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. 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
    $11.99 Sale $9.95
    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 part shade to full 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)
  2. Purpleicious Veronica, Speedwell

    Purpleicious' Vernonica (also called Speedwell) brings intense violet color to the summer garden on fragrant, tapered spikes. Attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds, 'Purpleiciou...

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    Purpleicious Veronica Speedwell Purpleicious PP#17639 Veronica Purpleicious PP#17639
    $9.99 Sale $8.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Purpleicious' Vernonica (also called Speedwell) brings intense violet color to the summer garden on fragrant, tapered spikes. Attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds, 'Purpleicious' is overlooked by both deer and rabbits. Growing to only about 20” tall atop clumps of 6-8" mounded, green foliage, plant this one in a container or border garden for a gorgeous, fragrant statement. PP#17639 (Veronica)
  3.  Daylily Crimson Pirate, Hemerocallis

    'Crimson Pirate' Daylily blooms in clear red with golden yellow accents and a sunny yellow throat. Narrow, elongated petals give this easy-care plant a refined look, especially when ...

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    Crimson Pirate Daylily Daylily Crimson Pirate Hemerocallis Crimson Pirate
    $15.99 Sale $11.99
    Per Bag of 3
    'Crimson Pirate' Daylily blooms in clear red with golden yellow accents and a sunny yellow throat. Narrow, elongated petals give this easy-care plant a refined look, especially when planted in large groups, surrounded by masses of their own strappy foliage. Ultra-hardy and ready to multiply if allowed, fragrant daylilies are tolerant, forgiving plants. (Hemerocallis)
  4. Red Reblooming Daylily Pardon Me, Hemerocallis

    These fragrant daylillies form dense clumps with vibrant flowers of red with yellow centers. A repeat bloomer for lasting summer color. Great for the front of the border and in conta...

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    Pardon Me Reblooming Daylily Reblooming Daylily Pardon Me Hemerocallis Pardon Me
    $15.99 Sale $11.99
    Per Bag of 3
    These fragrant daylillies form dense clumps with vibrant flowers of red with yellow centers. A repeat bloomer for lasting summer color. Great for the front of the border and in containers, it blooms in spring and fall. (Hemerocallis)
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