Whew! Facing another HOT Greek summer, but more experienced now.

jennygreenteethFebruary 3, 2008

Well, last year was crazy. 3 separate heat waves, first one hit mid-May, with temps going up to 42C (that's 104F), and then to 45C for two further waves of a week and ten days respectively in July and August(and that's too hot to work out the F.) And then came the fires, which were horrible, but fortunately (only for us...) didn't affect our immediate neighbourhood.

So, what actually survived? (Given we only have pots). Pelargoniums, petunias, plumbago, yucca, asparagus sprengerii - this positively thrived - and rosemary. What died? Arbororisa (local perennial rose geranium), hibiscus, bay trees, jasmine, canna, datura, chilli peppers, ivy-leaved geraniums, and all the flower and herb annuals I'd sown, including basil and fennel which had done brill in previous years. What the heat didn't kill, the red spider mites and the praying mantises and the locusts did.

Any lessons? Watering and providing shade just did not help some plants in such prolonged heat. Most plants go into stasis in very hot weather and in July/August and cannot take up much water anyway. Maybe I should take a few favourite things inside the house and give them the benefit of some air-conditioning! Currently using largeish plastic pots, would clay or other materials be better? I need to find a way of protecting the roots of plants more, by mulching the soil of plantpots with something. Pebbles? (Won't that get too hot?) I need to spray against spider mite - all the mimsy-wimsy organic advice is right-on but the red spider mites just take one look and laugh. In fact, they party on the stuff like the scenes from Gremlins 2.

Maybe I need to get to love succulents and cacti, which I currently hate, would rather have bare tiles.

But, I'm coming right back at stuff this year! Got some seriously grown-up morning glory mixtures (heavy dudes as well as the wimpy varieties), have grown some mini apple and lemon trees from seed (how crazy is that on a balcony...), and some darker blue plumbago seeds. And other nice stuff. I just like growing things, that's all....

Any experienced hot hot hot balcony gardeners got further advice? Or just basic sympathy? What are your warrior survivors? What do the books say are good in heat BUT THEY LIE?

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whytephoenix(z9a Houston)

Hi and I should introduce myself... I pop in maybe once a year or so. I currently garden in the Houston area (zone 9) but have also lived in south Texas (9/10 depending on who asks.) I have a west-facing balcony over a parking lot, and my balcony temps generally top out at 103F *almost daily* from May to Sept. Talk about a heat island.

I find that a big part of what lives and what dies is the size of the pot. Only succulents will live in 6 inches or smaller unless you're religious about watering (and sometimes even if you are!) and/or they get some shade. Ten inches and bigger does much better - a lucky accident, for me, that my $2 herbs lived but my $20 citrus trees survived.

I have 2 citrus (meyer lemon, satsuma 'kimborough'), fig 'celeste,' pomegranate (p. compacta) which got a little toasty while we were away a week and lost most of its leaves but has buds for next year. Rose 'Pink Knockout,' which is buggy right now but keeps growing despite it. Basil in a 2-gallon did pretty well.

I do like succulents... actually wish I could grow more because my balcony is half-shaded, so I don't have lots of full-sun space, and it's already full.

So some other reccomendations:
Bouganvilla. Loves it hot! My mom has these on her arid, toasty west patio. Caveat: they take a while to settle if you molest their roots, don't like really windy spots, and they're thorny.

Sweet Potato vine. But it's very thirsty.

Tradescantia 'purple heart.' Ok, so it's a big viney weed, but the color is gorgeous in full/partial sun: lightly fuzzy purple leaves with almost turquoise tones beneath.

Kalanchoe blossifeldiana: okay, it's a succulent, but it has such great flowers. It *almost* looks like a normal plant.

Lemongrass. that is, I'm sure it would do great, if my cats would just stop eating it.

The praying mandids eat other bugs, not plants. Keep those guys around.

Unglazed clay pots would have the advantage of cooling those roots a few degrees when water evaporates through the pores. obviously you need to water more often because of this.

I use a chipped-wood mulch on my bigger pots. You're right, pebbles will probably just heat it up more.

Now my biggest problem is finding plants that tolerate that heat *in the shade,* which is my last frontier. I got some wax begonias, a davalia fern, an anthurium and a fittonia to go out in the summer. The orchids can go out some of the time; I'm going to put some tubs of water under the shelves to raise humidity. I've got kind of zone confusion with the mediterranian/desert thing going on above the ledge and a woodsy-jungly thing below.

But mostly... I don't want to think about it too much. It's been warm even now... I'm outside putting up with the dark laptop screen because it's actually *cool!* for once.

BTW I love your screen name. But please tell me you don't *really* drown children! :)

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 3:44PM
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Thanks, whytephoenix. Hope you see this before your next annual visit!
I am sure you're right about big pots. And really grateful about the praying mantis info - I like them!
Best plant for me last year for hot shade I found was asparagus sprengerii - really tough, looked beautiful and cool and lush, and actually produced white flowers - insignificant but delicately pretty. I sprayed with water quite regularly. Now has overwintered successfully and beginning to produce new fronds.
BTW I posted my original on "Container Gardening" as well afterwards, because as someone says later on this Balcony site, it does seem virtually moribund, and I did get more replies on Container site. You might like to try it.
All good wishes.
PS. No I don't eat small children! The original folk tale from the north of england (where I come from) is that Jenny Greenteeth is the beautiful greenhaired maiden who lives in streams and lures young men to their deaths. (It's the long green weed that grows in flowing streams). But I am not beautiful and definitely don't have green hair - just a reference to the folk tales from childhood! And my first choice user names were already in use.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2008 at 8:37PM
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whytephoenix(z9a Houston)

Glad to hear the asparagus fern worked for you... I have one I planted from seed. it's doing well but growing very slowly.

The version of Jenny Greenteeth that I'd heard was that she drowned little kids and ate them - or at least that's what mothers told their children so they wouldn't get too close to the water.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2008 at 4:51PM
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Does anyone know when Kalanchoes are not in bloom? I would like to plant some in now for a front border instead of begonias.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 11:15AM
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dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)

Anyone here using 'self-watering' containers?
I don't live in a balcony residence but enjoy the subject and seeing what others are doing with these niche spaces in the sky.
I'm considering getting a self-watering container for my mint plants since they seem to enjoy getting their feet wet while also enduring a fair amount of direct sun. I'm just curious if anyone here has tried these containers, and if so, what they thought.

This is my first post in this forum so if this has already been discussed here, please forgive the redundancy.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 11:11PM
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