Balcony & Patio Plants

Balcony / Patio / Indoor Plants-  Liven up all your Living Spaces

Balcony-  Certain plants and even trees can be grown on a balcony.  One must be aware of certain factors before venturing into the balcony gardening practice.  Be aware of which way your balcony faces.  How much sun will there be?  Is salt air a problem?  If so, only salt tolerant plants/trees can be used effectively.  Do you want to grow only decorative plants/trees or trees that bear fruit, plants that bear flowers or plants that produce vegetables.  All these things are possible given the right conditions.  First, plan on using containers of some sort.  Use trays under the containers to catch excess water.  Plastic or clay are useable.  Veggies:  We grow veggies in South Florida only in winter, planting seeds or starter plants in early fall.  Starter plants available at box stores or garden centers are recommended for most people, offering the best chance of success.   Use a good potting soil.  Tomatoes have large root systems and will need 5-gallon containers.  Peppers, greens, lettuce have shallow root systems and need only 8 in. deep containers.   Almost all veggies are able to be grown on a balcony with at least 5 hours of sun each day.  Chard, kale and lettuce can do well with partial shade, so grow them behind more sun-loving items.  Grow as you normally would in containers using Osmocote or a liquid fertilizer according to label directions with a light application every three weeks.  Do not let these containerized plants dry out completely.  All potted plants need careful attention to irrigation.  And, do not overwater.  Water only when the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry.  You can stake tomatoes in containers just like you would in the ground.  Trees:  These are small trees that can be grown on a balcony with 5 or more hours of sunlight each day:  Citrus  Meyer Lemon, Key Lime, Navel Orange, really most any citrus kept trimmed to fit your space.  You can also obtain those fruit cocktail trees that are multi-grafted with orange, lemon, lime or other citrus fruits grafted to a hardy root stock.   Mango  There are very tasty “condo” mango trees that do well on balconies.  They include Cogshall, Carrie, Mallika and Nam Doc Mai.  They remain small with judicious pruning and produce well in South Florida, in the ground or on patios or balconies with at least 5 hours of sun per day.  Palms include Christmas, pygmy date, and ponytail.  Other plants include succulents, agaves and can include kalanchoe, cardboard palm, green island ficus, artamesia and some bromeliads.  Remember that balconies can receive a lot of wind at times which can do some damage.  Also, if near the ocean you will need to wash off your plants to remove salt on a regular basis.  Experiment with flowers to see which of those do well for you.  Geraniums seem hardy, but you’ll find out more by trying what you like and adjusting to your own conditions.

Patio-  Most of the plants and trees discussed above will work on most patios.  Since you probably will have more space on a patio I can safely recommend more and larger plants and trees.  For trees, consider Desert cassia, cassia fistula, frangipani, jatropha and tibouchina granulosa a some good specimens.  You can google any of these to see photos and more info.  I really can’t get into too many photos here since they take up valuable space.  For plants consider simply hibiscus in so many colors nowadays, crown of thorns, ground orchids, sweet almond, and don’t forget about growing herbs on the patio for use in the kitchen and wonderful aromas as well.  Fruit trees can include those mentioned above for balconies as well as carambola (star fruit), Meringa and that great Jamaican favorite AKEE.

Indoor- This group will not overlap the ones talked about above.  Sansevieria (mother-in-law’s tongue) us a tuff one.  Shade or light, water once a month, simple…. African violets are pretty and simple.  No direct sunlight, but plenty of indirect.  water from the tray at the bottom and use MiracleGro A.V. food to label directions.  Always a winner if you don’t let them dry out and keep away from direct sun.  Do not molest the leaves.  Leave them alone except to trim the old ones at the bottom when they decline.  Spider plants.  A simple round container with a top dressing of moss.   They tolerate a range of indoor temps, sun or shade and little water.  Don’t let them dry out.  Also work good in a hanging baskets.  Philodendrons either plain green or variegated.  These are no-brainers.  Hanging basket, container on a table or let them climb a wall.  My father used to have one on his office desk that eventually covered the wall next to it because he would scotch tape the runners to the wall for years and years.  Orchids.  Don’t overlook these babies.  Rotate them in from the patio, green house or trees and when the blooms are gone take them back out to regenerate.  I like to display them on easels or in decorative pots until its time to rotate them.  Bamboo can be used indoors for short periods of time and rotated outside after about one or two weeks inside.  We rotate three 12 footers of black bamboo in and out of the house.  There are many more including cactus that do well inside.  Your garden center will typically have house plants segregated in their collections so you can tell.  If you ever have any questions about any of this, call in to the show on Sunday mornings and we can discuss your interests.

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