The short answer to this question is, unfortunately, no.
The long answer is maybe, but it is very difficult – if you love a challenge, you can give it a try!
The main reason why it’s not a good idea to grow temperate perennials (perennials that need a seasonal temperature change, or a ‘winter’ period) indoors is that they do absolutely require a cold, winter ‘rest’ period. This primes them for their annual cycle of spring new growth, summer filling out, fall die-back, and winter rest.
All plants have hormones that are secreted by their cells that control their growth, how they grow, and when. In temperate perennials, these are linked to seasonal light and temperature changes that happen naturally outdoors.
Basically, when you give temperate perennials a fairly unvarying temperature and light levels (like in indoors environments), their internal systems don’t work quite right! Frequently, the symptoms are a lack of vigor or excessively stretched, pale plant stems, and a slow decline to eventual plant death.
They can also suffer from environmental stresses, due to the unnatural environment. We’ve created an ideal indoor environment for human beings – we have vents that blow out heat in winter, keep it chilly in summer, made our buildings air-tight and dry (no wind or humidity!) and have developed low-glare, dim lighting in the spectrums that work best for the human eye. These are, regrettably, very poor and confusing situations for temperate plants!
Now for the challenge – you can indeed grow just about anything indoors, but you have to modify your growing space accordingly!
Requirements to Grow Temperate Perennials Indoors
The first requirement (and frequently most important for all indoor plants) is light. Light is commonly measured in footcandles (the amount of illumination the inside surface of a one-foot-radius sphere would be receiving if there were a uniform point source of one candela in the exact center of the sphere. Alternatively, it can be defined as the illuminance on a one-square foot surface of which there is a uniformly distributed flux of one lumen.)
The average light level outdoors on a sunny day is around 1200 footcandles.
In the shade, that drops to 350 footcandles.
Inside a room with a window, about 200-800 footcandles (depending on how close to the window you are, the orientation of the window, direct sunlight, etc).
Inside an interior office (no windows, overhead lighting) only 30-40 footcandles!
A desk lamp only provides 30-80 footcandles, directly underneath!
Example of a light meter
This means that it is recommended to place your plants as close to a window with direct sunlight as possible, to acquire as much light as possible. Supplemental light is recommended, and frequently required (especially for full-sun plants!).
If you’d like to find out exactly how much light you have in any given area, you can buy a light meter on many hobby websites and Amazon (here’s a good example https://www.amazon.com/Professional-LX802-Hydroponics-Greenhouse-Architecture/dp/B00462LVGK)
LED grow light
Plants need special light spectrums – while humans enjoy full-spectrum or close to it, plants can only use certain sections of the spectrum (mostly red and blue) and require more of those. Plant ‘grow lights’ are sold in many stores as well as online (here’s an example https://www.amazon.com/TaoTronics-Miracle-Hydroponics-Greenhouse-Applicable/dp/B01HPIPM70/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1471624330&sr=8-1&keywords=grow+light&refinements=p_89%3ATaoTronics) – if you’re serious about growing plants indoors, it’s best to do your research and invest in a grow light if needed for best results!
A selection of hostas in pots
The other most important requirement is seasonal temperature. If you want to grow temperate perennials (like Hosta, Heuchera, anything grown outdoors in USDA growing zones 1-12) they will absolutely need a ‘winter’ cold period. This can be attained a number of ways (depending on the size of your plant and pot).
For the largest plants and pots, the only options tend to be either leaving them outside (covered or insulated) or in your garage over winter (if you live in the plants’ growing zone). You can also test how cool your basement gets, and if it does get cool enough (check the plants’ requirements, and growing zone winter temperatures), placing the pots there for a cooling period.
Hosta in small pot
If you live in an area where you have no winter cooling (or inadequate winter cooling for your choice of plant) I recommend sticking to smaller pots, or growing temperate plants indoors as annuals, and replacing them every spring.
For smaller plants and pots, you may be able to fit them in a fridge (they will have to be carefully covered and checked frequently to prevent drying out/excessive moisture). You can always follow the same instructions for large pots, and place small pots in basements, garages, or outdoors for winter as well.
If you are prepared to cater to your temperate perennials’ needs for light and temperature, the third requirement is water and humidity.
Frequently, indoor plants require much less water than outdoor-grown plants. Indoor plants do not transpire (water evaporation from leaves) as much as outdoor plants, since they don’t have wind or breezes to ‘pull’ the moisture away. They also tend to grow at a slower rate, so they just don’t need as much water to drive their food production system. This makes it easy to overwater indoor plants!
Example of a digital soil probe
Always check the soil moisture levels before watering, and develop an idea of how often the plant truly needs to be watered – there are commercial ‘soil probes’ available to measure soil moisture by either electronic means or physically pulling a soil sample from lower in the pot. Here’s some examples of soil probes of the electronic variety (https://www.amazon.com/Dr-Meter-Moisture-Hydrometer-Gardening-Advanced/dp/B01CXZEI16/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1471624504&sr=8-15&keywords=soil+probe)
and the physical variety
Example of a physical soil probe
Symptoms of overwatering include brown leaf tips, a funky smell to the potting mix, and stem or root rot. Fungus gnats are hard to get rid of and also love overwatered plants – small, irritating black flies buzzing around means no more water, please!
Example of a plant mister
Some plants require more moisture in the air, rather than at the roots – these would benefit from a light misting daily or frequently. You can purchase squirter or sprayer bottles for these plants, and use as recommended for the plant family/variety. An example here (https://www.amazon.com/Coolrunner-Vintage-Decorative-Ribbed-Mister/dp/B01EHHIVYS/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1471627302&sr=8-5&keywords=plant+mister).
As for potting mix, all indoor plants should ALWAYS be planted in a soilless media mix, which can be found at your local garden store. Garden or outdoor soil or dirt can frequently be problematic indoors, since it can be contaminated with insect pests and diseases. Soilless media is frequently ph-balanced and close to neutral, with good large pores to store water or air for growth, as well as allow easy root growth.
Garden soil (your own or purchased in bags) can tend to either be clayey (can ‘bind’ nutrients, making them difficult/impossible to access), or ‘sandy’ (refuse to ‘hold on’ to any nutrients, letting them leach out of the pot entirely). It also is prone to compaction, making smaller or no pores for water or air, and making it unnecessarily difficult for roots to grow through). Make sure you’ve purchased ‘soilless potting mix’ rather than bags labeled ‘garden soil’ or ‘potting soil’! Indoors is already a hard environment, let’s make it easy on the roots!
Indoor Plant Alternatives
If temperate perennials sound like too much work indoors, there are plants that are much more easily adapted to indoor environments! The Tropicals! Tropical plants are frequently offered in stores as ‘indoor’ plants because their ideal habitat is quite close to our indoor environment!
One of the many varieties of Draceana
Tropical plants (like Dracaena, Pothos, Ficus, and other plants native to USDA growing zone 13) require constant, fairly warm temperatures, plenty of moisture, and there are plenty of plants adapted for quite a bit of shade (understory natives)! These plants have the best chance of surviving and even thriving in an indoor environment without significant modifications. If you want to build yourself a lush, green indoor paradise, we recommend exploring these great families!
Here’s some links to articles with lists of easy-care tropical indoor plants!
(file:///C:/Users/Hostasdirect/Downloads/Lightlevels.pdf) (University of Denver, DU Portfolio – What do light levels really mean)