City-based plant lovers are often frustrated by a lack of space to exercise their green thumbs. However, you can transform any space with some design ideas that focus on color combinations, contrasting structural plants, and focal points. Here are several creative ways to garden to kickstart your design.

Victoria Derrick
Published by: Victoria C. Derrick
Publisher / President
Creative Ways to Garden When You Live in the City Image

Container Gardening for Small Spaces

The mainstay of small space gardening is container gardening. Whether you’re after flower color, lush green foliage plants, herbs, salad greens, or vegetables, almost any plant can be grown in a container. You can select from pots, urns, barrels, troughs, bowls, or window boxes. And by mixing different sizes, colors, patterns, and textures, you can make a unique design statement before you even get the plants in.

Using the Color Wheel

Get your creative juices flowing by using the color wheel to make an artistic splash in your city garden. Select flower, foliage, and container colors to achieve bold contrast, subtle tones, shadings, or neutral combinations for whatever effect you desire.

Planting Up Your Containers

Here’s another way to express your creativity. Plant up containers so that you have different heights, colors, and textures in pots. Place tall structural plants in the center, underplanted by colorful annuals, with creeping plants spilling over the sides. One such combination could be a bright green feathery ornamental grass as the center of attention, underplanted with contrasting bright orange marigolds and a creeping silvery Dichondra spilling down to the ground. The effect is striking and lush. You could create thousands of plant combinations, though mind to group plants by their sun, shade, and watering needs.

Creative Ways to Garden When You Live in the City Image

Small Space City Gardening – Themes

More creative ways to garden design include theming. For example, does the garden space suit a theme of fernery, formal, Japanese, dry succulent, tropical, or woodlands?

You can achieve a classic Japanese garden feel with bamboo, dwarf weeping maples, all neatly surrounded by gravel and rocks. Or you may want to achieve a lush tropical feel by using exotics like banana palms, hibiscus, colorful crotons, and tree ferns.

Edible Themes

If you love fresh leafy greens and other salad vegetables, go for an edible theme instead. Lettuce, radish, mustard greens, and arugula are all quick growers. There is great variety in salad vegetable shapes, hues, and heights, so a little artful placement in containers will provide a colorful and visually interesting garden area.

Another edible theme you can embrace is a small Mediterranean-style herb garden. Rosemary varieties, bushy and creeping thymes, marjoram, oregano, and sage are all hardy perennials. You get the benefits of freshly picked, intense flavor for your cooking, along with an attractive garden plot. 

Creative Ways to Garden When You Live in the City Image

More Creative Ways to Garden by Maximizing Use of Space

Small, awkwardly shaped spaces such as narrow fenced-in yards, tiny courtyards, hemmed-in patios, or high walled areas present challenges. Techniques that help maximize the use of available horizontal and vertical space can be enormously valuable.

Use Horizontal Space by Espaliering

If you would love to have a fruit tree or two but don’t have the space for full-sized trees, the technique of espalier may be just what you need. Blank walls and fences are perfect for this. Support wires are fixed to the fence or wall, and the plant is then pruned and shaped to lay flat against the wall and tied to the wires to retain its shape. Many fruit trees lend themselves to espaliering, including apples, cherries, and plums. New varieties of dwarf fruit trees growing several different fruits may be the perfect choice for your espalier project.

Vertical Structures

Another creative way to approach small space city gardening is to build vertical gardens. Using trellises and screens to grow vines such as fragrant jasmine or honeysuckle can beautify your fences and walls and improve privacy. Painting these structures in complementary or contrasting hues will add interest to your garden.

Plant walls are another way to maximize space use. A constructed frame is attached to the fence or wall, and pots can be fixed up and down the structure’s total height. It’s a very productive way to grow edible plants and herbs. You can also get creative with using succulents, all manner of climbing and creeping plants, and annual flowers to create unique combinations of color and contrast.

Creative Ways to Garden When You Live in the City Image

Balcony Gardening

If you have no outdoor space but access to a balcony, you can still have an attractive and productive garden. Use lightweight pots placed into corners of the balcony where they won’t blow over. For impact, you could go with large structural plants such as a hardy yucca or a palm. Or go for plants with large glossy green leaves like a Monstera Deliciosa (also known as the Fruit Salad Plant or Swiss Cheese Plant), or a Fatsia Japonica (Japanese Aralia) to get that lush tropical feeling. Hanging baskets can be used to grow hardy flowering geraniums and annuals, giving long-lived color. You may also have enough space for a small vertical garden to grow herbs and salad greens.

Go Indoors

Even where there is no available outside space, you can satisfy your need for living plants within the home. There are numerous types of houseplants — small and large – that will thrive indoors. Like the Burgundy Rubber Tree or the Bird of Paradise, some of these plants prefer bright light, so they should be placed near windows. Other houseplants like the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) or the Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra) are happy with filtered light.

Sunny windowsills are perfect spots for growing herbs in small containers, interestingly shaped succulents, or flowering plants like the African violet.

More Plants to Inspire Creative Ways to Garden

From windowsills through to balconies, patios, and small walled gardens, there are few homes that can’t sustain a garden of sorts. A little knowledge of the best plants to grow will help you enormously when planning your garden. At Garden and Bloom, we provide free gardening tips and information on an extensive variety of plants. While you’re researching the best plants for your garden, have a look at our gardener’s blog.

Published/Updated on: 01-11-2022