Three potted plants on a sunny balcony

How to turn your balcony garden into a jungle with these amazing fast-growing plants

OK, “jungle” might be a bit of an overstatement, but luscious green plants growing in your balcony will have so many benefits. It’s worth flexing your green thumbs and choosing the best plants for creating a mini balcony garden that will bring you joy

In this article, we’ll go through tips, tricks and suggestions on how to most effectively use your balcony space, what plants to choose and how to care for them. 

Preparation is key!

There are some things to take into account before you start your balcony gardening journey. This way you’ll know what plants are better for the space you have available and what conditions these need to thrive. Also, what tools and supplies you’ll need to have on hand. Depending on how much time you are willing to dedicate to your balcony project, you’ll get to enjoy a lovely green and relaxing space without waiting too long!

Balcony with flowers
Flowers can bring a touch of color to your balcony

Size

We’ll talk more about balcony sizes further on, but it’s the first step you need to take when planning to set up your balcony. How big is it?

What activities do you want to be able to do there?

Probably mostly sitting and relaxing, but some people also like to do some BBQ or be able to host a group of friends on their balcony, so think about all of the possible scenarios.

Do you want to set up a table and chairs along with the plants?

The sitting arrangement takes up most of the space from the balcony. If you’re just using it to drink a cup of coffee, consider buying portable chairs and a small coffee table.

How can you effectively make use of the space without making your balcony feel crowded and claustrophobic?

You’ll need to become creative and use planters that fit the requirements of the space. Storage options are important here as you’ll have different tools used to take care of your plants, and they all require space.

These are all things to consider and take note of before you start planning and shopping for your balcony. 

Large Balcony

If you have a large balcony, you have many options. The issue is not to overdo it because you might end up with a crowded space.

With a large balcony, you can create little designated areas for things like herbs on one side, flowers on another side, outdoor furniture and decorations.

You can also move things around to change the appearance and see what works best, as well as propagate your plants and introduce new ones.

Small Balcony

A small balcony doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be limited to fewer plants and a measly setup. You just need to be a bit more creative and take advantage of every little bit of space.

Use climbing plants on one side to create a nice effect, hang planters from the ceiling or install shelves on the wall and racks from the rail to display plants so that they won’t take too much floor space.

That way you’ll have space to put a table and chairs and enjoy your mini jungle.

Orientation

How much sunlight does your balcony get and which hours of the day? If it’s high up you probably get sunlight throughout the day, if its orientation is towards the east you get sunlight in the morning, if it’s in the north you might not get much sunlight, etc.

This will determine what plants you will get and if they’ll thrive because different types of plants need different amounts of direct or indirect sunlight. Have a think about your area’s climate and temperatures, as this can also affect plants.

Row of succulents on wooden balustrade
Even the smallest plants can bring joy to your outdoor space

Time

How much time you can dedicate to your project is also important and will determine what plants to get and how much care they need. For example, if you want a nice relaxing balcony space with plants but you work long hours and are not at home a lot, it’s better to select hardy plants that don’t need much care.

If you want to spend a lot of time in the balcony and gardening relaxes you, you can select plants that need more care and attention. 

Tools and supplies

You’ll also need various tools and supplies to be able to turn your balcony into a mini jungle: planters and soil, gloves, a trowel and watering can, fertilizer, shelves, racks or furniture for displaying the pots, and more. 

The best plants for your balcony garden project 

Prickly pear cactus / barbary fig cactus (Opuntia)

Opuntia prickly pear cactus
Opuntia is a great low-maintenance choice for a large sunny balcony

This might sound like an unusual choice for a balcony, but if you have a big space, these two types of cactus will be a great addition to your garden. They need a lot of sun and little watering, so they are low maintenance. 

Siberian lemon

Siberian Lemon
Pick the fragrant Siberian lemon tree for a unique balcony plant option

This lovely Asian citrus tree can also be grown as a shrub and likes sunlight and partial shade. It blooms for several months in the Spring and Summer and it has many uses in Asian medicine.

English Ivy

English Ivy
English ivy is a super resilient plant for your balcony garden

A great fast-growing plant for any balcony garden. It’s very versatile and can thrive in any light condition. It can also withstand periods of drought as well as cold temperatures.

Coral Bells (Heuchera)

Coral Bells
Coral Bells plants have beautiful rich colors

A beautiful plant with deep burgundy or purple foliage, it’s really impressive looking! It’s also low-maintenance, can withstand drought and does well in any light condition (though it prefers partial sunlight).

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise Flower
The impressive-looking Bird of Paradise flower

A gorgeous tropical flower that blooms from a low-maintenance plant. It does not need a lot of watering, just a sunny spot and warmth (it doesn’t tolerate cold that well).

Echeveria

Echeveria succulent
The Echeveria succulent has a lovely purplish color

Another choice for a warm and sunny balcony is the beautiful Echeveria succulent with its lovely purple color. It likes sun and warmth and during the summer months prefers regular watering, but it’s also resistant to drought.

Bleeding Heart plant

Bleeding Heart plant
The flowers of the Bleeding Heart plant look just like little hearts

This plant with the unusual name and heart-shaped flowers likes the shade, so it’s perfect if you have a shady balcony. It’s not the easiest to care for but its stunning look is definitely worth it!

Lucky Bamboo

Lucky Bamboo
Pick some Lucky Bamboo for good luck!

This plant is described as indestructible. It’s slow-growing, can do well in any lighting condition and needs a lot of water. It is a central element in Feng Shui, said to bring good luck, hence the name.

How to use planters

The main equipment you will need for your balcony garden is receptacles for your plants, i.e. planters. These come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and you’ll have to keep in mind what each plant prefers when choosing its container. You can also use decorative items like old cups, mugs, buckets, or other containers, making sure that they have good drainage. Alternatively, you can keep your plant in a smaller container with drainage and add that to the decorative container.  

Person handling potting soil and potting plants
Learning how to use planters and soil is a valuable gardening skill

When you have the plant you want to add to the container, check its needs and plant it accordingly.

Most plants need good drainage, so adding a layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot helps with that. A saucer beneath helps catch the water that drains out of the pot.

Add soil over the gravel or pottery shards and make sure the soil is moist for your plant. Use fertilizer according to each plant’s needs.

Herb Garden

If you like to cook and always end up with wilted bunches of herbs that you only needed to use a little bit and don’t know what to do with the rest, maybe it’s time to get your own herb garden. Most herbs are incredibly hardy, not to mention they look and smell great. Pick a few or many that you like and adorn your balcony with them.

Vegetable Garden

Have you heard of urban gardening? You can grow vegetables even in tiny plots on balconies and terraces, with just a little planning and effort. Some vegetables are really easy to grow even from your kitchen scraps, like onions or lettuce.

Do your research, pick the veggies that you like best and are most suitable to your balcony’s conditions, and get planting! The feeling you get when you enjoy food that you grew yourself is incomparable.

Flowers

Old lantern and pansies
Colorful flowers are the best addition for any balcony

There are so many options for flowers in a balcony, you can pick the ones that suit you best. From tried and tested options like daisies and geraniums, to more unusual and tropical choices like Bird of Paradise, Celosia, or Flamingo Flower. 

Some perennials are a really good and low-maintenance choice, especially if you’re just starting out your balcony garden project.

You might feel overwhelmed by all the choices available to you when beginning your gardening journey, but following the simple steps and tips described above will help you get a good direction and build your very own green spot on your balcony. Working on your plants and relaxing surrounded by lush foliage and beautiful flowers will surely become the highlight of your day! 

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