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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Victoria amazonica (giant Amazon water lily)[1] at the botanical Garden in Braunschweig, Germany
The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, Brussels, Belgium. An example of 19th-century greenhouse architecture
The Eden Project, in Cornwall, England, the world's largest greenhouse

A greenhouse (also called a glasshouse) is a building where plants are cultivated.

A greenhouse is a structure with a glass or plastic roof and frequently glass or plastic walls; it heats up because incoming solar radiation from the sun warms plants, soil, and other things inside the building faster than heat can escape the structure. Air warmed by the heat from hot interior surfaces is retained in the building by the roof and wall. These structures range in size from small sheds to very large buildings.

Greenhouses can be divided into glass greenhouses and plastic greenhouses. Plastics mostly used are PEfilm and multiwall sheet in PC or PMMA. Commercial glass greenhouses are often high tech production facilities for vegetables or flowers. The glass greenhouses are filled with equipment like screening installations, heating, cooling, lighting and may be automatically controlled by a computer.

The glass used for a greenhouse works as a barrier to air flow and its effect is to trap energy within the greenhouse, which heats both the plants and the ground inside it. This warms the air near the ground, and this air is prevented from rising and flowing away. This can be demonstrated by opening a small window near the roof of a greenhouse: the temperature drops considerably. This principle is the basis of the autovent automatic cooling system. A miniature greenhouse is known as a cold frame.



Greenhouses protect crops from too much heat or cold, shield plants from dust storms and blizzards, and help to keep out pests. Light and temperature control allows greenhouses to turn inarable land into arable land, thereby improving food production in marginal environments.

Because greenhouses allow certain crops to be grown throughout the year, greenhouses are increasingly important in the food supply of high latitude countries. One of the largest greenhouse complexes in the world is in Almeria, Spain, where greenhouses cover almost 50,000 acres (200 km2). Sometimes called the sea of plastics.

Greenhouses are often used for growing flowers, vegetables, fruits, and tobacco plants. Bumblebees are the pollinators of choice for most greenhouse pollination, although other types of bees have been used, as well as artificial pollination. Hydroponics can be used in greenhouses as well to make the most use of the interior space.

Besides tobacco, many vegetables and flowers are grown in greenhouses in late winter and early spring, and then transplanted outside as the weather warms. Started plants are usually available for gardeners in farmers' markets at transplanting time. Special greenhouse varieties of certain crops such as tomatoes are generally used for commercial production.

The closed environment of a greenhouse has its own unique requirements, compared with outdoor production. Pests and diseases, and extremes of heat and humidity, have to be controlled, and irrigation is necessary to provide water. Significant inputs of heat and light may be required, particularly with winter production of warm-weather vegetables.

Because the temperature and humidity of greenhouses must be constantly monitored to ensure optimal conditions, a wireless sensor network can be used to gather data remotely. The data is transmitted to a control location and used to control heating, cooling, and irrigation systems.[2]

In addition to growing and displaying plants, greenhouses, at least in the in the United States, are also widely used as areas where the public buys plants from. Frequently, the same greenhouse where the plant is grown, is the one where the public shops from and purchases in.

Biologist John Todd invented a greenhouse that turns sewage into water, through the natural processes of bacteria, plants, and animals.

An agricultural pioneer known as Pete Johnson has recently become a successful pioneer in the use of movable greenhouses in farming. [3]


Cucumbers reached to the ceiling in a greenhouse in Richfield, Minnesota, where market gardeners grew a wide variety of produce for sale in Minneapolis. ca. 1910
19th Century Orangerie in Weilburg, Germany

The idea of growing plants in environmentally controlled areas has existed since Roman times. The Roman emperor Tiberius ate a cucumber-like[4] vegetable daily. The Roman gardeners used artificial methods (similar to the greenhouse system) of growing to have it available for his table every day of the year. Cucumbers were planted in wheeled carts which were put in the sun daily, then taken inside to keep them warm at night.[5] The cucumbers were stored under frames or in cucumber houses glazed with either oiled cloth known as "specularia" or with sheets of mica, according to the description by Pliny the Elder.[6]

The first modern greenhouses were built in Italy in the thirteenth century[7] to house the exotic plants that explorers brought back from the tropics. They were originally called giardini botanici (botanical gardens). The concept of greenhouses soon spread to the Netherlands and then England, along with the plants. Some of these early attempts required enormous amounts of work to close up at night or to winterize. There were serious problems with providing adequate and balanced heat in these early greenhouses.

Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a French botanist, is often credited with building the first practical modern greenhouse in Leiden, Holland to grow medicinal tropical plants.

Originally on the estates of the rich, with the growth of the science of botany greenhouses spread to the universities. The French called their first greenhouses orangeries, since they were used to protect orange trees from freezing. As pineapples became popular pineries, or pineapple pits, were built. Experimentation with the design of greenhouses continued during the Seventeenth Century in Europe as technology produced better glass and construction techniques improved. The greenhouse at the Palace of Versailles was an example of their size and elaborateness; it was more than 500 feet long, 42 feet wide, and 45 feet high.

In the nineteenth Century the largest greenhouses were built. The conservatory at Kew Gardens in England is a prime example of the Victorian greenhouse. Although intended for both horticultural and non-horticultural exhibition these included London's Crystal Palace, the New York Crystal Palace and Munich’s Glaspalast. Joseph Paxton, who had experimented with glass and iron in the creation of large greenhouses as the head gardener at Chatsworth, in Derbyshire, working for the Duke of Devonshire, designed and built the first, London's Crystal Palace. A major architectural achievement in monumental greenhouse building were the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken (1874-1895) for King Leopold II of Belgium.

In Japan, the first greenhouse was built in 1880 by Samuel Cocking, a British merchant who exported herbs.

In the Twentieth Century the geodesic dome was added to the many types of greenhouses. A notable example is the Eden Project, in Cornwall.

Greenhouse structures adapted in the 1960s when wider sheets of polyethylene film became widely available. Hoop houses were made by several companies and were also frequently made by the growers themselves. Constructed out of aluminum extrusions, special galvanized steel tubing, or even just lengths of steel or PVC water pipe, construction costs were greatly reduced. This meant many more greenhouses on smaller farms and garden centers. Polyethylene film durability increased greatly when more effective inhibitors were developed and added in the 1970s. These UV inhibitors extended the usable life of the film from one or two years up to 3 and eventually 4 or more years.

Gutter connected greenhouses became more prevalent in the 1980s and 1990s. These greenhouses have two or more bays connected by a common wall, or row of support posts. Heating inputs were reduced as the ratio of floor area to roof area was increased substantially. Gutter connected greenhouses are now commonly used both in production and in situations where plants are grown and sold to the public as well. Gutter connected greenhouses are commonly covered with a double layer of polyethylene film with air blown between to provide increased heating efficiencies, or structured polycarbonate materials.


A shadehouse serves the opposite purpose of a greenhouse; it is used to protect cultivated plants from excessive heat, light or dryness.


See also



  1. ^ Plants Profile for Victoria amazonica, USDA Plants Database
  2. ^ Banner Engineering (November 2009), Application Notes,  
  3. ^
  4. ^ Annals of Botany, doi:10.1093/aob/mcm242 The Cucurbits of Mediterranean Antiquity: Identification of Taxa from Ancient Images and Descriptions. Jules Janick1, Harry S. Paris and David C. Parrish
  5. ^ Richmond Oak: An Update On Our History of Conservatory Glass
  6. ^ rogueclassicism: Roman Greenhouses? Cartilaginum generis extraque terram est cucumis, mira voluptate Tiberio principi expetitus. nullo quippe non die contigit ei, pensiles eorum hortos promoventibus in solem rotis olitoribus rursusque hibernis diebus intra specularium munimenta revocantibus
  7. ^ Italian Government Tourist Board: Botanical Gardens in Italy "the first structures of this kind were already founded in the 13th century at the Vatican in Rome and in the 14th century at Salerno, although both are no longer in existence."


  • Cunningham, Anne S. (2000) Crystal palaces : garden conservatories of the United States Princeton Architectural Press, New York, ISBN 1-56898-242-9 ;
  • Lemmon, Kenneth (1963) The covered garden Dufour, Philadelphia;
  • Muijzenberg, Erwin W B van den (1980) A history of greenhouses Institute for Agricultural Engineering, Wageningen, Netherlands;
  • Vleeschouwer, Olivier de (2001) Greenhouses and conservatories Flammarion, Paris, ISBN 2-08-010585-X ;
  • Woods, May (1988)Glass houses: history of greenhouses, orangeries and conservatories Aurum Press, London, ISBN 0-906053-85-4 ;

External links

Simple English

A greenhouse (also called a glasshouse or hothouse) is a building where plants such as flowers and vegetables are grown. It usually has a glass or clear (transparent) plastic roof. Many greenhouses also have glass or plastic walls. Greenhouses get hot during the day. It is because the sun's heat warms the plants and soil (dirt) inside the greenhouse and they stay warm through the night, because the heat cannot escape.


Types of greenhouses

Greenhouses come in many different sizes. Some people have small greenhouses in their backyard, outside their home. Plant companies have large greenhouses. Their structures range in size from small sheds to very large buildings. Small greenhouses are often called mini greenhouses or tomato houses. They are used by people with smaller gardens, those on a budget as well as those that want to start off their seeds and seedling in a protected environment as we as those growing things that need warmer conditions - say tomatoes.

Role of green houses

Many vegetables and flowers are grown in greenhouses in late winter and early spring, when it is still too cold to grow plants outside. Then these plants are moved to the soil outside as the weather warms up. Greenhouses are used to grow crops in cold countries such as Canada. The largest group of greenhouses in the world is in Leamington, Ontario (in Canada), where about 200 acres (0.8 km²) of tomatoes are grown in glass greenhouses.

Gardening in greenhouses

, in Curitiba, Brazil.]]

Gardening and growing plants in greenhouses is different from growing plants outside. No rain can get inside a greenhouse, so gardeners have to put water on the plants. As well, greenhouses can get very hot from the sun's heat, so gardeners have to make sure that it does not get too hot for the plants. Greenhouses usually have vents that can be opened to let excess heat out. Some greenhouses have electric exhaust fans that automatically turn on if it gets too hot in the greenhouse.


In ancient Rome, Roman gardeners grew cucumbers in frames covered with oiled cloth or with sheets of mica. In the 1500s, Italian gardeners built structures for the tropical plants that explorers brought back to Italy. Jules Charles built the first modern greenhouse in Holland. In the 1800s, large greenhouses were built in England. They are also very warm

Other websites

Further reading

  • Woods, May (1988) Glass houses: history of greenhouses, orangeries and conservatories. Aurum Press, London, ISBN 0-906053-85-4.

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