product’s performance?
Let’s take a look now at our list of the best indoor growing systems.
Best Soil-Based Indoor Growing System: Click & Grow The Smart Garden 9
If you want an indoor planting system that mimics outdoor gardening as much as possible, then the Click & Grow The Smart Garden 9 is for you. Available in three colors, this soil-based indoor growing system features a simple design that will look great in any home or kitchen. The system uses biodegradable plant pods that either come pre-loaded with seeds for specific herbs or salad greens — the company has about 50 types to choose from — or you can grow anything you like by adding your own seeds to an unfilled pod. Pop the pods into the base, add water to the tank, and turn the device on. From there, the pods automatically release all the nutrients the seeds need to grow, so you don't need to add any nutrient solutions to the system. And the system's energy-efficient LED grow lights provide the sun the plants need to thrive. To get you started, the Click & Grow The Smart Garden 9 comes with three mini tomato, three basil, and three green lettuce seed pods.
- Biodegradable plant pods come pre-loaded with seeds or you can add your own
- Energy-efficient LED grow lights provide the required light
- Comes with nine seed pods to get you started
- Does not provide any type of digital plant monitoring
Best Hydroponic Indoor Growing System: Moistenland Hydroponics Growing System Starter Kit
The Moistenland Hydroponics Growing System Starter Kit is our top pick for the best hydroponic indoor plant system. The system comes with 12 biodegradable planting pods that you place your choice of seeds into. Once the pods are placed into the appliance's base, the built-in air and water circulation system makes sure the plants get all the nutrients and oxygen they need to grow. The system's overhead panel of LED grow lights is height-adjustable and offers two grow modes — one for vegetables and one for fruits. Lastly, the Moistenland Hydroponics Growing System Starter Kit has an automatic timer to ensure your plants get the correct amount of light they need, and it has an easy-to-read window on its base for checking the water level.
- Comes with 12 planting pods you place your choice of seeds in
- LED grow light panel offers two grow modes
- Built-in air and water circulation provides proper oxygen and nutrients to plants
- Seeds not included
Best Aquaponic Indoor Growing System: Back to the Roots Water Garden
The Back to the Roots Water Garden is an aquaponic indoor plant system that is basically a complete mini ecosystem. The apparatus includes a three-gallon fish tank with a growing system on top. The water in the tank is used to grow the plants and the waste created by the fish in the fish tank fertilizes the plants growing on top. The growing area on top can grow up to three plants at a time and it is perfect for low-maintenance plants like microgreens, succulents, and simple houseplants. The system comes with seeds for radish and wheatgrass microgreens, as well as a water conditioner and the growing medium the seeds require. And if you don't have a finned friend yet, don't despair — the Back to the Roots Water Garden comes with a coupon for a free Betta fish!
- Complete mini ecosystem for growing plants indoors
- Perfect for growing microgreens and succulents
- Comes with a coupon for a free Betta fish
- Requires adequate indoor light to grow
Best Indoor Growing System Tower: Mr. Stacky Smart Farm
If you prefer a vertical indoor growing system, then the Mr. Stacky Smart Farm is perfect for you. This aeroponic vertical indoor garden system can grow up to 20 plants in its terracotta holders. The system features a 16-gallon water tank, which means you only have to fill it up every two to three weeks. To get it started, just fill up the base with water, plant your seeds or seedlings in each pot, and plug the system in. You also set the system's timer to water the plants each day, and any water not used recirculates back into the tank. The Mr. Stacky Smart Farm can be used to grow a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and leafy greens, and the system is backed by a one-year warranty.
- Vertical indoor growing system takes up less horizontal real estate
- 16-gallon water tank requires refilling every two to three weeks
- Grows a large variety of vegetables, herbs, and leafy greens
- Required potting soil not included
Best Indoor Growing System for Beginners: AeroGarden Harvest
With over 13,000 ratings and 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon, the AeroGarden Harvest is a no-brainer for those who are new to indoor gardening. This hydroponic indoor garden system can grow up to six plants at a time up to 12 inches tall. An easy-to-read control panel reminds you when it's time to add more water and plant food and the included LED grow lights help ensure your plants get all the light they need and will automatically turn themselves on and off as required. Take the guesswork out of what types of seeds will grow best by using the system's pre-seeded pods available in a variety of herbs, salad greens, vegetables, and flowers. And to get you started, the AeroGarden Harvest comes with a six-pod set with basil, parsley, dill, thyme, Thai basil, and mint.
- Grows up to six plants at a time up to 12 inches tall
- Easy-to-read control panel tells you when to add water and nutrients
- LED grow lights ensure plants get the light they need
- You may not be able to use your own seeds with this system
Best Indoor Growing System for Herbs: Click and Grow Smart Garden 3 Indoor Herb Garden
Click and Grow is back on our list, this time with our top pick for the best indoor growing system for herbs. The Click and Grow Smart Garden 3 Indoor Herb Garden comes in three colors and is the perfect size for growing tasty, fragrant herbs right on your kitchen counter. This soil-based indoor plant system uses the company's smart soil to give seeds the nutrients they need to grow. Choose from over 50 pre-seeded plant pods, including lavender, basil, chives, and thyme. Once the pods are in and the water tank is full, the planter does all the work by self-watering the seeds as they grow. A water float tells you when it's time to refill the water tank, and the grow lights have 16 hours on/8 hours off automatic cycle for the perfect amount of growing light.
- Perfect size for growing herbs on a kitchen counter
- Included LED grow lights set on an automatic timer
- Choose from 50 different pre-seeded plant pods to grow
- May be too small to grow vegetables
Best Indoor Growing System for Vegetables: Rise Gardens Single Family Garden
If you want to grow a wide variety of vegetables indoors and you have room in your budget, then we highly suggest considering the Rise Gardens Single Family Garden. This indoor garden basically doubles as a piece of furniture thanks to its modern design. The hydroponic indoor growing system grows vegetables (it's particularly known for its leafy green-growing ability) and herbs. The basic system grows up to 12 plants, while upgrades allow you to add on to the system to grow up to 36 plants indoors. On the top section of the system is a bank of LED grow lights that mimic natural sunlight, while the system's five-gallon self-watering system will require the addition of about three gallons of water per week. And as your plants grow, monitor the whole experience through Rise Gardens' mobile app that has grow light controls and tells you what stage of growth your plants are in and if you need to add water and/or nutrients.
- Doubles as a piece of furniture
- Grows between 12 to 36 plants if upgraded
- Control the entire growing experience through its mobile app
- May not work in every home due to its size
Do you have an indoor growing system that lets your plants thrive? Tell us about it in the comments below!