planting a shrub in a patio


Good afternoon,
I live on the 4th floor of a high rise condo building. I face north (therefore quite shaded in the summer) and live above the parking garage. This allows residents on the 4th floor to have a patio and small garden area. The 4th floor is exposed to a lot of wind because the patio space is between the building structure and a long fence. This makes for a kind of wind tunnel.
I would like to plant a shrub/small tree next to the wooden fence which divides my garden area from the neighbouring condo. It can’t have deep roots and would need to withstand shade, wind and cold. I would like one that has more height than width.
Do you have any suggestions. Thank you very much.


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master gardeners.

High rise gardening certainly poses many challenges, yours is particularly interesting as it very windy and shady and your goal is to achieve height.

Before beginning on this exciting project we suggest you check with your building management for regulations in the use of your patio space, safety concerns, drainage and weight considerations/restrictions.

Evergreens (both broadleaf or conifers) will dry out in those windy conditions and most require more light that what the area offers.

Large shrubs:

  • Serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.) are native deciduous shrubs that add interest in the spring with their white flowers, then lovely berries and finally goof fall colour. There are several species which vary in size from the A. canadensis or A. laevis (7m) to the smaller A. alnifolia (3m). Some cultivars may be smaller.
  • Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa) is another native that will do well in shade and it grows to a 3m height.

Grasses. Although most grasses require full sun, the North American native Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) can withstand shadier conditions. They also look pretty in the winter and birds feed on the seed heads, however, they only grow to 90cm and require good moisture.

Bamboo is another option. This aggressive grower is not recommended in gardens due to its invasive nature however, as it would be contained, this should not be an issue in your balcony. Most bamboos prefer part-shade conditions. There are several perennial bamboos available in Ontario but the Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) is the tallest growing up to 25′ in ideal conditions. See our post on bamboos: Bamboo in Toronto*

Lastly, you may want to consider a vine like Engelman’s Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia ‘Engelman’) which will cling easily as it climbs as opposed to its larger relative, Virginia creeper. Please be aware that it will grow into the fence that divides both balconies so you may want to consider talking to your neighbour before planting.

Please refer to this post for a good overview of general requirements when gardening in balconies: Balcony flowering shrubs and evergreens

Good luck with greening your patio.