San Francisco balcony

ForrestGlen(z8CA)April 17, 2005

I am trying to help my daughter with plants for her balcony in San Francisco. It gets a tremendous amount of wind, and I'm at a loss for what plants to try.

Suggestions would be appreciated!

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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

When I was visiting San Francisco a couple years ago, I noticed the predominant balcony plants seemed to be various larged potted cactuses, large euphorbias, and various potted palms and potted dwarf bananas. Sometimes people were able to use palms or other plants as a windbreak for other more delicate plants like the various magnolias. Other plants included citrus, ficus (including edible figs), and plumerias as well.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 2:59PM
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Do you have a Sunset Western Gardens book? Near the front of it there are lists of plants for various purposes. One is a list for windy areas; there are separate lists of trees and shrubs, and herbaceous plants, for growing in containers. If you compare the lists, you could see which plants that are good for one use are also good for the other.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 3:05PM
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How about a balcony full of different colored pansies? I understand they can withstand many harsh weather conditions. I am a novice at gardening but for some reason I am thinking, low growing plants or decorative grasses. The lower growing plants seem like they would be able to better withstand the wind.

Oh you can also add a few wind chimes. Those are always nice or at least I think so. :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Flamenco Pansies - These seem really pretty - Check them out.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 9:32AM
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dmoniker(z5a Chicago)

Rugosa roses are supposed to withstand just about anything from wind to below-freezing temps. Haven't grown them myself but plan to later this summer! They're the shrub type of rose, as opposed to the tea roses etc.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 12:36PM
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Thanks for some great ideas! I've looked at the Sunset "Windy" section but am limited by the fact that the balcony only gets afternoon sun.

Euphorbias would be fun to try. I love some of them!

Are there rugosas that have few thorns? Alba looks wonderful but dangerous. And pansies and violas would be beautiful for winter and spring.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 3:55PM
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dmoniker(z5a Chicago)

Not sure about the rugosas, in terms of not having thorns -- all I've seen have been very thorny!

But here's a page listing roses with various desirable characteristics -- maybe you'll find a good fit:

    Bookmark   April 20, 2005 at 1:20PM
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whytephoenix(z9a Houston)

"Only afternoon sun" is fairly strong. I think if she gets 4-6 hours of it your daughter should be able to grow a good variety of stuff; even most cactus appreciate a little shade. Mediterranean herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, french or spanish lavender, bay tree, etc) would work well under those conditions, as would scented geraniums (and some showy ones for that matter). Most of them are low, shrubby and kind of succulent and could take the wind.

She could also consider a drought-tolerant ornamental grass, (oops, Jaque beat me to it!) which would look pretty blowing in the wind. Wandering back to the culinaries, lemon grass would be a shoe-in here as it takes some shade. Be aware that it (and some other grasses) has kind of sharp leaves so you don't want to put it next to your patio chair.

Think *big* containers, ten inches bare minimum. Not only will they be more stable in the wind, they'll retain more water, which is also important in a windy environment.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 12:34PM
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Ok, great! Where oh where in the San Francisco area can i buy ready-to-go potted cacti in nice large decorative bright-colored pots? Broadmoor Lumber? Or do i go to Woodside?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 3:49AM
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One of the grasses would look beautiful. I've just started using them in my yard & really like their contrast. They are very hardy. Call around to some of the nurseries & get ask them what they have & what they would recommend.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 12:04PM
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I have a roof garden between two buildings in the Richmond district of SF. It is quite windy as the space acts like a chimney and sucks any wind through it! I have just about any plant you can think of out there, although I have had one or two failures. I used strong, hardy plants to create a wind break and also some old plantation shutters. This works very well to shield the more fragile plants. The space runs from north to south and is quite narrow so that only one end gets the bulk of the sun and the whole space only gets full sun during the sun's highest point during the summer.
SF has one of only five mediterranean climates in the world and so is conducive to plant growth of all different kinds. Creating a garden is a trial and error project, even for an experienced, knowledgeable gardener. The most important thing is to give the plants constant care, water them, feed them, prune them, use good potting soil and be willing to nurse them when they need it! Good luck! We need everyone to fill every empty space with as many plants as possible and to care for them! Bette Midler is a great inspiration with all the work she is doing to make New York's empty spaces clean and green!

Erin Facet

    Bookmark   November 3, 2006 at 7:37PM
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Thanks, Erin, for the advice. Could you tell me some specific plants that seem to handle the situation especially well? Have you tried a bougainvillea? As several folks suggested, I tried some grasses and most have done well, though it's a little shady for some.

Because there's a nice view, she doesn't want anything that blocks it, so that eliminates the shutter idea.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2006 at 8:34PM
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what neighborhood is she in? i live in san francisco and can suggest some plants that would do well according to microclimate.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 8:59PM
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Jade plant can get enormous and it seems to resist everything except small kids that like to break off the leaves. It could provide a windbreak. I have old ones that grow 6 feet. With their shelter, you can try more fragine items. Jupie is right
there are microclimates so check with neighbors, and experiment.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 3:47PM
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