Northside Balcony

(Question)

My Mother lives in an assisted living residence. Her apartment is on the second floor with a northern exposure. The balcony is quite small and she has planters that straddle the railing. Last year we put begonias in them and they didn’t do well at all. Can you tell me what flowers/plants and potting soil would do well in that environment? She is capable of watering and some maintenance but not a lot. Thank you for your assistance…I would like her to be able to enjoy her planters all summer. Regards

(Answer)

It will be difficult to grow flowering annuals on a northern facing balcony as most require full sun to perform at their best. Furthermore, since the planters straddle the railing they most likely are shallow and will not contain much soil. Therefore, plants will need to be small and compact, perhaps with the propensity to trail. The good news is it shouldn’t be impossible. Traditionally containers require frequent watering. The need to water often should be reduced with planters in a shady position. However, never let the planters completely dry out. An all purpose planting mix or one that is specifically for containers should work just fine. Remember to fertilize through the active growing season. Feed weekly with a water soluble fertilizer. It’s a good idea to deadhead (remove old flowers), where suitable, to encourage new growth.

You may have to find out what plants will work in your mother’s situation by trial and error. Begonias would normally be a good choice. Last year several people experienced problems with mildew, which may have been weather related. Perhaps consider trying them again this year and they will be more successful.  Some other plants worth considering since they tolerate shade are:  lobelia, pansies, bacopa, calibrachoa, petunias, fushia, forget me not, ivy geraniums and impatiens (if they make a comeback). Dusty miller and coleus could be added for their interesting leaves. These plants should be available in reputable garden centres and nurseries.  Hopefully, your mother will spend this summer enjoying some beautiful blooms.