Having a rooftop garden can be something you’re very lucky to have when you live in the city. Definitely, you shouldn’t waste that space. However, designing and starting a rooftop garden can be very tricky. There are many factors to consider and the plants that you grow should match the overall feel of what your theme is.
While having a rooftop garden sounds like a really cool idea, there are other reasons why you should have one.
There are benefits that you probably didn’t know like how it could reduce your air-conditioning and heating costs, how it could improve air quality, and how you can use that space to grow your own crops or food.
On this post, you’ll find Essential Rooftop Garden Design Ideas and tips To Creating The Most Amazing Terrace Garden and why you should consider fixing that roof space.
You’ll also get to know how different a roof garden is from designing a small garden or backyard.
Can You Really Setup and Design a Garden on Your Roof?
Of course! You can definitely setup a garden on your roof, but the kind of setup will really depend on the space that you have.
You probably have heard of a roof garden and a green roof before. Both may sound like the same thing, but it’s not really the case.
A roof garden is a space where you can put planters and decors. Some even place outdoor furnishings like tables and chairs to make the garden’s space feel homely and more inviting.
A roof garden is typically flat on surface and is a place where you can really walk around.
Meanwhile, a green roof can be of any shape. It’s literally your place’s roof but it consists of shallow plastic or metal trays where your plants are.
Typically, the plants that you can place here are only light and small to medium-sized like succulents and perennial wildflowers.
How Does Designing a Rooftop Garden Differ from Designing Regular Gardens?
When you’re on the rooftop, it is always either too sunny or too windy. It’s usually windy up there but during the summer, it’s just sunny and too warm. The climate on your rooftop will really depend on the surroundings.
If you live around taller buildings, then it’s most likely that your rooftop doesn’t get much sun. It also tends to be very windy when that’s the case. These would happen year-round if you live around tall buildings.
If that is the case, make sure that the plants that you’d like to grow on your rooftop deck only require a minimal amount of sunshade.
If you don’t live around tall buildings, then it’s likely that the heat and humidity are more intense up there. Choose plants that can tolerate heat well if that’s the case.
A few examples of plants that could thrive well under the intense heat of the sun are Madagascar Periwinkle, Lantana, Geranium, Stonecrop, and many succulents in the family of Sedum.
Meanwhile, some of the plants that prefer the shade are
- Coral Bells
- Dead Nettle
- Japanese Forest Grass
- Lady’s Mantle
Other Plants Suited for Rooftop Gardens
Aside from considering the climate or usual temperature on your rooftop when selecting plants, you should also take into consideration the size of the space that you have.
However, I wouldn’t really choose plants with big leaves whether I have a big or small garden space.
Plants with big or large leaves tend to get easily shredded up by the wind, and again, it’s just usual that it’s windy on your rooftop.
For small roof garden spaces, it’s best to choose plants that you can place in small to medium-sized containers. Succulents are usually ideal for this.
How is Having a Rooftop Garden Beneficial?
Aside from making sure that use the rooftop space efficiently, having a rooftop garden has other benefits like reducing storm water runoff.
Since you have plants and other decors on your rooftop deck, you’re also creating a habitat for birds, butterflies, and bees.
Beautification is also a good reason why you should make use of that rooftop space. You can create an outdoor space where you can relax and enjoy.
You don’t only get to enjoy the view from your rooftop, but you can also enjoy the beauty and serenity in your rooftop.
I also mentioned earlier that this can help reduce your air-conditioning and heating costs.
The roof is sometimes the reason why it can get too warm inside your house as it directly absorbs heat from the sun, but if you place a garden on it, it would just make your home feel cooler during the hot summer days.
My favorite reason and benefit of having a rooftop garden is being able to grow crops that can serve as your food.
This is a great option for people who live in urban areas, and this is why people with rooftop decks or space in a busy city is very lucky. Nothing really beats growing your own healthy food.
10 Essential Rooftop Garden Ideas & Tips
When you already have planned on how you want your rooftop garden to look and already know what plants you’d like to grow there, then here are 10 Essential Roof Garden Design ideas and tips To Creating The Most Amazing Terrace Garden that you may want to keep in mind before Planting a Rooftop Garden.
1: Keep your roof garden open
Whether you have a small or big rooftop, they key to making your rooftop garden spacious is to keep it open. Make use of transparent glass walls instead of cement or brick ones.
Yes, you can setup a tent or a kind of roof to keep your furnishings shaded, but only place them in a certain area.
This idea really works best for small garden rooftops. Keeping your space open just gives the illusion that you have a bigger space.
It could also make you feel comfortable if you enjoy having your own space. However, do know that this could make your garden setup have less privacy. Only do this if you’re fine without the privacy.
2: Go for tall plants or trees is possible
It’s common for people to choose tall plants or trees if they are trying to cover something up or they just really like the shade and privacy.
If your rooftop is very exposed to its surrounding establishments, then you can choose to surround your garden with tall trees or plants.
Some good choices of tall plants are
- Butterfly Bush
- Downy Sunflower
- Large Solomon’s Seal
- Spotted Joe-Pye Weed
These plants could grow to at least 5 to 15 feet tall. They could serve as your garden walls.
If you plan on furnishing your rooftop garden and would like to stay there a lot and still enjoy privacy, then this is the best you could do.
If you don’t want to surround your garden with tall trees or plant, then just place a tall plant or two beside the area where you will often stay.
3: Go for different varieties of plants
Sure, there are only specific plants that could thrive well on your rooftop, but this doesn’t mean that you should only get a few of these ideal plants.
There are actually many plants that could thrive on your roof so make sure that mix them up.
While plants with no flowers would already look nice with their green colors, adding flowering plants would surely liven up your garden.
There are many flowering plants that you can grow there like the hibiscus. Flowering succulents and cactus would also look nice on your space.
4: Build raised beds
This is only ideal if your roof can handle it. It’s best for spacious roof decks. What you can do is to build raised beds around the walls of the roof. Adding raised beds around your garden could give it more personality.
What’s nice is that these raise beds can be made of materials that you prefer like wood, plastic, metal, or concrete.
Concrete may be the best choice if you live in a building. Concrete raised beds can handle small and even tall plants. Just make sure that the bed is at least 2 to 3 feet deep.
When building raised beds, make sure that you use a waterproofing membrane.
You should also put a thick root barrier that can prevent the roots from sticking out. This would keep the roots from destroying your roof.
5: Select furniture that you’d like to see in your garden
Adding furniture to your rooftop garden setup could make the overall feel and purpose of your rooftop garden.
The furniture you should get will depend on the purpose that you have in mind. If you plan on having dinner parties in your rooftop garden with family or friends from time to time, then get a long table and multiple chairs.
If you only plan on making your rooftop garden an intimate place or a place that you want to call your own, then an outdoor lounge, seat, or couch would work well.
Think of the things that you want to do in that space so you can figure out what furniture you want to get.
Sticking to a theme is also a good idea. You can choose different furniture that are uniform in material. It’s typical to see wooden furniture in gardens.
After all, your garden will be on a roof, so you should really try to avoid furniture with cloth material.
Other materials you can use are metal, cement, bricks, and stones. Always make sure that you get furniture that could withstand heat and rain.
6: Buy decors To Add Whimsical Style To Your roof
Aside from furniture, you can also get decors for your rooftop garden. This will really depend on the theme that your garden has. Some would place decors like fake butterflies all over the garden for added color.
You can also choose decors with purpose. If you see birds, bees, or butterflies often, then you can decorate your garden with a birdhouse or an animal fountain.
There are just really many ways that you can decorate your rooftop garden.
7: Think of what could be your garden’s focal point
If you’re someone who’s not really a big fan of too much decors lying around, then just think of what you can have as a focal point.
Having a focal point in your garden means that you have something in place that could easily get the attention of anyone.
The focal point is usually what you first see as soon as you enter your garden. It could be a small statue, a birdhouse, a fountain, or a bench.
Just remember to get something that would perfectly fit your garden. You shouldn’t really get a statue if your rooftop doesn’t have that much space because your garden will just end up looking cluttered.
8: Consider doing lighting
Setting up a lighting system your garden could actually work really well. This could make you appreciate your garden even during the night.
It’s not really just to help you see your garden at night. A lighting setup could make your garden appear magical when done right.
Some would make use of fairy or pixie lights or Christmas light to set the mood in the garden. If you just want to keep it simple, you can just get any form of lighting.
For a spacious setup, you can get an outdoor lamp post. If you only have limited space, then you can just get outdoor wall light fixtures.
9: Apply designing rules
In interior designing, a common rule that most designers follow is that a room should only have at least three colors.
This is also applicable to your rooftop garden. This would help build and complete the theme that you’re working on.
You can just choose one color that will dominate the room then two more colors that would serve as the accents.
The accent colors could be vibrant colors or colors that could easily stand out when placed with that one dominant color of your choice.
10: Nice floor is important
The floors that you choose for your garden can also make or break its overall look. Of course, flooring can easily get expensive so make sure that you only get something that’s within your budget.
If you don’t have the budget for the flooring, then you can adjust the other designs and make it look cohesive with your original flooring.
It’s typical for rooftop gardens to be bare or made of cement. You can surely keep it as it is or changes the color if you can’t have extra floorings.
If you do have the budget, you can choose wooden floorings, but take note that the furniture should also match this accordingly.
Other Things to Keep in Mind When Setting up Your Rooftop Garden
Those are just a few tips and ideas that you can follow for your rooftop garden. Overall, the design and feel that your garden should have will really depend on your taste and the purpose of having it.
It doesn’t really have to look extreme. What you just really should want is that this garden will make you feel great.
Safety is still important, so make sure that you’re allowed to build a rooftop garden before you start. This is especially if you live in a building.
There are actually laws regarding this, In New York, only 20 percent of the roof’s building is allowed to have a wooden deck, and so you can’t really go all out on this.
Part of safety is making sure that nobody gets hurt when constructing your garden. Make sure that your roof’s railings are secured.
As you work in your garden, make sure that you don’t place your tools anywhere near the railings to avoid other people from getting hurt.
Planting carefully is also really important. Always check if the plant would eventually grow out and destroy a part of your roof.
Other than all these tips and reminders, you can really do anything in your garden. You can even consult a landscaping expert if you have the budget.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.