Spring and summer gardening for condo dwellers

Tom Khorram
Tom Khorram
Published on June 3, 2019

There’s no need to pity your condo-dwelling, green thumber friends – where there is even a tiny space, there are gardening possibilities.

Whether you call that spot a balcony, lanai, terrace or
veranda, it can be transformed into a spring garden showcase in just a few easy

Keep track of the light (and heat)

Take a few days to make note of where the sunlight falls on
your balcony, and the length of time each spot remains sunny. You may have wide
swaths that remain in complete shade all day, and that’s ok.

Many plants enjoy shady spots and we’ll introduce you to some of these later on. Remember, that the sunlight and shade of today won’t match that of other seasons.

It’s spring now but as summer approaches, the sun is positioned differently, as it also is in fall and winter.

Hartz CC BY-SA 3.0

You’ll also need to consider the heat generated by that
sunlight, especially if you live in the country’s desert southwest.

Experienced Arizona gardeners (Phoenix and Lake Havasu City
in particular), and those in Austin, Texas and Las Vegas, Nevada, for instance,
have learned to ignore those little care tags that come with plants purchased
at the nursery.

“Plant in full sun” may be just what a plant needs in San
Francisco or Portland, but put it in full sun in Riverside, California and it
may just fry. If you live in a particularly hot-summer-weather region, plant
full-sun varieties in light shade, or areas where they will only receive
morning sun.


Before you head out to the nursery to buy plants, draw out a
quick diagram of your space. Then, consider where you’ll put hardscape pieces
and accessories.

Items to consider include

  • Window boxes
  • Water feature
  • Plant stands
  • Table
  • Chairs
  • Bench
  • Settee
  • Oversized planting pots
  • Lights
  • Rug

Get more ideas on accessories for your balcony garden and see the items at work on Pinterest, BalconyGardenWeb.com and WooHome.com.

If you are fortunate enough to have a small patio, you’ll find inspiration here.


Sometimes a
garden is even more charming when the sun goes down. Balcony or patio gardens
are ideal for al fresco dining, so let’s add some lighting to set the mood.

String lights
seem to be the current go-to for patios and balconies, and for good reason— they’re
inexpensive and come in a variety of shapes.

Whether you swag them at the ceiling or twirl them around patio cover supports, string lights may be the ideal solution. Check out some ideas on Pinterest.com.

The flickering of candlelight adds a romantic and even tropical ambiance and you can get it with LED candles. Wayfair sells a nice assortment and some of them have timers. Get inspiration on using lanterns and candles in your small garden at Pinterest.com and TheSpruce.com.

Let’s not forget plants!

The key to enjoying your condo balcony or patio garden
year-round is to include evergreen foliage plants. This way, when winter’s chill
puts the flowering plants to sleep, you’ll still have greenery.

Shady gardens

You might be surprised at the variety of plants that can
grow and even thrive in the shade. Even some plants you haven’t considered
growing as ornamental, such as cat grass or Japanese forest grass, which both
take well to container growing and shade.

Consider these shade-tolerant plants as well:

Get additional tips on what to grow in a shady container garden at HGTV.com, FineGardening.com and SouthernLiving.com.

Container plants for
full-sun balconies and patios

Plants to block
prying eyes (or wind)

Street-level condos, or those located downtown, surrounded
by others with big windows can still be private. The strategic use of tall
plants will help keep prying eyes or gusty winds at bay.

Tall and dense is key here. Or, use shorter plants on stands
to elevate them. Consider the following:

Find more privacy ideas on Pinterest.com.

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