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How to choose a greenhouse - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine

How to choose the best greenhouse

Thinking of buying a greenhouse? There's lots to consider – we explain the options.

A greenhouse is a must for the keen gardener – it’s ideal for sowing seeds, taking cuttings, growing tender plants and crops and overwintering tender plants.

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There’s a huge array of options when it comes to choosing a greenhouse, and prices can vary from a few hundred to many thousands of pounds. The greenhouse you eventually choose will come down to two main factors – the area you have available and your budget.

Before you do anything else, decide on the site – this will determine the size of greenhouse you can install. Read more about siting a greenhouse.

You’ll also need to decide whether you are able to lay the foundations and build the greenhouse yourself, or whether you will need to get it installed – read more about building a greenhouse.

In the buyers’ guide below, we explain how to choose a greenhouse and which factors you should consider. We’ve also pulled together a selection of some of the best greenhouses which incorporate some of the different aspects highlighted in the guide.

Once you’ve chosen your greenhouse, you’ll need some kit – read more about the essential kit for your greenhouse and discover the best greenhouse accessories you might need. And, if you want to keep your greenhouse in tip top condition, our experts have tested the best pressure washers so you can buy in confidence. Or, perhaps you’re after outdoor storage rather than growing space? If so, we’ve found the best garden sheds including a clear guide on what to consider before you buy.

But now, you have the exciting prospect of choosing a greenhouse. Read on for our advice or you can skip straight to our selection of greenhouses below.

How to choose a greenhouse

There's a huge array of options when it comes to choosing a greenhouse, and prices can vary from a few hundred to many thousands of pounds.

Size of your greenhouse

Using a soil sieve in a greenhouse

Greenhouses come in a range of widths and lengths, in 2ft increments. It’s best to go for one that’s at least 6ft wide; 8ft wide will enable you to put staging (shelves) on both sides. The eaves should be at least 1.5m (5ft) tall to let in plenty of light. Most gardeners wish they had a bigger greenhouse, so choose the biggest you can afford and have room for.


Shape of your greenhouse

Traditional greenhouse with a cold frame attached

There are three main greenhouse shapes – traditional, lean-to and octagonal. Newer shapes such as domes are also available. Lean-tos takes advantage of an existing wall, for example a south-facing house or garage wall. The bricks hold the heat of the sun, especially at night, ideal for growing. An octagonal or dome shape is useful if you have an awkward space.


Timber or metal greenhouse?

Coated aluminium greenhouse

Aluminium is cheap, low maintenance and can be powder-coated in a range of colours. Timber, usually cedar, is attractive but more expensive, and needs more upkeep. It’s better at maintaining a constant temperature. Wooden models can be glazed to the ground but can also be half-walled with timber or bricks. This holds heat well but means you can’t grow plants at ground level.


Which greenhouse glazing to go for?

Cleaning greenhouse vents

Horticultural glass lets in the most light, is long lasting and is easily replaced if broken. Toughened glass is more expensive but a better option in high-traffic areas or if you have kids. It still breaks, but shatters more safely. Polycarbonate is cheaper, doesn’t break and has better insulation properties, but lets less light through and can pop out of its frame in high winds.


Greenhouse ventilation

Opening a greenhouse window

Ventilation is essential in summer. Ideally, a 6ft x 8ft greenhouse would have two hinged roof vents, as well as a side vent. It’s worth paying for an automatic vent opener, or you can fit your own. Find out how to install an automatic greenhouse vent opener.


Greenhouse floor

A firm, level floor, such as paving slabs or gravel on top of hard core and sand, allow for easy access and drainage and can be wetted in summer (damped down) to keep the air humid. A soil border, is a good way to grow greenhouse crops. 

Watering can

Alternatives to a greenhouse

Growing within a polytunnel
  • A polytunnel is cheaper but less attractive option but a good way of growing summer crops such as tomatoes, and winter crops such as lettuce. It doesn’t hold heat well in winter, so won’t give enough protection for tender winter plants. Find out how to build a polytunnel
  • A cold frame is used to supplement a greenhouse – hardening off plants, taking cuttings and shielding plants from the worst of the winter weather. It can also be used for sowing seeds that need cool conditions and gives good protection for winter lettuces and salads. Read our step-by-step guide to making a cold frame and find the right one for you with our round up of the best garden cold frames.
  • Mini greenhouses are useful in small gardens. They can be used to raise seedlings or grow crops such as aubergines, peppers and tomatoes

Nine of the best greenhouses

Browse our selection of greenhouses below. If it is necessary to purchase a base separately on a particular model, we have specified this in the description.

 

Forest Garden Vale 8×6 Toughened Glass Apex Greenhouse

Forest Garden Vale 8×6 Toughened Glass Apex Greenhouse

This greenhouse is made from natural timber which has been pressure treated for durability. The model features toughened glass windows around the perimeter and over the roof. The traditional apex roof and central door make this a classic style greenhouse and a 15 year guarantee against rot is included. It also comes with internal potting shelves and the roof windows include Auto Vents to allow air to circulate more freely.

Dimensions: 8x6ft / H238 x W193cm

Price: £2,961.45

Buy Forest Garden Vale 8×6 Greenhouse at B&Q


 

Waltons 8 x 8 Shiplap Combi Greenhouse and Wooden Shed

Waltons 8 x 8 Shiplap Combi Greenhouse and Wooden Shed

This hybrid design combines the growing power of a greenhouse with the convenience of a storage shed. The windows are made from shatterproof styrene and there is a galvanised steel pad bolt supplied with a lock and key for extra security. There’s also a 10 year guarantee included.

Dimensions: 8x8ft / H213 x W249 x D249cm

Price: £1099.99

Buy Waltons Shiplap Combi Greenhouse at Waltons


 

Palram 8 x 12ft Essence Silver Greenhouse

Palram 8 x 12ft Essence Silver Greenhouse with Polycarbonate Panels and Twinwall on Roof

This large greenhouse should be big enough to meet most plant lovers’ needs. Made from polycarbonate panels with a rust-resistant aluminium frame, there’s also a rain gutter for wet days and two vents for hot weather. The glazing panels are 100% UV protected.

Dimensions: 8x12ft / H367 x W244 x D229cm

Price: £699.99

Buy Palram Essence Silver Greenhouse from Robert Dyas


 

Rob McAlister GP4U-2569 Mini 180 Horti Hood Growing Dome

Rob McAlister GP4U-2569 Mini 180 Horti Hood Growing Dome

If you’re short on space, this miniature growing dome could be an ideal solution. Easy to set up, dismantle and move, it offers protection and a warm growing environment to help extend the growing season. Made from UV stabilised PVC it can be erected in a similar manner to a tent and simply pegged down at the edges to secure.

Dimensions: H75 x W110 x 150cm

Price: £32.99

Buy Rob McAlister Growing Dome at Amazon


 

Palram Canopia Hybrid Silver Greenhouse 6x8ft

Palram Canopia Hybrid Silver Greenhouse 6x8ft

This greenhouse is designed in the traditional apex, shed-style shape. The wall panels are made from clear polycarbonate glazing, with a maintenance-free aluminium frame. There are integrated rain gutters included for collecting water and there’s a 5 year guarantee from the manufacturer, too.

Dimensions: 6x8ft / H209 x W191 x D259cm

Price: £450

Buy Palram Canopia Hybrid Silver Greenhouse 6x8ft at Argos


 

Ida 7800 Lean-To Greenhouse

Ida 7800 Lean-To Greenhouse

This lean-to style greenhouse is designed to fit along an exterior wall. There’s plenty of storage space inside and double sliding doors means less wasted space. The aluminium frame is anodised, meaning it should stay looking in top condition. Two vents are included in the roof but the base on this model will need to be purchased separately.

Dimensions: 6x12ft / H221 x W387 x D201cm

Price: £858.99

Buy Ida 7800 Lean-To Greenhouse at Primrose


 

Robinsons Repton Victorian Greenhouse

Robinsons Repton Victorian Greenhouse

This Victorian style greenhouse would make a striking feature in the garden. There’s a choice of six sizes depending on your outdoor area, plus five colour options including ivory, pastel sage and white. This model features toughened safety glass windows which are 4mm thick. There are also two automatically opening roof vents plus glazing bars over the windows for extra strength. There’s a 10 year guarantee included with this model.

Dimensions: 6.5x7ft / 6.5×8.7ft / 6.5×10.8ft / 6.5×12.8ft / 6.5×23.4ft / 6.5×25.4ft

Price: from £4,841

Buy Robinsons Repton Victorian Greenhouse at Greenhouse People


 

Alton Evolution Octagonal Cedar Greenhouse

Alton Evolution Octagonal Cedar Greenhouse

This stylish octagonal greenhouse is made from Western Red Cedar wood which should naturally deter pests. There are “louvre” vents (slatted venting) in the glazing which is made from toughened safety glass. There’s also a choice of four different sizes depending on the space you have available.

Dimensions: 6.6×6.6ft / 9.2×6.6ft / 9.2×9.2ft / 9.2ftx11.10ft

Price: from £3,383

Buy Alton Evolution Octagonal Cedar Greenhouse at Greenhouse People


 

Rhino Classic 6×8 Greenhouse

Rhino Classic 6×8 Greenhouse

This classic greenhouse from Rhino has toughened glass glazing plus both roof and louvre vents. The heavy duty frame has 60% more aluminium than similar models, so it should be very strong and sturdy. There are two hanging basket rails included inside plus internal gutters and downpipes to collect rainwater. There’s an impressive 25 year guarantee included with this model.

Dimensions: H7.7 x W6.4 x D8.3ft

Price: £1,249

Buy Rhino Classic 6×8 Greenhouse at Greenhouse Direct


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This review was last updated in April 2022. We apologise if anything has changed in price or availability.