Having a balcony doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the joys of gardening. In fact, I’ve got a city balcony, and something exciting is always happening on it, whether it’s a marigold transforming into a full orange pom pom, or a group planting of Senetti bursting into bloom! With a little thinking outside the box, you can transform your balcony into something really special.
Let’s explore five different ideas for balcony gardening that will inspire you to create a green haven right outside your door.
1. Vertical gardening:
When space is limited, gardening up (rather than out) can save you so much floor space. Use your walls to hang planters, wall-mounted shelves, or trellises to maximise your growing area and fill your space with greenery and/or blooms. Consider growing trailing plants like calibrachoa, lobelia, or petunia that will gracefully cascade down the walls. Alternatively, opt for vertical herb gardens or pocket planters that can hold an array of herbs, flowers, or small vegetables.
2. Container gardening:
Containers make a versatile option for balcony gardening. You could mix it up with a variety of pots, planters and other containers in different sizes and shapes to add visual interest to your balcony. Though container gardening might seem limiting, there’s actually no end to what you could grow in a container with the right soil and a bit of creativity, from herbs, to flowers, to vegetables, or even dwarf fruit trees. One of the most important tips when it comes to container gardening is to ensure proper drainage by using pots with holes or adding broken crockery or pebbles to the bottom of the pot.
3. Hanging baskets:
A couple of years ago, hanging baskets were deemed old-fashioned and a bit twee. However, this style of planting is having a resurgence! Not only are they great space-saving containers, but hanging baskets are an excellent way to add a touch of charm to your balcony. You don’t have to go with a traditional style of basket if you don’t want to – there are so many contemporary styles to choose from these days. Hang the baskets from sturdy hooks or brackets attached to the balcony ceiling, and consider using wire (or something similar) to add security to your baskets for extra safety on windy days.
4. Window/railing boxes:
If you have a railing or a ledge on your balcony, window boxes are a great option for adding a flush of flowers or greenery. These shallow containers can accommodate a variety of small plants, from delicate flowers to fresh herbs. You could even mix and match different types of plants to create a riot of colour or texture. Make sure to choose window or railing boxes that are securely fastened to prevent accidents, especially if you live in a windy area.
5. Edible balcony garden:
Imagine plucking fresh herbs, vegetables, or berries from your own balcony garden to add to your meals. That’s right, you don’t need a large garden to grow your own food! Herbs like basil, rosemary, and mint thrive in pots, while compact vegetables like cherry tomatoes, peppers, or lettuce can be grown in smaller containers. Strawberries, blueberries, or dwarf fruit trees can also be added for a sweet touch.
Balcony garden questions
How do we cope with wind?
There are many plants that can withstand windy conditions, such as Erodium manescavii and Anthemis tinctoria! I’ve put together a whole post about plants for windy conditions here.
Safety is an extra important consideration when designing your balcony garden, as an accident due to poor security could leave you liable for damages. Make sure to place smaller, lighter pots close to a wall so that they don’t blow away, and weigh them down with pebbles. I’ve already mentioned safety regarding hanging baskets and window/railing boxes, but when it comes to any other container that requires fixing to a wall or balcony, make sure to use the right screws/fixings for the job, and secure all fixings tightly. Make sure to conduct regular checks of all containers to avoid them becoming loose and unexpectedly falling off.
Do I have to worry about insects?
It’s not uncommon for insects to scale buildings, especially to gain access to an abundant food source such as an edible garden. Insects will not only fly or climb up the outside of the building, they can also arrive at your garden through the building’s interior, or even through gaps in bricks.
How much weight can my balcony take?
There are lots of different things that can affect how much weight your balcony can take. However, generally, in the UK, small balconies can usually take no more than 10 people. The average person in the UK weighs between 71 to 85kg, while 50 litres of soil weighs around 36kg (depending on how compact and/or moist it is). You should also factor in the weight of your pots, and the extra weight when watering your plants.
Great plants for balcony gardens
Calibrachoa is a popular plant choice for balcony gardens thanks to its abundant, colourful blooms. These compact flowering plants produce trumpet-shaped flowers in vibrant colours, including purple, pink, orange, yellow, and white. Calibrachoa is low-maintenance and ideal for hanging baskets or containers. Its trailing habit adds a cascading effect to your balcony garden, and the flowers attract pollinators like butterflies, increasing the biodiversity of your outdoor space.
Aeoniums are striking succulent plants that add a touch of architectural elegance to any balcony garden. With their rosette-shaped leaves, these plants come in a range of colours, including green, burgundy, and variegated patterns. Aeoniums are perfect for balconies that receive plenty of sunlight, as they thrive in bright and warm conditions. These low-water succulents require minimal care and can be grown in pots or planters. The unique shape and texture of Aeoniums make them a captivating focal point in your balcony garden.
Want something that’s more tolerant of cold weather? Try Semponium!
Verbena Lollipop is a pretty flowering perennial that is well-suited for balcony gardens; its compact and mounding growth habit makes it an excellent choice for containers. This plant produces clusters of teeny tiny purple flowers on long stems. Verbena Lollipop is known for its long blooming period, attracting bees and butterflies to your balcony throughout the summer. With regular deadheading, it will continue to produce an abundance of flowers throughout the growing season!
Ivy Leaf Trailing Pelargoniums
Ivy Leaf Trailing Pelargoniums are (as the name suggests) trailing plants that thrive in balcony gardens. They feature ivy-shaped leaves and produce clusters of delicate, long-lasting flowers in various romantic hues. These pelargoniums are perfect for hanging baskets, window boxes, or containers placed on railings. Ivy Leaf Trailing Pelargoniums are drought-tolerant and easy to care for, making them an ideal choice for busy gardeners.
Nemesia is a charming annual flower that adds a burst of colour and fragrance. This compact plant produces clusters of dainty, trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of pink, purple, yellow, and white. Nemesia thrives in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. It is an excellent choice for containers or as edging plants along the balcony railing. Besides its visual appeal, Nemesia emits an aromatic fragrance that will lift your spirits every time you step onto your balcony.
Can you install a pond on a balcony?
Nothing is impossible! However, unless your balcony has been purpose-built with a pond, you’ll have to get creative – and think small! The Cloud Gardener has done just that with his edible ponds, which sit on his balcony! Check them out below:
With these ideas for balcony gardening, you can transform your outdoor space into a green sanctuary. Just imagine the mood boosting benefits of a thiriving garden on your balcony! Whether you choose vertical gardening, container gardening, hanging baskets, window boxes, or an edible garden, there are endless possibilities to explore.
Grab your gardening tools and get ready to create an enchanting balcony garden that will be the envy of your neighbours!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.