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    Types of greenhouses

    Authored by Leah Chester-Davis

    Greenhouses are a great way to extend the season. When considering what may be the best structure for you, it is helpful to have a good grasp on why you wish to add a greenhouse and how you plan to use it. Armed with that information, it is time to look at options to decide what may be the best match. Possibilities are plentiful for hobbyists and home gardeners. They range from the most simple and affordable to elaborate designs that are both expensive and magazine worthy.

    Greenhouse types for home

    • Portable or mini greenhouses
    • Lean-to 
    • Attached or abutting
    • Gable-roofed
    • Quonset
    • Gothic arch and a-frame

    Portable or mini greenhouses

    If you have limited space or budget, or you simply want to try a small, temporary greenhouse to decide whether you wish to invest more, consider giving one of these a try. Many are available and range from ones that look like a tiered shelving system with an opaque cover that may be best for seed starting but may not hold up well in some outdoor conditions to a 10 x 10 greenhouse kit that includes a frame, cover, and zippered door and rear vented window for air circulation.  

    Lean-to greenhouses

    The name describes how this type of greenhouse is situated against an existing structure such as a home, garage, or barn, using the outside wall of another structure as one of its walls. They can be custom made with the appropriate materials and plans or kits are available. These can be good choices for those with limited space. Due to the structure's nature, they will need to be only around 7 to 12 feet wide, according to Clemson Extension. One of the advantages of this type is that it will likely be near electricity and water. Because lean-tos are limited, they will be more affordable than other options. 

    Attached even-span or abutting greenhouses

    This type looks like the standard greenhouse that most people visualize, except one gable end is attached to a house or other structure. It has a nice, attractive look and complements many house styles. Custom designs can even veer from the standard greenhouse look to rounded, architectural designs. 

    Gable-roofed freestanding

    When it comes to the type of greenhouse that most people may think of gable roofed is it. This freestanding greenhouse has sidewalls, end walls, and a gable roof. It can be small, as little as 6 x 8 feet or quite large, 12 to 20 feet or more. This type is usually quite an investment but can be worth it when it comes to enhancing your gardening efforts, your landscape, and your enjoyment. 


    This style is noted for its ease of construction. It is oval at the top and can be a good choice if your focus is mainly on growing plants and not satisfying neighborhood guidelines and regulations. In other words, it is not the prettiest structure but it’s functional. Another feature of this type is that a covering other than glass is typically used, such as plastic like polyethylene film or sheeting.

    Gothic arch and A-frame

    Both have an A-frame style, but the Gothic sides are more rounded instead of straight. An A-frame has less usable space. Either can be constructed relatively easily and inexpensively, particularly when using some type of plastic materials to cover it. 

    Greenhouse materials


    The materials you use to construct your greenhouse will likely depend on factors such as budget and location. A lean-to or attached or abutting greenhouse, particularly if adjoining your home, will look best using glass or a high-quality grade of fiberglass. Neighborhood associations or zoning regulations may dictate the materials to use.  If your neighborhood, your budget, and your interests allow, a glass greenhouse can add a pleasing architectural element to your landscape that will be both a joy to use and view. 


    On the other hand, if your main objective is to add a greenhouse to your property and you have a spot where some type of structure won’t cause an uproar from neighbors, or even if you prefer to have the greenhouse out of sight of your own home, a fiberglass or some type of plastic covering may be good options. Plastic is the more budget-conscious option while also being quite functional. Fiberglass is used commercially but for the best quality it can be expensive, and some of the more affordable options may discolor. According to Georgia Extension, plastic greenhouses are less expensive, generally one-sixth to one-tenth per square foot, as the costs of glass. Plastic greenhouses can be heated satisfactorily, and the plants can grow just as well under plastic as glass. Another bonus is that plastic greenhouses are considered temporary structures and usually carry a low assessment rate for tax purposes or may not be taxed at all. 

    Georgia Extension provides this information on types of plastic materials:

    • Polyethylene is low in cost, lightweight, and stands up well in most seasons except summer when the heat can deteriorate it and result in the need to replace it often. 
    • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) is two to five times more expensive than polyethylene but when installed properly can hold up for as long as 5 years.

    Other materials include acrylic and fiber reinforced polyester. When considering options, check the manufacturer’s information for not only cost but longevity, transmissivity, susceptibility to UV light, dust and pollution degradation, flammability, and ease of installation. 

    More greenhouse know-how

    Keep your plants healthy and greenhouse stocked with this list of greenhouse supply must-haves.
    Get a head start on your garden. Learn more about how to start seedlings and get them ready for transplanting.