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. Purple Lavender Superblue, Lavandula angustifolia

    SuperBlue' is a compact and fragrant Lavender plant that tops out at 12", making it a perfect choice for edging walkways and setting into patio containers. This English Lavender...

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    SuperBlue English Lavender English Lavender SuperBlue PP#24929 Lavandula angustifolia SuperBlue PP#24929
    As low as $11.98 Sale $7.19
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    SuperBlue' is a compact and fragrant Lavender plant that tops out at 12", making it a perfect choice for edging walkways and setting into patio containers. This English Lavender is fairly tough, withstanding drought and overwintering reliably in all but the coldest zones. Rich and saturated, 'SuperBlue' produces blooms that are tighter together, delivering more color and fewer airy gaps. (Lavandula angustifolia)
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  2. Elijah Blue Fescue Grass, Festuca glauca

    'Elijah Blue' Fescue Grass is one of the most popular, no fuss ornamental grasses. Low growing in tight mounds with fine silvery blue-green foliage, plant 'Elijah Blue' in borders, r...

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    Elijah Blue Fescue Grass Elijah Blue Fescue Festuca glauca Elijah Blue
    As low as $13.98 Sale $10.49
    Per Plant - 3.5" Pot
    'Elijah Blue' Fescue Grass is one of the most popular, no fuss ornamental grasses. Low growing in tight mounds with fine silvery blue-green foliage, plant 'Elijah Blue' in borders, rock gardens, or as groundcover to create year-round visual interest in the garden. In late spring and early summer, blonde seed heads appear on tall stems. Compact forms are great for small gardens and containers, and wont overtake its companions in the garden. (Festuca glauca)
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  3. White Flame Dwarf Garden Phlox in container garden, Phlox paniculata White Flame

    White Flame® Dwarf Garden Phlox offers all of the flower power of its bigger cousins, but in a compact, manageable size. In mid-to-late summer, pure white panicles of star-shaped bl...

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    White Flame® Phlox White Flame® Dwarf Garden Phlox PP#16,259 Phlox paniculata White Flame®
    $9.98 Sale $7.49
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    White Flame® Dwarf Garden Phlox offers all of the flower power of its bigger cousins, but in a compact, manageable size. In mid-to-late summer, pure white panicles of star-shaped blossoms top the strong 12-18” stems, attracting butterflies, bees, and moths. The deep green lanceolate foliage of White Flame® provides a backdrop for this native stunner, and shows strong mildew resistance. Pure white flowers on tall stems make beautiful cut flowers, and deadheading will encourage more blooming. An excellent option for small gardens and tight spaces, or anywhere you’d like to add a bright spot in a sunny garden! (Phlox paniculata)
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