How to Design Creative Vertical Gardens

Beautiful window box with potted colourful flowers - easy to care for and a stunning view from inside! Photo: Anslatadams

Many would-be gardeners have micro spaces to grow plants. Clever use of vertical structures like a feature window box with colourful flowers or edible herbs is a simple solution.


“Vertical gardening saves time and work, allowing you to spend less time tending and more time enjoying your garden.”

Derek Fell, author ‘Grow Up, Not Out, For More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space’

In Part 1, we looked at some creative vertical structures to help you grow plants ‘up’ and save space in your garden.  This post inspires you with more ideas on how to use two other types of vertical structures – ones to grow down and stackable systems.

Try upcycling a pallet to make your own vertical garden.


Growing edibles in a narrow space like a micro garden on a balcony can be challenging. This project is a great solution for urban unit dwellers who only have limited space. | The Micro Gardener

Fern from Life on the Balcony converted a pallet into an edible micro garden. A clever example of a stackable vertical garden for a narrow space. Click the photo to find out how to make your own.

Growing Down (Top-down Planting)

These vertical garden structures make the most of ‘aerial space.’ They are ideal for those living in apartments or where a ceiling, fence or railing can be utilised to make the most of the overhanging space.  Use hooks and brackets to mount these vertical garden systems but make sure you check the strength of the support structure first and the weight limit for the hooks.


Window boxes are a quaint and low cost option for easy access gardens that add character at the same time. | The Micro Gardener

Window boxes can be attached to structural framework to take the additional weight of soil and plants. Cascading foliage and flowers softens and brightens this space, bringing the outdoors in with a pretty view.


  • Upside down grow bags (also known as Topsy-Turvy planters) – eliminate the need to weed or stake plants like tomatoes and are a good solution for those with poor (or no) soil or very limited space.


Make use of hanging space under a deck, patio or roof with vertical garden grow bags. | The Micro Gardener

Low cost topsy-turvy upside down planter bags are a popular choice with many gardeners to grow strawberries or vegies like tomatoes. A number of strawberry plants are stacked in the one planter.


  • Hanging baskets – can be positioned at different levels or hung in tiers and make excellent use of aerial space. Can be used as a vertical screen to increase privacy, add shade and colour.


Tiered hanging baskets make great use of aerial space and increase the quantity of plants you can grow in an otherwise unplantable area. | The Micro Gardener

Tiered hanging baskets increase the quantity of plants you can grow in an otherwise unplantable area. Even if you have no soil or an in-ground garden, you can still grow vertically in baskets!


  • Wall mounted planters – while these planters are used for displaying and growing plants that cascade down, often the wooden or metal containers are decorative, focal points in themselves. They can be used indoors or out to help bring dull walls and rooms to life.  Here are some examples:


Wall mounted metal planter with a moisture holding coir base filled with colour. | The Micro Gardener

Wall mounted metal planter with a moisture holding coir base filled with colour.


These space saving lightweight garden planters are made from repurposed bags that would otherwise end up in the rubbish. They've even been colour coordinated. | The Micro Gardener

Got some leftover organic fertiliser or compost bags? Why not repurpose them into garden planters and mount them on a wall or fence with grommets on each corner?

Recycled bag planters by Lenny Librizzi


  • Deck or balcony railing planters – available in a variety of sizes and styles that either sit on top of the railing or rest in brackets mounted on railings. They increase your planting area along the length or in corners of decks or balconies. Some railing planters are intended to hold pots, while others can be planted directly and planter styles include straight, corner and even stacking shapes. Available in a wide variety of materials including wood, resin, fiberglass and metals in different widths and lengths. They are ideal for low and trailing plants and can add height to railings for privacy.


Increase the planting area with this creative vertical garden solution. | The Micro Gardener

Planters can be attached to railings or ledges with brackets like this colourful timber display box of pansies. It is well supported and lightweight even when planted. Positioned near the entrance stairs, it’s an eye catching welcome.


  • Window boxes – although originally designed to sit on a windowsill with plants cascading down, they can also be attached to the wall below a window or hung off balcony railings. One of the benefits is the convenience of reaching out to harvest fragrant edible herbs or an eye feast of colourful flowers from indoors.


Window boxes can be detached or hung off railings and are only limited by your imagination. | The Micro Gardener

Planters can be positioned on a window ledge like this one, with quaint shutters. Great use of contrasting colours really brightens up this space.



Stacking Gardens

You can imitate nature where you find understories and canopies and plants that grow in nooks and crannies, by taking a layered approach to maximise vertical growing space.


Stackable vertical gardens can be any design or material - just use your imagination! | The Micro Gardener

Take advantage of any stackable space – this interlocking block wall on a boundary had tiered spaces just crying out to be planted!


Some options include:

  • Multi-tiered shelving – all sorts of furniture items have suitable shelves or you can make your own.


This space saving idea uses repetition with variegated foliage & pots to great advantage and really dresses up this micro garden. | The Micro Gardener

Repurposed furniture like shelves, bookcases and a chest of drawers can all make great vertical gardens if they have adequate drainage. The ability to stack pot plants on tiered shelves makes maximum use of a small space.


  • Tiered stackable planter systems like this Stack-A-Pot with a self-watering system and drip tray are neat self-contained mini gardens.


Tiered stackable pots with herbs - Available from www.stackapots.com.au | The Micro Gardener

Stackable planters like these come in different sizes and colours, are stand-alone or can be hung on a hook. Add an inexpensive trolley with castors and you have a portable garden.

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This clever gardener has built a tower out of pots starting with larger ones at the bottom to support the structure and smaller ones on top. | The Micro Gardener

This vertical pot plant tower is a real eye catching feature as well as being a practical stacking vertical garden system! Best of all it takes up minimum space.


  • Greenhouses and shade houses with shelves are a tiered growing system.  Many are now small enough to fit on a balcony.


Mini greenhouses are a clever option for micro gardeners with limited space. | The Micro Gardener

In compact spaces, a mini greenhouse like this with shelves opens up the possibilities with what you can grow vertically and through the seasons when the weather may be against you.


  • Planter boxes – available in a variety of sizes, they can be positioned in tiers to maximise a tiny space like a balcony or verandah.


Productive high yielding crops in a mini vertical garden | The Micro Gardener

These tiered planter boxes are well designed for maximum growing space. Teamed with mini trellises for climbing vegies & a caged tomato to grow an incredible quantity of edibles in a tiny space. These are highly productive micro gardens!


  • Strawberry and herb pots with multiple planting holes make practical micro gardens, maximising use of vertical space even in a container.


Luscious green herbs with different textures contrast with the vivid colour of the terracotta pot making it an attractive and practical garden feature. | The Micro Gardener

Small planting pockets around the sides of the clay pot are perfect for shallow rooted plants like herbs, strawberries and flowers. More water-loving plants can be positioned at the bottom with those that like dry feet at the top.


  • Raised garden beds – a popular choice in many small gardens – particularly those that have no or poor soil, raised beds can also be terraced to stack one space on top of another, maximising the growing area.  This vertical solution also suits sloping gardens which naturally lend themselves to terracing with raised beds.  With pavers or stepping stones in between for access, this opens up the possibilities to what you can grow!


Tiered raised kitchen garden beds are filled with delicious edibles. | The Micro Gardener

What incredible edibles! These vegies look almost too good to eat! These tiered raised kitchen garden beds are both beautiful and space saving.


Stacked raised beds and trellis vertical gardens. | The Micro Gardener

This garden has multiple vertical elements to maximise space! Tiered raised bed gardens with compartments and tepees are clever ideas for this space.


  • Ladders and plant stands – with a little imagination, you can create plant stands with anything that has steps.


What a space saving idea! This wide ladder holds lots of geranium pots. | The Micro Gardener

Ladders, step ladders and plant stands all make great garden features as well as vertical structures to put your plants on. Here a collection of geraniums is showcased with great effect.

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Want more space saving garden ideas? If you missed it, read Add Space with Creative Vertical Gardens: Part 1; 12 Reasons Why You Should Garden Vertically and 15 Helpful Design Tips for Vertical Gardens.  You can find 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 free newsletter (and grab your complimentary eBooks).

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

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