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The Agony Plant on How to Make Your Balcony Bloom

AnOther's resident botanist reveals how to cultivate an efflorescent veranda

TextNik Southern PhotographyEmma Hartvig Photographic EditorHolly Hay

Every month, AnOther's dedicated Agony Plant – otherwise known as Nik Southern from London floristry Grace & Thorn – draws upon her extensive expertise to answer your questions and queries about best botanic practice. Today, she turns her hand to the balcony, instructing us on how best to create a plant-filled platform to be proud of. 

Hello Agony Plant,

I need your help! My husband and I have just moved into a new flat, complete with a small but perfectly formed balcony. This was a huge factor in our choice of abode but now the pressure's on. How do we turn this simple space into a blossoming sanctuary? What type of pots would you recommend that we buy? And, most vital of all, how do we prevent our chosen buds from perishing at our fingertips?

Yours in eager anticipation, Albi K.

Hi Albi,

Balcony gardening is all about getting creative with your space. There are so many options when it comes to crafting a secluded area where you feel fabulously enclosed by beautiful plants and free to sip on a glass of Shiraz, watering can in hand.

The first questions you need to ask yourself relate to your specific terrace. What kind of light does your space get and how many hours of it? Is your balcony windy or sheltered? Is it shady? The answers to these questions will narrow down the specific types of plants that will thrive in your elevated haven. Study how sunlight moves across the space over the course of a day and group your containers – sun lovers vs. woodland plants – in areas where they will thrive.

Now to the potting. Invest in a large evergreen shrub (or as many as you can get away within your allotted area) to create the base for your verdant paradise. Add to this lots of different sized pot plants to create layering, texture, scent and colour – you want to have a mixture of evergreen perennials and annuals, which are great for an all-summer-long burst of colour. Vines and fast-growing climbers are good for a small space because they will create vertical interest in a short amount of time (jasmine is a highly scented winner and the bees love it).

Next up, over-the-balcony planters. There are so many great options out there, so fill them up with herbs and trailing plants. Then put some up macramé hangers of varying heights to add interest from above. If you can’t hang them from the ceiling, use a hanging basket bracket and hang them from there.

When it comes to selecting pots, I get my inspiration from the Mediterranean – think brightly painted terracotta urns, patterned tiles, old vintage vessels. I love combining mismatched pieces – it adds so much interest. eBay, charity shops and car boot sales are great for a balcony loot, just make sure the pots are porous.

Last up, the plant selection process. It really is worth investing in more established plants, as they offer immediate impact, but do mix in smaller plants among them. Nothing beats the feeling of nurturing those babies and watching them grow. Keep a daily eye on your garden as container plants can dry out very quickly, and feed your plants once a month with an organic fertilizer. 

The Agony Plant Loves – pittosporum, jasmine, lavender, pelargoniums, herbs and pansies. 

Good luck and keep it green (and pink and orange – great colour clash combo)!

The Agony Plant 


NB: Have a burning question about botany? Want to ask the Agony Plant for advice? Tweet or Instagram your query to @anothermag using the hashtag #asktheagonyplant