While balcony gardens are generally less work due to their smaller scale, they do require special attention and planning to ensure success. A plant growing permanently in a pot or tub will be more vulnerable to dry-out and sudden changes or extremes of temperature, so selecting suitable containers, plants and growing media (potting mix) is vitally important. It is also important to choose the right plants for your available lighting conditions.
Tip 1: Pot size
It is important to choose pots of a substantial size. Plants grown in pots which are too small will dry out and heat up more quickly. Ensuring your plants always have plenty of space for their roots will help imitate their natural growing conditions.
Tip 2: Types of pots
Terracotta pots are especially ornamental and will give your garden a more authentic or traditional look. However, be aware that terracotta is very porous and will allow your potting mix to dry out relatively quickly. Glazed terracotta pots are, in the long term, a better choice, as the glaze helps create a seal. Another practical option is to use plastic pots. Plastic pots come in a range of colours and styles and no water will escape through their walls. All pots for growing plants will need drainage holes in the bottom to allow water to drain out and prevent the mix from becoming waterlogged. A saucer underneath the pot will help reduce the amount of water lost from overflowing.
Tip 3: Potting Mix
Choosing top quality potting mix such as Searles Peat 80 Plus will help to store moisture for longer as well as provide plants with a sustained stream of nutrients and insulation from temperature changes. Always choose the highest quality potting mix available as this is the life force behind stronger, better growing plants.
Tip 4: Mulching
Apply a 3cm thick layer of gravel or pebbled to the soil surface, which will act as a mulch. This not only looks attractive, but also will help to regulate the soil temperature and retain moisture levels. Gravel or pebbles serve as what’s known as an ‘inert mulch’ which means it will not break down to become part of the soil structure. This means it will not require topping up.
Tip 5: Top plant choices
Over the last few years, many plants have come and gone in nurseries yet only a handful have shown great value as potted specimens for home use.
One of my personal favourites would have to be the dipladenia. These come in an assortment of colour, ranging from white through to rich crimson. They will live very happily for many years in the same pot, only requiring a liquid fertiliser (recommend SeaMax™ Fish & Kelp) once a month. With this in mind, they will flower for almost 12 months of the year.
The dipladenia blends well with the likes of the Cabbage palm (Cordyline Australis), New Zealand Flax (Phormium) and Fountain grass (Pennisetum) species. These beautiful and striking plants will bring movement, colour and a modern/contemporary style influence to the patio or balcony.
You may like to try under planting them with the delightful groundcovers: dichondra ‘Silver dollar’, rhoeo or zoysia ‘Temple Grass’. These will cover the top of the soil and softly cascade over the edges of the pots.
Ask an expert
Once you have decided what you want, ask at your garden centre for the best plant and pot selections. Be clear about what you hope to achieve. Also mention conditions that may influence your plant selection such as windy conditions and what time of day (and times of year) the space receives sunlight.You’ll be enjoying the benefits of your balcony garden in no time!How to Re-Pot A Plant How to Grow Potted Lemon Noel Burdette is a highly respected Local horticulturist and plantsman in Se Qld and is well known for his love of naturalistic and softer style gardens . Apart from having his own Private garden consultancy service , Noel can be regularly heard on 1116 4bc talking gardening each Saturday morning and is a contributor to many local garden magazines such as Subtropical gardening , About the Garden and Queensland Smart Farmer (Rural Press) . He is also a regular presenter on the locally produced television programme Blooming in Brisbane” which airs each week on Digital 31. Noel holds a flag highly for healthy backyard ecologies and is often heard at many garden events, clubs and Societies throughout south East Queensland. On request, Noel also offers a private garden consultation and design service. Whenever Noel has the opportunity, he can be found eagerly tending to his own garden “Wildside” which is highly focused on healthy ecology and plant diversity. Visit Noel’s blog http://noel-burdette.com.