Small balcony gardens can be a beautiful space for you to enjoy, as well as a haven for bees and other pollinators in urban environments. Whether you prefer flowers, foliage, or fruit and vegetables, there are a number of plants that will grow happily in pots on a balcony.
Planning a Balcony Garden
Before you buy any plants for your balcony garden, take some time to observe the conditions they will be growing in.
Sunlight: unless your balcony is south-facing, it will only get direct sunlight for part of the day. If your balcony gets less than 6 hours of direct sunlight, choose plants that will grow in partial shade. If there are less than 3 hours of direct sunlight, choose plants for full shade.
Wind: balconies can be windy spots, so consider creating a windbreak. Woven fence panels are effective and attractive, and bamboo in a pot will also work well. Constant wind dries plants out fast, so pots will need regular watering in windy conditions. Plants suitable for coastal areas, such as ornamental grass Stipa tenuissima or Sea thrift (Armeria maritime), work well. Make sure all pots are fixed down securely, especially any that are attached to balcony railings.
Weight: check how much weight your balcony can take – wet soil is heavy, as are terracotta pots. Stick to lightweight containers made of plastic or resin filled with potting compost.
Watering: put drip trays under pots to catch water to avoid deluge your neighbours below.
Plants for Sunny and Shady Balconies
Regardless of whether your balcony is sunny or shady, plants will thrive as long as you choose the right ones for your conditions. Here’s a list of some of the most popular and easy-to-grow fruit, vegetables, herbs, and flowering plants for a balcony garden:
For sunny balconies:
- Dwarf beans
For shady balconies
- Lettuce leaves
Begonias, Hostas, busy Lizzies, Fuchsias, and ferns will all grow happily in pots in shady spaces. At the same time, Geraniums, Petunias, and patio roses will give you months of colour on a sunny balcony. Succulents such as cacti, Sempervivums, and Saxifrages are all excellent in pots on a balcony, needing very little care and attention.
When you don’t have much space, it pays to think in three dimensions and garden vertically and horizontally. Fix a trellis to a wall if you’re allowed to, or put an obelisk into a large pot and train a beautiful flowering Clematis over it – many are compact enough to grow happily in pots.
Old wooden pallets are often very cheap or sometimes even given away for free, and you can use the slatted sides to support hanging pots filled with flowering plants or herbs.