Vertical Garden Design Ideas

Short on space? Grow a tall garden that turns walls into living art and doesn't take up too much room.


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Photo By: Gardener’s Supply Co. at

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Photo By: Staff for Tower Hill Botanic Garden at

Photo By: Gardener’s Supply Co. at

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

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Vertical Gardens Come In Many Forms

Vertical gardens come in many shapes, sizes and configurations. Some vertical gardens are designed to hang on a wall like living art, while others are freestanding gardens that feature rows of growing shelves stacked on top of each other. Even a simple two-tier growing cart qualifies as a vertical garden, shifting the traditional single layer horizontal garden into a 3-D vertical format.

Ferns And Philodendrons Living Wall

A vertical garden known as a living wall easily replaces traditional art on a dining room wall. Felted planting pockets hold soil and plants. A built-in water reservoir with a recirculating system automatically waters the garden daily. Plantings feature philodendrons and epiphytic ferns, types of indoor plants that adapt readily to vertical garden growing conditions.

Chalkboard Planter

Have herbs at the ready for harvest-fresh flavor by growing them in an indoor vertical garden. A chalkboard finish lets you label your crop, including details like planting date. Herbs need bright light to grow well. Place a vertical garden beside a bright east or south window for good light, or use grow lights. Just be sure to angle them so the entire garden receives the light. This garden has a 10-cell planting frame that you fill with soil and plant with the garden horizontal. Water well after planting, and let the unit sit for 2-3 hours before hanging.

Upcycled Food Tins

Transform a trellis into a vertical garden privacy screen by upcycling empty food cans. Spray paint the cans in your favorite color. Drill or punch a quick drainage hole on the bottom and a hanging hole one-third of the way down on one side. Hang the cans on galvanized deck screws driven two-thirds of the way into the trellis. In this type of vertical garden, change plants with the season, starting with tulips for spring, trailing succulents for summer and pansies for fall and winter. In cold winter regions, replace pansies with evergreen twigs before the soil freezes.

Succulents In Wood Frame

Give your vertical garden the feeling of artwork by surrounding it with a frame. Sempervivum, also known as hen and chicks or houseleeks, comes in a variety of colors and sizes. Their drought-tolerant nature and shallow-rooted growth style are a perfect fit for a vertical garden. A soil trough extends behind the frame, covered with a wire mesh that you plant through. After planting, grow the garden flat for a few weeks to let plants root and anchor into the soil. The mesh helps support plants when the garden is upright.

Self-Watering Wall Planter

Decorate outdoor walls with vertical gardens and increase your growing space. Made from rigid plastic, these pocket planters each hold 1.5 cups of soil paired with a 2-cup water reservoir. When filling vertical gardens, choose a commercial soil mix designed for containers. Add plenty of organic matter, finished compost or coir to help soil hold moisture. Due to increased exposure to wind and sun, vertical gardens tend to dry out more quickly than in-ground beds, where plants help support one another and shade soil. Herbs and trailing drought-tolerant annuals like scaevola and lantana are good plants choices for vertical gardens.

Copper Wall Planters

Wall planters offer an opportunity to craft a custom vertical garden by mixing and matching planting containers. Soil volume tends to be small in wall planters, so fill them with drought-tolerant succulents or shallow rooted plants like bromeliad, lipstick plant or epiphytic ferns (bird’s nest fern, sword fern). Air plants also make great choices for small containers with little space for soil or roots.

Compact Vertical Garden Kit

Eight planting pockets filled with trailing tropical plants, including pothos, syngonium and philodendron, create a totem of living color perfect for a narrow wall. The vertical garden sits on a shelf, which gives the recirculating, self-watering garden a floating effect. Vertical gardens comprised of individual planting pockets allow you to replace plants as needed or desired.

Concrete Block Garden

Give a deck or rooftop garden a bit of greenery by laying concrete blocks to create planting pockets. Pocket depth can vary in this type of garden, from one to several blocks deep. For shallow one-block planting spots, choose annuals like pansy or sweet alyssum. Succulents, asparagus fern and begonias also make strong plant choices. This type of living wall could also support edible crops, including lettuce, patio tomatoes, bush cucumbers and even root crops like round carrots, turnips, beets and radishes.

Canvas Wall Pocket Garden

The most simple wall pocket garden resembles a hanging shoe organizer. Plant individual pockets (fill with soil first), or simply slip pots of flowers into each pocket. This type of vertical garden offers versatility and mobility — it’s easy to change out plants and easy to move things around. With any vertical garden, make sure you have strong enough hooks to support the weight of plants and soil. Also be careful that the surface your garden hangs against isn’t damaged by moisture.

Gutter Garden

Craft a vertical garden from a rain gutter for a low-cost option. Before planting, add drainage holes to the gutter, along with a bright coat of paint. Hang a bamboo screen as a backdrop for your garden art to take it up a notch. Plant gutters with short annuals, such as sweet alyssum or dwarf versions of French marigold, gomphrena, dahlia or zinnia. Or use trailing plants, like bidens, golden creeping jenny or portulaca.

Add Gutter Garden End Cap

When making a gutter garden, remember to fasten end caps on the gutters to contain soil. Hang gutters straight, or in a stepped-down, zigzag pattern so that water runs efficiently from one gutter to the next. Herbs like sage, thyme and oregano grow well in gutters, as does leaf lettuces and microgreens.

Baskets In Bloom

Grab deep baskets and hang them on a fence, wall or deck railing to create a vertical garden that’s beautiful and easy to maintain. Before filling baskets with soil, line the sides with plastic bags, weed fabric or burlap to keep soil from washing out. A lining also helps extend the life of your basket, as does spraying it with polyurethane prior to planting. Fill baskets with summer bulbs, such as calla lily, eucomis, dwarf Asiatic lilies or short alliums to enjoy the beauty of these bloomers at eye level.

Edible Living Wall

A mix of salad crops, herbs and edible flowers fill a vertical wall garden with colors, flavors and beautiful textural combinations. This custom vertical garden features planters that hook over the metal strip on each wooden board. A vertical edible garden takes the back-breaking work out of tending an in-ground veggie patch. It puts plantings within easy reach of every gardener — it’s a truly accessible garden. Having crops at eye level also helps with spotting pest or disease outbreaks early.

Hanging Vertical Garden

A three-tier vertical garden features galvanized metal planters perfect for growing succulents, ivies, flowering annuals or herbs. Microgreens are another great plant choice for vertical gardens, including plants like red amaranth, tatsoi, basil, mustard, beet or turnip (for greens), sunflower and spinach. The trick with microgreens is to harvest frequently. In a sunny spot, a metal container heats up and needs plenty of water.

Lattice Garden

Create a living wall by slipping pots of individual plants into a piece of lattice or a custom wooden frame. This type of vertical garden lets you shift plantings easily, so you can craft living works of art that easily change with the seasons. With this system, keep extra pots of plants on hand to replace any that lose their good looks, and your vertical garden will always look its best.

Pot Hanger Vertical Garden

A single metal pot hanger creates a quick and easy vertical garden on a metal trellis, porch rail or fence. When hanging single pots, consider painting pots for a unified design. Trailing succulents make a strong impact in single pots, as do tulips, daffodils or hyacinths. If single pots offer the best option for your vertical garden, consider installing a container drip irrigation system to make watering easy and hands-free.

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