5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Greenhouses (But Should)

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Sure, you may know a few greenhouse facts such as they are typically used to grow plants. But there’s a lot more to these structures than meets the eye.

A greenhouse is typically a glass or plastic-enclosed structure that is used for the cultivation of plants. They can be found in various sizes, from small backyard greenhouses to large commercial ones.

Greenhouses provide a controlled environment for plants, resulting in accelerated growth rates and increased yields. However, they can also be challenging to maintain, as high humidity levels and warm temperatures can create perfect conditions for pests and diseases.

In addition, greenhouses can be expensive to build and operate, making them out of reach for many home gardeners. But for those who take advantage of them, greenhouses can be a great way to get a head start on the growing season.

Here are five surprising facts about greenhouses you may not know – but should.

1. Greenhouses aren’t just for plants

facts about greenhouses

Greenhouses are often associated with flowers and gardening, but their uses go far beyond that. In fact, greenhouses can be used for various purposes, from growing food to housing exotic animals.

One of the most common uses for greenhouses is as a place to start seedlings. The controlled environment of a greenhouse allows gardeners to get a head start on the growing season by providing warmth and protection from the elements.

Greenhouses can also be used to grow plants that require specific conditions, such as orchids or cacti.

In addition, many farmers use greenhouses to grow fruits and vegetables out of season. They can extend the growing season and provide fresh produce year-round by controlling the temperature and humidity.

Finally, some people use greenhouses as sunrooms, where they can enjoy the sunlight without dealing with the cold weather outside. As you can see, there are many different uses for greenhouses beyond just gardening.

So if you’re thinking about getting one, don’t limit yourself to just growing tomatoes!

2. Greenhouse gardening has a long history

It’s hard to imagine a world without greenhouses. These vital structures allow us to grow plants and vegetables all year round, regardless of outside weather.

But where did greenhouses come from? The history of these fascinating buildings is actually quite rich. Fun greenhouse fact 2: The first known greenhouses were built in Rome during the 1st century AD. That’s like a long, long time ago.

However, The Romans did not use them for growing plants. Instead, they were used as sunny retreats for wealthy families. It wasn’t until the 16th century that greenhouses began to be used for their intended purpose.

The earliest examples were built in Europe, and they quickly became popular among the nobility and aristocracy. Greenhouses soon spread to the New World, where they were used to grow tropical plants and flowers. Today, greenhouses are an essential tool for many farmers and growers worldwide.

3. Greenhouses come in all shapes and sizes

types of greenhouses

Greenhouses come in all shapes and sizes, from small backyard models to large commercial operations. There are three main types: freestanding, lean-to, and conservatory.

Freestanding greenhouses are the most popular type, as they can be placed anywhere in the garden and don’t require any attached structures.

Lean-to greenhouses are narrower and attach to the side of a house or shed, while conservatories are more like sunrooms with large windows that allow sunlight to pour in.

As for shape, greenhouses can be round, square, or polygonal. They can also be tall and narrow or short and squat.

The size you need will depend on the amount of space available and the type of plants you want to grow. If you only have a few square feet to work with, you can opt for a mini greenhouse. Or, if you have a large yard, you might want to consider a freestanding or attached greenhouse.

4. There are many different types of greenhouses

vector image of a greenhouse with a gardener inside
Image via Depositphotos

There are many different types of greenhouses, including cold frames, hothouses, and solariums.

Cold frames are typically used to protect plants from frost damage. Hot houses are heated greenhouses that are used to grow tropical plants. And solariums are glass-enclosed rooms that are designed to capture the sun’s heat and light.

No matter what type of greenhouse you choose, you’re sure to enjoy the benefits of year-round gardening.

5. Greenhouses can be made from a variety of materials

greenhouse gardening in winter

Greenhouses are a vital component of any gardener’s toolkit, and there are a variety of different materials you can use to build one. One of the most common options is polyethylene, a lightweight plastic that is easy to work with.

However, UV rays can damage polyethylene, so it is crucial to choose a thick grade or coat the plastic with an ultraviolet-resistant paint.

Another popular material is glass, which offers excellent light transmission and good heat retention. However, glass is also fragile and can be difficult to work with.

Finally, there are a variety of composite materials that offer a balance of benefits and drawbacks. For example, polycarbonate is a type of plastic that is often used to construct greenhouses.

It has several advantages over glass, including being lighter and more shatter-resistant. In addition, polycarbonate can be treated to block out ultraviolet light, which is essential for protecting plants from sun damage.

One downside of polycarbonate is that it can yellow over time, making it less transparent. However, this is not typically a problem in greenhouses, as the plastic is usually covered with a film that helps to protect it from the sun.

Other Fun Facts About Greenhouses

  • Bees love greenhouses too! The warm, sheltered environment of a greenhouse creates a haven for pollinators like bees and butterflies, which helps your plants thrive.
  • Greenhouses aren’t just for gardeners, they’re for scientists too! Researchers use greenhouses to study plants in controlled conditions, aiding in advancements in agriculture and botany.
  • Space Gardening: NASA has been experimenting with greenhouses in space since the 1980s. These space-based greenhouses are crucial for sustaining astronauts on long-duration missions and potentially for future colonization efforts.
  • Greenhouse Effect: The term “greenhouse effect” doesn’t just apply to the structure. It’s also a phenomenon in Earth’s atmosphere where certain gases trap heat, similar to how a greenhouse traps warmth to create a suitable environment for plants.


So, the next time you see a greenhouse, remember it’s not just a shelter for exotic plants. It’s a testament to human ingenuity, a vital tool for science, and potentially the key to future space exploration. 

With a little planning and these surprising greenhouse facts in mind, you too can harness the power of these structures to grow year-round and experience the magic of nurturing life in a controlled environment.

  • Luke Rooks

    Luke is a passionate environmental advocate based in upstate New York. When he's not sharing tips on sustainability and wellness, you can find him hiking with his dog, Max.

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