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Gardening on balconies and verandahs

Several years ago a friend, a good gardener with a reasonable knowledge of plants moved into an apartment on the fifth floor of a new building, a smart apartment with translucent balustrades on sunny north-east balconies. She lamented that she had killed a number of plants before finding those that would survive her conditions. Another friend recently sought advice on plants to screen her shady balcony from neighbours. These two experiences lead me to do my own research into what plants might survive on balconies. Everyone I spoke to said “It’s the wind, you know.”

Decisions fall into several categories: aspect, desired height and spread of plants, degree of exposure to sun and wind, and how much time and care is available. Each time I questioned a horticulturist I received an initial reply, “Anything that will grow at the seaside”. Not very helpful. So many of those plants are plainly unsuitable for balconies and verandahs. I thought of the plants surviving on those cultivated strips between the north and south lanes of freeways – for example on the way to the airport. Check them out next time you go that way. Here’s what I’ve come up with:-

Some height for screening: Nandina – the original old variety with sprays of white flowers followed by red berries. It’s tough and will grow in shade or sun. Pittosporum – there are a number of cultivars available. The Golden Cane Palm, the Black-stemmed Palm and the Raphis Palm are all tough though the latter is slow growing. All are best suited to shadier locations and should be protected from hot midday sun. For full sun try the Proteas and Lillypilly. For both there are varieties to choose from with different height expectancies.

Smaller Plants: Coprosma has small round very shiny leaves. Look for the cultivars “Karo Red” and “Marble Queen”. Both are attractive. Buxus, the well-known hedge plant frequently used in modern landscaped gardens, is tough and will provide greenery. If kept well-pruned in its early stages it will later provide shelter for other smaller plants. Succulents, including the flowering Kalanchoes, and some of the variegated ones, will provide interest for most of the year.

For colour in sunny protected areas try geraniums. Keep them well pruned to protect from wind damage. There is now a huge range to choose from.

I have successfully grown and flowered Spathiphyllum ‘Sensation’, the Peace Lily, on a cold sunless south-facing verandah, also the Parlour Palm, Chamaedorea elegans and the tall grey-leaved Calathea often sold as a house plant.

These are plants you might like to try but, as always with gardening, it’s only experience that lets one decide what will thrive in one’s own particular conditions.

Northside Garden Fair
Run by the Rotary Club of Northbridge
Bi-centennial Oval, Sunday September 28
Horticultural and produce stalls and talks, refreshments, jazz, entertainment for the children.
Direct broadcast from ABC 702 weekend program with Simon Marnie
Entry $4 adults, children FREE
Gates open 10am
All profits to the Rotary Shelterbox appeal for disaster relief and other Rotary charities
For further details check the website

by Mollie Shelley

Courtesy of Gazette August 2008


Plants on balconies
Plants on balconies





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