Vertical gardens can be used to grow ornamental or edible plants in a small space. They are ideal for attaching to the walls of balconies, courtyards or fences to provide growing spaces for a wide range of plants.

As with selecting plants for any part of your garden, it is important to choose plants for a vertical garden that cope with the amount of sunlight available. The vertical garden may be shaded (particularly if it is on the rear or side of a balcony) or it may be in a sunny spot. The amount of sun the garden receives may also vary throughout the year.

Epiphytes or lithophytes, which are plants that naturally grow without soil, work well in a vertical garden.

Ornamentals for shade

A vertical garden is well suited for growing plants on a shaded wall. Provided there is bright light for part of the day, many plants thrive. As a guide, select plants that are suited to indoors or for shade gardens.

Any of these are great choices for a shaded vertical garden: ferns including boston fern (nephrolepis) and bird’s nest fern (asplenium nidus), bromeliads, orchids (especially crucifix orchids), philodendrons (including P. ‘Xanadu’ and P. congo), begonias, limonium, mondo grass, liriope, Australian native violet, ribbon plant (chlorophytum) and tradescantia.  Mix and match for a great effect!

Ornamentals for sun

In a very hot, sunny situation select succulent plants and cactus. Ivy geraniums (such as ‘Big Red’) also cope with hot, sunny spots.

Lush suggestions include agapanthus (dwarf forms), bromeliads (sun tolerant selections), society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), walking iris (Neomarcia), mondo grass, liriope, dianella, alternanthera, ivy, festuca glauca, myoporum and Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’.

For seasonal colour, plant potted annuals such as bedding begonias, pansies (ideal for colour in autumn, winter and early spring), petunias (great for spring and summer) or dwarf marigolds.

Productive plants

Most productive plants require some sun to grow. If they are grown without enough light they may become leggy (as they grow out towards the light) and more prone to diseases. Leaf size may be small and flavour may be compromised.

Fast-growing, small plants are the best choices for edible vertical gardens including soft-heated lettuce, some kales, wild rocket, English spinach, small chilli plants, strawberries and a wide selection of herbs such as mint, thyme, tarragon, parsley and oregano.


Plants growing in vertical gardens need regular maintenance. Check them daily to ensure that they are watered. If the system has a built in watering system, check it is working, that each planting module is receiving water and that the water is draining from the base of the system.

Prune spent growth and check for signs of pests or diseases. Remove any damaged foliage or flowers. Where a plant has out grown the space available, remove the planting module and either prune the overgrown plant or replace it. If possible divide the plant, replacing some it in the planting module with fresh potting mix.

More information

For tips on how to select the right vertical garden system for you, see Vertical Garden Systems.