Living wall planted with succulents

Planting ideas for urban gardens

Find out how to maximise your urban space with these container solutions.

Small urban gardens, balconies and roof terraces needn’t be a barrier to growing the plants you love. From living walls to hanging pots and growing climbers, you can utilise every last inch of your space to create an urban jungle in the heart of the city.

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Every urban space can be transformed by lush green foliage and fragrant blooms. These provide food and habitats for a variety of wildlife, and can help reduce risk of flooding as well as lower temperatures (known as the urban heat island effect).

What’s more, foliage on or around a building can insulate it, helping it stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Not only does this reduce carbon emissions but it saves on heating and air-conditioning bills, too.

Vertical planting is a fantastic way to maximise space and can dramatically increase your planting area. And for those who what to grow their own fruit and veg, these space-saving options provide the perfect opportunities for growing herbs, as well as smaller fruit and veg crops such as strawberries and salads.

The following suggestions will help you make the most of your small urban space.


Use balcony planters

Balcony planters planted up with coleus
Balcony planters planted up with coleus

If you have a balcony or small garden with a low fence, you can maximise your growing space with balcony planters. These nifty planters can be hung over the balcony rail or fence ledge, giving you extra growing space that needn’t impact on the area beneath it. One of the benefits of hanging pots over balcony rails and fences is that the display is temporary, so if you’re training a climber to grow into the space you can fill it in the meantime, and move the planters elsewhere when you need them. Here, brightly coloured pots are planted with coleus.


Erect a wall planter

Window planter planted wih herbaceous plants
Window planter planted wih herbaceous plants

Large, permanent wall planters can be fixed to a wall using strong brackets. Here, the planter is attached to the wall just beneath a window, giving enough space for other containers to be placed beneath it, if necessary. Buy the largest planter you can afford – the bigger the planter the more you can grow and the less time you will need to spend watering your plants.


Make the most of surfaces

Seating are with pots placed on top of a wall
Seating area with pots placed on top of a wall

Making the most of your small urban garden means using every last inch of space. Level surfaces, including the tops of low, sheltered walls, may be used as an additional space to house potted plants. Do this only where it’s safe to do so and use heavy pots such as terracotta, which are less likely to be blown off by wind. Avoid doing this on windy, exposed sites.


Fill trellis space with pots

Pots hung from trellis using hanging brackets
Pots hung from trellis using hanging brackets

Bare bits of trellis can quickly be filled by hanging pots planted with fast-growing bedding. Using brackets that can attach pots to a range of surfaces including fence posts, fences, walls, trellis and even drain pipes, you can fill space that would otherwise be bare – even only temporarily. These easy to use, multi-purpose brackets can be used again and again, to fill space where you need it at the time.


Grow climbers

Container-grown climbers growing against a wall
Container-grown climbers growing against a wall

Another way to utilise wall space is to grow climbing plants. Several species of clematis can be grown in containers, and will climb up a simple trellis or wire frame, attached to the wall. For hungry perennial climbers, use the largest pot you have space for and use a loam-based compost with added slow-release fertiliser. Here Clematis ‘Arctic Queen’ grows alongside Clematis ‘Madame Julia Correvon’, taking up very little ground space. You can also grow annual climbers for a more temporary display.


Plant a living wall

Living wall planted with succulents
Living wall planted with succulents
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A living wall is a great way to create an interesting, instant feature from a bare wall. This involves fixing irrigated planting modules to a frame, which is attached to, but separated from the building. Then you simply plant up the modules with low-maintenance plants such as succulents, if in sun, or shade-tolerant heucheras, ferns and grasses if the wall is in shade. Or, you can choose to plant different types of bedding plant as the season progresses, which is a more expensive, but seasonally interesting option. Living walls aren’t always cheap and there are many factors to consider, including maintenance and watering of the structure once it’s in place. Remember plants need food and water to thrive. They also grow – who’s going to climb the wall to prune the plants? A fabulous option, though, if you keep on top of maintenance.