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Step-to-Step Guide on How to Start a Roof-Top Garden

Starting a rooftop garden needs perseverance, diligence, and careful plant choice. Here's a step by step guide on how to start a rooftop garden to help you through the process.

Shubhi Singh
Shadow-tolerant plants are a fantastic choice if nearby structures or trees shade your roof for most of the day.
Shadow-tolerant plants are a fantastic choice if nearby structures or trees shade your roof for most of the day.

A rooftop garden is a collection of potted plants that are maintained on a flat building, sometimes an apartment building, by home gardeners or landscapers. Vegetable plants and decorative shrubs are just two examples of plants. A small number of plants in terracotta pots can be planted, or a large number of built-in garden beds with automatic irrigation systems can be used.

Rooftop gardens are comparable to green roofs, which are roofs covered in sedum and mosses to reduce stormwater runoff and improve insulation.

Four Plant Types for Rooftop Gardens

Roof weather can be extremely variable. Some rooftops receive direct sunlight while others are shaded by nearby structures; some roofs can achieve temperatures of 170 degrees Fahrenheit while others are subject to strong winds. The weather on your roof should be taken into account while choosing the plants for your rooftop container garden.

The following plant species could flourish on your rooftop:

1. Drought-tolerant plants:

Many rooftop gardens that are exposed to the sun, wind, and rain need regular, thorough irrigation to survive. You can grow weary of carrying a watering can up to your roof every day to water the plants if you don't have the desire or ability to construct a drip system or rain barrel cistern. Drought-tolerant plants, such as the snow rose desert succulent, sage, butterfly weeds, and evergreen trees and shrubs, can make your rooftop garden low maintenance and simpler to manage.

2. Shadow-tolerant plants:

Shadow-tolerant plants are a fantastic choice if nearby structures or trees shade your roof for most of the day. Hostas and lettuce are two common plants that thrive in partial sunlight.

3. Sun-loving plants:

Sun-loving plants are the most sensible choice because many roofs receive full sun (at least six hours of direct sunshine each day). Consider full-sun plants like tomato plants and strawberries, tiny trees like Japanese maple trees, and flowers like marigolds, wildflowers, and coneflowers if your roof receives a lot of sunlight.

4. Wind-tolerant plants:

Because no other buildings or trees are present to block the wind, many roofs suffer wind conditions that are higher than those experienced by ground-level gardens. Consider low-growing groundcovers and shrubs like decorative grasses, hydrangeas, and honeysuckle bushes if your roof experiences a lot of wind.

Advantages of a Rooftop Garden:

Great for small spaces:

Regardless of backyard conditions, one of the main benefits of a rooftop garden is that it enables individuals to maintain outdoor plants inside their homes. People who live in apartments and condominiums frequently choose rooftop gardens as their urban gardening option.

Greater likelihood of full sun:

Since rooftop gardens are frequently not covered by trees or other structures, they have a higher likelihood of receiving full sun than on-the-ground gardens or indoor plants. Gardeners can choose from a greater variety of plants thanks to the abundant sunlight, including sun-loving flowers and veggie plants.


Growing some plants can be challenging because many on-the-ground gardens are susceptible to weeds and local wildlife like deer and rabbits. In rooftop gardens, fewer pests can hinder plant growth and fewer weeds because the plants are grown out of the way of these animals and many weeds.

Rooftop gardens are a terrific method to provide roof space visual character, transforming a flat area into a more pleasant outdoor place with plants for partying or relaxing. Decking, a fire pit, a pergola, or ornamental seats can all be added to further enhance your rooftop garden design.

Disadvantages of a Rooftop Garden:

Water issues:

Developing a sustainable irrigation system is the major drawback of rooftop gardening. Because they are farther from spigots and water lines and require a little more engineering to set up drip irrigation systems or a cistern, rooftop gardens are often more thirsty than other gardens due to excessive sun and wind exposure.

Weather hazards:

Rooftop gardens are more susceptible to weather hazards than other gardens, particularly strong winds and high temperatures, so it's important to choose plants that are especially hardy for roofs that frequently experience weather hazards.

Limited to containers:

Because rooftop gardens are elevated off the ground, the types of plants that can be grown there are constrained to those that can be grown in containers or raised garden beds. Costlier than planting directly into the ground, container gardens can be.

Weight limitations:

Roofs can only support a certain amount of additional weight. Make sure your roof can support the weight of the containers, soil, and water cistern if you intend to install one when planning a rooftop garden.

A basic guide to help establish a rooftop garden:

1. Verify your building regulations:

To be sure you can plant on the roof, check with your local building codes before purchasing any plants. Ask the building owners or condo associations if they will allow plants in the communal areas if you live in an apartment or condo. If you live in a home, find out if there are any height or aesthetic limits by contacting the homeowners' association or researching the local building codes.

2. Make a plant selection:

 The weather on your roof should be taken into account while choosing the plants for your rooftop garden. Choose plants that enjoy the sun and heat if your roof is fully exposed to the sun or is painted black; if your roof has few windbreaks, pick plants that grow low to the ground and utilize bottom-heavy containers.

3. Select or create containers:

Rooftop gardens can be created in a variety of ways. For planters, you can use plain five-gallon buckets (with drainage holes) or create custom-raised beds for a more attractive appearance. Whatever container you decide to use, make sure it has good drainage to prevent your plants' roots from sitting in damp or soggy soil, which can cause root rot. Because plastic or wooden containers will weigh less than concrete or stone, take into account the weight restrictions of the roof.

4. Place wind barriers

If there is a lot of wind in your location, you might want to build windbreaks to protect your plants from being blown onto your roof. You may protect your plants from strong winds and secure them in the ground by using a trellis or a perimeter wall.

5. Make the soil ready

You'll need to buy soil and transport it up to your rooftop containers because rooftop gardens don't have access to the ground soil. Most plants do best in soil that drains well and is rich in organic matter, such as potting soil that has been organically composted.

6. Plant your chosen plants

Once you prepare your containers, dig holes in your containers and plant your chosen plants. Water thoroughly afterward to settle the soil and anchor the plants.

5. And obviously, water your plants

A watering can is the easiest tool to use while watering a rooftop garden. However, you can install more extensive watering systems for bigger rooftop plants or avoid descending the stairs every morning with a watering can. Installing a rain barrel or cistern to collect rainwater in a watering can is a common solution. Another option is to install a drip system linked to a water spigot on the roof.

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