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How to Plan A Small Garden or A Balcony Garden

Updated on March 26, 2014

My Balcony Garden

My balcony garden in Spain after winter
My balcony garden in Spain after winter | Source

How to Plan a Balcony or Small Garden

There is absolutely no reason why you can’t grow a small garden on your balcony.

You may only have a small space to work with but there is no reason why you can’t have a garden on your balcony. Even if you have a very small space for a garden, you should be able to enjoy some plants and wildlife.

As a matter of fact, small green urban spaces are vital to wildlife and I never seize to be amazed at the amount of butterflies and birds which visit my balcony garden. Focusing on buying plants which attract wildlife also creates an interest, and makes your balcony garden come alive.

Fill your small garden with color to attract butterflies.
Fill your small garden with color to attract butterflies. | Source

Some Basic Facts

Planning your balcony garden is just as important as planting your garden, and there are some basic facts to keep in mind.

  • In which direction does your balcony face? North, south, east or west – east and west are quite neutral but if your balcony faces north or south, you need to pay extra attention to planting
  • Water – where is your nearest water source?
  • Weight – make sure your pots are not too heavy.
  • Sizes of plants are important as well. Do you want to have lots of plants or just a couple of big plants.
  • Is your balcony garden only going to be for plants or do you need to share your garden space with other activities such as hanging out the laundry, or eating and dining?
  • Do you want a high or low maintenance balcony garden?

All of these are important points to consider when you plan your balcony garden. Perhaps the most important point is the orientation of your balcony. My balcony is south facing so it is subject to warm winds, and lots of sunshine. It is very important that your plants like the direction, or orientation, of your balcony as much as you do.

Winter Plants

My Christmas Cactus is moved to a cooler spot during the summer
My Christmas Cactus is moved to a cooler spot during the summer | Source

Best Plants For a Small Garden

Once you have found out in which direction your balcony faces, it is time to plan your planting.

Over the winter my balcony garden gets a bit of a rest, and I change the plants to more low maintenance plants such as Christmas Cactus which love the south facing orientation.

One constant on my balcony is my rubber plant which I even decorate at Christmas time.

If you are keen on providing a small sanctuary for wildlife, it is a good idea to take that into consideration. It is also nice to be able to create a colorful garden. Here are some ideas on plants for various orientations.

Plant Ideas for Small Gardens or Balconies

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Succulents and Cactus flower and don't need a lot of waterTry growing your own tomatoesColorful plants bring your small places alivePansies and violets like a bit of shadeMy old Yorkie loves the balcony as much as I do.
Succulents and Cactus flower and don't need a lot of water
Succulents and Cactus flower and don't need a lot of water | Source
Try growing your own tomatoes
Try growing your own tomatoes | Source
Colorful plants bring your small places alive
Colorful plants bring your small places alive | Source
Pansies and violets like a bit of shade
Pansies and violets like a bit of shade | Source
My old Yorkie loves the balcony as much as I do.
My old Yorkie loves the balcony as much as I do. | Source

Getting in touch with your inner gardener

Do you think you have green fingers?

See results

Talking to Plants

Talking to plants is not only good for the soul but according to Prince Charles it helps them to grow better.

This old wife's tale may actually be true. New research seems to indicate that plants may respond to sound. The theory goes back to 1848, and in 1970 a dentist recorded an album called "Music to Grow Plants By." So perhaps if you like your plants to grow better should talk to them as well as play them some music.

Handy Hints

To Buy
Don't throw away
Watering Can
Size of plant
Annual or Perennial
Excess Compost
Plant Food
Good for wildlife - yes or no
Care instructions
Water Retention Crystals
Good Drainage
Plastic bags can be used for replanting

No more mosquitoes with lavender

Butterflies and insects love lavender. Mosquitoes hate them.
Butterflies and insects love lavender. Mosquitoes hate them. | Source

South Facing

Lavender – there are many different types and both butterflies and birds seem to like them.

Rosemary – rosemary is another plant loved by wild life.

Kalanchoe – small plant which flowers for a long time but does not need a massive amount of water.

Tomatoes – tomatoes often do well on a south facing balcony.

Cactus and succulents – many varieties flower and they don’t need a lot of water

Grow rosemary in a pot

Rosemary always puts on a wonderful display.
Rosemary always puts on a wonderful display. | Source

North Facing

Buddleia – commonly known as the butterfly bush as it attracts butterflies.

Geranium – geraniums are great for brightening up a north facing balcony.

House leaks – don’t need a lot of water but grow quickly and can be very interesting. They are also very tolerant of cold weather and winds.

Gooseberry bushes – gooseberry bushes tend to well on north facing balconies

Rosemary – rosemary is quite hardy and can handle quite cold temperatures

East Facing

Heathers – you do get some summer flowering varieties.

Pansies – pansies are very colorful and blooms last a long time

Carnations and pinks – also very colorful and can be scented

Honeysuckle – a climber such as a honey suckle do well, and the scent is to die for.

Blueberries – blueberries in pots are just as delicious as their wild grown cousins

West Facing

Angelica – this is a big showy herb and they always grow better in a Western direction. Also keeps mosquitoes away.

Roses – both climbing and standard roses can be grown on balconies

Courgettes – courgettes (zucchini) have the most amazing flowers and you get your own

Grasses – there are lots on interesting grasses you can grow on a balcony, just avoid Pampas grass.

Bamboo – bamboo plants are not too large and you can easily create a Chinese theme balcony.

More on Water Retaining Crystals

Composts, Fertilizers, Pots and Plant Crystals

It is important to buy good quality compost for your balcony garden.

If you initially invest in better quality compost you don’t need to change the compost that often. Good quality composts also tend to retain more moisture, and saving on water usage is important.

There are many great fertilizers on the market but try to find a good natural fertilizer or plant feed. There are some really good available which both look after your plants and do not cause harm visiting wildlife.

Pots are also important. In general I use plastic pots as they are not only lighter but they are not affected by frost. They are also a lot easier to move around, and lift up to put on a table for general plant maintenance.

Plant crystals are a fantastic solution for smaller and medium sized pots. They work by retaining water so you need to water less to maintain your balcony garden.

Water Storing Crystals from Miracle-Gro - Best in Test

Add a bit of fun to your pots

Is he trying to escape? A terracotta turtle hiding in the plants.
Is he trying to escape? A terracotta turtle hiding in the plants. | Source

More to Gardening Than Plants

Plants are great but there are many things which you also liven up and brighten up your balcony.

Garden ornaments look great on the balcony as well. You can always add wind chimes but might disturb the neighbors on windy nights. Consider perhaps swapping your wind chimes for dream catchers or sun catchers.

Somewhere to sit and enjoy your small green space is important.
Somewhere to sit and enjoy your small green space is important. | Source

Making a seating area nice and welcoming is another, often welcomed, idea for your balcony garden. Even a small table with a couple of chairs make a nice addition, and you can add some candles for that extra special touch.

Mirrors might even be a good idea if you would like to give some of your plants some extra reflected light.

Find out more about gardening in small spaces

I love this book by Fern Richardson. It is a fantastic book to curl up with on a cold winter’s day, and plan for the coming spring and summer. It does not only give you some good ideas but there is some real practical advice in between the pages as well.

Fern really makes you appreciate what you can do with small spaces, and how important small spaces are to us. Before you know it you will be growing anything from vegetables to climbing roses on your balcony, and you will be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to transform your balcony to your own Garden of Eden.

Important Things to Remember

  • Where is your water? How far is your water?

  • How big will the plant get?

  • Direction – north, south, east and west.

  • Drainage – don’t forget your plants will need good drainage

  • Quality compost

  • Don’t throw away water from boiled vegetables or lentils- makes excellent plant feed.

© 2014 Annie Messeri


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    Post Comment

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      4 years ago from Spain

      Thank you, I have a lot of succulents and cacti in stunning spots.

    • alkanarula profile image

      Alka Narula 

      4 years ago from INDIA

      Nice...I have the whole lot of plants but rarely keep them in my balcony as it gets direct sun the whole day..Never thought of placing succulents. ...Interesting.

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      4 years ago from Spain

      I have been through that process so I know that it helps. Plants, flowers and greenery are so important to us and wildlife.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      4 years ago from New Jersey

      This is really helpful information and ideas, especially for someone like me who might be downsizing from lots of land to plant to who knows what size.

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      4 years ago from Spain

      Tolovaj - they do like a chat. Herbs also always need picking.

    • Tolovaj profile image


      4 years ago

      I used to have small herb garden on my balcony but it didn't work very well. There is not enough sun and I have to admit I didn't devote enough time to my plants. Maybe I should try to talk to them:)


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