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Growing Up

Vertical gardening solutions for small spaces.

By Lori A. Johnson

The wall-mounted Rust Patina City Planter creates an instant focal point and is a stunning perch for succulents. Available in two sizes in both horizontal and vertical orientations. $198-$235 (

If you’re short on horizontal space for a traditional garden plot, or interested in cultivating your green thumb without the time and labor that goes with in-ground endeavors, vertical gardening offers functional yet attractive space-saving solutions for growing vegetables, herbs, flowers or even succulents. Whether you are an urbanite with a small balcony, you want to enhance the view of an otherwise unremarkable wall beyond a window, or you want to grow fresh ingredients for your favorite recipes just outside the kitchen door, there are a number of options to suit your space.

“Wall-mounted gardening is a nice alternative to a vine or espalier to soften vertical surfaces,” says landscape architect and Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner Russell Greey. “It’s an unconventional and versatile way to add interest and color with annual plantings. And if plants start to fade, you can easily pull them out and put something else in.”

Creative choices for the DIY contingent are virtually unlimited. Wood-framed succulent walls with chicken-wire inserts to hold cuttings in place are a popular choice. Other options include shelving attached to an exterior wall via brackets or anchors, steel mesh grids mounted with hooks for hanging containers, and fabric planter pockets that hold soil. Vertical towers are self-contained, soil-free alternatives that enable you to grow healthy produce in a fraction of the time required for traditional gardens.

Whatever configuration and materials you choose, be sure to consider such factors as aeration, irrigation and sun exposure. Many wall-mounted units include watering components to save you the trouble of watering by hand. 

Complete systems can take the guesswork out of creating your own vertical garden from scratch, and local vendors offer innovative solutions for any size home.


“Blank walls are an opportunity for homeowners to grow plants above the ground,” says inventor Alex Billingsley, owner of Flower Street Urban Gardens. This Phoenix-based company builds wall-mounted, trough-style vertical units that can beautify a block fence or uninspired wall. Kits contain all materials and easy-to-follow instructions for quick installation. A built-in patented irrigation system allows water to drain from the top into lower tiers for maximum watering efficiency. Smart technology tools, such as sensors that detect light, moisture and nutrient levels help to maintain ideal growing conditions and can even be monitored via a smartphone app. Many units can be customized to complement the aesthetics of any backyard or patio to create the ultimate living wall. Flower Street also provides complete installation and planting services and gardening classes. (

Complete wall-mounted systems by Flower Street Urban Gardens bring interest to exterior walls and fences. Colorful annuals, herbs, vegetables and succulents thrive in the customizable units, which include smart technology to keep plants well-watered and happy.

The Residential Tower Garden by Mesa’s True Garden is an all-inclusive, freestanding structure in which you can grow fruits, leafy greens, herbs and flowers without soil, making it a good option for decks, patios and balconies. A built-in 20-gallon reservoir pumps water and nutrients up the tower, feeding plants. The company also offers dozens of varieties of ready-to-plant seedlings, onsite classes and an online community. (

If aesthetics, convenience and space-saving benefits are not enough, vertical gardening is ideal for beginning gardeners, hobbyists or even more experienced gardeners who would prefer to avoid the rigors of traditional gardening, which can be taxing on the back and knees. Research different options and you’ll no doubt find the perfect solution for your experience level and space.


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