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Tips for Planting Small Space & Container Gardens

Article and photos courtesy of Wayside Gardens

Gardening in small spaces can be a delightful challenge, transforming tight spots and containers into lush, thriving gardens. Whether you have a narrow strip by a path, a sunny balcony, or a cozy patio, here are expert tips and plant recommendations to help you maximize your gardening space.

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Why Compact Plants are the Answer

In areas too small for ordinary plants, naturally compact plants shine. They provide beauty and functionality without overwhelming the space. For example, between a path and a fence, where leaning plants can be bothersome, choosing low-growing, hardy plants can make all the difference.

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Plant Recommendations for Small Spaces

Shaded Narrow Spots:

Heuchera (Coral Bells): With their stunning foliage in shades of orange and purple, coral bells are perfect for shaded narrow areas. They offer year-round interest and are low-maintenance.

Dead Nettle (Lamium amplexicaule): This spreading plant with soft gray leaves and purple flowers thrives in shaded spots, adding color and texture.

Sunny Narrow Spaces:

Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata): Ideal for sunny, dry spots, creeping phlox spreads to fill the space with vibrant, low-growing flowers. It barely reaches 6 inches high, making it perfect for narrow borders.

Sedum and Hardy Ice Plants (Delosperma): These succulents are excellent for sunny areas. They offer dramatic flowers and interesting foliage that add visual appeal even when not in bloom.

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Container Gardens:

Geraniums (Pelargonium): These bright, cheerful flowers thrive in containers and provide continuous blooms. Their slightly draping habit adds charm to any pot.

Speedwells (Veronica): Taller varieties are perfect for adding height to container arrangements. Their vertical growth and showy flowers are a great addition.

Miniature Calla Lilies (Zantedeschia): These elegant flowers are ideal for pots and can be brought indoors during winter.

Going Vertical

When space is limited, vertical gardening is a smart solution. Use wall-mounted planters, trellises, and hanging baskets to maximize space and add more greenery without cluttering the ground. Plant vining varieties—they have the added bonus of providing privacy to your outdoor living space, too.

Choosing the Right Container

Selecting the right container is crucial for the health of your plants:

Drainage: Ensure your containers have adequate drainage to prevent waterlogging.

Material: Terracotta and ceramic are breathable, making them ideal for most plants, while plastic containers are lightweight and easy to move, perfect for hanging plants or those you need to bring indoors.

Tips for Successful Container Gardening

Soil and Fertilization: 

Use high-quality potting mix.

Regularly fertilize, as container plants can deplete soil nutrients quickly.


Avoid over-watering by checking soil moisture regularly. Self-watering containers can help manage moisture levels effectively.


Regular pruning encourages new growth and keeps your plants healthy and bushy, preventing your garden from looking overgrown.

Seasonal Planning and Zone Considerations

Compact Perennials:

Opt for perennials recommended for container growing to ensure long-term success.

Choose plants that bloom at different times to maintain color and vibrancy throughout the seasons.

Zone Selection:

Select plants that are at least one zone hardier than your area to ensure they can withstand winter conditions.

Move containers to sheltered locations during extreme weather to protect the roots from freezing.

Designing Your Small Space Garden

Create depth and interest in your small space garden by layering plants of different heights. Combine taller plants like hydrangeas at the back, medium-height plants like daylilies in the middle, and low-growing plants like sedum at the front. Use a harmonious color palette for a serene look or contrasting colors for vibrancy. Add focal points with dwarf shrubs or stunning perennials to draw the eye and structure the space.

Transforming small spaces into lush, green retreats is possible with a little planning and the right plant choices. By selecting compact, hardy plants and utilizing vertical space, you can create a beautiful, thriving garden.

For more ideas and inspiration, visit Wayside Gardens and explore the extensive selection of plants perfect for small spaces and container gardening. 

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