Expert tips on creating a lush and plant-friendly area even in a tiny space.

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As herb and vegetable gardens, composting and other aspects of green living become more popular, many people with limited outdoor space are looking for ways to squeeze the most out of it.

Even a small patio or balcony can be made useful and plant-friendly, interior designers say.

Here, interior designer Edyta Czajkowska, founder of the Chicago design firm Edyta & Co., and two other experts — Connecticut landscape architect and designer Janice Parker, and Atlanta interior designer Jen Sypeck — offer advice on creating a lush and plant-friendly area even in a tiny space.


Assess your space realistically, says Czajkowska, and then seek inspiration at a garden store or on Pinterest.

“A vertical garden is a great option for smaller spaces as it only utilizes wall space, and you can actually plant quite a bit in it,” she says. “Just like with small interior spaces, you’d be surprised at what you can fit into a space that’s well thought out.”

As you plan, consider which tools or equipment you’ll need for gardening or other outdoor work. One space-saving solution: For seating, choose closed benches with storage space inside.


If you’re a first-time gardener, Sypeck says, “start with a hardy plant like rosemary or lavender. Both of these beauties offer a statement moment, an ornamental element, aromatic benefits and are hard to kill.”

Another good option is buying premade container gardens with plants and flowers that work together. “Chances are a garden expert paired everything with similar needs,” she says. “That way, you can water accordingly and provide the correct amount of sunlight needed.”

For vivid color without too much effort, consider a pre-planted container of succulents. They’re hardy, Sypeck says, “but they don’t look like it, as they produce vibrant colors and flowers. When paired together, they create a striking container garden, with the same care requirements.”

If your outdoor space doesn’t get much sun, choose plants that do well in the shade.

And in a limited space, “choose plants that grow slowly and keep their form,” Parker says, like boxwood roses or Japanese maples.


In a small space, Parker says, don’t be afraid to go big. For example, instead of using small planters, choose one large and dramatic planter as a design statement.

She and Sypeck say there are many beautiful, lightweight planters available made with a mix of fiberglass and zinc or bronze, so you can create a dramatic look that’s safe to use on rooftops or balconies where weight is an issue.

“I personally love mixing materials and styles with my outdoor containers,” Sypeck says. “Layering with a variety of heights and textures is my approach, and I tend to favor copper, cement and stone, all with a soft, modern sensibility.”

Even a small composting bin can be hidden inside an attractive planter, helping that practical item blend well into an outdoor living space.

Earth tones work well for planters, Parker says, but “one wonderful brightly colored planter can be terrific” too.