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Easy to Grow Shade Plants for Apartment Balconies

Updated on May 25, 2020
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I love plants, the outdoors, nature, all of it! But gardening in a small space can be challenging. Learn from me as I grow my green thumb.

Gardening in the Shade of your Apartment

Apartments are great- they provide efficient, affordable space. However, this can often limit your ability to have a successful garden. In my case, my apartment is north facing, which creates ample shade and very little sun. I also live in Wisconsin, which doesn't have a very long growing season.

Despite these challenges, I've been successful at growing quite a variety of plants. Below are some of my favorites, along with a few suggestions to help you be successful in your gardening.

With a little imagination and a few containers, you can have an apartment balcony garden in your shady area as well.

What is your garden situation?

What type of gardening area do you have?

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Pick the Right Shade Plants for your Area

Find the Right Zone

It's important to pick plants that will fit with your region. It's no use trying to grow a cactus outdoors in Minnesota, for example! You can check out the USDA plant hardiness zone map if you're unsure as to where you fit. Since seasons, sunlight, shade, and frost vary so greatly across our country, it's very important to know where you fit in to the range.

Since I live in Northern Wisconsin, my plant selections below will be fit for zones 3 and 4.

Shade Plant Books - Helpful Resources for your Shade Plant Garden

Making the Most of Shade: How to Plan, Plant, and Grow a Fabulous Garden that Lightens up the Shadows
Making the Most of Shade: How to Plan, Plant, and Grow a Fabulous Garden that Lightens up the Shadows
This book highlights over 300 awesome shade plants, and can give detailed advice for your specific shade need.

Selecting the Right Container

Find the Best Fit your for Your Area

There are too many container options to show on this page, but there are endless options for every style, taste, budget, and balcony. I personally have a selection of blue, green, yellow, and brown pots. There are lots of different sizes to accommodate my different plants.

My tomatoes and hydrangea are in the largest plants, as they grow to be the biggest. I have mint in a little container, because it will spread to the size of the container you plant it in, and I don't want mint overtaking the rest of my herb garden. My shade annuals are in medium-sized pots, and I think they will have a comfortable amount of room to grow.

Before purchasing your containers, you might want to measure your balcony to make sure that the containers will fit, especially if you plan on including other accessories such as chairs, a table, or bird feeders.

My Favorite Shade Plants

#1- Begonia

I love begonias; they're a hugely popular shade plant, and for good reason. If you live in an apartment, these flowers provide a huge punch of color for only a little space. I love the clean, crisp white flower that I recently purchased. Below is a picture of my newest flower.

My Favorite Shade Plants

#2- Wishbone Flower (Torenia)

This is a unique shade flower, and you'll get lots of compliments if you have it. The best thing about it, besides the beautiful shape and color, is that it blooms all summer long. So, as long as you take somewhat good care of it, you'll be enjoying its flowers until frost.

Below is a picture of mine. It hasn't opened yet, but when it does, there is a very cool wishbone shape inside of it.

My Favorite Shade Plants

#3- Nierembergia

Even though the name might be unpronounceable, the flower is of a small, simple variety. When it blooms, it produces gorgeous, small purple flowers. Although it starts out a plain, boring sprig, it becomes another great addition to any balcony garden. Also, it stays pretty small, it will most likely spread to fill up your container, so you'll have an impressive plant from those humble beginnings.

The picture below is my current nierembergia; no flowers yet, but I'm excited to see what it becomes!

Shade Plant Tips

Check out these tips from the master gardener himself- P. Allen Smith. Although his tips are more geared toward a shade garden in a larger area, a lot of the plants and techniques he recommends can easily be applied to a shade garden on an apartment balcony.


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