Inspired Balcony Gardens

An urban balcony with a container garden.

Even the smallest patios or apartment balconies can be transformed into small garden sanctuaries. With a little forethought and a love for plants, you can turn your balcony into the most enjoyable aspect of your home.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Kathy Bosin adds, "If your balcony garden's purpose is to decorate the front of your home, choose brightly colored annuals. Red, pink, and purple geraniums are reminiscent of European villages and always enhance a balcony. Remember to feed your annuals regularly for best performance."

Garden Features

Like any garden, you need to consider sun, water, and climate. If your balcony is sandwiched between two other balconies, consider constructing a shady oasis that offers some privacy. A sunny balcony calls for sun-loving plants. You may want to incorporate a small water feature to offset the heat. Once you assess the conditions of your balcony, you can begin to think of putting your ideas into action.

Because you are dealing with a small, confined space, you will necessarily want to confine your plants, props, and features to small items. Choose plants that are easy to maintain—not bushy, aggressive species for example.

Balcony Herb Garden

An excellent small garden is a simple container herb garden. The attractive greenery matched with the subtle fragrances of herbs will go far toward creating a quiet balcony retreat. Try a wrought-iron plant stand filled with small stone containers for thyme, oregano, marjoram, lemon grass, and rosemary.

Another option is a long stone container planted with lavender atop a small wrought-iron bench. Include a small set of wrought-iron chairs and a table, so you can relax in your garden. Add hanging baskets of annuals in shades of purple, so your neighbors can enjoy the colors, too.

TIP: Kathy advises, "Perennials only bloom for a short time. You should avoid them if you want to pack a punch of color that lasts all season long."

Asian-Inspired Garden

Small Japanese courtyards or hidden Chinese alley gardens can inspire even the most modest balconies. Again, consider small and simple props and plants. Most Oriental gardens feature natural adornments of wood, stone, and water. Choose items made from these materials for a Zen-like balcony retreat.

Provide two stone benches fitted with cushions embroidered with Asian-inspired designs and a small, square stone table. Add a large stone container for growing bambo and a large bowl housing a single large water lily. Finish it off with hanging paper lanterns and several small stone containers filled with chrysanthemums, poppies, or simple planting.

A Shaded Getaway

For a cool balcony hideaway, consider filling your niche with small ferns and simple green foliage plants. Your private corner of rainforest can sit right atop your balcony. A wicker chaise lounge and a neighboring stool for a pitcher of water can be the perfect place to relax. Fill with hanging baskets of ferns and surround the chaise with terracotta containers of green foliage plants. Be sure to choose varieties that grow upward rather than outward. A single ornament of crystal wind chimes can make this the ideal place to unwind.

TIP: Kathy recommends, "If your goal is to create a private space for sitting, use large potted plants to hide your seating area from passersby. Remember, any potted plants in a sunny location require careful and regular watering to maintain optimum health."

A Desert Oasis

A balcony garden can also be in the Southwestern style. Adobe-colored paint and props in muted desert colors can make a warm, sunny balcony your corner of New Mexico. Consider terracotta tiles, glazed pottery, various large river rocks, cacti and succulents, a mural of the sun, Spanish lanterns, a Native American blanket used as a table cloth, and two low wood benches for sitting.

Whether you go with a theme for your balcony or not, keep your design simple. Adding too much can make your balcony appear cluttered and overcrowded. Consider how you want to use it—a place to read, serve lunch, meditate, sew—your use of the space should dictate your design.

For dramatic aesthetics, choose a single color like white or purple. This will add to the space’s simplicity. No matter what design you choose, be sure your balcony is safe and built securely to accommodate any added weight from plants, furniture, etc.