Make the Most of Your Small-Space Garden

by Suzanne DeJohn

No matter what the size of your growing area, you can have a beautiful and bountiful garden. Maybe you're limited to growing plants on a balcony, or you're trying to brighten up a corner near your front door. Or perhaps time constraints prevent you from expanding your gardens. Whatever the reason, here are some plant suggestions and gardening techniques to help you make the most of your garden space.

Choosing Plants
Plants described as "dwarf," "compact," "tidy" or "clump-forming," and those with "an upright habit" are good choices for gardeners with limited space. Avoid those with descriptors like "sprawling," "multiplies readily" or "good for naturalizing" as these may overrun your small space.

Plant breeders have done wonders taking large species and creating smaller-stature varieties. Stella D'Oro Daylily, for example, grows about 16" tall; compare that to the Original Orange Daylily at 48" tall. Similarly, Brim Cup Hosta grows a manageable 16" tall and wide, while Sum and Substance Hosta grows 4' tall and up to 9' wide! So it pays to plant descriptions carefully.

Here's a list of plants that are compact, long-blooming and/or have attractive foliage: Recommended Perennial Plants for Small-Space Gardens.

Helpful Techniques

  • Look for plants described as reblooming or with a long season of bloom. Reblooming Bearded Iris bloom in early summer and again in fall; Hardy Geraniums, especially Max Frei Geranium, produce flowers over much of the summer into fall.
  • Select plants with attractive foliage. Look for plants with variegated or colorful leaves that attract the eye even when the plant isn't in bloom — Coral Bells and Hostas are good candidates for a small-space garden.
  • Include some woody shrubs for height and winter interest. Pee Wee Hydrangea, for example, is a compact shrub that boasts attractive fall color and flower clusters from summer into autumn.
  • Look to vines to add height and drama. A pretty obelisk or trellis adds interest year-round and is stunning adorned with colorful Clematis.
  • Combine edibles and ornamentals. Don't give up on growing food because of tight growing space. Tuck attractive edibles like PeppersChard and Basil among your flowers.
  • Grow in containers. Expand your garden space by growing plants in pots on your patio, deck, front stoop or anywhere you have a few square feet to spare.
  1. Dragon's Blood Sedum

    Create a charismatic carpet of changing colors with ‚Dragon‚s Blood‚ Sedum. Growing only 4 to 6 inches tall, the succulent green leaves are edged in dark cranberry ...

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    Dragon's Blood Sedum Stonecrop Dragon's Blood Sedum spurium Dragon's Blood
    As low as $7.99 Sale $6.79
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Create a charismatic carpet of changing colors with 'Dragon's Blood' Sedum. Growing only 4 to 6 inches tall, the succulent green leaves are edged in dark cranberry and covered with vivid red, starry flowers in late summer. Foliage turns crimson with the arrival of cool weather. 'Dragon's Blood' makes an excellent groundcover owing to its spreading habit and tolerance of dry soils. (Sedum spurium)
  2. Primrose Blue Zebra, Primula acaulis Blue Zebra close-up

    Primrose Blue Zebra has unusual blue and white striped petals with a bright yellow center that are sure to catch your eye. Blue Zebra lives up to it‚s name and makes an incred...

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    Blue Zebra® Primrose Blue Zebra® Primrose Primula acaulis Blue Zebra®
    $8.65 Sale $7.35
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Primrose Blue Zebra has unusual blue and white striped petals with a bright yellow center that are sure to catch your eye. Blue Zebra lives up to it's name and makes an incredible woodland boarder, or line a path that wanders through the woods. Flowers will bloom in late spring and summer. (Primula acaulis)
  3. Feathered Friends™ Cordial Canary Ajuga

    Feathered Friends™ ‚Cordial Canary‚ Ajuga readily spreads to form a dense, low-growing groundcover with brilliant chartreuse foliage. Short spikes of blue flowers bloom...

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    Feathered Friends™ Cordial Canary Ajuga Feathered Friends™ Cordial Canary Bugleweed Ajuga Cordial Canary PPAF
    As low as $9.32 Sale $7.92
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Feathered Friends™ 'Cordial Canary' Ajuga readily spreads to form a dense, low-growing groundcover with brilliant chartreuse foliage. Short spikes of blue flowers bloom in summer, adding a pop of color and attracting pollinators. This highly adaptable perennial tolerates light foot traffic, making it a great choice for walkways, and its golden foliage makes an attractive lawn alternative for yards and hillsides. Plants are evergreen in regions with mild winters. (Ajuga reptans)
  4. Arctic Fire Dianthus, Dianthus deltoide, Garden Pinks

    Arctic Fire Dianthus blossoms shine with brilliant ruby-red eyes glowing against dazzling white petals. Commonly known as Garden Pinks, plants explode with a profusion of flowers in ...

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    Arctic Fire Dianthus Arctic Fire Dianthus Dianthus deltoide
    As low as $7.99 Sale $6.79
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Arctic Fire Dianthus blossoms shine with brilliant ruby-red eyes glowing against dazzling white petals. Commonly known as Garden Pinks, plants explode with a profusion of flowers in late spring and early summer, carpeting the ground and drawing butterflies to the garden. Dense mats of evergreen foliage provide lush groundcover along walkways and garden borders. Deer resistant. (Dianthus deltoides)
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