Lifestyle

The best plants to grow on your balcony


Limited with space? (Picture: Getty)

Living in a city has its perks: coffee shops on every corner, no shortage of things to do or people to see and decent transport links – to name a few.

But one of the worst things about city-living, is the unlikelihood of having a garden – let alone one you’re actually allowed to do anything with.

For some people in cities, the lucky ones, having a balcony is their saving grace; not quite a garden, admittedly, but at least a bit of private outdoor space where you can flick through a magazine with a coffee on a sunny morning. 

It can be hard to see balconies for anything more than what they are, but it is possible to turn them into a garden of your own.

How to turn your balcony into an edible garden

If you’re green-fingered, balconies are actually a great place to grow some plants of your own – especially edible plants, like rosemary and tomatoes. 

It’s important to note that there are some things to look out for when growing plants on your balcony instead of a garden.

‘The biggest challenge when growing plants on a windowsill or balcony is light levels,’ mindful gardening expert Kendall Platt tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Often the areas you have to offer your plants don’t get as much sunlight as they might like – but, where you can, you should try to offer your plants six hours of sun a day.’

Another issue is water.

‘Bear in mind that even if it rains your plants won’t usually have benefitted especially if your balcony is covered,’ says Kendall. 

‘So an after-work watering session will benefit your plants and help your mind to calm at the end of the day.’

The best plants to grow on your balcony

Since you have such a small space, it’s important to choose wisely when looking at which plants to grow.

While the options aren’t too limited, Kendall recommends growing plants that are not only pretty, but edible and useful, too.

Tomatoes 

Choose a shorter tomato plant (Picture: Getty Images)

Tomato varieties such Balconi Yellow and Tumbling Tom with their short stature are ideal for growing in pots on a balcony or windowsill,’ says Kendall.

‘You can grow your tomatoes from seed or buy ready-grown plants and pot each plant up in a 25cm diameter container with peat-free compost. 

‘Bury the plant so that the bottom leaves are 3cm from the soil level and this will help the plant to grow more roots along the buried stem and take up more water.

‘The key to successful tomato growth is as much sun as you can give them and consistent watering which in the height of summer may be twice a day.

‘To check if the soil needs watering, sink your fingers into the soil up to the second knuckle – if the soil feels dry they need a drink, if it feels wet hold off and check again later that day.’

Rosemary 

Ideal for garnishing your G&T (Picture: Getty Images)

Kendall tells Metro.co.uk: ‘The scent of rosemary can transport you away to a Mediterranean paradise as you close your eyes, take a deep breath and rub the leaves between your fingers.

‘Rosemary is ideal for growing in a pot as it thrives in dry, nutrient-poor soils.  

‘Don’t think this doesn’t mean they don’t need watering, but they will be a much less demanding house guest than your tomatoes.

‘Take regular cuttings to use in cooking, add to your kitchen table vase or to garnish your gin and tonic, always remembering to cut the stem off above a lead node (where the leaf joins the stems), which ensures your plant will keep growing.’

Nasturtiums 

These flowers work really well in a salad (Picture: Getty Images/Westend61)

‘Nasturtiums are a great companion plant to draw pests away from your tomatoes – their bright orange flowers and patterned leaves trail delicately down the edge of the pot,’ says Kendall .

‘The leaves and flowers are edible and are great to add some colour and a peppery taste to a salad.

‘Poor soil will encourage the plants to flower more and so growing them in containers, where the nutrients can be used up quite quickly, will ensure you have an abundant display.

‘Usually grown from seeds, you can sow them directly into your large container – around 10cm apart – or you can sow the seeds in smaller pots and allow the plants to grow larger before planting them out into their final position in their containers.

‘Water the plants so that the soil stays moist but don’t feed them as you’ll have more leaves than flowers, and remember to keep deadheading to encourage more flowers to grow.’

Scented Pelargoniums

Put the petals in a jar to fragrance your home (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘Pelargoniums offer a pop of bright colour and a fresh zingy scent to re-energise you after a long day at work,’ Kendall tells us.

‘Generally grown from a plug or fully-sized plants, pot your pelargoniums up into a long trug making sure to angle some of the plants so that, as they grow, they trail down the side of the container.

‘The attar of roses and the bitter lemon varieties are well-worth growing if you’re not sure where to start.

‘Both the flowers and the leaves are edible and they can be used as decoration or to flavour jellies and cakes, and handfuls of the flowers and leaves cut and kept in a jam jar bring that sweet fragrance inside your home, too.

‘Regular deadheading and watering will ensure a steady flush of flowers throughout the growing season.

‘Once the weather starts to get colder in the autumn, bring them indoors and they make a wonderfully scented houseplant for a sunny spot until they can go outdoors on your balcony again once all threat of frost has passed in spring.’

Mexican fleabane

This plant will attract all the pollinators (Picture: Getty Images)

‘This low maintenance addition to your balcony garden is popular with bees, butterflies and other pollinators and likes well-drained soils in sun or partial shade,’ says Kendall.

‘They are relatively drought-tolerant but, when grown in a pot, will need occasional watering – especially if the rain can’t get to them on your balcony.

‘Plants will produce a profusion of flowers throughout the season with little input from you, but straggly stems will need cutting back at the end of the season to keep your pots looking neat. 

‘Remove the seed pods if you don’t want new baby plants popping up in your container display.’

And there you have it: your ultimate, edible balcony garden.

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Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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