Big balcony planters - what to plant?

Discussion in 'Container Gardening' started by navigator88, Sep 27, 2018.

  1. navigator88

    navigator88 Apprentice Gardener

    Sep 27, 2018

    I've moved recently and my new apartment has three lovely planters around 1.5 metres long and 30cm wide.

    There's one facing SSW and two facing NNE. The south facing one gets a lot of direct sun. The other two are quite shady.

    Here's some pictures (taken around 2pm).


    There is a crack in the south facing one which means whenever it's watered it goes into the balcony below. Our landlord has suggested that it would need to be lined to prevent this but I'm worried about there not being any drainage at all? Though I expect the wooden boxes on their own had no drainage anyway. Is it big enough that it doesn't matter or will that be a problem?

    Ideally I would like something quick and easy to plant rather than bulbs or seeds, though I'm not against having something reasonably evergreen with some seasonal interest. Also reasonably low maintenance. Colour would be great.

    So I would appreciate any ideas you might have! I just don't know what I can plant that will be practical and beautiful and will thrive in the conditions - I don't really know enough!

    Also any ideas for hanging baskets in shady places would be well received!

  2. Selleri

    Selleri Gardener

    Mar 1, 2009
    North Tyneside
    Hi navigator88, welcome!

    Wow, your balcony looks great, it has so much potential to become a real haven :spinning: First of all I'd suggest to remove all the soil and check what the planters look like inside and if any repairs or lining is needed. How deep are they? About 30cm?

    Even though they are very long, 30x30cm width and depth means they will not have much room and might dry out quickly. Large leaved, thirsty plants could mean a lot of watering, but moisture retaining gel in the compost would help.

    If that sunny planter were mine I'd definitely go for succulents and hardy cacti. :blue thumb: They would make a very exotic year-round display with all the different shapes and habits... and since you are in the south, you might even try plants not usually hardy in the ground. It would be best to plant those next summer though. Here are some links:
    RHS general advise
    nodiggardener blog, great photos
    surreal succulents nursery

    The shadier containers could then have softer planting, perhaps evergreen climbers? Ivy is a winner and will tolerate both draught and overwatering, but will not have showy flowers. Evergreen Loniceras (Henryi is my favourite) are also good for shade.

    Small, evergreen shrubs could work, underplanted with seasonal flowers, bedding in the summer, spring bulbs, and pansies or cyclamen for the winter. Hebes are always pretty and neat and can be planted now together with spring bulbs.

    Let us know what you come up with navigator88, looks very exiting :)
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • CanadianLori

      CanadianLori Total Gardener

      Sep 20, 2015
      Sweaty Betty
      Ontario, Canada Zone 5A
      @navigator88 Welcome to the forum!

      @Selleri has given you lots of great advice. Stick around and others are sure to chime in :)
    • Verdun

      Verdun Passionate gardener

      Oct 16, 2012
      West Cornwall
      Hiya navigator88 :) Welcome :)

      Selleri has expressed my own opinion that succulents would be perfect in the sunny planter. Echeverias and aeoniums for me there. Surreal Succulents are local to me down here in Cornwall and a recent visit to this nursery is inspiring. Succulents do not need too much soil space so would be perfect.......not too keen on cacti there though. Minimum attention required and maximum appeal all year round :). Plenty of horticultural grit or perlite mixed with john innes compost for these

      Agree too about double checking the planters are sound :)

      For the shady planters I would check out some choice ferns.....the japanese painted ferns are spectacular; Ursula's Red for example has red stems and lovely blue/grey foliage. I would also plant snowdrops, dwarf iris, dwarf daffodils, hyacinth and anemone blanda bulbs. Dwarf astilbes like Sprite would give summer flowers, arabis ferdinandi coburgii old gold has wonderfully coloured compact evergreen foliage and white spring flowers and planted with cyclamen would look sensational. Dwarf azaleas or rhododendrons would add extra colour too and require not too much planting soil. Carex Evergold and Buchanii, acorus Ogon, libertia would provide evergreen coloured grasslike linear impact too. Iris Pallida has fantastic blue foliage and blue flowers in summer and also create similar spikey impact. Ophiopogon nigrescens is a black evergreen "grass" with white/pink summer flowers and grow well there. I think some of the heucheras would grow well there too.....shades of red, yellow, orange foliage.
      Daphne Odora aureomarginata is an evergreen with fantastic scent in spring that would grow well there at least for a few years before outgrowing the space.:)
    • sandymac

      sandymac Gardener

      Jan 16, 2017
      I would stay away from putting any water retaining gel in any compost as it has been shown that the gels, manufactured as polymers, are biodegradable. They are not a long-term solution to water management. Their breakdown can release potentially damaging by-products into your soil. Regards sandy
      • Agree Agree x 2

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