Here at Urban Gardening Digest, we tend to focus on farming and gardening on balconies, small gardens, and indoors.

However, the other day, we got a request from a reader: What principles should she keep in mind when planning out her roof garden?

This made us realize that we have been neglecting roof gardens, and as such, this article marks the first in hopefully many articles for our roof farmers.

Today, we will be addressing design principles for roof gardens, but expect more content revolving around this great idea.


Roof Garden Design Principles

When planning out a rooftop garden, there are a few considerations that need to be addressed. Namely:

  • Does the rooftop get full sun exposure?
  • Is the rooftop shared or private?
  • What is the objective of the garden? To produce vegetables and fruits? Or perhaps to give privacy?
  • Does the rooftop have a supply of water available?

We will try to cover as many of these scenarios in this article, but feel free to ask for feedback for your unique situation in the comment box at the end of this page.

In general, though, we believe a few principles can be applied to all roof garden designs:


  • Aim for a sustainable and self-maintaining garden. By being on a rooftop, the garden will be exposed to more sun and rain than normal gardens. This can help you decrease your utility bill and reduce your footprint. Installing solar panels and rain capture devices is thus highly recommended.


  • Maximise the visual impact of the garden. Urban sceneries can benefit highly from the varied palette of colors that rooftop gardens provide. Choose flowering and fruiting varieties to maximize the positive impact of your rooftop to the community.


  • Include noise canceling and air purifying species whenever possible. These will, once again, improve the quality of life for your community as well as give you a beautiful garden. These include Gerbera Jamesonii, Areca Palm, Chrysanthemums, Peace Lilies and Umbrella Trees, amongst many others.


Scenario 1: Rooftop Lounge

The first, and probably most common scenario we will be addressing is the rooftop garden that has the purpose of entertaining guests and to be used as a lounge.

In this case, you will want to choose colorful plants that are easy to maintain and are not too evasive.

Our suggestions include: Peace Lilies, Aloe Vera, and Chrysanthemums.

To give you some visual ideas, please find below our favorite rooftop gardens:

Urban Rooftop Garden

Building simple wood containers is a simple and elegant solution:Urban Rooftop Garden

Grass is also an option, though you would probably require an irrigation system:

Rooftop garden with grass

Scenario 2: Rooftop Farm

If you would prefer to use your rooftop to save some money and live a more sustainable lifestyle, then we also have a few suggestions and ideas.

The first thing to consider is the yield per square foot of each variety you choose to plant.

Secondly, the time to harvest is also important.

The smaller these two numbers are, the more efficient and productive your rooftop farm will be.

With that in mind, here are a few species suggestions:

  • Beans and peas are pretty much unbeatable in terms of size and speed of harvest.
  • Tomoates and peppers are a bit harder to grow, but also yield a great harvest.
  • Cucumbers also work great in rooftop farms
  • Finally, salad greens and especially micro salad greens such as lettuce and rocket have a very fast germination to harvest cycle, making them great candidates for your roof farm.

Some of these plants, especially in their early life, can benefit greatly from being in a greenhouse, so if you have the necessary budget, this might be something to consider.

In terms of design and look, here are a couple of inspiration pictures:

Rooftop Farm

Once again, wooden containers are a great idea:

Roof Farm Container


Final Thoughts

Rooftop Gardening isn’t for everyone. It requires the certain infrastructure, determination, and care. But if you are reading this, you’ve taken the first step to improve your quality of life and that of your neighbours, so we salute you.

Feel free to voice your opinion in the comment box below, and happy gardening!