Designing a Vertical Garden for Small Balconies

With the rapid growth in city living modern accommodation is focusing more and more on condominium towers and apartment blocks. These homes in the sky are space conscious and balconies are getting smaller but that does not mean that there will be no room for plants. To have greenery and flowers on a balcony where floor space is at a premium – explore vertical gardening.

Basics for Starting a Wall Garden

A sturdy trellis is required to support the plants. Red Cedar wood is fine and the design can be traditional and elegant, it can be fanciful, it can be simple with 5” squares or most popular of all, it can be a lattice trellis. When fixing to the wall it is best done by first fixing some 2”x1” weather treated laths or strips of wood to the wall and then fixing the trellis to these. By doing this the trellis will be away from the wall making it easier to fix pots and plants later.

Vertical Garden Watering and Drainage

Two essentials in getting vertical gardening right in the first place are watering and drainage. Ensure ample drainage is provided and check that the drain outlet has a grid cover to prevent leaves and such from blocking the exit route.

Watering is made easier by selecting the plants with the same water requirements and succulents are an ideal choice – they can be either evergreen or variegated and in some cases they will have flowers.

A discreet watering system can be fitted to the trellis before any plants are put in place. A simple, inexpensive misting system will suffice in most situations and it will keep the plants cool, dust free and refreshed all in one go.

Plant Containers for Wall Gardens

At the base of the trellis use terracotta troughs, 4”D. x 6”H. will be ample for most plants. Terracotta is best as it is porous and makes over-watering almost impossible. If frost is going to be a problem buy frost proofed troughs. Keep any pots for hanging as light as possible – look for natural materials such as coconut shells, bark tubes and rustic log-cabin type products. There is also a vast array of cleverly designed plastic products to choose from.

Suitable Plants for Vertical Gardens

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Sansevieria trifasciata, is a good evergreen plant to start your vertical garden. Plant a row in troughs to form a baseline for the other plants. Intersperse the planting with a Dipladenia climber and let it grow between the Sansevieria leaves and up into the trellis.

Million Hearts Plant or Dischidia Ruscifolia is suitable for placing on the trellis. Grow it in a rustic pot and it will drape its millions of tiny heart shaped leaves over the edge. These can be trained upwards through the trellis squares. It is evergreen with tiny white flowers in the autumn. It likes dappled shade in U.S. zone 10 type temperatures.

Ant Plant or Dischidia Pectinoides is perfectly at home in similar conditions as its cousin but this one is interesting in that some of its leaves swell up like balloons and it has small red flowers.

For these plants some petite netting wire can be stapled to the trellis for added climbing support.
There are many more climbing plants which will do well in pots such as: Hedera Ivies – evergreen or variegated, Ficus Pumila – evergreen with tiny flowers and for all-year flowers use Dipladenia – evergreen with scarlet, pink or white flowers.

For vertical gardening success it is best to avoid woody plants. These become heavy and will require pruning. Instead use lightweight plants with soft pliable stems. It’s also important to choose the correct plant containers. Irrespective of how small a living space is plants and flowers will always add a touch of the outdoors to a home.