What is the Difference Between a Greenhouse and Hothouse?

Crops require warmth for optimum growth. Greenhouses and hothouses provide the needed warm conditions for crop growth in and out of season.

Their difference is seen in their heating mode. The greenhouse is heated by natural heat from the sunlight, while a hothouse is artificially heated to supplement the sunlight during the cold seasons.

Below is a comparison table for greenhouses vs hothouses.

Depends on natural sunlight to heat the air temperatures.Depends on artificial heating to maintain a warm climate.
Suitable for moderate-warmer climates,Suitable for colder climates
Mostly uses polyethylene and glass glazing,Mostly uses polycarbonate glazing
Cheap to put up and maintain,Expensive to erect and maintain, especially during winter

Greenhouse Vs Hothouse: What’s the difference between them?

Most gardeners use these two terms interchangeably to refer to any farm structure covered with plastic or glass for housing crops. However, to the trained eye, there is more to these structures than meets the eye.

Greenhouses are heated to optimal temperatures by natural sunlight, while hothouses are heated by sunlight and artificial supplementary means. Thus, hothouses can support the growth of crops throughout the year, even when it is out of season.

What Are Greenhouses?

Greenhouses are the most common structures in temperate regions where temperatures are warm. The greenhouse is made of glass or polyethylene materials. This model can be erected using wood or metallic beams.

The glazing material allows sunrays to strike through it and warm the air and soil in the greenhouse. The glazing material traps the warm air in the greenhouse to maintain the optimal temperature.

When the temperature drops below average, the soil’s warmth maintains crops’ growth in the structures. During the winter, when temperatures drop to freezing points, you can supplement the greenhouse warmth by installing heating facilities to keep the required warmth for plant growth.

What are Hothouses?

Hothouses are greenhouse-like structures with additional heating measures to supplement and maintain the required warmth for crops throughout the year.

Modern hothouses are made of polycarbonate glazing materials. Hothouses do not depend much on natural sunlight as heat is artificially supplied. Some heat supplements include a charcoal/wood stove, paraffin heater, gas heaters, and the use of compost manure.

Hothouses major in preserving the generated heat from loss to the environment by closing the ventilators during winter. Ventilation is controlled to reduce the loss of warmth.

Which Structure Is Good For Which Condition?

As a gardener, you must understand what structure you need for a specific weather condition. Both the greenhouse and the hothouse serve the same purpose of providing the required warmth for plant optimal growth.

However, greenhouses are well suited for warm conditions where the temperatures remain moderate (around 35 degrees) throughout the year. This is because they only depend on sunlight to heat the structure.

On the other hand, a hothouse is better suited for regions that experience extremely low temperatures, such as areas with snow. This is because the hothouse is artificially heated and does not depend on the external climate to support crop growth.

If you have a greenhouse, do not erect another structure to install a hothouse. Install a heating mechanism to supplement the warmth from sunlight, if any, artificially.

Can A Greenhouse Also Be A Hothouse?

To answer this question, I want to highlight the differentiating factor between a hothouse and a greenhouse. The mode of heating these structures brings out all the differences. A greenhouse depends on sunlight while a hothouse is artificially heated.

So, therefore, it is true that a greenhouse can be a hothouse but not always. How is this possible? If you supplement the heat in a greenhouse with artificial heat, the greenhouse acts like a hothouse.

However, a hothouse cannot be a greenhouse as the structural design will not allow enough sunlight to penetrate. Most greenhouses become hothouses during the winter when temperatures hit below freezing point, and plants must be supplemented with artificial heat.


Below are some of the questions that gardeners have repeatedly asked. I have answered them from an expert point of view to solve your mystery about hothouses vs greenhouses.

  • Do I Need A Greenhouse In A Hot Climate?

Yes. You do need a greenhouse in the hot climate. Greenhouses are helpful in controlling the temperatures for optimum plant growth.

A hot climate may cause water stress and excess evapotranspiration, leading to plant wilting and immature growth. Greenhouses are modified to play a significant role in stabilizing the temperatures inside the greenhouse.

During the hot climate, open the ventilators to allow proper air circulation. Proper air circulation provides for balance between carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange. Water the plants more to cater for water loss through transpiration.

  • Should Greenhouses Have Ventilation?

Yes. Greenhouses should have ventilation, especially during the summer.

Ventilation helps in temperature regulation and humidity regulation. Ventilators also offer room for air circulation, ensuring a proper balance between the carbon dioxide and oxygen in the greenhouses.

If pests and fungus often attack your greenhouse, I recommend you install ventilators to discourage their existence in humid environments.

  • How Do Hothouses Work?

Hothouses work in a similar way to the greenhouse. However, the hothouses have their temperature artificially controlled. Artificial heating maintains heat throughout the year, allowing the growth of plants that require a warm climate.

Hothouses are heated by electrical heaters. The internal environment is not affected by the exterior weather conditions. In hothouses, plants can be grown even out of season.

  • How Do Greenhouses Trap Heat?

Greenhouses trap the heat from the sunlight using the glazing cover. Greenhouse glazing material allows heat to penetrate through to the plants readily but inhibits the heat from escaping from the structure.

Glazing materials include polycarbonate materials, polythene plastics, or glasses to trap heat. Seal all leaks and unnecessary openings to ensure maximum heat is trapped.


I want to conclude by mentioning that both structures are designed to provide the optimum temperatures for the growth of crops in the garden.

Greenhouses are heated by means of natural sunlight. The structure is designed to preserve the heat absorbed during the day to keep the air warm for plants’ growth at night.

On the other hand, hothouses depend on supplementary heating to maintain a warm climate throughout the year. Hothouses support the growth of crops even when out of season.

During the cold climate, you can artificially heat your greenhouse to supplement the sunlight. Ensure proper structural ventilation to avoid dumpiness and accumulation of excess carbon dioxide.

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