Balcony gardening


I live in Oshawa on the 10th floor facing mostly north and a bit west. I get sun in the late afternoon until sunset. What plants would do well in planters or pots? i am planning for nest spring.


Thank you for your question. Our gardening guides have specific information on balcony gardening and the following should help you with your plans for next spring.

Before starting we suggest you check with your building management for regulations in use of balcony space–safety concerns and weight considerations.   If you are thinking about planting perennials, containers will need to be at least 40 cm. (16″) in height and width. You may need to consider lightweight alternatives for containers and soil.

Another consideration for a balcony garden is to recognize that it mimics an alpine climate and you will need to consider the following things:

  • The soil dries out faster on a balcony 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 evergreens and perennial plants is lower the higher up you are located.
  • If you want the plants to overwinter, the containers should tbe large and insulated.
  • The larger and thinner the leaves of a plant, the more they will get damaged by wind. The smaller and thicker, the more they will retain moisture.
  • When planting in a North/West location, choose plants that thrive in a part-shade, drought-tolerant situation. (see examples provided below).

You might want to consider using pollinator plants on your balcony.  The key principles of a pollinator garden apply equally to a balcony pollinator garden. In fact it is even more important for balcony gardeners than gardeners planting at ground level to attract pollinators, because pollinators are less likely to appear many stories up unless there is plenty of nectar and pollen on offer. Non-pollination is more common on balconies, where gardeners report such problems as having lots of squash flowers but no fruit. Rather than turning to self-pollination – by brushing the flowers daily to help the pollination process, as recommended by some gardening books – why not entice pollinators to the balcony and let them do the work.

Although balcony gardens are most successful if they’re sunny and sheltered from wind,  if the balcony is mostly shaded, choose shade-loving pollinator plants such as hostas, columbines, lady’s mantle and bowman’s root, along with ferns.  Creating a windbreak using a trellis or screen or native shrubs like juniper or viburnum will help shield plants from the wind..

Even the smallest of balconies should aim for a diversity of plant material. Using plants of varying heights, including annuals, wildflowers, flowering vines and potted shrubs and trees is most effective. To save space, herbs such as thyme and oregano can be planted around your potted shrubs and trees to act as mulches as well as food for pollinators.

A balcony pollinator garden should also focus on native plants, which are first choice for native pollinators. In addition, native plants need less water, a boon on a balcony where watering is often difficult. Silvery-leaved non-natives like rosemary, lavender and sage are also relatively drought-tolerant and valuable in attracting pollinators.

Like a pollinator garden at ground level, a balcony pollinator garden aims to ensure that every plant functions as a pollinator as well as a decorative element or vegetable or mulch.

Good luck.