balcony gardening

(Question)

I have a 12th floor north-west corner balcony, get afternoon/evening sun, but sometimes very windy. What do you think will grow? I have planted seeds of morning glory, sweet pea, and climbing nasturtiums with the hope they will ramp over the railings! Two cherry tomato plants, chives, parsley and basil, and hens and chickens all seem to be doing well so far. Geraniums OK. Miniature roses I suspect getting stunted, sweet potato vines shrivelled. Any other suggestions?

(Answer)

Dear gardener,

When planting on a balcony you need to consider few things:

  • The soil dries out faster due to high winds and the simple fact that plants are in containers. The overhang from the next floor also reduces the amount of rain your containers will receive.
  • The hardiness zone for perennial plants is few levels lower the higher up you are located. If you would like the plants to overwinter, the containers will have to be large and insulated.
  • The larger and thinner the leaves, the more they will get damaged by wind (example: ¬†sweet potato). The smaller and thicker, the more they will retain moisture (example: hens & chicks).
  • When planting on a NW location, choose plants that thrive in a part-shade, drought-tolerant situation.

With the exception of the chives, Hens & Chicks & roses all your plants are annuals which will last one season. Other ideas with annuals are:

  • Portulaca is a good filler for containers and it is drought-tolerant but make sure it receives sufficient sunlight.
  • If the geraniums are doing well, you can also try the ivy geraniums which have smaller leaves and a trailing habit.
  • If the sweet peas and nasturtiums are doing well then, you may want to try the black-eye Susan vine which does well in part-shade conditions.
  • New Guinea impatients have thicker leaves and may work well in a northern exposure.
  • Cordyline is a needle-like plant that can be used in the center of the containers.
  • Lantana and Licorice plant are often used to fill in and trail down containers and are drought tolerant.
  • If you like purple, both Mona Lavender Plectranthus or Mystic Spires Salvia are beautiful ornamentals that thrive in drought conditions.
  • Herbs are always a good and useful option.

For additional suggestions check the following entry:https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/index.php/askagardener/flowering-annuals-for-windy-sw-balcony/

If on the other hand, you would like to plant perennials or shrubs, then you need to ensure that the containers are large and insulated in order to protect the plants from the winter freeze and thaw cycle. Please let us know when you are ready to take that route and we can help with suggestions.

Enjoy your balcony gardening!