10 Balcony Gardening Tips

Updated: Sep. 23, 2023

Make your outdoor space a green machine with these balcony gardening tips that will make your green thumb thrive.

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Balcony Gardening

Keep It Low-Maintenance

Apartment dwellers may not have sweeping balconies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use every inch of your space to create a beautiful garden. Just be sure you don’t initiate a major project that’s so much work that it cuts too deeply into your sitting back, relaxing and enjoying time. Invest in water-saving granules to increase the time between waterings.

Some examples of resilient plants for your low-maintenance apartment balcony garden include:

  • Coneflowers
  • Yucca
  • Hens and chicks
  • Petunia
  • Zinnia
  • Daylily
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Hanging Flower Planter

Garden Vertically

A great option for making the most of your tiny balcony is vertical gardening. You can use stack planters, railing planters, vertical wall planters and hanging baskets for an amazing apartment balcony garden.

Bromeliads, ferns, begonias, hostas, succulents, air plants and vines all make for great vertical gardening. Check out our favorite vertical garden ideas.

A wall pocket is another great idea. You can incorporate a variety of plant sizes, from spillers, fillers and thrillers, without major commitment. If you change you mind about where you want the wall pocket, you can move it. And because everything has its own container, the worry about companion planting goes out the window. This is a great option for beginners.

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Hiding Your Wall or Railing

Hide Your Wall or Railing

If you love sitting outside on your balcony but can’t stand the lack of privacy, you can incorporate plants to hide your wall or railing. That will not only make a more aesthetically pleasing place for you to sit back and relax, but will also keep the neighbors from looking in.

The best way to do this is grow climbers like ivy, honeysuckle and jasmine; exotic vines like passion flower; or edible plants like gourds or beans in your apartment balcony garden.

If you’re looking for more privacy ideas, learn how to build a copper trellis for your garden for your climbing flowers and vines.

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Try Compost Tea
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Try Compost Tea

Compost tea is great for anyone living in an apartment who wants to compost but has nowhere to put their waste products. Rather than watering your plants, make the compost tea to quench your greenery’s thirst. This makes your gardening low maintenance and your lifestyle recyclable!

To make compost tea, you’ll need a 10-gallon bucket, an aquarium pump, good quality compost, a water source, aeration and compost catalyst (a mixture of nutrients that encourages the microorganisms to multiply). After filling your bucket with water, dump the compost catalyst into the bucket. You’ll then float your compost in a sachet similar to a tea strainer in the bucket, and finally pump it to begin the brewing process. The air will pump through the compost tea for a full day until a frothy brew is achieved. Use the tea to spray on leaves or feed the soil.

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Create a Succulent Bowl
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Create a Succulent Bowl

If your balcony only has room for a small table, then make it the focal point and create a succulent bowl bursting with color. The stylish display is low maintenance, can incorporate various plants in a small space and needs very little watering.

To create a succulent bowl, fill a bowl with potting mix formulated for succulents. Next, pick the centerpiece, which is usually a larger, colorful plant. After setting it in place, plant the edges of the bowl by using a mix of succulents that complement each other for texture and color. Planting them close together makes it look bountiful, not crowded. Any gaps can be sprinkled with gravel or aquarium stone.

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Make an Herb Garden
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Make an Herb Garden

An herb garden is another wonderful option for a balcony that doesn’t have a ton of space. Your herbs can double as a source of food and a sleek green look. Thyme, rosemary, basil and sage are all great options.

So long as your apartment balcony garden gets six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day, you can grow many vegetables, too. Many greens and some herbs need much less sun to survive and thrive. You’ll save money and a trip to the grocery store when you need a sprinkle of rosemary on your roasted lamb.

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Avoid Drainage Problems
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Avoid Drainage Problems

A big concern for balcony gardeners is watering. The easiest solution for drainage issues is to put saucers, with a layer of pebbles, under the pots and make sure the pots have a hole in the bottom. This will help the container drain, which prevents the bottom of the pot from sitting in water. You can also take advantage of self-watering pots that ensure your plants are only fed when needed.

If you don’t have a lot of plants in your apartment balcony garden, you can also bring them inside to water in the sink and drain freely. That will keep your garden area free from water and soil spills. Incorporating drought-tolerant plants is another great option, so go ahead and include those succulents!

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Shelf Your Plants

If your balcony is small and you want to make the most of it, try installing shelves along the walls to allow for additional uncrowded green space. The height of the plants will lead the eye upward, creating the illusion of a more spacious balcony.

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Shady Balcony Garden
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Throw Shade on Your Balcony Garden

If you have a shady balcony, don’t be discouraged. You can make the most of your balcony facing north or east by growing plants that tolerate shade or grow in less sunlight, like astilbe hybrids, amethyst flower, begonia, copper plant, fancy-leafed caladium and garden hydrangea. Ferns also thrive in shady areas.

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Sunny Balcony Garden
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Light Up Your Balcony Garden

South and west-facing balconies get full sunlight almost all day long. This means you should avoid plants like ferns that thrive in the shade and optimize greenery that loves direct sunlight. Some examples of plants that thrive in the sunshine include:

  • Yarrow
  • Shasta daisy
  • Coreopsis
  • Purple coneflower
  • Blanket flower
  • Russian sage
  • Butterfly weed
  • Lavender

If you’re interested in native plants, check out these wildflowers that do well in home gardens.