Ornamental plants create a delightful freshness and improve the quality of air on the balcony, while their flowers delight the eye of the home-owner all summer long.

Indoor or outdoor plants?

House plants are definitely the simplest option of decorating the balcony with greenery and flowers. If you’re determined to relocate some of your indoor pot plants to the balcony, precautions are needed, because not every house plant is capable of survive a rapid environment change. An open balcony may be too cold for the indoor plants (especially in the morning and evening), while a glazed balcony is often a hotter place than the rest of the apartment.

Garden plants tolerate the outdoor environment much better, so they are the preferable option for decorating an open balcony. However, much depends on the U.S. climate region you live in. The main advantage of garden plants is their capability of surviving the winter in open ground.

Moving the indoor pot plants to the open balcony, take into account that in most regions the air temperatures at night and at daytime tend to differ significantly during spring and early summer. Many house plants are capable of tolerating temperature fluctuations in the range 15-20 degrees Celsius, although when the air temperature drops below 12°C, it can harm the plant. Heat-loving plants are hit especially hard: if the cold snap happens after watering (or rain), the soaked roots of the plant may start rotting. If your home features a glazed non-winterized balcony, you can move the house plants in there as early as April. As for open balconies, don’t run the venture until it’s late May.

Important hint: It’s better when your house plants get accustomed to the outdoor balcony environment slowly and gradually. For a start, bring the pots out for a couple hours in the morning, then progressively increase the time they spend outside. At noon, you should bring the plants back in, so that they are not harmed by the intense sun after the long winter.

Unsuitable for the balcony are cacti, violets and some tropical plants that need a special level of humidity (such as dieffenbachia or philodendron). However, it all depends on your local climate.

A glazed balcony is much more comfortable for house plants. The air temperature in its interior is usually about 5°C higher than outside, while rains and winds pose no threat to your flowers. However, there is a threat of a different kind. The glazing makes the balcony space a sort of a greenhouse; as a result, when it’s 25°C outside, the air temperature indoors may reach 40°C. Not every species, whether indoor or garden, is able to endure such adverse conditions. In the hot days of summer, it’s recommendable to intensify watering and either open the windows or revise the balcony’s design to include dense curtains (French blinds are perfect for this purpose).

Plurannual or ephemeral flowers?

Garden plants are subdivided into ephemeral (their life cycle lasts only one season) and plur-annual (which break into flower annually). The division is based on a rather conditional idea, because many ephemeral plants are capable of appealing the eye with their flowers for as long as two or three seasons; however, they simply fail to survive the cold winter in open ground. Therefore, the category of plurannual garden plants includes cold-hardy species and those that need to be brought indoors during winter.

Choosing ephemeral flowers for the balcony.

Ephemeral ornamental species are typically planted in February or March, so that by the end of May you get flowering seedlings, which you need to replant to the pot and flower boxes on the balcony. Those US home-owner who have no time to grow their own seedlings can buy the necessary plants, which usually come with flower buds. Some of the best ephemeral plants for balconies are:

  • petunia;
  • calendula;
  • diascia;
  • lobelia;
  • bacopa.

Important hint: Pay attention to the strength of wind on your open balcony. If you live on the 6th floor or higher, avoid keeping tall plants outside the apartment. Begonia, marigold and ageratum are your possible choices of ornamental plants.

Plurannual ornamental flowers for the balcony.

Although plurannual plants are a perfect decoration for the yard of a suburban cottage, they represent a rather questionable idea for the balcony of an urban apartment. Such species will definitely refresh the eye of the home-owner during the summer season, but when the weather gets colder, you’ll need a lot of storage space for the tubers and bulbs. Most balconies are suitable for growing tuberous begonia, fuchsia, miniature roses, and other climbing and bulbous plurannual plants. Some of the species that offer beautiful flowers are:

  • Fuchsia. It’s one of the most undemanding perennial plants with a lot of varieties. Fuchsia flourishes in the outdoor environment at a temperature of 18-25 degrees Celsius; however, it barely tolerates direct sunshine and wind. When winter comes, the plant will most likely lose its leaves, even if you bring it inside.
  • Hydrangea. Initially, it was a garden plant, although nowadays there’s a variety of indoor hydrangeas. The plant is perennial, but it’s unable to survive a cold winter in open ground. If you’re dealing with a house plant, you’ll need to bring the pots inside. The garden variety can spend the winter in the ground outside, but you’ll need to cover the pots to protect the plants from cold.
  • Roses. Dwarf varieties that bloom all summer are often found on balconies throughout the USA and the UK. Many stores offer small blooming roses in pots. If you’ve purchased a bunch of such plants, avoid replanting them before the end of the season (even if you dislike the design of the pots) – otherwise the plant will be stressed and the flowers will disappear too soon. Perennial roses should be moved to a cool room for winter.

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