There are many great reasons to live in a high rise apartment building – not the least of which are the stunning views of the landscape below. But if you live in a high rise and have tried keeping plants on your balcony, you have undoubtedly discovered one of the challenges of living in a high rise – exposure to harsh winds. Wind can dry out your pots very quickly, or even knock them over. It can shred the leaves of your plants or break their stems. If you are high rise gardener, don’t give up! There are steps you can take to help combat the wind, and plants you can choose that are better suited to your unique conditions.
Coping with the wind
A great way to help combat the wind is to create a wind break on your balcony. You can either install clear plexiglass panels to the railing, or if that isn’t to your taste plant hedges in planter boxes along the perimeter of your balcony. Strategically place the boxes in the areas where the wind generally comes through, such as on the east side.
To prevent your planters from drying out, add mulch. Use heavier materials such as pebbles or river rocks so that they don’t blow away. Fill your pots with soil to two inches below the lip, and then add an additional one inch layer of mulch.
Use pots made with durable materials. Avoid unglazed terracotta planters. Terracotta dries out faster than other materials. Wood is the best choice, and can also be secured to railings by screwing in an eye hook and looping a short length of chain or rope through the eye and around the railing.
Also consider having a few large pots instead of several smaller pots. Smaller pots are lighter and can be knocked over more easily, which could potentially break them or damage the plants.
Great plant choices for balconies
There is actually a great variety of plants that can withstand the conditions of a high rise balcony. Below are just some of the choices available. You can also ask the staff at your local garden center for plants suitable to your conditions.
Floribunda roses are both beautiful and sturdy enough to handle the wind. They will even flower with less than six hours of sunlight, making them ideal for balconies with tough conditions.
Bayberry tolerates wind, cold, shade, and virtually ever other situation you throw at it. It would work very well as a wind break, and in the winter it has blueish-white berries.
Honeysuckle vines are cold tolerant and will happily attach themselves to balcony railings. The wind will actually help keep them from developing mildew, which is a problem for honeysuckles.
Threadleaf Coreopsis is another great choice for a wind tolerant plant. It forms lacy clumps of leaves with small yellow flowers and looks great spilling over the side of a planter.
Russian sage is also another excellent choice. Cold and wind tolerant, it will thrive on a balcony with full sun.
So all you high rise gardeners out there, no need to worry. Although your balconies may present their own unique set of challenges, you can use the steps and plants outlined above to create a beautiful high rise balcony garden.