Terrace Garden Design Ideas – A Beginners Guide

terrace garden ideas with free space

An empty terrace is like a blank canvas to create a beautiful artwork. In today’s world of multistoried apartments, there’s not much freedom for individuals to create a personalized terrace space. But for those lucky ones terrace is one place that can bring nature close to you. Be it a small terrace or a large terrace, here are a few pointers that can help you design a beautiful and fulfilling garden.

Always Plan Your Space First

Garden has become synonymous with plants. So obviously when you think about your terrace garden, you would first think about all the plants that you would like to have. Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret! Great garden designs especially for small terrace gardens is all about planning the free space first and then the plants. We create gardens to spend time in them and not just to accommodate plants. Hence it’s extremely important to plan sufficient space while designing your garden so that you could have a great time with your loved ones or with a few friends in your beautiful terrace garden. Lets take a look at some of the pictures below,

terrace garden ideas with free space
Image courtesy of i.ytimg.com


terrace garden ideas with free space
Image courtesy of gardenseason.com
terrace garden ideas with a lot of free space 2
Image courtesy of anewgarden.co.uk

In each of the above small garden designs, sufficient Free Space is incorporated in the design. This makes these designs functional and beautiful at the same time. Once you’ve planned the Free Space, you could make it into a lawn or have some nice garden furniture, have a nice gazebo or tents or just a hammock where you could lay down and relax.  So as a thumb rule, Allocate at least 60% of your available terrace area for Free Space!!

Key Parameters to Keep In Mind

When you’re planning to set up a terrace garden, you would need to assess three important parameters

1. Sunlight

How much direct sunlight does your terrace get and at which time of the day? Direct sunlight allows photosynthesis to happen and keeps the plants looking fresh and green. If your terrace receives direct sunlight for about 6 to 8 hours a day, then a wide range of plants including vegetables, flowering and fruiting varieties can be placed. Ideally plants would love to get direct early morning sunlight. Ideally between 6am – 11am. In India, afternoons can get really scorching, like in Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad or Mumbai during peak summers. If you are feeling the heat and getting exhausted by the afternoon sun, so will your plants. If your terrace only gets the afternoon sunlight, then planning to install 50% green shade nets in at least a portion of the terrace if not all will definitely help. This will not only keep your plants happy but would also give you an opportunity to spend some afternoons in your terrace garden without worrying about the sun too much!  (You can visit http://www.greengardens.in/product/shade-net-50-9-sq-mts/ to learn more about shade nets)

2. Water

As you may already know, plants need water to survive. Most plants require watering at least once a day. So when planning a terrace garden, ensure you have watering facility in the terrace. Most Indian terraces have a few taps fitted already. If it’s not available, then you could make arrangements to have them fitted. As you expand the plants in your garden, watering would play a major role in keeping the terrace garden looking fresh.

3. Drainage

Once you’ve taken care of the watering, the next stage is to consider the drainage path for excess water that would flow out of the pots or grow bags. Also it’s always recommended to place the pots or grow bags on a slight elevation. This would ensure no water logging happens under the pots or grow bags. It’s best to use drain cells as the base and place your pots and grow bags on them. Alternately you could use plastic water collection trays at the bottom of the pots or grow bags to collect excess water.  Sometimes people build small platforms at an elevation of about 6 inches to a foot from the floor to place their pots. Which ever route your choose, ensuring proper drainage path before placing your plants would go a long way in protecting your roof from seepage issues in the long run.

Container Garden or Garden Bed 

One of the major decisions that haunts most people as they plan their terrace gardens is whether to go for containers like grow bags, pots and planters to place the plants or to create a complete soil bed where landscaping can be done. My personal opinion would be to always go for container gardening. It offers flexibility and mobility. Containers can be moved around and plants can be shifted from one container to another. More importantly, containers like pots and planters or grow bags offer the possibility of setting up the terrace garden in a modular fashion (Visit http://www.greengardens.in/product-category/pots-planters/ to check out our range of pots and planters that are perfect for terrace gardens.) But if you are keen on creating a complete soil bed on the terrace, then you will have to ensure that the terrace has sufficient water proofing and water drainage track to remove excess water. Also, it’s important to check if the building has the structural strength to handle the weight of the soil and plants of a landscaped terrace garden.

Choosing the Right Plants for your terrace garden

The choice of plants for your terrace garden is determined by the amount of sunlight your terrace gets and how much maintenance effort you are willing to put in.  The list below is a selection of commonly available plants in India and is categorized based on sunlight and maintenance requirements.


S.No Plant Name or Family Sunlight Requirement Maintenance Requirement
1 Greens – Spinach, Mint, Herbs 4 Hours of Direct sunlight. Thrives well under partial shade. Medium


Vegetables – Tomato, Ladies Finger, Brinjal, Chilli, Capsicum, Beans etc. 6-8 Hours of Direct Sunlight Medium
3 Fruits – Mango, Pomegranate, Chikku, Lemon, Fig etc. 8 Hours of Direct Sunlight Medium
4 Flowers – Rose, Hibiscus, Jasmine, Plumeria, Bougainvillea, Marigold etc. 8 Hours of Direct Sunlight Medium
5 Foliage – Palms Family and Bamboo Family Does well in shade and full sunlight Low
6 Foliage – Korean Grass, Mexican Grass Etc 6 – 8 Hours of Direct Sunlight High
7 Foliage – Common Crotons, Philodendrum Family, Money Plant Family, Aralia Family, Dracena Family Does best in partial shade Low
8 Ornamental – Orchids family, Anthurium family Low Light High

Road to a great terrace garden

Every terrace garden is unique in its own way. It’s an expression of an individual’s imagination and inner spirit. Like every thing in life, the more time, love and care you give to your garden, the more personal and lively it becomes. The tips and pointers presented here only serve as a guide while you design your own unique terrace garden. The possibilities for a great garden are always endless and infinite.

If you have any queries regarding setting your terrace garden, please leave it in the comments section below. If you thought this article was helpful please share it on Facebook.

Adith Kumar