Across America, and probably worldwide, condominium towers are springing up like mushrooms! The result of this relatively new residential reality is that there are more and more people whose only outdoor living space is a balcony in the clouds. And these beautiful balconies, with breathtaking views of the distant landscape, are becoming the new playgrounds for gardening enthusiasts. If container gardening on a patio or terrace is already a challenge in itself, imagine the struggle when this balcony is exposed to the madness of the incessant winds! It’s a storm up there. Every day. Without a pause.

Luckily, years of trial-and-error gardening in windy terrain has brought out a small list of plants that manage to grow and even look beautiful, despite being constantly whipped by the great celestial fan. First, let’s see what the specific challenges of gardening on a balcony exposed to the wind are and explore some possible solutions. Then, in a future text, we will reveal the selection of plants perfectly adapted and able to survive in such places.

The Three Challenges of Gardening on a Condominium Balcony

First challenge: the wind! Of course! This constant sweeping of plant foliage has several impacts on them. First, the wind amplifies the phenomenon of plant transpiration. A plant, living happily in a beautiful, well-protected and ordinary garden, loses part of its water through transpiration. It’s a normal process and it is essential for plant growth. But, add a wind factor to the equation and perspiration increases considerably. It is therefore important, when gardening in a windy place, to embark on the path of regular and constant watering. This loss of water must be counteracted.

It is a great challenge for a plant to survive constant winds and it is even more difficult when the plants are grown in containers. Photo: Balcony Boss

Another negative impact of the wind is that it will break the slightest frail stem that seeks to grow in height. Many plants are broken, shredded and blown over.

The second challenge has been mentioned above, but it is important to remember that it is one of the essential factors for a flowery and luxuriant balcony in an exposed environment: watering. This is also the element that is too often lacking and that explain why plants never look good on a balcony, whether it’s windy or not. On a balcony, the plants are entirely dependent on the watering provided by the gardener. Every watering session should be a near-drowning experience. Water generously until the soil is well moistened. To ensure a good cohabitation, it is also important to warn the neighbors below and to validate with them the best times to water, in order to not spoil a cocktail evening on the terrace below. You can even consider installing a system of gutters that redirects the flow of water to safe places.

Finally, in some cases, we will add a third challenge: the absence of light. This fabulous balcony may be located on the north side of the building. Shade also limits the range of plants available to the windy gardener, especially if the latter aspires to a beautiful flower garden.

Right from the start, it takes a lot of willpower to garden on a condominium balcony. The simple fact of bringing the pots, the bags of soil and the plants upstairs is sometimes a exploit in itself. And all the strategies put in place to improve the fate of these plants are extra work. Luckily, success may be found and more and more gardeners have developed a little expertise in this area.

Three Tips to Improve Your Fate

Before even addressing the question of plants, it is worth studying some possible solutions that can facilitate or optimize growing conditions. I still believe that we should not try to fight the wind, but make it a reality to which we seek adaptations.

The first possible solution is the installation of windbreak screens. Without completely blocking the wind, these screens can reduce the impact of these. The famous canvases installed on the patio railings are primarily intended to promote privacy, but they also have a positive impact on the plants grown on the patio floor. Regardless of the type of screen, it is essential that everything is resistant and very firmly attached. How many little wood trellises and privacy screens have taken their way to freedom on a very windy day?

Canvases and screens greatly facilitate gardening activities. Photo: Sunguk Kim on Unsplash

Secondly, you have to look at the containers. First (and unfortunately for those who have to carry them to the balcony), the bigger and heavier the pots, the better. The small plastic pots will be the first to tip over. Opt for large ceramic or concrete pots. Look for low and wide pots rather than tall and narrow ones. If you must go with plastic, choose the bigger ones. And most importantly, put down the extra few bucks for pots to have water reserves. Containers with water reserve do small miracles. Large pots capture more water and dry out less quickly. It is better to grow five herbs in a large pot than to have five small pots of individual herbs.

Then, make bungees and tie wraps your best friends. Large pots can be firmly fixed to ramps and any element that floats must be flattened on the ground or on the wall with a skillful set of discrete fasteners. Thus, even the most violent of tornadoes will not be able to topple the containers. This is a very good start to ensure the survival of plants! Make tornado days times for taking notes as to what holds up or doesn’t to those winds and optimize your setup accordingly. Some corners of the balcony may be more protected. Take advantage of these opportunities.

With all these challenges and strategies in place, we are in an excellent position to successfully grow plants on a windy balcony. In a future text, we will talk about the plant selection which succeeds well in these conditions and which have truly proven themselves. But, by applying some of the previously mentioned tricks, we just broaden the horizons of success!

Julie Boudreau is a horticulturist who trained at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. She’s been working with plants for more than 25 years. She has published many gardening books and hosted various radio and television shows. She now teaches horticulture at the Centre de formation horticole of Laval. A great gardening enthusiast, she’s devoted to promoting gardening, garden design, botany and ecology in every form. Born a fan of organic gardening, she’s curious and cultivates a passion for all that can be eaten. Julie Boudreau is “epicurious” and also fascinated by Latin names.

1 comment on “What to Plant on a Windy Balcony? Part 1

  1. Excellent information and details on growing on a balcony.

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: