Ask a Question forum→Denver west-facing balcony - what should I plant?

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Denver, CO
Jan 1, 2021 2:21 PM CST
Hi all! I live in an apartment building in Denver on the 11th floor and my balcony faces West. I would love to get a little balcony garden going this spring but I'm not sure what some good plants would be for my situation. During summer mornings I get full shade and in the afternoons no shade at all. It also gets very hot in the sun and can get pretty windy at times that high up. I'd be happy to bring plants inside in the winter but if it's not necessary I'd rather not have to deal with potentially bringing bugs inside.

Anybody have any suggestions for some plants that would thrive in that scenario?

Here are a few plants I've thought about attempting to keep out there:
- Tomatoes/cherry tomatoes
- Lemon tree
- Hydrangeas
- Herbs

Thanks so much!
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
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Jan 1, 2021 9:25 PM CST
In your area, you really can't expect to keep stuff on the balcony through the winter. Even if you were to do containers, the extreme cold weather that is always possible could freeze most containers and plants. You would have to take extreme measures to insure somethings survival. You can't plan for a mild winter every year. You must plan for the worse.
The other bad problem you will have is the warmth from that sun. The western sun is pretty strong but it can be intense.
Citrus trees need more sun. Sunshine and bright light all day. Herbs may not like that western sun either. Hibiscus should do all right but they will dry quickly and fry unless adequate water is provided.
Tomato's should be okay but again, water is a must. Heavy, frequent and deep watering. If they go dry in the heat and strong sun, they will drop fruit and blossoms.
Maybe a light fabric curtain drawn across can block some of that sun. Sun baking those plants for 2-3 hours will present a challenge. Oscillating fans to keep the air moving might help.
Rodney Wilcox Jones, my idol!
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[Last edited by BigBill - Jan 1, 2021 9:27 PM (+)]
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Name: sumire
Reno, Nevada (Zone 6a)
Jan 1, 2021 10:19 PM CST
Any of the vegetables that like full sun will probably be okay. (Tomatoes, squash...) Just select "patio" and "container" varieties and put them in large pots because that will reduce desiccation in the wind. Because of the wind factor I would make sure that you have a way of securing the pots such as packing straps.

Of other plants, anything you wish to overwinter on the patio should be hardy to at least 2 zones colder than your house. Around here, people mostly stick to vegetables on their balcony and store the pots each winter.

I agree with BigBill that watering will always be your issue.
Name: Steve
Port Orchard, WA (Zone 8b)
Jan 2, 2021 7:30 PM CST
manny, lived just outside of Parker, CO ( at 6,440 feet elevation, 26 millers SE of Denver), from 93 till 2015. Following guidance is only if you wish to use ceramic pots, especially large decorative pots. You must prepared for winter. Ceramic pots often crack when temps get below freezing and soil is left in the pots. The soil will attrack moisture and the pots will then often crac when the moisture freezes. Actions you can take to prevent cracking of ceramic pots are: bring them inside in winter; empty them of all soil in winter; or prepare them for -18f winter temps by: lining the pots with bubble wrap before putting in the soil (this may not work all the time) or covering the pots with plastic trash bags in earl fall to prevent moisture from entering the soil.
As far as plants are concerned, either grow annuals or perennials that you plan on growing as annuals. This guidance only rules out the lemon tree, if you desired lemons. Thus all the plants you mentioned can be grown, with the understanding that you will have to replace them each spring. Many flowing and vegetable plants can be grown, but will most likely die in the winter. Some perennials may even survive the winter.

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