City gardens tend to be smaller than the average plot. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of plants that will work well in a limited space.
The plants we’ve chosen won’t outgrow their plot. They might be used to provide screening for privacy, to filter pollution from a busy road or even to deter intruders.
Many city gardens benefit from the shelter of buildings and boundaries close by. These can create a mild microclimate, allowing you to grow beautiful exotic species that might not thrive on a more open site.
Discover 21 of the best plants to grow in city gardens, below.
Plants for shade
- Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae) – fabulous acid-yellow bracts in spring and glossy evergreen foliage, and makes great ground cover in dry shade. Perfect for underplanting trees and shrubs
- Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (pictured) – this deciduous perennial has heart-shaped leaves dusted with white. Dainty sprays of blue flowers rise above the foliage in spring
- Sarcococca confusa – a great choice if you’re after an evergreen shrub. Small white flowers appear from December to March and throw out a powerful scent
Blocking out noise
- Fargesia murielae ‘Simba’ – a well-behaved, clump-forming bamboo reaching 2m. It rustles gently in the wind and its new leaves are a fresh green
- Yew – a yew hedge will muffle noise and can be sited anywhere, including tricky shade
- Miscanthus sinensis (pictured) – reaches 3m tall and forms dense plants that catch the wind help block noise. Grow individually, in small groups or as an informal hedge
- Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) – its large, textured, evergreen leaves and spreading canopy make it ideal if you’re overlooked. In a warm summer it bears scented flowers and orange fruits
- Pittosporum tenuifolium (pictured) – one of many great pittosporums, this evergreen has a columnar growth habit so is ideal for blocking out an overlooking window
- Cotoneaster lacteus – can be clipped into a formal hedge or left as an informal screen. It has strongly veined leaves, white summer flowers and lots of berries for birds in autumn and winter
- Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ – forms a thorny, impenetrable hedge with white flowers in June, followed by bright orange-red berries, and it will do well on a north- or east-facing boundary
- Holly (pictured) – use holly to protect a vulnerable corner. It will grow anywhere and can be clipped into neat shapes, and many varieties produce berries. Slow-growing, so consider buying a large plant
- Rosa rugosa – has bright pinky-purple, scented flowers with prominent yellow stamens and large hips. Very thorny, so let it grow to full size against a wall or fence to deter intruders
- Elaeagnus x ebbingei – this tough evergreen shrub can be left to grow loose, clipped or made into a very pollution-tolerant hedge. Has the bonus of creamy-white, scented autumn blooms
- Osmanthus delavayi – an evergreen shrub with small, serrated leaves and highly fragrant spring flowers. Can be clipped into a neater shape after flowering
- Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’ (pictured) – will grow in almost any setting and soil. Has large, architectural leaves and spikes of scented, cheery yellow flowers in late winter, great for masking pollution smells
- Paperbark maple (Acer griseum, pictured) – this lovely maple has cinnamon-coloured, peeling bark that adds interest throughout winter and foliage that turns brilliant shades of orange and scarlet in autumn
- Blueberries – tasty blueberries are ideal edible crops for city gardens. They produce pretty, bell-shaped flowers and fruit and have fabulous autumn colour. Grow in acidic soil in the ground or containers
- Phlomis russeliana – the spent flowerheads look fabulous punctuating planting and look magical when covered in frost. Pale-yellow, hooded flowers above heart-shaped leaves from late spring to early autumn
Roofs and balconies
- Escallonia ‘Apple Blossom’ – has dark green, glossy foliage with pinky-white flowers in summer and copes well with strong winds. Can be trimmed back, shaped or used as a windbreak
- Hebe rakaiensis – clusters of large white flowers in early and midsummer and glossy green leaves. It’s a tough, rounded, evergreen shrub that forms a neat hummock and grows well in containers
- Fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus, pictured) – hard to beat for non-stop flowers. This low-growing versatile perennial will grow away in a container and cope with just about anything
Watch what you plant
Some very vigorous plants can quickly smother a small garden. So before you buy a plant, spend a few minutes researching its habit, height, spread, soil and light conditions to be sure it will suit your plot.