Balcony Plants - Knowledgebase Question

escondido, Ca
Question by erinderosier
February 25, 2011
What plants are the best for an elderly lady with an apartment in escondido with a balcony that faces the west for morning sun that has a great bloom all year.


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Answer from NGA
February 25, 2011

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The good news is that most plants will happily adapt to growing in containers. Fill the containers with a water retentive potting soil (such as Miracle Gro) and the plants will be happy with only weekly or bi-weekly watering when the weather is hot. Here are some long blooming perennials to consider:

Centranthus (Red Valerian) Bloom Span: 3-4 Months; Centranthus prefers dry, lean soil, but it blooms longer in cooler climates. In intense heat it will bloom in spring and again as it feels up to it, throughout the summer. To be certain of what color you are getting, buy the plant while it is in flower. The plants don't live longer than about 5 years and they resent being divided or every relocated. GOOD CHOICES: Centranthus ruber 'Albus'.

Coreopsis (Tickseed) Bloom Span: 3+ Months; Coreopsis are undemanding plants, but short lived. Either allow them to self-seed or divide the plants every 2-3 years and replant the newer, outer sections. Flower buds form all along the stems, making deadheading a time consuming challenge. Once the initial buds have completed blooming, sheer the plants back by 1/3 to encourage new flower buds. GOOD CHOICES: Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb', C.v. 'Golden Showers', C. grandiflora 'Early Sunrise'.

Echinacea purpurea (Coneflower) Bloom Span: 2-3 Months; Having a long bloom period is just on of Echinacea's many attributes. Coneflowers are extremely drought tolerant, attract birds and butterflies and the intense color adds punch to any garden. The tall stalks are self-supporting, unless they've received so much water they become floppy. They require good drainage and full sun. Deadheading will prolong the bloom period. The seed heads can be left on through the winter and will provide a treat for neighborhood birds. GOOD CHOICES: Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus", E.p. 'Fragrant Angel', E. "Art's Pride'.

Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) Bloom Span: 3-4 Months; Gaillardia's yellow petals around a burgundy center are impossible to ignore in a garden. All they ask is full sun and they will keep on blooming all summer. In most cases, deadheading is not necessary for continual bloom, but it can make the plants look tidier. GOOD CHOICES: Gaillardia x grandiflora, Gaillardia 'Goblin' (dwarf), G. 'Burgundy', G. 'Monarch'.

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker) Bloom Span: 3+ Months; The spiky, bottle-brush flowers of Kniphofia are beacons for hummingbirds. Although they look like tough customers, Kniphofia actually requires a bit of winter protection in cooler zones. They are also a bit fussy about liking moist conditions in the summer, but well-drained soil for the winter months. Full sun is generally necessary for ample blooms. Kniphofia does not divide or transplant well, although you can usually get away with removing and replanting the young side shoots of the plants. GOOD CHOICES: Any of the hybrids. Kniphofia ''Primrose Beauty' is especially hardy.

Liatris (Gayfeather, Blazing Star) Bloom Span: 3 Months; Liatris are easy to grow and texturally unusual. The thin, spiky leaves jut off the stems all the way to where the rosy-purple flower spikes begin. Unlike most spiky flowers, Liatris blooms from the top down. Liatris can handle just about any type of soil, but the richer the soil, the more likely they'll need staking. They'll grow in full sun or partial shade. Liatris is long lived and doesn't often require division. They will self-seed, but generally don't take over. GOOD CHOICES: Liatris spicata (Spike Gayfeather) comes in white, pink and shades of purple.

Nepeta (Catmint) Bloom Span: 2-3 Months; Most people think of Nepeta as catnip (Nepeta cataria), a somewhat weedy garden plant. But there are many excellent ornamental Nepetas that will bloom throughout the summer, if deadheaded. Most have some shade of blue-lavender flowers and gray foliage. They are very drought tolerant and make a nice substitute for lavender, in areas where lavender won't thrive. Although not as attractive to cats as catnip, you may still find a cat or two rolling around in your plants. GOOD CHOICES: Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant', Nepeta x faassenii 'Dropmore' (Sterile and doesn't need deadheading)

Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan) Bloom Span: 3 Months; Rudbeckia are at home everywhere and many are native to various parts of North America. They prefers well-drained, somewhat lean soil and full sun. Deadheading will prolong bloom and cut Rudbeckia flowers will last a long time in water. With their flat landing pad petals, they are attractive to butterflies and the seeds will be eaten by the birds during the winter. Relatively long lived, Rudbeckias can be easily multiplied by division.
GOOD CHOICES: Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm"

Scabiosa (Pin Cushion Flower) Bloom Span: 3+ Months; Scabiosa is a unique looking plants with a low growing rosette of narrow leaves and a profusion of gangly stems topped by pincushion flowers. They are relatively easily grown in average soil and full sun. Deadheading is a must for long bloom and general appearance. Divide plants every 3-4 years. You can also root the secondary stems you will see coming from the base of the plants. GOOD CHOICES: Scabiosa caucasica 'Butterfly Blue', S. c. 'Pink Mist'.

Sedum (Stonecrop) Bloom Span: 2-3 Months; The taller sedums are unparalleled garden performers. Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is a near perfect plant, looking good for 4 seasons. Sedum flower buds are attractive long before they are fully in bloom and long after they have gone to seed, so there is no need to deadhead. They thrive in well-drained soil and full sun. If your plants tend to flop, they can be sheared back in early summer to form a bushier, sturdier plant. Sedums can go years without division, but can be propagated by stem cutting. Once the plant begins to thin out in the center, division is necessary. GOOD CHOICES: Sedum 'Autumn Joy', S. 'Bertram Anderson', S. Madrona, S. 'Brilliant'.

Tradescantia (Spiderwort) Bloom Span: 3-4 Months; Tradescantia doesn't get much respect, probably because they can become a bit aggressive. However, they will readily bloom in partial shade and can be easily controlled by pulling young plants or by crowding them in with other plants. They have somewhat grassy like leaves with clusters of 3-peteled flower heads. Each flower lasts only one day, but there are so many buds the bloom period is quite long. They prefer cool, moist soil and full sun, but will accept partial shade in exchange for the cool soil. GOOD CHOICES: Tradescantia ''Carmine Glow', T. 'Snowcap'.

Veronica spicata (Spike Speedwell) Bloom Span: 3-4 Months; Veronicas start blooming in the spring and keep going through frost. The genus includes a broad range of plants, but V. spicata is most popular in gardens. The low growing dense foliage gives rise to narrow flowers spikes in blues, reds, pinks, whites and purples. Deadheading will keep them going all summer long. Drought tolerant, Veronica likes a well-drained soil. GOOD CHOICES: Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue'.
Good luck with your perennial garden!

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