Whether you are looking for a way to make your balcony or terrace more appealing and enjoyable or you are in need of a place to increase the greenery and plant life in your world, successfully growing plants on your balcony and terrace is a great way to do both! There are a few things to consider when planning a balcony or terrace garden like the amount of time you have to care for the plants, what you want the plants to do for you in return, and importantly, what plants are best suited to the area that you have available. Taking some time to consider these things can help you be successful in having a plant-life filled balcony in no time.

The reasons for having a balcony or terrace garden are countless. Perhaps you would like to grow some of your own organic produce, or create some gorgeous greenery, higher air quality, and fantastic aromas. Maybe you would like to create some architectural interest to an otherwise bland area. Another great reason for having a balcony garden is because you simply love plants and are looking for new ways to incorporate more of them into your life.

Growing in Containers

Your plants require all the same necessities of life, whether planted in the ground or in containers. Your job when growing in containers is to make sure you create excellent growing conditions for the plants you choose to grow. They will reward you much more when you pay attention to their needs. Every kind of plant has different requirements, but all will need a certain amount of water, soil of various nutritional value, enough oxygen in the soil created by good aeration and drainage, as well as sunlight to some degree.

I always try to consider where the plant grows naturally and endeavor to mimic that environment as much as possible. I try not to put moisture- and shade-loving plants that might grow in a tropical rainforest in a full-sun exposed and windy area. Similarly, I wouldn’t put desert growing, heat-loving cactuses in a moist, shady, rain-prone, cool area. The right plant in the right place is a much happier plant that will be much easier to take care of and less prone to pests and diseases.

Urban balcony garden with chard, kangkung and other easy to grow vegetables.

Choosing the Containers

This can really be a fun area of balcony gardening. I would recommend setting a budget because when walking into the garden center without a plan, you will have more options than you could possibly believe. Also, you might want to reserve some of the balcony garden project money for high-quality soil, and of course, healthy plants. There is a plethora of sizes, shapes, and colors to play with when searching for the perfect containers for your space. Having an idea of what you want to grow is a great place to start. If you are replanting annual flowers every season and the containers can stay in the same place, you might be able to go bigger and more permanent. You can indulge in being creative with the architectural style of the planters themselves. If you are hoping to grow more tender perennial plants, or trees or shrubs that might need to be moved to protect them in different seasons, planters made of durable, light-weight materials may be important. In places with freezing temperatures, plants that are hardy in the ground may not be so in an above-ground container as they may be subject to more freeze-thaw variations in temperature which many plants cannot tolerate and will die.

Location

One of the first things to think about when planning a balcony garden is the location.

  • How much sun does the area get?
  • Is it prone to wind?
  • Is it sheltered and shady?

Luckily, in our incredibly abundant plant world, there are options that would fit almost any situation.

The Hot, The Dry, The Boring

Many years ago, I was visiting a friend who had just moved into one of those white, bland condo buildings. There was a wonderful balcony, full south facing. We poured a nice cool drink and went to sit out in the sunshine. Hot! We could only sit there for about 10 minutes and we were fried. What could live out here? Not a friendly place for delicate plants. Over the years, she has transformed the space. Starting with tough, heat-loving, cactus-like plants, creating some shade, and adding some automatic irrigation, she has created an enormously pleasant space. She uses some screening materials to help protect the plants in addition to carefully choosing plants that thrive in hot, direct sunlight. She also uses irrigation to ensure that if she is away or gets too busy, her plants do not suffer.

Alternatively, in a similar situation, if she didn’t want to dedicate so much time to her balcony garden, she could have tried just 1 to 3 strategically placed, architecturally interesting, large, self-watering planters. Again, the key would be choosing plants that grow best in hot direct sunlight. This will vary largely by your location so utilizing the advice available at local nurseries or garden centers would be an excellent course of action. If you have large seasonal changes, like where I live, the large planters might be best suited to annuals, so that you wouldn’t need to bring them inside or haul them around for the winter. You could cover them over and put winter-themed décor on them that can handle cold temperatures better than most potted plants. You may need to protect them from filling with water, if your cold season comes with rain or snow, especially if it can freeze and break apart your planters.

The Moist, The Shady, The Dreary

That north-facing back porch that sometimes gets little attention. Its cold, its dark, and its dull. How do we make this a wonderful little oasis? This is actually a condition that many plants love, and some can brighten up areas just like this. A friend of mine has this exact situation, and she has won community garden competitions for years with her lush rainforest-type plants and shade-loving annuals and perennials. Plants like Irish mosses, begonias and hostas can green up this space while adding bright contrasting colors, shapes, textures, and sizes. Getting creative with container choices along with garden décor can increase interest and architectural style.

These are just two slightly extreme examples but allow yourself to be creative. If growing your own food is your wish, try a planter with a small trellis for growing peas or beans. There are many tomato varieties available for growing in containers or even hanging baskets. A limitless number of herbs thrive in containers as well. This can turn your new hobby into an even more productive and enjoyable experience.

Conclusion

Transforming a balcony or terrace into a more enjoyable and appealing space while increasing the greenery in your life can be a wonderful experience. Developing a balcony or terrace garden can be a great place to relax. If you put the plants’ needs first by giving them excellent growing conditions and being considerate of where they will thrive, you will set yourself and them up for success.

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