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Container plants for sunny balcony

MolamolaMolamola Posts: 105

This is my first post (:  I would love some advice on container planting for my front balcony - which can get very hot and sunny.  It is c. 4m x 0.8m (the exposed part). 

Could I plant an evergreen climber to spill down/trail along the railing (maybe a clematis or star jasmine), or would I have more success with some well-structured drought-tolerant plants - maybe succulents, artemisia, or an euphorbia? Could I do both in different containers - and how big should they be? 

This is my first experience with proper gardening, and because containers are expensive, I thought I should figure out the plants that would really thrive before getting the right containers.  

Thank you!



  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,831
    You'll get lots of suggestions here for plants that would work, but before you rush out and buy expensive containers, why not think about using anything you have to hand.  It won't necessarily look pretty, but it will mean you can focus on the plants (and see how successfully they grow, and how much maintenance they need) and you could then buy containers at a later date.  

    You can use virtually anything that will hold soil, and which has drainage.  The internet (and programmes like Gardeners World) are full of lockdown-friendly container ideas, from old yoghurt pots, milk cartons, etc.  Once the foliage has grown, you won't even notice them.

    There is also a free seed swap on this forum, so another way to build up a good plant collection at minimal cost.  If you know any gardeners, ask if any of them have spare plants or cuttings you can have.  Take a zero/low cost approach, to trial what works, and then invest what you can afford later.

    I would treat every space I had, including a balcony, as it if were a garden.  I'd include a small tree, one or two shrubs (evergreen, flowering for some interest), some perennials, and a few annual plants that you can change each year.  Although you have a small space, try to include one or two larger plants/pots.  It will look more impactful than lots of tiny ones.  I love the minimalist railing, plus it will let in lots of plant-loving light!
  • MolamolaMolamola Posts: 105
    This is great advice thank you (: Try plants out and worry about nice pots later. I also love Gardener's World - it's what inspired me to really start trying to garden (and how I found this forum)!  
  • PyraPyra Posts: 152
    Hi Mola. I used to have a balcony just like yours! I managed to grow clematis along my railings, which were older and much closer together. In pots I had lavender and lots of herbs such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, fennel and curry plant on mine. In fact the curry plant loved it so much it basically bullied out everything else in the pot, so got it's own. Small annuals like pansies or nemesia loved it too. 
    And there was room for a very small table and chairs from IKEA! 
  • Dirty HarryDirty Harry Posts: 1,048
    Mediterranean plants are an obvious one.

    Lavender, rosemary, thyme etc.
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,700
    If the balcony is exposed to harsh winds, always go for plants with stiff branches and small leaves. Preferably with waxy and leathery leaves. Arbutus Unedo, and there are dwarf varieties too. Good all-round and evergreen too. Sedums from low growing to tall growers, all easy to grow in containers. Added winter structure a bonus. For colour, Nemesias and Diascias all do well in pots. 
  • MolamolaMolamola Posts: 105

    I sowed some annuals and have a better grasp of what it takes to keep things alive on the balcony (:  Here is a photo of what's growing at the moment (I have emilia javanica, dill and scabious in the pots). 

    I am now thinking I would like to install larger planters in a long row (see squiggly yellow line), with perennials that grow to about 60cm-1m tall, like rosemary, euphorbia wulfenii, artemisia, curry plant, and possibly even shrubs like a daphne eternal fragrance or a hamamelis...  

    Would anyone have experience growing these in a planter? I know the rule with planters is generally the bigger the better, but I am worried about weight.  Do you think a 30cm W x 30cm H x 80cm L (32L) rectangular planter would be large enough?  I would have space to fit six of these (four along the front edge, and then one on each side). 

    Thank you!

  • greenlovegreenlove Posts: 164
    Take your pick. Pretty much anythign will grow on that balcony in pots. A wisteria or two would grow quite nicely there and with some careful prunning they will give you a beautiful display of flowers.

    Following on from Borderline's excellent advice about wind above you could perhaps create a two line layout. On the outside line you can put plants that have a dense foliage and that tolerate windy conditions and then on the inner layer you can plant less wind tolerant plants since they will be protected.
  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,995
    edited July 2020
    Largest you can go would be best.  I recommend plastic, for the weight.. plus a good layer of broken styrofoam or packing peanuts for in the bottom.  The some soil and roots can still grow down into those areas.. it just lightens the overall weight.  Also, certain types of compost are lighter than others, so do some research about that.  

    If cost is a factor, something like this  works great, if you drill some holes in the side.  I recommend keeping them about an inch up the side, to reduce watering needs.  The styrofoam at the bottom sort of acts as a water reserve without water logging the soil.  Excess drains out.  Your building puts you in one large rain shadow.. so it's unlikely they will get waterlogged.  
    Having lids means in winter you can just put the lid on and stack them a bit closer in somewhere.. and then just replace the top six inches of soil with fresh and continue on the following year.
    Utah, USA.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 30,006
    Don't go for a wisteria!  They need a deep root run and get huge.    

    If you go for individual pots rather than planters you can change them around as the seasons progress whereas rectangular planters would stay in place and seasonal changes would come from changing plants.   There are some lightweight but sturdy plastic pots and planters available now in a range of sizes, colours and textures to suit your taste. 
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,681
    I would keep things de-cluttered and make sure the containers are smart and unified in appearance. I would personally go for larger rectangular containers with a mixture of perennials and grasses, but Obelixx is right, using smaller individual ones is valid as you can move them around to change the composition. Smaller containers would require greater diligence with watering though. If this is your only outdoor space, I would not feel guilty about spending a bit of money on whatever container you choose.

    In terms of planting I would try and avoid fussiness, with solid backbone plants that have a long season of interest and can withstand the sun and wind. These will help create a structure and microclimate for slightly more delicate and flowery things. I think Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' would be a good ornamental grass for structure, and would associate well with perennials like Sedums, Salvias, Echinaceas and Asters. It would provide a tall veil of grassy foliage giving a sense of enclosure. Spring bulbs and Alliums would give you a bit of colour early in the season. Maybe include a small evergreen shrub or two.

    A small group 3 clematis might be good on your railings, you cut the whole thing down in winter and it starts again the next year; so it will never become a woody tangle.
    "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour". 
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