Unique Vertical Gardening Ideas for Your Backyard

wall of plants of a vertical garden

Whether your backyard is smaller than a postage stamp or large enough for a regulation soccer field, there is a vertical garden idea just for you. No matter your backyard view, vertical gardening will help you make the most of your outdoor space.

What is a vertical garden?

Vertical gardens are grown vertically, usually in some type of container or pot, instead of in the ground along a row. Like a high-rise building in a city, vertical gardens grow up instead of out. 

Vertical gardening works well in small spaces, like balconies, or poor growing conditions. This type of container gardening is a good DIY project for beginners and wanna-be gardeners.

Unique vertical gardening ideas for your backyard

Whether you want to add a colorful living wall or need to embellish an unattractive fenceline, a vertical garden offers a colorful, living solution to your backyard landscape design woes.

Step 1: Find the sun

A south-facing location is the best. West-facing spots come in second place. These orientations get the most sun throughout the day and should give you that six-hour minimum that full-sun plants require.

If you have a north or east-facing location, opt for partial- or full-shade plants instead.

Step 2: Find your plants

Which types of plants are best for a vertical garden? Ask yourself what you want to plant. Can you plant it in a pot? The answer is probably yes

Here are a few garden theme ideas:

  • Herb garden
  • Succulent garden
  • Hydroponic garden
  • Raised bed garden (put it on stilts)
  • Pallet garden (make sure the wood is untreated)
  • Hanging gardens (use hanging pots)

Food plants for a vertical vegetable garden

  • Carrots (Yes, it’s possible!)
  • Cucumbers
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Turnips
  • Swiss chard
  • Squash
  • Melons
  • Herbs

This is an extremely abbreviated list, as most in-ground veggies and herbs can be grown in pots. 

Ornamental plants for aesthetics

  • Coral honeysuckle
  • Mandevilla
  • Clematis (some cultivars are highly poisonous)
  • Moonvine
  • Succulents 
  • Annual and perennial flowers
  • Ferns
  • Moss
  • Most any climbing or vining plant

Some of these will work better in upright containers while others may be more attractive as part of a living wall.

Before you submit your seed order, don’t forget about pollinators. Buy seeds for native plant species to encourage pollinators to visit your new vertical garden space. In addition, consider adding a bee hotel to encourage solitary bees to live and nest nearby. Solitary bees are expert pollinators and don’t readily sting, so they’re a perfect addition to your backyard vertical garden.

For more detailed information on how to pot your vertical backyard garden, check out our article “Vertical Gardening Ideas for Your Balcony.”

Step 3: Find your supports

Before you think about containers, what kind of vertical structure do you want to use? What vertical structure do you already have to repurpose?

  • Fence
  • Wall
  • Column
  • Ladder
  • Stair railing
  • Hardscaping, such as a pergola, arbor, or trellis
  • Spare garden stakes
  • An old plant stand
  • Cattle panels
  • Clothesline
  • Pot rack
  • Lamp post
  • Chicken wire

If none of these ideas appeal to you, or if you’re not very handy, buy a vertical planter if that’s easier for you or works better for your space.

Step 4: Find your containers

There are a million ways to craft containers for your vertical garden. Here are a few ideas for vertical garden designs if you want to think outside the pot:

  • Old coffee or beverage containers
  • Gutter pieces
  • Pallets (untreated wood)
  • Old picture frames (for a succulent living wall)
  • Store-bought living wall system
  • Standard planter boxes
  • Purchased felt pockets or an old hanging shoe organizer
  • Clay pots
  • 2-liter soda bottles or other large plastic bottles
  • Mason jars

Don’t forget about your hanging hardware:

  • S-hooks (to hang old coffee containers)
  • Screw hook (for hanging baskets)
  • Wall bracket for hanging basket
  • Wall mount/brace for pots

If you can’t find specialty hanging hardware at your local big box store, look on Amazon or another online retailer for something that suits your vision.

The Santa Clara County, CA, Master Gardeners specify the following potting depths for these vegetables. These instructions are for standard, store-bought pot shapes and sizes. 

Vegetables with
shallow roots
Vegetables with
moderate roots
Vegetables with
deep roots
Choose a pot
that is 6 to 9
inches deep.
Choose a pot
that is 12 to 18
inches deep.
Choose a pot
that is 18 to 24
inches deep.
Green onions
Lettuces and spinach
Carrots (choose cultivars
with a short root,
or choose a deeper pot)
Winter squash

If you don’t see your plant listed here, size up to a deeper pot if you’re unsure. The taller the mature size, the deeper the pot should be, in general. If you’re planting perennials, these generally grow deep roots, so go with a deeper pot. Larger pots also require watering less often than smaller containers. 

Remember to check out our “What is Vertical Garden” article for other things to consider before you pot your plants, such as drainage, color, composition, and weight.

Pro Tip: Place larger pots on casters or wheels for ease of movement.

Step 5: Find your potting medium

Most good-quality potting mixes will suit any vegetable or ornamental container plant. To ensure good moisture control and drainage, look for a mix with peat moss and vermiculite and/or perlite. Once you’ve potted your plants, add more perlite if the soil holds too much moisture. If the soil seems to dry out too quickly, add coco coir, peat moss, or vermiculite. 

If the soil is too wet or too dry, consider how much sun, heat, or wind the pot is exposed to. Also, consider how often and how much you water. During the height of summer, for example, it might help to move certain plants into a place with a little more shade in the afternoon to reduce water loss.

Pro Tip: If your potting mix doesn’t come with fertilizer, you may need to supplement with a water-soluble fertilizer. Worm castings, compost, and other soil amendments add some nutrients, but many experts recommend additional fertilizer to ensure proper fruit and flower production.

FAQ about unique vertical gardening ideas for the backyard

1. How can I train a plant up a column or lamp post?

Have you ever felt jealous when you saw a beautiful climbing vine swirling around a tall lamp post? Adding a climbing plant to a pole adds a soft, cottage garden feel to your landscape. Here’s how to train a climbing vine up a column or lamp post:

1) Buy a healthy, vining plant
2) Spray paint chicken wire the same color as the post or column
3) Wrap the chicken wire around the post or column
4) Install the plant

As the plant grows, use ties or clamps to attach the vines up and around the pole, if needed. Make sure the plant is well suited for that spot in the yard and your local climate. This is a small garden project that can become a beautiful focal point (and point of pride) in your landscape.

2. Can vertical gardening add more privacy to my backyard?

Yes, vertical gardening is an excellent way to increase privacy in your backyard. Choose a fast-growing (non-invasive) vine to train up a trellis, pergola, fence, or other screen-type structure. The foliage and flowers (if it’s a flowering vine) will bring beauty and provide a natural screen for your outdoor space.

Pro Tip: Look at your state native plant society’s plant list to find vines that are native to your area and non-invasive.

3. What is hydroponics, and is it a type of vertical gardening?

Hydroponics is growing plants without soil. Water, light, and nutrients provide all the plants need for life and growth. And yes, these growing setups are usually installed vertically to maximize growing space. It’s not a new idea, but it is not as common as in-soil gardening, especially among home gardeners.

Even so, hydroponics is growing in popularity with home gardeners who usually have a curious bent and are eager to try new growing techniques. There is a small initial investment, but the main components (PVC pipe and fittings, a pump, nutrient solution, and a few other things) are fairly inexpensive and easy to find.

If you’re busy backyard gardening, let one of our local lawn care pros take the lawn off your weekend to-do list.

Main Photo Credit: Ramesh NG | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Sarah Bahr

Sarah is a writer who has previously worked in the lawn care industry. In her spare time, she likes to garden, raise chickens, and mow the grass with her battery-powered lawn mower.