Greenhouse ideas – traditional and new ways to use your garden glass house

Who says greenhouses are just for growing?

With a few home comforts and a stylish addition or two, a thoughtful greenhouse can transform the purpose and look of any garden. We explore the best greenhouse ideas to create a year-round retreat for plants and people, too!

The main purpose of a greenhouse is to maintain a level of warmth and humidity to aid with growing plants. However new trends are emerging to show that garden ideas incorporating greenhouses don't just have to be about growing plants. 

‘We see an incredible variety of uses for our Greenhouses and Glasshouses amongst customers,’ explains Tom Barry, CEO of Hartley Botanic. ‘As well as their obvious horticultural potential, they also allow customers to enjoy their gardens in a far richer way.’

We've come up with plenty of new ways to use your greenhouse this summer – whether you want a new take on a wellness studio or a tropical dining space. 

Scroll down and you'll also find some of your key greenhouse questions, answered!

Greenhouse ideas

1. Opt for a power supply to enable heat and light

conservatory with potted plants and watering can

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Bolton)

Run an electrically supply into your greenhouse structure to make your life easier and your greenhouse more efficient. 

While it's not essential to have a power supply, it does serve to aid the growing process and also extend the time you can spend in your greenhouse by improving visibility during the darker months – furthering your gardening potential for all seasons and at all times of day or night. Both heat and light are key ingredients for your flourishing plants.

2. Grow your own crops for sustainability

garden area with glass shed and potted plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

The main advantage of a greenhouse is, and will always be shielding plants from extreme temperature drops to aid with growing capabilities. The environment in a greenhouse is ideal for certain species of plants, particularly vegetables and other food crops.

In today's climate we are much more aware of sustainability, such as where our food comes from. The ever-popular trend for 'grow your own' means that greenhouses are still playing such a huge importance in our gardens for growing produce. Hartley Botanic informs us that 95 percent of customers still use their greenhouses solely to grow their own produce – most of citing they do so because they wish to eat better.

Growing your own ensures the knowledge that your food is totally organic, and many say 'superior to supermarket equivalents' on taste.

3. Go compact for a small outdoor space

black cupboard with plant pots and shovel

(Image credit: Ti-Media)

You don't need a big garden to experience the perks of a greenhouse, it can be a savvy small garden idea too. For a tiny plot consider investing in a smaller version like the one above. The three shelves offer plenty of space to nurture seedlings or smaller produce such as cherry tomatoes or salad leaves.

Opting for a small greenhouse cabinet on wheels is a good idea. That way you can move your plants around to make sure they get the maximum sunlight to thrive.

4. Seek shade

conservatory with flower plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Despite greenhouses thriving in a warm and thriving, too much direct sun can actually be harmful to young plants. It's therefore a good idea to instal blinds to allow some control over the amount of scorching sunshine – intensified by the glass aspect of the design.

'When purchasing a greenhouse it is sensible to consider including internal blinds as an extra accessory to have installed if you do have the budget,' advises Tom from Hartley Botanic. 

'Although expensive, they provide convenient garden shade in the summer months. Ours are specifically designed to follow the shape of your Greenhouse and will protect your precious plants from damage caused by the sun and help regulate internal temperatures.' 

'Motorised systems with sensors enabled by remote control can also make your life even easier, allowing you to operate your roller shades at the touch of a button!'

5. Plant the garden around the greenhouse

garden area with lawn and plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Oliver Gordon)

While you want to reap the rewards of a greenhouse, you might not wish for it to be overly prominent. 'It's important to consider how the structure will fit aesthetically into your landscaping as a whole' advise Hartley Botanic. 'Your Greenhouse needs to find a natural place within your existing garden, rather than dominate it.'

6. Choose a dual-purpose greenhouse design

garden area with flower pots and chair

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

If you desire your greenhouse to fulfil a dual-purpose, to be a practical place for growing your own food but also a garden room where you can sit amongst your plants for some 'me time'.  

To accommodate both aspects in equal measure choose a structure which allows for a generous seating area with a view of the surrounding greenery and the garden beyond.

7. Create a wellness studio

conservatory with potted plants and couch

(Image credit: Hartley Botanic 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show stand)

As seen at the last RHS Chelsea Flower Show, renowned greenhouse and glasshouse specialists Hartley Botanic transformed one of their attractive glass structures into a yoga studio. With the focus on how we can aid our mental health and wellness, we spoke to an experts to explain the benefits of creating an outdoor space for yoga and meditation.

‘There is something really special about practicing yoga outside and allocating a dedicated space to your practise, away from your everyday interior environment and habitual tasks,' explains Juliet Murrell, yoga expert and founder of the House of VOGA. ‘ I regularly use my garden as a space to practice yoga in the summer.'

'Having a greenhouse would mean I could maximise that feeling of freedom you experience from outdoor practice. Whatever the weather, all year round – particularly important for those of us living in the UK.’

All you need to do to create this space is leave the centre kept clear for a yoga mat. The surrounding plants will add further tranquil and soothing vibes, ideal for a calmer yoga and meditation space.

8. Take the inside out with interior styling

garden area with flower plants and couch

(Image credit: Julia Currie Photography)

A greenhouse provides the perfect place to enjoy the fruits of your labour in the garden – simply add furniture to sit back and relax. The 'indoors out' garden trend is one that shows no sign of fading anytime soon. One of the best examples of styling up an outdoor space is this greenhouse on display at Chelsea Flower Show (above).

'Treat the greenhouse like a home extension,' suggests the stylist Selina Lake. 'Add a bench covered with a picnic mattress and a pile of cushions to use as a daybed. It's somewhere to relax, read and dream.' 

'Adding textiles will instantly soften the space and make it feel welcoming, just be aware textiles will fade in the sun. For a makeshift side table use a sturdy unturned crate.'

9. Use the space for entertaining

conservatory with flower pots and wooden table

(Image credit: Ti-Media)

Greenhouses might be ideal for shielding plants from drops in temperature, but they are also perfect for protecting us. If you love eating your breakfast, lunch or dinner outside, consider this relaxed dining room idea.

One of the most significant trends in recent years citied around greenhouse usage, by Hartley Botanic, is to use them as a dining space. A greenhouse allows for extended time spent outside, as an al fresco entertaining space.

A greenhouse provides the warmth, while also proving overhead cover if the great British weather should turn. This environment can extend the length of time spent entertaining outdoors, as not to put a dampener on summer soriees. And not just for summer, there's the potential to use our gardens for entertaining for 8 or 9 months of the year.

10. Prepare a potting corner

conservatory with potted plants on wooden table

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Make best use of space by incorporating a potting bench in the corner of your greenhouse. Being in the same enclosure where you grow your fruit and veg makes your panting much more efficient. The dry and bright environment will allow you to work on your plants no matter the weather.

Combine pretty with practical by storing colourful seed packets on an open stand and keeping beautiful vintage gardening books out on show.  Adding a radio will help to make the space sing with creativity.

11. Work with sustainable sources

conservatory with flower pots and watering can

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Look to make your greenhouse as sustainable as possible. For instance making use of sustainable water sources, using water butts to collect rainwater and ‘grey’ water recycled from baths or sinks. This will save on the amount of water you need to use without negatively impacting your plants. 

Other garden upcycling ideas that will help complete this look include using recycled materials for trugs, storage barrels and planting. Old food tins are a great source for growing plants in. Simply wash the tins out and drill a small drainage hole to create a free and effective planter.

12. House a hobby room

conservatory with flower pots and gumboots

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

No space in your home for a dedicated hobby room? If you don't mind the warmth, why not use the garden building as a room to house a hobby. Whether you're after a spot to sew or a place to paint, greenhouses are ideal; light, airy and bursting with beautiful blooms, creative inspiration is bound to strike!

13. Light up your greenhouse with lanterns

conservatory with flower plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

For something a little bit different, think about lighting ideas. If you don't want the expense and hassle of running power to your greenhouse consider alternative lighting options instead. During dull weather add lanterns to create a cosy ambiance to counteract the grey. Adding solar powered fairy lights will add a pretty touch after the sun sets on balmy summer night.

If your greenhouse is geared up enough to have a power socket, invest in a statement floor lamp or a statement neon 'garden' light.

14. Add colour to distract from the 'clutter'

conservatory with potted plants and white table

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

There's no closing the door on mess when it comes to greenhouses, but they do provide an opportunity to create a pretty garden focal point. Coordinating bright accessories such as cushions, throws and pots adds a personal touch and ensures a splash of colour all year round – a welcome sight particularly during the colder months.

Showcase your favourite flowers in hanging baskets, tin cans, baskets and DIY planters.

15. Dry herbs and flowers

conservatory with potted plants and herbs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

The greenhouse provides the perfect place to dry all manner of herbs and flowers. Forget hanging them in the airing cupboard or in the kitchen, this is the ideal warm space to hang a line of string for attaching suspended bunches for drying.

Related: Garden mirror ideas to flood gardens with a little ray of light

Where should you position a greenhouse?

Your choice of where to position your greenhouse depends on the space you have available. The most important factors are if this area catches the most sunshine in your garden, if it can be easily levelled to provide a good foundation and if it has convenient access.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Aspect: a south or southwest facing aspect will provide the best exposure to sunlight.
  • Shelter: consider the proximity of hedges or fences that will provide shelter from the direction of the prevailing wind.
  • Trees: trees provide excessive shade, fill the gutter with leaves and there is the risk of damage during a storm.
  • Services: consider how you will route water and electricity to your chosen site.

'Avoid locating your Greenhouse in the shadow of tall trees, boundary fences or walls as these will obstruct light' advises Tom Barry from Hartley Botanic. 'For lean-to Greenhouses placed against a wall, a south-facing position is ideal. For stand-alone structures, the ridge along the top of the Greenhouse should ideally run from East to West, this will allow the sun to run along its longest side during the day. Other elemental considerations include a location to catch prevailing winds for ventilation purposes and choosing a site which is not shaded, but equally not too exposed to the cold.'

landscape garden with flower plants and glass shed

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

What can I put in a greenhouse?

If you dream of being more sustainable and growing your own food, having a greenhouse in your garden can make this an everyday reality.

'You can grow a wide range of fruits and vegetables, which can be split into cold and warm season crops,' says Richard Baggaley, Director at The Greenhouse People. 'Cold season crops like lettuce, broccoli, peas and carrots can be grown earlier and later in the season than possible outside. Warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers, chillies and cucumbers will thrive in a greenhouse during the unpredictable British summers.'

Don’t forget your ornamental plants, too. 'Geraniums, chrysanthemums and petunias, though able to grow outdoors in Britain, will flourish in a greenhouse, giving you an endless supply of fresh flowers for your vases,' says Richard.

In the peak of the summer, you will also be able to grow tropical plants like orchids, cacti and Venus flytraps.

How do you ventilate a Greenhouse?

garden area with cherry plants and glass shed

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

'One of the most common reasons for plant failure in Greenhouses is due to insufficient ventilation' warns Tom Barry from Hartley Botanic. 'Ventilation is maximised and prioritised for the number and position of vents being determined according to the specific needs of each bespoke structure. Our Victorian range comes with automatic vents and our other models come with manual ventilation as standard'.

Feeling inspired to rethink your greenhouse?

Tamara Kelly

Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.