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The Best Plants for Narrow Garden Beds in Australia

For flowers, annuals as well as bulbs are perfectly suited to growing in narrow spaces. For privacy, climbers are perfect if you give them some kind of support.

Almost every home in an urban setting will have narrow garden beds down the side of the house. It can be difficult to know what to plant in these spaces but you do have plenty of options.

Especially, if there’s a fence that you look out at when you look through the windows. I have two narrow garden beds beside one side of the house with a path in between. My previous neighbour put lattice sections on top of the fence, which means I can grow climbers.

I’ve planted a passionfruit vine in one area and propagated some hardenbergia seeds from a plant I have on the other side of the house. This has resulted in four young plants I’ve spread out along the fence line.

These have only been in the ground for around 12 months and are growing nicely. They’re even flowering this year. 

hardenbergia 1 | Plant varieties

In the other narrow garden bed, which is in full sun, I’ve planted a few different bulbs including some gorgeous bearded irises. Previously, I even used this narrow space for growing vegetables such as beans and tomatoes.

So, what you plant in narrow beds really depends on whether the space is in full sun or partly shaded. And, whether you want to create a privacy screen or just want a lovely flower garden. 

For flowers, annuals as well as bulbs are perfectly suited to growing in narrow spaces. For privacy, climbers are perfect if you give them some kind of support. 

But, there are also narrow-growing trees and shrubs that you can plant. Here are just a few to consider.

Narrow varieties of Lilly Pillies

Syzygium Australe Lilly Pilly small | Plant varieties

There are now some lovely cultivars of Lilly Pillies available that are perfectly designed for these spaces. Some popular cultivars include:

  • Syzygium australe ‘Straight and Narrow’
  • Acmena smithii ‘Red Head’
  • Syzygium australe ‘Pinnacle’

These varieties are from Ozbreed and range in width from 1 to 2 metres but can be clipped to remain fairly compact.

Camelias

Camellia sasanqua plant | Plant varieties

I have a gorgeous pink flowering camellia that is growing in a very narrow garden bed beside the house.

Even though it’s not a great spot, this plant continues to surprise me with its abundance of beautiful flowers from late winter through to spring.

Camellias are very tolerant of pruning, so can be kept quite compact to fit into narrow spaces.

Clumping bamboo

Bambusa Clumping bamboo | Plant varieties

Nothing screens a fence more effectively than a mass planting of clumping bamboo.

This type of bamboo is non-invasive and can create an effective screen and noise barrier between you and the neighbours.

Some good varieties are:

  • Bambusa textilis ‘Gracilis’
  • Bambusa multiplex ‘Goldstripe’

Upright Silver Birch

Betula pendula ‘Fastigiata | Plant varieties
Betula pendula ‘Fastigiata’ / Photo by Baummapper / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

If you’re looking for a taller screening tree to plant in a narrow bed, consider the upright silver birch (Betula pendula fastigiata). This lovely tree has intertwining branches to form very dense growth.

It’s a deciduous species that puts on a glorious display of golden yellow leaves in autumn.

This species is perfect if you have a narrow bed in the sun because the tree will provide shade in the summer and then let the winter sun shine through.

Port Wine Magnolia (Magnolia figo)

Magnolia figo | Plant varieties

There’s no mistaking the sweet, fruity scent of a port wine magnolia flower. This attractive large shrub will only grow to a maximum height and spread of 3 metres but can be clipped to remain more compact.

It can add a lush display of deep green foliage to an otherwise bare area that only sports a fence. Better yet, you can plant this species quite close together (1 to 1.5 metres) to create a nice dense hedge. 

Lady Finger Palm (Rhapis excelsa)

Rhapis excelsa 1 | Plant varieties

To create a tropical feel to your garden, you could consider the lady finger palm. It only grows to a width and spread of around 1.5 metres. 

Another benefit of this plant is that it will grow quite happily in low-light conditions. This makes it perfect if you have a narrow bed in a shady part of your garden.

FAQ

How narrow can a raised garden bed be?

A raised bed can be as narrow as 30 cm but you’ll only be able to grow one row of plants in this.

What can I plant in a narrow strip next to my driveway?

In a narrow strip next to your driveway, I would recommend one of our native strappy-leaved species such as Lomandra ‘Lime Tuff’.

What is the best low-maintenance edging?

Concrete edging is totally maintenance-free and will look good for many, many years to come.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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