The Q&A Archives: Plants on South Facing Balcony

Question: Just moved into a new apartment in the D.C. area and looking to plant some potted plants. I have three small plants so far - basil, mint, and rosemary. The balcony gets plenty of sun during the day. What would be some good plants? Ceramic pots or plastic? What kind of soil? What should I do when it gets cold, as I have no windowsills on which to put plants?

Answer: Lots of annuals and perennials will grow nicely in containers. Favorites include Hen & Chicks (Sempervirum sp.), Stonecrop (Sedum sp.), Sedges (Carex sp.), Alternanthera (Alternanthera sp.), Miniature Brass Buttons (Leptinella gruveri), Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya), Wandering Jew (Tradescantia sp.), Bugleweed (Ajuga sp.), Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus), Wooly Thyme (Thymus thracicus), Silver Thyme (Thymus x 'Argenteus'), Scotch Moss (Sagina subulata Aurea), Irish Moss (Sagina subulata), Creeping fig (Ficus pumila), and Lily Turf (Liriope spicata). If you need ideas for placement, some combinations to consider include Sundaze? 'Golden Beauty' Bracteantha, 'Blue Bird' Nemesia and 'Zinfandel' Oxalis. Or, 'Beth's Blue' Laurentia, Soprano? 'Light Purple' Osteospermum, 'Strike It Rich Gold' Heucherella and 'Charmed Velvet' Oxalis. Or Coleus and Variegated Ivy. Or Amaranth, Dusty Miller, Blue Salvia, Heliotrope, and Vinca.

It will be difficult to keep containerized plants protected over the winter months so I'd concentrate on growing annuals. If you decide to use perennials, keep in mind that they won't overwinter in containers and just plan on replacing them every spring. You can use any type of container you like, providing they have adequate drainage holes, and use potting soil rather than garden soil.

Best wishes with your balcony garden!

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