Indoor vs. Outdoor Plants: The Differences, Similarities, and How to Care for Both

Indoor vs. Outdoor Plants: The Differences, Similarities, and How to Care for Both

Few things in life are as satisfying and rewarding as growing plants. The wonderful thing is that plant growth can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like it to be. Perhaps you love cultivating exotic orchids, growing your own tomatoes, keeping a box of kitchen herbs on the window sill, or are simply just in love with your cute and easy-going ZZ houseplant. Whatever it may be, plant growing always feels amazing.

There are generally two different ways to cultivate your green thumb: with indoor plants and with outdoor plants. Some people prefer outdoor gardening while others invest in turning their homes into exotic jungles. Other people enjoy doing both outdoor and indoor planting. Whatever your vibe may be, it’s good to know the ropes when it comes to both indoor and outdoor plants.

Come spring at any of our PlantShed locations, you can stop by for a coffee and check out our array of both indoor and outdoor plants to learn more about growing both and feeling what plants are right for you. Here we’re going to give you the rundown on indoor versus outdoor plants. While there are many similarities in the care and cultivation of indoor and outdoor plants, there are also some notable and important differences that are key to happy and prolific plants.

The Similarities

The most notable similarity between indoor and outdoor plants is that regardless of where you’re growing them, plants are plants. Plants need some basic things to grow well: sun, water, and supplemental nutrients.

Secondly, while the basic requirements of sun, water, and nutrients are standard for every plant, the exact specifications or preferences are dependent on the particular plant species. Some plants, such as cactuses and irises, prefer hot sunny spots and well-drained or drier soil. Other plants, such as peace lilies and hostas, prefer shade and will not grow in direct sunlight. Some plants, such as Boston ferns and daylilies, love soaking up loads of water. Kitchen herbs and vegetables also have their growing preferences that need to be adhered to for optimal growth, whether you’re growing them indoors or outdoors. Creating the optimal growing environment for plants is key for growing all plants, whether indoors or outdoors. Regardless of what kind of gardener you are, knowing the growing requirements for your plants is fundamental.

Thirdly, it’s important to know that both indoor and outdoor plants can attract pests. While the kinds of pests your plants attract can vary based on whether they live indoors or outdoors, plants will sometimes attract bothersome bugs. A common pest that will appear regardless of where your plant lives is the aphid. Aphids are annoying small insects that will appear and quickly populate your plants. They feed off of the juice of the plants and can also inject them with various diseases. Aphid prevention and treatment are generally the same whether your plants are indoor or outdoor. Like any infestation, getting it under control early on is important to get rid of the aphids. While there are different sprays you can use, a simple soapy water solution is usually a good DIY trick for getting rid of aphids. While some pests will invade both your outdoor and indoor plants, other pests are specific to various species of plants or partial to indoor or outdoor plants so it’s good to know what pests might be after your plants.

The Differences

While there are some similarities, there are also some big differences between outdoor plants and indoor plants. Here is our list of the ways outdoor versus indoor gardening can differ.

Plant Species

There are many different species of plants that you can grow both indoors and outdoors. Many people love to grow vegetables, flowers, or herbs indoors which would do just as well outside in the garden. However one of the biggest differences between indoor and outdoor gardening is the type of plants you are growing.

Some plants do best indoors while others prefer outdoors. Not every plant makes a great house plant, so it’s important to do the research before digging up the garden and bringing everyone indoors for the winter. Some plants simply thrive outdoors and don’t get what they need inside. On the flip side, some plants thrive indoors. Due to environmental factors, many standard houseplants simply wouldn’t survive outside. Plants like orchids, pothos, and other tropical plants do best indoors and certainly wouldn’t survive long in freezing temperatures.

Climate Control

A big factor in outdoor versus indoor plants is that while outdoor plants must brave the elements no matter what they are, you can generally control the climate for indoor plants. Too cold? Turn up the heat. Too dark? Move the plants to a sunnier window. Outdoor plants need to be hardy enough to withstand whatever the weather throws at them.


Outdoor gardens are dependent on the natural cycle of light during whatever time of the year it may be. You can’t add extra light to an outdoor plant, making the end of a growing season a little slow due to lack of light. Indoor plants make controlling the lighting easier. You can choose where to place your indoor plants for them to get the most sunlight and even move them around the house to chase the light. You can also bring in grow lights to help accelerate plant growth during the darker times of the year. This is important for plants that need ample direct sunlight. The only catch is that indoor plants often struggle to adjust to becoming outdoor plants as the natural sunlight can burn their leaves. If you are moving indoor plants outdoors for the summer, be sure to do so gradually so they can adjust themselves to the stronger light.


Growing plants outdoors usually offers a lot more space than growing plants indoors, especially if you have a terrace or dedicated space for a garden. Indoor gardening is wonderful because it requires less space and still offers some of the bounties of plant growing. Outdoor plants will typically take up more space than their smaller indoor counterparts. Many outdoor plants also come with spatial growing requirements, meaning they need a certain amount of space to grow well. So be sure to check your space requirements before buying all those plants at the PlantShed!


The watering routine for indoor and outdoor plants is usually different. Because outdoor plants are typically planted in the ground, they will often have a better drainage system and receive rainwater in addition to your watering. If your outdoor plants are in pots, they will likely dry out faster and still need more watering. Indoor plants are limited to the size of their pots, meaning, they can either dry out or drown a lot more easily.

Soil Preparation

Soil preparation for outdoor plants is going to be very different than indoor plants. Outdoor in-ground plants require the soil to be loosened, organic matter added, and once planted, the area should be mulched to keep in moisture. Potted plants or indoor plants do not typically take regular soil but need potting soil to be sure their soil is sterile and nutrient-dense enough for their small homes. On the flip side, indoor plants require less weeding, digging, and mulching because it’s easier to maintain such a small space. Outdoor plants will often need fertilizer or organic matter added to the soil, where indoor plants will require a soil change every so often to make sure the nutrients are replenished.


The level of work required for outdoor and indoor plants can be quite drastically different. Outdoor and in-ground gardens are a world of their own in how much work one can put in to make your garden a success. Indoor plants, on the other hand, require far less involvement if you’re looking for an easier way to bring plants into your life. Outdoor plants typically have more space to grow and give you the option to grow a wider variety of plants, meaning your return on your labor is often more generous even if it does require quite a bit of involvement.

Growing plants is such a wonderful way to connect to the earth in a way that feels manageable and intimate. Whether you choose to go for indoor plants or outdoor plants depends entirely on what you’re looking for, what you want to grow, and how much time and energy you want to invest into your plants. Both come with their pros, cons, and similarities making it easier to find which method of growing plants is best for you. The growing season is upon us so be sure to stop by one of our PlantShed locations and find the plants that work best for you.