Foliage plants for west facing balcony

katwomn59(8b-Austin, TX)April 28, 2005

I am a newbie here and this is my first season growing anything. I am gardening in containers and mostly post on the container forum. I have a west facing balcony that gets direct sun from about 1:30-6:00, dappled sun til around 7:30. I have mostly herbs, and stuff to cook with. So now I am trying to figure out what else I want to plant. Being a newbie I am not sure where to start.

What I do think I want though, is more color. I hadnt thought much about esthetics cause I mostly wanted stuff to eat. But now that I pretty much have the must haves, I am starting to think more about ornamentals. I do have 2 windowboxes of petunias (debudded right now, cause I am spraying for flower thrips), but everything else is just plain green. I dont want anymore flowers right now because I am terrified of bees, and if the petunias bring around a whole lot of bees I may not be able to take it. A few maybe, but I dont know if my nerves can stand a whole lot of bees flying around me.

So I was thinking about trying plants with interesting and/or colorful foliage. The bay is in a 20" pot so I was thinking of planting something around it. It has 3 main branches that start about 4" from the ground, so I thought I could plant something colorful in those spaces, then something low and trailing around the edges (the pot is 18" tall). I saw some coleus at the nursery and really liked them. The lady at the nursery showed me a potato vine. I really like the dark one with the 3 lobed leaves and I thought it went well with the coleus. But the bay likes it kinda dry and these say evenly moist so I dont think it would be a good idea to plant it with the bay. But I was thinking of trying them as a combination in a 10" pot. I have a wire shelving unit that is about 5' tall. It is on the south facing wall and one end is in the front of the balcony and the other end toward the back. I have my lemongrass in the middle of the top shelf and I have room for a 10" pot on either side. So I thought I would put combinations of some colorful and medium height plants with something trailing around the front. I know there are some coleus that like sun, but not sure about the potato vine. I also still would like to try something around the bay, but not sure what would like dryish soil in part sun. My balcony is not all that large so I dont have much room left! I have room for a couple more pots on the shelving unit, a trough planter that will have to go in the front, and 2 more 8" pots that I might be able to squeeze in next to my chaise in the back.

Any suggestions would be apprieciated.

Thanks for you help


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Lydia, you can't always trust labels..(S)
As for the Sweet Potato vine, the one you like is called Blackie..They love sun, moreso than Coleus. (in summer) Also, the soil should dry betweeen waterings..I grow 3 types of these vines, and water infrequently and it can get quite hot here in summer.
Coleus, in a west exposure, in summer, might be a little too bright, but you may be able to get away w/it if you acclimate the coleus, but they will need a lot of water, and drainage should be available.
Are you lookiing for houseplants or annuals? Toni

    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 12:36AM
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katwomn59(8b-Austin, TX)

Thanks Toni! Yes I am looking for annuals right now, since I am putting them in a self watering container. They will also have to all be plants that like consistent moisture. I dont think the soil will dry out in the self waterers.

I am determined to have coleus and/or caladium, so I was thinking of planting something tall (3-4')and sun loving in front that will provide shade for them. If push comes to shove, I will get some shade cloth to attach to the railing. Seems like all the foliage plants I have seen that I really like are shade plants. Sigh! My balcony only gets direct sun in the afternoons, but it is intense sun and it can get up to 100 on my balcony.

I am pretty sure I will have to dispense with the flowers after this season. I had a single bee buzzing around my sage and it ran me off my balcony, so I dont think I will be able to take a whole lot of bees buzzing around when the petunias are in full bloom. Too bad, cause I wanted to try a trellis with jasmine to provide a shade and privacy on my balcony. Are there any climbers with interesting foliage that can take hot sun (and have few if any flowers)?

Thanks for your help,

    Bookmark   May 9, 2005 at 9:17PM
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Lydia, I grow dozens of foliage plants in containers in west facing afternoon GA sun which has to be very close to your conditions. Variegated Asiatic Jasmine is beauiful, evergreen (, white & pink), and seldom flowers...can be grown on trellis or as groundcover for your Bay Tree as it would not mind dryish conditions. Variegated Hedera helix would also flowers.

Other hardy in z8 foliage plants I've used alone or as groundcovers under larger plants: Asparagus plumosa or Saxifraga sarmentosa (the Strawberry Begonia flowers but easy to clip off), Lygodium japonica "Japanese Climbing Fern".

The herb Ruta graveolens has flowers but easy to clip off, otherwise just lovely blue frilly foliage). Likewise Purple Fennel with dusky purple foliage.

Hardy Z8 perennials Tanacetum 'Isla Gold' has frilly chartreuse foliage. Centaurea gymnocarpa 'Colchester White" has white-silver beautiful cut foliage...I have it underplanted with Dichondra 'Silver Falls'(nonhardy but I carried over inside). Young Eucalyptus cinerea trees can be grown as shrubs with silvery-blue foliage.

For a large plant: Cordyline australis Red Sensation is a red/purple leaved phormium lookalike which is hardy for me. Hibiscus coccinea 'Texas Star'foliage is lovely reddish-green even if you clipped the flowers off.

Likewise the colorful-leaved forms of annuals: Ricinus (Castor Bean) like 'Carmencita'...just clip flowers. Alternanthera dentata Rubiginosa' with deep scarlet foliage & stems has tiny flowers but haven't noticed any bees..but then I'm only outside at dawn and dusk when weather gets above 80 degrees F.
Strobilanthes 'Persian Shield' has lovely purple/silver leaves.

The Black Taro loves full sun if kept moist, even loves pot sitting in a few inches of water. Likewise the colorful forms of Canna: Tropicana, Pretoria etc. and you could clip flowers off.

I know there are more...I'm waiting til daylight to go out & water. May add more later. But there are a lot of gorgeous foliage plants with colored leaves, frilly lace-like or big & bold. And lots of them are hardy... some evergreen so we can have nice container gardens even for our short winter months. I hate to spend money on annuals when often I can find a hardy plant for the same garden effect, especially in our zone...and have the fun of seeing it return bigger and better each year. josh

Here is a link that might be useful: Variegated Asian Jasmine

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 7:32AM
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Lydia, you mentioned being a fairly new gardener. Forgive me if I'm telling you something you already know, but a quick way to check on plants you're not familiar with is Google Image Search. I'm linking it can just type in name of any plant. I use it constantly and I'm an "old" gardener in both senses of the word!

Also, I meant to say I agree with Tony that the Sweet Potato vines do well in full sun but also bright shade (a litle less gold...more chartreuse) and do well for me in dryish -or- fairly moist soil. Just super easy adaptable plants. Also, my Coleus do take this western exposure...I just grew them for first time last year. They're all from

but you might could find the same types locally. They adapted fine to inside bright window growing in winter so I think they're pretty adaptable. Colors change a little if grown in shade or sun but still colorful easy plants.


Here is a link that might be useful: Google Image Search

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 9:03AM
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