How to Design and Build Your Own Greenhouse

For gardeners, it's an oasis for you and your plants.

Journie Crenshaw says that last summer, after the pandemic hit and quarantine living was well underway, her mother Lisa started to dream of having her very own greenhouse. Although the original plan was to build a simple structure to house their plants during the winter months, Crenshaw explains that she and her mom, who both live in Pickens, North Carolina, decided to turn it into their very own cozy cottage. Once the research and planning phase was over, the hard work began, and this ambitious mother-daughter duo put in hours of labor for their masterpiece: After staining over 60 pieces of wood by hand and five intense days of construction, they finally had their greenhouse, which they named The Garden Cottage.

woman standing outside backyard greenhouse
knape / Getty Images

For Crenshaw and her mom, this project not only strengthened their bond, but it also provided a source of joy for others who are in awe of the outcome. "Building the greenhouse has made the past year such a blessing," she says. "A greenhouse requires a lot of time and energy. From watering weekly to upkeep of your plants, it can become overwhelming if you let it, but being able to step back and see the masterpiece you've created can be so rewarding." If you're inspired to build a greenhouse of your own, Crenshaw offers some tips and tricks on how to approach this construction project.

Explore designs, then make it your own.

"One of the biggest tips we can give you is making sure you research all types of greenhouses to see what best fits your needs," says Crenshaw, who drafted their initial plan based off one she purchased from The Hillside Market ($21.66,, using their design as inspiration for her final plan. "One of the biggest elements that caught our eye with their design was the sloped roof. We also knew we wanted the greenhouse to be big enough to fill with plants and still have room to relax, which is why we expanded our plan to 12-by-16 feet with a sloping roof." This was a must-have for two reasons: tall ceilings to hang plants and, of course, a dream 10-foot Christmas tree.

Choose a location with direction of sunshine in mind.

Gardeners like Crenshaw recommend studying the orientation of the sun in your location to ensure your greenhouse will get the perfect balance of sun and shade. "A greenhouse cannot survive without sunlight, so making sure you get at least four hours of sunshine is important," says Crenshaw. "We located our greenhouse in a quaint spot on our property that has great sunshine throughout the morning, then moves to shade during the afternoon." One thing that helps with balancing warmer temperatures when it's not shaded is an exhaust fan in the back of the greenhouse. "For cooler days," she adds, "we have two electric Palma heaters ($236.18, to keep the plants warm and cozy."

Measure twice and cut once.

"This is a famous saying in our household but it's just as true when it comes to building a greenhouse," says Crenshaw. "And as my dad would say, remember to measure twice and cut once when you begin your build!" Figure out what size greenhouse works for you and how much wood, clear siding, and supplies will be needed. "We allowed for extra wood so we could have our ceiling beams to hang plants, wall shelves to sit décor, and to have our potting station that's out back," she adds. Other important supplies to consider are a rain barrel and gutter; this is an easy way to water plants without having water supply.

Pick your plants for growing.

The most important thing about designing your greenhouse is to make sure your plan works for you and your plants. "The whole reason we dreamed of having our own greenhouse was to store my mom's huge ferns during the winter that could not go to waste," explains Crenshaw. The best place to start is with the plants you already have. "During the winter months, we were able to pick tulips, harvest tomatoes, and grow zinnias from seed in our greenhouse," she adds. "We have other plants such as geraniums, begonias, and snapdragons that have been in full bloom since being moved into the greenhouse last August. Fill your space with the plants that make you the happiest and remember to show them love by watering, pruning, and nurturing."

Personal touches make the difference.

"One of my mom's favorite things is her driftwood collection, so we wanted to include some of her pieces into our greenhouse," says Crenshaw. One of these pieces included a custom-made driftwood light, "which is a true statement piece when you walk in," as she describes it. Among the other details: a driftwood bench sitting among the plants, pebble rocks as the flooring, and a set of fountains. "The water creates such a peaceful place to relax and unwind," says Crenshaw. "It's important to include special touches in your greenhouse that speak to you and make your space a peaceful getaway."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles