Important Factors to Consider with Vertical Gardens

Got a small space? To help you decide what kind of structure to use for your vertical garden, consider these 15 practical design tips.


Vertical gardens can be anything you imagine. Take some inspiration from these ideas to start your own project.

This garden gate has been used not only for functional vertical growing space with a mounted planter box filled with flower pots but also a handy place to hang some garden art.


1. Don’t overlook your garden entrance

A gateway is usually the point of entry and the place where you make first impressions!  With a little imagination this space can be another creative vertical garden.  An attractive gate or arbor adds character, welcomes visitors and can share a little of your personality too.


This jasmine privacy screen makes good use of the vertical posts at the front entrance to make this garden inviting.

The entrance to this micro front garden is framed by an arbor of fragrant cascading jasmine which acts as a perfumed privacy wall too.

2. Permanency of a vertical structure

Are you renting?  Does your garden get only limited sun?  Do you have mobility or access challenges?  Then you may need to consider how permanent your vertical structures really need to be.  Choose lightweight materials that are easily removed when they have done their job or can be moved around and easily repositioned to catch the sun during the day.  Pots on castors with a tripod for climbing edibles are a clever way to grow ‘meals on wheels’ or check out another solution below:


Portable trellis & planter garden. Photo: Dale

This clever unattached vertical trellis and planter garden is a portable solution for people on the move or those with limited sun. A lightweight frame with hanging hooks can be adapted to many situations.


3. Check the shade factor

Depending on where you position your plants, as they grow upwards they may block sunlight from reaching plants behind or below them.  Place vertical structures such as tepees and arbors where you need to shade understorey plants otherwise if they don’t get enough sun, they may suffer.  Some plants love shade or can tolerate semi-shade so take advantage of these spaces by planting vegetables like spinach or lettuce especially in the warmer months.


Lettuce, chives, spinach & herbs. Photo: Jasmineandroses

Grow shade tolerant edibles like lettuce, chives and spinach if you are cramped for space where you are growing your vertical garden.


4. Choose your plant wisely

If you are growing a vine or creeper up a trellis to create more shade or privacy, consider what kind of plant you grow and whether you will need access for pruning as it matures.  If so, how easy is it to reach the top of the trellis or structure if you need to give your living wall a haircut?  Read the plant label so you choose a species that will grow to a suitable height and provide you with the screen you need without creating future work for you.


Lattice privacy and shade screen vertical garden.

This decorative vertical lattice screen provides both shade and privacy. Consider how vigorous the plant you grow will be and how long it will take to achieve the effect you want.


5. Make best use of vertical structures

Avoid wasting walls and fences that provide you with blank canvases for growing or displaying garden art.  If you can’t drill into the front of a fence or gate, try hanging hooks with planters over the top.  Likewise, artwork and signs can be attached with a little creative inspiration.


Vertical garden wall art. Flickr Photo: The Blue Girl

This stunning vertical garden makes maximum use of wall space and is in itself garden art.



6. Height and strength of the structure

Don’t knock yourself out!  Position hanging baskets or upside down planters where you won’t knock your head as you walk past and check there is adequate support for their weight.  Avoid hanging them too high or they will be difficult to water and maintain.  If you don’t have any other option, invest in a pulley system so you can lower and raise your planter.


Upside down tomato planter hung from an upstairs deck.

When soil is wet and plants are fully mature like this topsy-turvy fruiting tomato planter, they can be really heavy. Make sure you can easily reach the plant to harvest and maintain.


7. Window boxes and hanging planters

As these are often positioned overhead, for safety reasons make sure they are securely attached!  Avoid heavyweight materials and use light plastic or wire instead, or install around the perimeter of the structure where the building has been engineered to have the greatest strength.  Window boxes are usually long and narrow and as with hanging baskets, tend to only hold a small amount of soil so are best used for seasonal displays or refreshed regularly.


White window box vertical planter. Photo: Holly Gramazio

A window box can also be secured with a decorative bracket to hold it in place. Here a ‘white-on-white’ theme is a simple but attractive feature.


8. Mature plant height

Consider the maximum height the plant is likely to grow when it is mature.  This will have an impact on what kind of structure you choose and affect accessibility for watering, fertilising, pruning and maintenance.  Consider how high you can comfortably reach!


Hang pots in easy reach. Photo: John Borwick

Design out work for yourself: hang pots and planters in easy reach for maintenance tasks.


9. Heavyweights

The mature weight of plants will also have an impact on the structure you select.  The strength of the structure will need to support what you grow.  No point growing heavy crops on an old rickety fence – you will only hasten its demise.  Heavy vegetable crops like melons and pumpkins may need extra support by tying a mini cloth hammock underneath them until they are ready for harvesting.

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10. Take care with invasive plants

Be careful growing plants with adhesive pad-type tendrils as they can quickly become invasive and will stick to just about any surface.  Planted too close to building walls, they can damage paintwork, timber, mortar and other exterior materials.


Living green wall on the exterior wall of a home.

Avoid unnecessary damage to buildings with a little careful thought to the plants you grow.


11. Extra thirsty

Depending on the location of your vertical garden, plants that are not planted in the ground and are exposed to more sun and wind can need a drink more often.  They may be vulnerable to wider fluctuations in temperature too.  Add extra mulch to compensate, water wisely and choose your plant species carefully.

12. Structure before planting

Make sure you erect or install your vertical support structure before planting to avoid root damage once plants have started to grow.

13. Plant supports and ties

Some plants that grow out but not up on their own like indeterminate tomatoes and raspberry canes, need an extra helping hand to grow vertically.  If trained to grow upwards with appropriate structures like cages, stakes and trellises with regularly spaced ties or clips, they can be extremely productive and be contained in a compact space.



Tomato cages are a useful vertical system to contain tomatoes.

Tomato cages are a useful vertical system to contain tomatoes. You can also use soft ties as they grow to give them maximum support.


14. Deck and railing planters

Make sure you select the correct size to fit the railing width, especially if you are buying online.  Ensure railings are secure and stable enough to support the weight of a railing planter.  Planters will add height to the railing, so consider the total height of both the planter and plants if you don’t want to exclude your view!

15. Windy weather

In high-wind areas or exposed high rise apartment and balcony gardens, consider anchoring lightweight vertical garden structures down.  A-Frames and tepees can be secured by nailing stakes at the corners or drilling holes into the stakes and running string or wire to connect them to a stronger structure or heavy container.


Green onions and coriander balcony garden. Photo: Looli

Window boxes and planters can be secured to railings like this high-rise herb garden

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Check out more vertical garden solutions to grow plants in Add Space with Creative Vertical Gardens: Part 1 and Part 2 and 12 Reasons Why You Should Garden Vertically.  You’ll also find even more Clever Design Ideas in the Container Gardening category.


Did you find this information helpful?  Feel free to leave a comment below or share it.  Keep up to date with new posts by subscribing to my newsletter (and grab your free eBook).


© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2010-2013 – https://www.themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

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