Balcony gardening

Balcony gardening and your balcony garden will be easy to create, so much easier to maintain than a large garden – and, with little effort.

Written by

Sheila Frampton

If you’ve got ‘green fingers’ or just really love watching plants grow and change with the seasons, you don’t need to give up gardening when you move to a house or apartment with a terrace, patio, balcony or roof terrace rather than a large garden. A balcony garden will be easy to create, so much easier to maintain than a large garden – and, with little effort, will give you immense pleasure and will delight visiting family and friends.

On each Beechcroft community, there’s an Estate Manager responsible for the upkeep of the landscaped setting and private gardens but most houses and apartments have outside space – either a balcony, terrace or roof terrace, that you’ll be able to transform into an attractive garden. With this in mind, we have put together our ten top tips for balcony gardening.

Tips for balcony gardening:

1. Space

How much space do you have on your balcony?

It’s worth measuring your balcony, terrace or patio and sketching out a plan on a piece of paper. You’ll probably want to add a table and seating but you’ll still need room to move around – and a plan will let you work out how much room you have for these. If you have sufficient space, it’s worth considering bench seating with useful storage underneath so you tuck your trowel, watering can and gardening gloves away. Consider organising plants according to height – with taller plants and larger containers in the corners and smaller containers along the front. If your balcony is small, don’t presume you have to use small containers; a large, bright and bold container filled with structural plants can make an impact.

2. Your balcony, terrace or patio

If you’re creating a patio garden or terrace garden on the ground floor, you won’t have to be overly concerned about the weight of the container, soil and plant unless you are going to be moving it – and solution is to buy a container with wheels which can be repositioned easily. If you have a balcony, you’ll need to think about the weight of containers filled with soil and plants. Who lives below you? When you water your plants, will your container drip onto – or drench – people sitting on the balcony below? Containers and water can affect the flooring of the balcony – so it could be wise to put something beneath any container likely to leak.

A balcony with potted plants

3. Climate

Is your balcony sunny or shady, is it sheltered or windy? The weather conditions your balcony is exposed to will affect the plants you’ll choose. Many plants don’t like being battered by the wind – so you may need to consider some screening or place smaller plants behind larger pots to shelter them.

There are a number of websites that provide the type of plants, flowers and greenery that like sunny locations and those that like shady locations. Plants on sunny gardens will require far more water – particularly in hot weather. Take a look at https://balconygardenweb.com and https://gardendesign.com

Plants for sunny balconies

Geraniums, Dianthus, Petunias, Surfinias, Calibrachoa, Million Bells, Verbenas, Marigolds, Chrysanthemums, Roses and Lavender all enjoy sunny spots – and, of course, Cacti and succulents.

Plants for shady balconies

Woodland ferns and Hostas, Impatiens, Fuchsias, Begonias, Japanese Maples and Hellebores thrive in lower light levels.

4. Budget

How much do you want to spend on your balcony garden? Balcony gardens can be relatively inexpensive but it’s easy to get carried away once you’ve started ordering – so do set a budge. Websites such as https://balconygardenweb.com offer garden ideas on a budget and https://idealhome.co.uk has some brilliant budget garden ideas for cheap design changes that have an instant impact including repurposing old pans into planters, dressing the garden with indoor accessories, creating your own fairy lights using jars or bottles and sets of dainty solar powered lights and brightening walls with plants in picture frames.

5. Year-round colour

Would you like your balcony garden to have year round colour? It’s lovely to have plants in bloom all year round , so you may want to choose colourful plants according to the season. The BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine has published several articles suggesting ways to add colour all year round – https://gardenersworld.com. Plants like evergreen sempervivums are idea for year round greenery, with dahlias, sedums, Michaelmas daisies and rudbeckias in autumn, cyclamen and snowdrops in winter, tulips and hyacinths in spring and a host of plants in summer including Garvenia (hardy gerbera), Begonia sutherlandii, Carex comans and Angelonia angustifolia.

6. Fragrance

If you’re planning a balcony garden with fragrance in mind, remember some plants perfume the air during the night whilst others are most fragrant at night. Certain plants have a light and delicate scent whilst others have fruity, spicy or overpowering fragrances. Whichever you prefer, the majority of fragrant plants are shrubs or vines and so are easy to grow in pots. Position them near doors or windows and add a few pots of aromatic herbs.

Fragrant flowering plants ideal for containers include gardenia, roses, nicotiana. Jasminium sambac, chocolate cosmos, peony, sweet autumn clematis, lily of the valley, four o’clock, daphne and freesia. Consider adding plants with scented leaves such as scented geranium, lavender, Corsican mint, Sweet Woodruff, Lemon Verbena, Lemongrass and Spearmint.

Pink flowers
Wild flowers

7. Container plants to attract bees and wildlife

Want to attract bees and other pollinators to your garden?

We’re just discovering how important bees and other pollinators are to us – and how we are putting their very existence in danger. We can help bees, butterflies and other pollinators by planting flowers that provide food for them. The Royal Horticultural Society’s Plants for Pollinators Lists – https://rhs.org suggests that some of the best for patio containers are the Cosmos Apollo series, Dahlia Happy Single Flame which has dark leaves and bright flowers, Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ which is a perennial wallflower that is in bloom for months and Pieris japonica ‘Valley Valentine’ which thrives in shady spots.

A orange butterfly on a red flower
A bumblebee on a purple flowers

8. Creating an edible balcony garden

Would you prefer to grow food or herbs on your balcony?

Growing edibles such as salad leaves, cherry tomatoes and miniature vegetable varieties on your balcony, patio or terrace can be extremely satisfying and some ideas of what can be grown on a balcony or terrace may be found on https://growveg.co.uk.

Most vegetable plants like lots of sun – many plants such as tomatoes, peppers, beans and beans – and most herbs including oregano, basil, parsley, thyme, borage and rosemary – need at least 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight a day so a south or west facing balcony is best. Salad, greens and herbs can survive with less sun. For all herbs and vegetables do choose a sheltered spot out of cold, drying winds and try to screen the pots.

Vegetables like plenty of water – and may not recover once they’ve wilted in the heat - so water them well in the early morning or evening and make sure the water soaks down to the roots.

It’s important to choose a suitable container – remember small containers need more watering. The containers should be filled with a ‘soil-less potting mix’ with some granular fertiliser and compost added. Different vegetables and herbs need different depths of soil to thrive:

  • 4–5 inches of soil: chives, lettuce, radishes and other salad greens, basil and coriander
  • 6–7 inches of soil: garlic, onions, peas, mint, thyme, kohlrabi
  • 8–9 inches of soil: pole beans, carrots, chard, cucumber, aubergine, fennel, leeks, peppers, spinach, parsley and rosemary

The best ‘eatables’ for balcony gardens include potatoes, chard, lettuce, cherry and bush tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, summer squash, Asian greens, pole beans and herbs are ideal.

You can grow vegetables and herbs in themed containers – for example, an Italian pot of tomatoes, garlic and basil. If you do combine any herbs and/or vegetables it’s worth checking they are compatible - with similar need for water. For example, Rosemary likes hot, dry conditions so it wouldn’t be good with cucumbers which need a lot of water.

Good companion plants:

  • Beans, carrots and squash
  • Eggplant and beans
  • Tomatoes, basil and onions
  • Lettuce and herbs
  • Spinach, chard and onions

Avoid mixing the following:

  • Beans with onions and garlic
  • Carrots with dill and fennel
  • Tomatoes or squash with potatoes
  • Onions with beans and peas

9. Themes

Are you going to theme your balcony garden?
You may want to choose a colour theme for your garden, to treat the outside space as an extension of the interior space or to create a Feng Shui garden. Themed gardens may be extremely attractive.

Feng Shui Gardens
A Feng Shui balcony or patio garden will aim for harmony and balance, including pots, chimes, rocks and wrought iron furniture – and plants, which bring good fortune as long as they don’t block the energy flow. Balconies shouldn’t be overloaded so the design should be simple and plants should be chosen to attract bees and butterflies. Large pots and urns are thought to be the holders of luck and abundance so choose a large container with structural planting rather than smaller pots. Too much colour is not considered to be good because it ‘colour blinds the eye’ but yellow tones are nourishing and happy, pastel shades are relaxing and black encourages reflexion. Feng Shui plants include bamboo, peony, chrysanthemum, iris, lily, daffodil, jasmine, gardenia and grasses.

Other ideas for themed balcony gardens include ‘rustic’ using natural wood features, a micro park with a piece of artificial grass and flowers, modern comfort which carries the interior design theme onto the balcony or patio – with an outdoor rug, comfortable seating, cushions and throws or perhaps a private oasis with taller green plants around the edge of the balcony creating a sense of privacy and bamboo seating.

10. Accessorising your balcony or patio garden

Hoping to make your balcony or patio an extension of your living space?
There are so many ways you can transform your balcony, blending it with your interior décor. Choose tones and textures, woven furnishings, wooden furniture, terracotta pots and greenery to create a relaxed feel. Small balconies require compact furniture – so slimline bistro tables and chairs are perfect. Bold geometric outdoor rugs and vibrant cushions can liven up a small space and atmospheric lighting can evoke atmosphere.

A balcony garden

Send us a photograph of your balcony, terrace or patio…

If you’ve created a stunning outdoor space – either a terrace, balcony or roof garden, please send us a photograph and we’ll display it on our website.

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