Greenhouse ideas: 12 ways to get the most from your garden glasshouse all year long

With these greenhouse ideas, you can make sure your garden glasshouse will be much more than just a space for growing plants, fruit and veg

greenhouse ideas showing a greenhouse used as a tropical inspired outdoor room
(Image credit: Alitex)

Whatever the size, shape and style of your garden there’s greenhouse ideas out there that are right for you. From ornate glass palaces the Victorians would be proud of through to compact lean-tos and multi-tasking combis, there are all manner of smart designs available that will make your time spent outside even more enjoyable. They also double up as handy work and storage spaces, display areas and, when illuminated, as magical night-time features too.

What’s more, as we’re all home for longer these days, there’s a huge emerging shift in the way we use these outside spaces. From creating a quiet chill out spot nestled in amongst the plants to adding in some home comforts and even re-imaging the space for entertaining, we’re gradually realising the true potential of these elegant garden structures.

Keep reading for some of our favourite greenhouse ideas, then make sure you head over to our garden design ideas for more outdoor inspiration. 

1. Create a cosy retreat

a greenhouse used as a garden room seating area

(Image credit: Alitex)

Not just for plants and pottering, a greenhouse can be a comfy, light filled space to enjoy a morning coffee and catch up with the papers. The leafy, oxygen-rich- surroundings can be restful, lower stress levels and help you recharge. It’s also great for a change of scene – well away from a busy household and the same four walls. Position large palms and ferns where the sun comes through, so they filter and soften the glare, and cast a gentle, dappled light instead. Love the idea of an exotic planting scheme? Find out how to create one with our tropical garden ideas

2. Choose a design to reflect your style

modern aluminium style greenhouse

(Image credit: Cultivar Greenhouses)

A greenhouse doesn’t have to feature ornate ironwork and fussy finials, so if your preference is for sleek, clean lines then don’t worry, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from. Contemporary-styled models tend to make the frame the prime feature and often highlight the carefully designed proportions, roofline and doorway with bi-coloured finishes and a mix of rounded and squared off aluminium profiling. Far from dull, these slick and neat structures let in plenty of daylight, still feature plenty of ventilation and blend in seamlessly with pared back urban-style settings. Check out the Portrait range from Cultivar for a great range of styles. 

3. Get the best of both worlds

shed and greenhouse combined in one design

(Image credit: Gabriel Ash)

If you love gardening but have limited outside space and don't have room for a greenhouse and one of the best sheds, try one of the latest concepts in greenhouse design – a combi. Part glasshouse, part shed, it’s the perfect arrangement for making sure storage, work and growing space sit neatly and conveniently side-by-side. There are a few different arrangements available, so shop around before finding the best for your site. If you are after a structure with a square footprint then a gable fronted design, that is split into half shed/half glasshouse along the central ridge, is a tidy option. Room for a longer, narrower unit? Then try a format such as this RHS Rosemoor Combi from Gabriel Ash where the front facing greenhouse leads on to a rear potting shed. Built from Western Red Cedar, featuring a characterful wriggly aluminium shed roof, you can choose whether to have one or two external swing doors. 

4. Make use of the space at the side of your house

small lean to greenhouse agains the side of a house

(Image credit: Maisons Du Monde)

Ok, it may not be the sunniest spot in your garden, but adding a narrow, lean-to greenhouse is a great way of utilising wasted space. Pretty simple to install, as long as you have a drain and pipe-free stretch of external wall and paving, these off-the-peg designs can add character to a rather dull area too. Think carefully about how you are going to use the glasshouse. If you need storage, a design with solid, dwarf walls will conceal less-than-lovely essentials, while still leaving room for shelving or wall-hung plants above. If it’s a grow-space only – say for growing tomatoes or citrus plants - then a fully glazed model is definitely the better option.This Tuileries metal greenhouse from Maisons du Mondehas sections that can be opened up for ventilation, while the black finish gives it a modern look. 

5. Opt for a small space wonder

shelving used as a mini greenhouse on a balcony

(Image credit: Ikea)

Looking for great balcony ideas? Even with a tiny space you can still get growing as there are plenty of neat shelving units available with fitted translucent covers. Often designed as modules, these multi-purpose designs can be configured to best fit your space. Line them up to create a practical long run of worksurface with plenty of easy-to-reach plant space beneath or stack them to create a vertical ‘garden’ – perfect for tumbling plants such as tomatoes and cucumbers. A great way to make use of a narrow but tall outside wall. Install them either as freestanding or attach directly to the wall – a must in windy or exposed sites. Think carefully about shelf design too. Many products feature slatted shelves, allowing daylight to filter through, while others – such as this Hyllis unit from Ikea – are made from a more ridged, weather-resistant galvanised steel 

6. Zone your space

greenhouse used for growing plants

(Image credit: Cultivar Greenhouses)

If you want to get more from a larger greenhouse, then consider adding a partition. Designed to split the interior 50/50 or 35/65, glazed with an internal door it will give you the flexibility on how to best use your space. Go for two different temperature zones – creating microclimates for different plant types, or use one area as a work space – complete with potting bench and storage – and the other as a display and chill out zone, with decorative shelving and a few home comforts. Blinds in the chill area will reduce glare, while a rug and integral lighting help cosy up the space, as shown in this partition design from Cultivar Greenhouses

7. Give your greenhouse luxe appeal 

greenhouse used as an outdoor living room space

(Image credit: Hartley Botanic)

With some clever planning and attention to detail, a large greenhouse like this one from Hartley Botanic can double up as a spectacular entertaining space that's perfect for fun garden party ideas. Essentially a light-filled outdoor room, it can add a surprisingly glamorous and slightly, quirky edge to sociable suppers, evening drinks and parties. If you are lucky enough to have power and heating installed, there is no reason not to have fun re-imagining this area. Consider adding practical features such as a sink, cupboard, and prep space – maybe refitting surplus or salvaged kitchen fittings – to design an outdoor kitchen. You can always opt for a portable camping sink with pump and disguise it within smart cabinets if you don’t want the hassle of fitting pipework. Plants can easily be hung from overhead beams or displayed on tiered stands to help free up floor space. Add a dramatic chandelier, a few reflective garden mirrors and other decorative accessories and watch the space come alive as evening falls.

8. Wow with a barely-there design

modern greenhouse with slimline frame and sleek glazing

(Image credit: Pure Greenhouse)

Love the thought of an uber-contemporary style to fit in with your modern garden ideas? Then how about a glasshouse that simply blends in and virtually ‘disappears’ into its surroundings? Thanks to advances in frameless glazing techniques and the use of super strong 10mm thick glass, these designs are simply stunning and ideal if you want your outside space to feel as uninterrupted as possible. Letting maximum light through to the rest of the garden and casting minimal shade they are also great if you wish to surround the structure with planting or don’t  want to block sun from reaching a neighbouring patio or seating area. This Structural Greenhouse from Pure Greenhouse comes with optional self-cleaning coating, solid oak or reclaimed brick base and stylish glass shelving. 

9. Introduce home comforts

greenhouse used as a pretty outdoor room decorated with vintage style furniture and accessories

(Image credit: Alitex)

With daylight levels dropping in autumn, it's worth soaking up every drop of mood-boosting Vitamin D that’s on offer. Creating a second living area in your greenhouse may seem extreme, but with a few cosy and colourful touches it can pay off, even if it’s just for a few hours each day. You don't necessarily need to invest in some of the best garden furniture – instead you could scour your home to find key pieces of furniture that can be easily relocated. A conservatory bench piled high with throws and cushions can create a comfy sofa. The outdoor dining table could be moved inside and teamed with mismatched chairs. Add in a radio, some favourite plants and pictures and the result could be a homely snug for all the family. 

10. Go for versatile staging

greenhouse shelf packed with succulents in terracotta pots

(Image credit: Cultivar Greenhouses)

Greenhouse shelving – or staging as it is professionally known – is essential as both a work surface and display space for plants and seedlings. There are times however when it can get in the way, taking up valuable floorspace and often proving too bulky and awkward to move. Look for companies that offer flexible options such as Cultivar’s fold-down staging. Designed to be lifted or lowered as needed, it’s perfect if you need to accommodate tall growing tomatoes or to shelter a tall citrus tree or two over winter. 

11.  Display plants in style 

small green painted greenhouse used for growing plants

(Image credit: Forest Garden Products)

Short on space but still want to show off your favourite blooms, then a mini greenhouse or raised cold frame could be the answer. With a minimal footprint and multiple glazed sides, these neat structures work well on a patio, in pride of place next to a shed or just occupying a sunny corner. Designed also to protect tender plants or seedlings from harsh conditions or low temperatures, choose from lean-to, raised and standalone designs. Our favourite has to be the Victorian Walkaround Greenhouse from Forest. With opening doors on all four sides, every inch is accessible so you can tend and rearrange your plants whenever you wish.

12. Splash out on a plant theatre

metal greenhouse on a patio

(Image credit: The Worm That Turned)

Want to impress with your ever-growing plant collection? Then take a tip from the Victorians and show them off in style with a plant theatre. Ranging from small, glazed carry cases, inspired by 19th century Wardian cases favoured by botanists to larger more ornate designs such as this Metal Wall Greenhouse from The Worm That Turned, there are options out there to suit your space. The larger designs include numerous adjustable shelves, outward opening doors and plenty of ventilation and are intended as display rather than practical workplaces, but it’s the mirrored back panels that create the real impact. Reflecting light and creating the impression of depth the effect is mesmerising. 

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