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Greenhouse Buyer Guide: How to Choose the Best Greenhouse

Buying A Greenhouse: A Guide To Choosing The Best Greenhouse

For any gardener looking to extend their growing season, adding a greenhouse can be a game-changer. With a controlled environment that offers protection, greenhouses allow you to grow vegetables, flowers, herbs, and other plants that normally couldn't thrive outdoors in your climate.

But not all greenhouses are created equal. With so many styles, sizes, and features to consider, picking the best greenhouse to suit your space and needs can feel overwhelming for a first-time buyer. This detailed guide covers everything you need to know when buying a greenhouse so you can make the right decision.

Key Takeaways

  • Carefully consider your climate, space, budget, and needs when selecting a greenhouse style and size. An improperly sized or designed greenhouse can underperform.

  • Prioritize quality construction and materials like durable framing, insulating panels, and UV-resistant coverings. A well-built greenhouse will last for years to come.

  • Proper temperature control, ventilation, and humidity regulation are essential for plant health and preventing disease. Assess the greenhouse's built-in systems.

  • Prevent pest infestations through vigilant monitoring, maintaining cleanliness, releasing benefits, and applying organic sprays at the first sign of trouble.

  • Take advantage of season-extending and winterizing techniques to get the most out of your investment. A greenhouse expands your growing capacity.

a product image of the Exaco Janssens Retro Royal Victorian VI (Three Sizes)

    Factors to Consider When Buying a Greenhouse

    Before you start browsing greenhouse models and pricing, it’s important to determine what you plan to use your greenhouse for and how much space you have to work with. Once you have a firm grasp of these factors, you can zero in on the right type and size of the greenhouse.

    Your Climate and Geographic Location

    One of the first things to think about is your overall climate and geographic location, as this will impact important considerations like the optimal greenhouse orientation and the features needed to maintain the ideal environment inside.

    For example, greenhouses in colder climates need extra insulation and adequate heating systems to keep the greenhouse warm enough for plants. Greenhouses in hot climates, on the other hand, need shading and cooling systems to prevent overheating.

    Your climate will also determine optimal greenhouse placement. In general, the greenhouse should be oriented so that its longest side faces south to maximize sun exposure in the northern hemisphere. However, those in very hot southern climates may want to orient the greenhouse to the southeast or southwest to minimize the afternoon sun.

    The Size You Need

    Consider how much growing space you need both currently and in the future. This will help you determine the overall size of your greenhouse. Even if you only need a small starter greenhouse now for a few shelving units, you may want room to expand later.

    When calculating size, be sure to measure the actual growing area inside the greenhouse once tables/benches and walking paths are accounted for, not just the outer dimensions. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 16 square feet of growing space per person using the greenhouse.

    Those new to greenhouse gardening may want to start on the smaller side (8 x 12 feet) and scale up later once they have a better idea of their needs. Avid gardeners ready to grow a large variety and volume of plants will likely need a bigger greenhouse (10 x 20 feet or larger).

    Your Budget

    Greenhouses can range hugely in terms of cost depending on the size, materials, and features included. Simple hoop house styles start under $1000, while elaborate glass conservatories can cost $25,000 or more. Setting a budget beforehand ensures you focus on options in your comfortable price range.

    Keep in mind that a greenhouse base cost is just one part of the total expenses. You’ll also need to factor in the foundation, installation labor, and any additional accessories or systems you need for heating, ventilation, lighting, etc. Make sure to do your homework to get accurate estimates for these additional costs as well.

    a side by side photo of a glass and polycarbonate greenhouse

    The Style You Prefer

    Once you know your space and budget, it's time to look at greenhouse styles. The main options include:

    • Freestanding greenhouses - Completely detached structures often with a gabled roof. Offer the most growing space.

    • Lean-to greenhouses - Connected to and supported by another structure like a house wall. Take up less space.

    • Hoop houses - Inexpensive style with hoops for support and plastic sheeting as the cover. Easy to install but less durable.

    • Cold frames - Bottomless structures placed over raised beds to prolong the season. Can have hoops or sloped sides.

    Freestanding greenhouses offer the most growing room but take up the most space. Lean-tos and hoop houses are more compact. Cold frames are the simplest seasonal extension option.

    Choosing Frame and Cover Materials

    Two other big decisions are what to make the greenhouse frame and covering out of. Common options include:


    • Aluminum - Corrosion-resistant, durable, and lightweight but can be costlier. Easy for DIY building.

    • Steel - Affordable option but can rust over time. Can handle very large greenhouses.

    • Wood - Traditional look but requires more maintenance. Red cedar and redwood last the longest.

    Here's a table to help you compare the pros and cons of different framing options at a glance:

    Material Pros Cons
    Aluminum Durable, corrosion-resistant, lightweight More expensive, requires more specialized tools
    Steel Affordable, can support very large structures Can rust over time without preventive maintenance
    Wood Traditional appearance, versatile for customization Requires routine maintenance and sealing


    • Glass - Provides optimal light transmission but is expensive and fragile. Most often used in traditional conservatories.

    • Plastic - Affordable and easy to install. Polyethylene lasts 1-3 years, polycarbonate 7-10 years.

    • Polycarbonate panels - Extremely durable plastic with good insulation. Withstands hail and other impacts.

    When weighing greenhouse covering options, durability is a key factor. Another thing is thickness - so ensure the recommended thickness for greenhouse panels based on your climate. With the right covering choice, your greenhouse can maintain optimal growing conditions year after year.

    Prefab vs. DIY Greenhouse Kits

    You'll also need to decide between a pre-made greenhouse or building your own greenhouse from a kit. Prefab greenhouses are ready to install right away, saving time and labor. But they offer less customization. Kits allow you to modify the design but require more DIY work.

    Many prefab greenhouse manufacturers also sell kits for their designs, giving you the best of both worlds - you get the specific greenhouse you want while still being able to make some structural and sizing modifications during installation. Keep these things in mind when deciding between building or purchasing a greenhouse.

    Consider Heating and Temperature Control

    When researching greenhouses, an important factor to consider is the heating and cooling capacities of the interior space. The ability to maintain optimal temperatures is a key advantage of a greenhouse, allowing you to extend growing into the cold season. Effectively built greenhouses make it possible to start planting earlier and even grow plants through winter with proper winter greenhouse preparation like insulation and temporary reinforcements. Here's a recommended temperature ranges to maintain inside the greenhouse during different times of year:

    Season Day Temperature Night Temperature
    Spring 65-75°F 55-65°F
    Summer 70-80°F 60-70°F
    Fall 65-75°F 50-60°F
    Winter 60-70°F 45-55°F

    Evaluate Humidity Control and Ventilation Systems

    Proper humidity levels and air circulation are other important factors when purchasing a greenhouse. Vents near the roof let out moisture-laden air and cross-breezes from open doors or windows prevent stagnant humidity. Exhaust fans actively pull humid air outside.

    Ventilation does more than control humidity - it refreshes the greenhouse environment. Stale, humid air encourages fungal diseases. Ensuring your greenhouse has sufficient built-in ventilation and options for controlling the greenhouse humidity provides optimal growing conditions. With the right systems, you can maintain steady moisture levels and air movement for healthy plants.

    a woman cleaning the glass of a greenhouse

    Tips for Maintaining Greenhouse for Beginners

    Secure the Greenhouse

    Anchor your greenhouse into the ground securely using heavy-duty anchoring kits designed for greenhouses. This prevents detachment and shifting during storms and high winds. Check and reinforce anchoring each year.

    Pick the Right Plants

    When first starting out, choose quick-growing greens, herbs, and compact vegetable varieties suited for containers. Lettuce, spinach, basil, dwarf tomatoes, and peppers are good plants for beginners to start growing in a greenhouse. Avoid large sprawling plants at first as they take up more space.

    Supplement Your Income

    Consider generating income from your greenhouse by propagating and selling starter plants in the spring. Herb plants and early vegetable seedlings are popular sellers. You can also turn herbs into value-added products like teas, vinegar, or balms.

    Control Pests and Diseases

    The enclosed space of a greenhouse makes it easier for pests like aphids and mites to rapidly reproduce and infest plants. Prevent this through:

    • Screening vents/openings to keep bugs out
    • Removing weeds where pests hide
    • Releasing beneficial insects that prey on pests
    • Applying organic sprays made with neem oil or insecticidal soap

    Water plants at the base to prevent moisture on leaves that encourages mildew, mold, and other diseases. Promote good airflow and avoid overcrowding plants. Remove diseased plants immediately to prevent spreading. These measures will help you to keep bugs out of the greenhouse.

    Season Extension and Winterizing

    One of the primary advantages of a greenhouse is being able to start your growing season early and extend it past first fall frosts. Here are some tips:

    • On cold nights, close vents and cover containers to retain heat inside.

    • Add a small heater to keep temperatures above freezing on winter nights.

    • Insulate the north wall for better heat retention.

    • Move potted plants together on the greenhouse floor to conserve heat.

    • Grow cold hardy greens and root veggies that can withstand chillier temps.

    Assist Pollination

    With no wind or outside pollinators, greenhouse plants need help distributing pollen. Gently shake tomato, pepper, and other flowering plants once a week to release pollen within flowers. You can also use a soft brush to pollinate in a greenhouse.

    a couple sitting inside the Canopia Greenhouse Triomphe Chalet 12x15

    Final Words

    With the right selection process and setup, a high-quality greenhouse tailored to your gardening needs will provide many years of growing enjoyment. Be sure to browse our other in-depth greenhouse articles to help guide you through the exciting process of becoming a greenhouse owner!


    How do I find greenhouses for sale?

    Greenhouses can be purchased from various sources. There are many online retailers that offer a wide range of greenhouses, or you can check with local garden centers and home improvement stores. Ensure to compare prices and read reviews before making a buying decision.

    What type of greenhouse is best for a novice gardener?

    For a novice gardener, a lean-to greenhouse or a hobby greenhouse is often a good choice. These greenhouses are smaller and easier to manage than a traditional or larger greenhouse, but still provide the ideal conditions for greenhouse growing. They're perfect for growers who are just starting to explore the world of greenhouse gardening.

    What is a traditional greenhouse like?

    A traditional greenhouse is typically a standalone structure with a metal or wood frame and a glass covering. Traditional greenhouses come in various sizes and provide excellent light and heat control, making them suitable for growing a wide range of plants. Depending on the chosen size, these greenhouses can accommodate benches for plants and additional greenhouse accessories.

    What do I need to consider when siting a greenhouse?

    When siting a greenhouse, you need to consider its exposure to sunshine, access to water, and drainage. Greenhouses should be positioned for maximum exposure to sunlight, ideally not shaded by trees or other structures. It's also important that the site has good drainage to prevent water-logging. Consideration must also be given to the convenience of access from your home.

    What is the ideal environment to grow plants in a greenhouse?

    The ideal environment to grow plants in a greenhouse is one that provides ample sunlight, maintains a consistent temperature, and has good ventilation. A greenhouse should provide a controlled environment that can be adjusted as needed to optimize the health of the plants. This can be achieved with the right greenhouse structure, covering, and location.

    Previous article Finding the Best Location to Position Your Greenhouse for Maximum Sunlight
    Next article 4mm vs 6mm Polycarbonate Greenhouse Panels: Which is Better?

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