If you long for a roof terrace garden, or a relaxing balcony nook with plants, but you are not sure about the plants to plant, well, then this quick and concise guide to choosing plants can get you started.

Selection of plants can be a difficult task if you are beginning with it. They come in all shapes, sizes and color. There are endless varieties to choose from.  But what is important is to choose plants according to their characteristics and factors that can determine that they flourish. Here, I give you the essential factors that can determine the plants you choose and some plant varieties that you can opt for your terrace garden or balconies.

Related Post: Easy Ideas to Give Your Small Balcony a Makeover

Factors determining the Plant Choice:

Sunlight:

Every plant needs sunlight to grow, but the amount of sunlight it requires substantially differs from full sun, partial sun or shade. It is important to choose the right plant as per the amount of sunlight your area receives. The correct amount of sunlight is the most vital step for your plants to flourish.

South facing areas receive maximum sun. East and west facing areas receive partial full fun during mornings and evenings respectively. Whereas, the North facing areas receive diffused light at all times of the day thus making it suitable for plants which prefer shade.

Full Sun: Weeping fig, Jade, Cactus, Succulents

Partial Sun: Asparagus fern, Spider plant


Shade: Philodendrons, Snake Plant, Chinese Evergreen

Wind:

Some plants can tolerate winds while others need a sheltered place to survive. If your terrace or balcony is on a very high floor or is facing a road with major traffic movement, the chances are that you will have winds of high velocity too. For such areas opt for plants which can withstand high winds and can act as windbreaks to the less tolerant plants.

Windbreaks: Chinese junipers 

Annuals and Perennials:

Annuals are plants which complete their entire life cycle within the span of a year, mostly flowering plants and herbs. Perennials, on the other hand, last three years or more. It is best to have a mix of both. That ways your space can be green all throughout the year with periodic blooms.

Annuals: Marigold, Petunias

Space:

Space can be a major constraint while selecting plants for your balcony or terrace. Smaller areas are trickier as they offer less flexibility regarding incorporating utility and plants together. For example, plants like bougainvillea have a spreading form because of which they take up a lot of space. Tall and lean plants like bamboo are suitable for tiny spaces. The idea is to choose plants that have forms that are appropriate for your space.
Less spreading plants: Bamboo, Snake Plant, Cactus, Peace Lily, Ficus Topiary

 

Load:

It is best to keep small trees in big pots or only smaller plants on the balconies. Larger pots can be incorporated if the built structure is designed to hold the dead load accordingly.

Related Post: Points to Ensure Before Designing Your Terrace Garden

Color and Texture:

If your balcony or terrace garden lacks color, the best way to introduce it is through adding flowering plants to your plant palette. Plants for terraces and balconies come in all size shapes and color, although most of the flowering plants require full sun for at least 4 to 6 hours.

As for the texture, opt for some focal plants with leaves that have interesting shape or feel or pattern on them.
Roses, Marigold, Petunia, Haworthia, Catus, Crotons

Plants of various shaped and textures planted on one pot. [Source]

Plants of various shapes and textures planted in one pot.
[Source]

Purpose:

There is no doubt that plants beautify the space. But some plants don’t just beautify the place; they add functionality too. Creepers and tall bushy plants are for screening or blocking views. Herbs and other small fruiting trees can turn your balcony or terrace into an edible garden. If placed strategically terrace/balcony plants can also provide shade to the sitting areas.
Fruiting plants: Orange, Tomatoes, Eggplant

Balcony with a Vegetable Garden [Source]

Balcony with a Vegetable Garden
[Source]

 

 

Maintenance:

If you are one of those who love plants but have difficulty in maintaining them then it is best to choose hardy plants that don’t require much attention in up-keeping them. Most cacti and succulents work best for areas with a full or partial sun. They are hard to kill and require very less watering though are not exactly frost resistant.

Low Maintenance: Jade, Philodendron, Spider Plant, cacti and succulents

Soil mix and Pots:

The best part about having plants in pots on your roof terrace or balconies is that you don’t have to worry much about the soil quality. Because unlike a garden, you can always buy a soil mix that is best suited for the chosen plant and you are good to go. And because each pot would hold only a single or a couple of plants it is easier to augment them with manure and fertilizers as and when required.

Pots and containers are available in various materials: terracotta, concrete, fiberglass, plastic, metal. terracotta pots are by far the best when it comes to drainage and breathability. It is also vital to choose pot and planter sizes according to the plant and its future growth, keeping some room for its growing roots and adding manure or mulch.

Related Post:  Guide: Choosing Terracotta/Ceramic Pots versus Plastic Pots

Related Post: How to Design a Terrace Garden?

To help you further, you can use our Professional Design Services.