Tips for a Flowering Balcony Garden in New York City

 

Moving to New York City doesn’t mean you need to give up gardening.  Balcony gardens are a fantastic way to get your green thumb fix and now that summer has unofficially started, it’s time to get going on creating an urban oasis. Here’s a game plan on how to put it together:

 

Understand Conditions

Determine the microclimate of your balcony: How many hours of sun, if any, does the space get? Is the balcony typically windy?  Understanding the conditions will help you pick plants that will endure the season.

 

Establish space restrictions

Measure your balcony and decide how many planters, in what combinations you’ll use. Think outside the traditional container and remember you can utilize vertical, hanging, and stacked planters, raised beds, flower boxes that attach to railings and much more. So even in a small space, your garden can be plentiful. Once you’ve figured this out, draw out a plan with measurements before heading to the store to buy your outdoor gardening pieces.

 

Containers

Pull out of storage any planters you might already have. If you need to purchase additional containers think about the look you desire and also material. You can choose from a variety of planters from terra cotta to plastic and zinc and much more. While materials such as terra cotta offer better drainage by allowing moisture to escape, through not just a drainage hole, but also via the planter walls, zinc and plastic offer more longevity and can weather the winter months if left out.

 

Types of plants

Variety is the spice of a garden. Fortunately, flowering annuals come in all shapes and sizes. Consider how much care each plant needs and if you’re willing to put in the required effort. Here are some flowering annuals for small balconies that are easy to care for and we love:

 

For sunny spaces:

-       Geraniums are some of the easiest flowering annuals to care for. Plant them in well-draining soil, fertilize them every four to six weeks and watch them flower all summer long. Consider the Ivy, Alpine or Balcon types if you like the spilling look—think Paris balconies! Bonus: you can bring geraniums in over the winter and enjoy them again next year.

-       The heat tolerant and carefree Verbenas bloom in the harshest of conditions, cascade nicely in flower boxes and come in in a variety of colors. Mix them with a sweet potato vine or Creeping Jenny for a cascading basket or flower box. Bonus: Verbenas attract butterflies.

-       The trumpet-shaped Petunias come in almost every color and are a popular summer gardening staple. Plant them in pots or get the wave or cascading types for hanging baskets.  Hint: In midsummer, when they start to look spindly, pinch and prune your petunia to encourage growth for a fuller plant. Warning: if your petunia starts to look and feel sticky, it’s likely aphids have been on the attack. Blast it with a hose to wash them away and spray the plant with a soap and water mixture. 

-       For a plant that wraps itself around the railing, reminiscent of the tropics, consider the Sun Parasol or Mandevilla vine. Plant these red, white or pink beauties in well draining soil and fertilize every two weeks. Bonus: They’ll provide a bit of privacy.

 

For shade:

-       Impatiens are a go-to flowering annual for shady spots. They do well in pots and containers and other than blue, you won’t be hard pressed to find any color. Give ‘em well draining soil and a dose of fertilizer every two weeks and all you have to do is enjoy their display of hues. Hint: consider also their hardier cousins, New Guinea Impatiens.

-       With shiny leaves and blooms that include pink, orange, red and white, Wax Begonias do well in shady or low-sun locations.  These guys like their water, but allow them to dry between watering. Bonus: they are relatively bug-free!

-       If you see the intense hue of the mini flowers of blue lobelia, it’s likely you’ll bring it home. The cascading type of this shade-lover will spill over railings and create a stunning flowerfall. Hint: this annual will not flower during the hottest part of the summer, trim it back and wait for it to bloom again in fall.

 

Planting

The best time to replant your purchases is when the day’s conditions are not harsh—meaning not during peak sun hours or an extreme weather event. For that reason, it’s best to plant in the morning or evening.  Once planted, give your new garden a healthy dose of water, then sit back and enjoy the colorful display.