5 inspiring ideas I took from the container and balcony gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

Discover what you can take from the world’s greatest flower show to implement in your own small space

(Image credit: Future/Drew Swainston)

Having a smaller outdoor space does not mean you cannot have big ideas. You can create a beautiful garden oasis on a deck, patio, or balcony, and make any urban space a green sanctuary.

I saw magnificent displays and ideas on the balcony and container gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024. It showed how lush and plentiful gardens can be created in more limited spaces with creativity and sometimes a willingness to think out of the box.

The container gardening ideas were so inspirational. I have grown many plants in pots over the years, but what I saw surpassed anything I had ever done on my patio, or in the courtyard garden I used to have. To help inspire you, I have picked out some of the creative ideas on show that inspired me and could help you create a green space in whatever sized space you have.

The La Mia Venezia balcony garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

The La Mia Venezia balcony garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

(Image credit: Future/Drew Swainston)

Balcony and Container Gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

The 10 balconies and container gardens at RHS Chelsea were hugely varied in style. They ranged from a tropical jungle on a balcony, to a Mediterranean oasis, to a contemporary courtyard garden focused on saving and reusing rainwater. But, despite the differences in landscaping and planting, there was something inspirational to take home from each of them if you are after balcony garden ideas or want to create show-stopping containers.

1. Create storeys of planting

The Addleshaw Goddard Junglette Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

The Addleshaw Goddard Junglette Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

(Image credit: Future/Drew Swainston)

Think outside the box and stray from the tired-old trend of packing bedding plants into pots or hanging baskets for the summer. Yes, this will look colorful and bright but it can be much more dramatic to vary the height of plants and have different levels in the space.

'The Addleshaw Goddard Junglette Garden' showcased this superbly. It was beautiful, it promoted biodiversity, and there was real drama. The balcony garden had towering tree ferns growing alongside smaller palms and nasturtiums that climbed the balcony rails and tumbled over the edge.

It was designed to mirror the layers of a jungle and shows you can have a green and lush space even on an urban balcony. Using the ferns is also great for balcony privacy ideas as you can have a green oasis shielding you from the commotion of the city outside.

You may think it is a difficult look to pull off, but not all the plants were difficult to grow or maintain - as nasturtiums featured heavily and are one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed.

2. Go vertical and showcase plants on walls

A living wall on The Water Saving Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

A living wall on The Water Saving Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

(Image credit: Future/Drew Swainston)

If you have a smaller ground plan, implementing vertical garden ideas and utilizing walls or fences is a great way to maximize the available space.

The gardens on show featured clever ways to do this. The main two that caught my eye were adding shelving to the walls to showcase plants or having a living wall of succulents - showcased in picture frames with overhead lighting on ‘The Water Saving Garden’ to give a unique gallery-style effect.

The simple and effective wooden shelving on the ‘Tomie’s Cuisine the Nobonsai’ garden was an easy system that can be replicated at home to create a vertical garden to display lots of plants in containers - similar to an auricula theatre but for a wide array of plants.

3. Get creative and recycle containers for a unique look

Ferns growing in wooden and metal containers at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

Plants were growing in wooden and metal containers at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

(Image credit: Future/Drew Swainston)

There was a wealth of different containers on show among the gardens, some were more classic pots made of terracotta, ceramic, or modern materials, while others were more unique.

I saw plants in troughs, tins, wooden boxes, metal barrels, watering cans, pedal bins, a sink, and even a houseplant in a disco ball. There were probably so many more that I didn’t even notice. It shows you can be creative when looking for container or planter box ideas to fit any design or style of a space.

As long as the container can hold enough potting soil, and has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape, it can sustain plants. Recycling old containers to grow plants is a great way to reduce waste and bring a unique style to a backyard space.

4. Immerse yourself in the planting

Seating and raised flower beds on The Water Saving Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

Raised planting also featured on The Water Saving Garden

(Image credit: Future/Drew Swainston)

Surrounding yourself with plants can help create a peaceful sanctuary to enjoy the garden and switch off from the world outside.

‘The Anywhere Courtyard’ garden did this brilliantly as the planting was in large raised beds and containers to flourish around the seating, putting it at head height. It has a great mix of sensory herbs and fragrant perennials to create a very relaxing environment in which to unwind and connect with nature and others around you.

Placing taller containers around your seating space, or displaying pots on tables, allows you to sit and enjoy the flowers and the insects that will visit them. Whether with a morning coffee, or an evening glass of wine, sitting and enjoying the plants will be a calming and rewarding experience.

5. Consider the weight of containers

A range of plants in containers, including carnivorous plants, succulents, and Amaranthus

Mixing containers of different sizes and materials can make a fantastic show

(Image credit: Future/Drew Swainston)

There will be strict weight limitations on balconies that can limit the amount of containers you can have. If you want to grow lots of plants alongside your balcony seating, then grow bags could be the ideal solution.

Plants were on show growing in bags in the ‘Addleshaw Goddard Junglette Garden’ to reduce the weight load. As grow bags are lightweight, breathable, and reusable, they offer a real alternative to weightier terracotta or ceramic containers.

If you do use large planters or containers on a balcony to put together fantastic displays, save weight by not filling them full of soil. Instead, put old plastic pots in the bottom to reduce the weight.

As container and balcony gardens become increasingly popular in urban areas, there are important aspects of plant care to get right when growing in pots. In particular, soil and drainage are always key factors to healthy plants. To help you navigate the path of growing in pots, see our article on the biggest container gardening mistakes to avoid to keep your plants thriving.

Drew Swainston
Content Editor

Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites. Drew was shortlisted in the New Talent of the Year award at the 2023 Garden Media Guild Awards.