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. Yarrow Little Moonshine PPAF, Achillea Little Moonshine

    'Little Moonshine' Yarrow is a bright burst of canary-yellow flowers that will bring cheer to your sunny garden. Little Moonshine is a petite beauty that is perfect for small garden...

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    Little Moonshine Yarrow Little Moonshine Yarrow (Patent Pending) Achillea Little Moonshine (Patent Pending)
    $11.98 Sale $7.79
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Little Moonshine' Yarrow is a bright burst of canary-yellow flowers that will bring cheer to your sunny garden. Little Moonshine is a petite beauty that is perfect for small garden spaces and containers. Expect to enjoy these clusters of yellow blooms from spring until fall making this compact perennial a top performer. (Achillea)
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  2. Hidcote English Lavender

    'Hidcote' is a compact English Lavender that grows only 18-24 inches tall, with highly fragrant, deep purple-blue flowers. Excellent for both fresh and dried bouquets, this lavender ...

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    Hidcote English Lavender English Lavender Hidcote Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote
    As low as $9.98 Sale $7.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Hidcote' is a compact English Lavender that grows only 18-24 inches tall, with highly fragrant, deep purple-blue flowers. Excellent for both fresh and dried bouquets, this lavender attracts bees and butterflies but repels deer and rabbits. Perfect for hot, dry sites and drought tolerant once established. Great choice for container plantings. (Lavandula angustifolia)
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  3. Iris cristata, Dwarf Crested Iris

    A native star of the spring season, Dwarf Crested Iris delights gardeners with vigorous lilac blooms on low growing, deer-resistant foliage. It’s perfect for both rock or woodland ...

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    Dwarf Crested Iris Dwarf Crested Iris Iris cristata
    $18.98 Sale $12.34
    Per Bag of 3
    A native star of the spring season, Dwarf Crested Iris delights gardeners with vigorous lilac blooms on low growing, deer-resistant foliage. It’s perfect for both rock or woodland gardens, as it can be grown in sun or shade and spreads over time. In classic beds or borders, this sweet little iris should be placed front and center for prime viewing. (Iris cristata)
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  4. Bamly Purple Bee Balm, Monarda Balmy Purple

    The vivid magenta blooms of 'Balmy™ Purple' Bee Balm will be abuzz with activity as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds gather to sip abundant nectar. Attractive disease-resistan...

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    Balmy™ Purple Bee Balm Balmy™ Purple Bee Balm PP#25561 Monarda Balmy™ Purple PP#25561
    $11.98 Sale $6.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    The vivid magenta blooms of 'Balmy™ Purple' Bee Balm will be abuzz with activity as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds gather to sip abundant nectar. Attractive disease-resistant foliage and compact size make 'Balmy™ Purple' Bee Balm an ideal front-of-the border accent and stunning container plant. Fragrant flowers and foliage readily naturalize to form a beautiful swath of color. (Monarda)
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