Sidewalk Garden Ideas

sidewalk planter
Flo's Gardens

Are you tired of maintaining that odd, rectangular-shaped piece of lawn between your sidewalk and street? This unwelcome patch of lawn, sometimes called a “hell strip,” can become the site of a jaw-dropping flower garden if you embrace the trend of parking strip gardening.

Maintaining a parking strip garden isn’t for the faint of heart. With such a conspicuous garden comes vulnerability. Unthinking children may pluck bouquets for their mothers. Disrespectful passers-by may flick cigarettes into your shrubbery. Car fumes and ice melting chemicals threaten the health of any delicate specimens you struggle to grow in this no-man’s land. And dogs will do what dogs do (ahem). If these thoughts make you clench your trowel a little bit tighter with determination, you’re ready to tackle your hell strip.

  • 01 of 10

    Preparing Your Sidewalk Garden

    Garden Preparation
    Photo Friends of the Urban Forest

    The first step in planning a parking strip garden is to remove every particle of sod. Although there are several ways to do this in the landscape, including solarization and herbicide use, the best way to get your sidewalk garden ready is to dig the sod out. This creates room to add soil amendment, which is key to the success of the hell strip planting. In this harsh growing zone, your flowers will need ample amounts of compost, leaf mold, and/or well-aged manure to thrive.

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  • 02 of 10

    A Riotous Front Yard Floral Display

    Coneflowers and Cannas
    Photo Debb Low-grow-neo,

    This brilliant display might make you want to garden just a little bit harder. If this gardener can create such a paradise in a hell strip garden, then there’s hope for all of our landscape problem areas. Dahlias, cannas, and coneflowers shine on the left side of the photo, and black-eyed Susans light up the street side. What a treat for the neighbors!

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  • 03 of 10

    Sidewalk Plants for All Seasons

    Photo Allison Felus

    When you’re designing your sidewalk garden, it’s easy to get carried away with herbaceous perennials and hot weather annuals. However, you should include some early spring flowering bulbs to extend the garden’s season. Stick with one or two bulb varieties in this small space to maintain a unified appearance. If you want to plant several bulb types, limit your color palette. Don’t forget to include some mums or asters for fall interest as well.

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  • 04 of 10

    Sidewalk Flower Garden Design

    Curbside Garden
    Photo flickr user crasherbug

    It’s clear to all that pass by this well-designed flowerbed that a gardener lives here. Installing plants in groups of three to five, including a variety of foliage shapes and colors, planning a progression of blooms, and placing the tallest plants at the back or center of the flowerbed are strategies this gardener did right.

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  • 05 of 10

    Success With Front Yard Raised Beds

    Raised Beds

    A sidewalk garden may seem like an awkward site for raised flowerbeds. However, the beds allow you to grow flowers that are fussy about soil and to bring low-growing plants closer to eye level for sniffing and admiring. Raised beds are also a handy way to discourage pedestrians from taking a shortcut through your garden.

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  • 06 of 10

    Tough Plants for a Tough Environment

    Ornamental Grasses
    Photo Scott Meyer,

    Lamb’s ears, New Zealand flax, lavender, and kniphofia all have spiky, interesting foliage that makes them attractive plants in or out of bloom. These plants are also low-maintenance, requiring little more than an annual deadheading to keep them looking neat. Other tough plants for the sidewalk garden include day lilies, catmint, and sedum

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  • 07 of 10

    Traffic-Stopping Garden Display

    Cottage Garden
    Kenneth Rittener/Getty Images

    Flower devotees who want a high blossom count in their sidewalk gardens should mix annual and perennial flowers for a long succession of blooms. This intensive cottage garden planting will require regular fertilizing, weekly weeding, and pruning or deadheading to achieve maximum performance. Unless you feel that a flowerbed must have a grass foil, you can do without the micro strip of lawn.

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  • 08 of 10

    One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

    Streetside Garden
    Photo Stewart and Vickie Carrington

    Some gardeners live in neighborhoods where the hellstrip gardening phenomenon hasn’t caught on yet. If you’ve chosen to maintain a flowering landscape different from the community norm, be sure to stand out in a positive way by keeping your flowerbed weeded, and by keeping thuggish plants from denying passers-by the right of way on the sidewalk.

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  • 09 of 10

    Lovely Edibles

    Flowering Artichokes
    Photo Justin Martin,

    Gardeners who live in frost free zones with cool summers, like this Seattle setting, can try growing artichokes in their parking strip gardens. Sure, you can eat them, but even if you don’t enjoy eating the buds of these 3-foot thistles, the silvery foliage and purple flowers will shine in your garden.

    The edibles you can grow in a sidewalk garden are limited only by the amount of sunlight you receive, but keep in mind that pedestrians might see these veggies as a public offering, limiting your harvest. Tuck a few dwarf cherry tomato plants among the flowers, and perhaps you will be able to top your salads without attracting the notice of the neighborhood. 

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  • 10 of 10

    To Complement or Disguise?

    Fire Hydrant Garden
    Flickr/Brewbooks/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Fire hydrants, manhole covers, utility boxes, and other objects conspire to take up precious landscaping space in the sidewalk garden. As tempting as it is to hide these utilitarian objects with thick shrubbery or a stand of tall sunflowers, city ordinances may limit your planting practices around such items for public safety reasons. Contact the agency responsible for the object to avoid investing in expensive planting material that you may have to remove. Attractive ground covers such as creeping phlox soften the area around utilities, but still allow easy access for workers.