Visit How-to: Faux Copper Gutter Garden for instructions on making your own indoor gutter gardens step-by-step.
After receiving an email from a reader* asking for the finer points of building indoor gutter gardens (one of my most popular DIYs), I realized an update was in order. I first made my indoor gutter gardens over a year ago in an effort to add some green to the large upstairs bathroom in my 2-floor, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. *A big thank you goes out to reader Natalie for reaching out with her question!
One year on, I have a lot of tips for gutter garden maintenance, particularly in an indoor space that has a lot of humidity.
I recommend investing a little more time than I did in selecting the plants for your garden. I simply picked plants I enjoyed the look of at the hardware store.
- Don’t buy plants at the hardware store. If you want houseplants that will for sure last for more than a year, invest in plants that come from a reputable nursery or store. I get most of my household plants a Chicago’s Fleur. They are always in excellent health and last a long time with proper care. Some of my hardware store plants came with some rot I hadn’t noticed when I bought them and died relatively quickly. Others up and died out of nowhere despite my giving them proper care. (I was so pissed!)
- Speaking of proper care, make sure to research the best care for your plants. If you’re buying potted plants at a reputable store, ask the staff. They should have some great tips for plant care. If you note the names of your plants, there’s always the internet or books to find help in too.
- Buy the right kind of plants for the environment. Plants from tropical regions have done better than plants that like a drier climate in my gutter garden. Because, duh, it’s in a bathroom.
- Remember to group plants requiring similar care together. Don’t plant a cactus in the same planter as a leafy tropical plant and expect the excess water to go over well. Remember – they’re sharing the same soil, and therefore, the same water.
Tend and feed your plants. I use a little bit of plant food diluted in water every couple months to keep my plants healthy. I also prune them as needed, removing dead leaves or length if they’re growing too big.
Use grow lights. While I have a skylight in my bathroom, I still live in Chicago. We have short days in winter, and a lot of cloudy days in general. Plants need light a certain amount of time every day to live. Invest in some simple work lights and plant light bulbs. Note: they’re not bulbs you plant in the ground to grow flowers in the spring. The hardware store folks will think that’s what you want if you need help finding them. You can see my lights in the first picture at the top of this post.
Hate something you planted? Switch it out. I ended up removing some plants that I just got sick of looking at. The plants I had in the top right of my gutter gardens a year ago grew really unattractively, so I replaced them with something I liked better.
Plants getting too big? I mentioned pruning, remember to do that. It’s good for your plants. But if you’ve got a plant that can be divided, go for it. I had an obvious gap to fill in the second row of my garden after some hardware store varieties hit the dust. Rather than dropping money on a new plant, I simply moved an offshoot of the plant on the bottom row to the spot above. We’ll see how it grows!
Drainage is something I get asked a lot about. In the original tutorial, I mentioned lining the bottom of each gutter with some pebbles for drainage. One thing I failed to mention (sorry) was how excess water drains from the gardens. The caps that are placed on each end of the gutter don’t form a watertight seal, so when drainage needs to happen, it just does. Yes, you might want to set some paper towel under your gutter garden before watering. I often water my plants and hold a cup under the endcap of the gutter and reuse any drainage.
Reminder: Visit How-to: Faux Copper Gutter Garden for instructions on making your own indoor gutter gardens step-by-step.