Will Williams, multi award winning garden designer and Soto creative director, answers popular questions posed by those looking to dress their balcony. From what to plant in the sun and shade, advice on choosing suitable pots and how to keep plants healthy. Will suggests how to make the most of even the smallest space.
What is the most important consideration when planning what to plant on a balcony?
The most important consideration when planning plants for your balcony is the amount of light it gets. South facing gardens should contain plants which do well in the hot sun, whereas north facing gardens will require shade loving plants. At Soto, we list our plants and border collections according to the aspect they thrive under.
If you need to know the aspect of your outside space? Simply use a compass – there is one on your phone! Stand looking out onto your balcony. If you are facing east or west, you will have a partial garden. South facing means full sun. North facing means full shade.
I am going to buy some pots, what should I consider?
At Soto our pot edit is designed to make life as easy as possible. The Elho reservoir pot is a fantastic sustainable and low maintenance option. The reservoir means you don’t need to worry about watering your plants too much or too little, meaning there is one less thing to worry about.
Pots with drainage holes prevent oversaturation of roots, or in other words overwatering, which can cause roots to rot. For something practical and pretty we love the Bergs Copenhagen that come with drainage holes pre drilled they are also frost-proof. High-quality materials and craftsmanship mean the pots will live on from one generation to the next.
Not all plant pots come with the very important drainage holes. They are simple to do when you know how! We’ve put together a video demonstrating how to do this and other steps to take to ensure there is sufficient drainage from your pots.
Fibre clay looks like stone but is much lighter, so is a great option for balconies. These pots can be left outside all year because they are resistant to frost and UV. These concrete effect planters bring urban simplicity and allow the plants to shine. They are handmade and due to the natural variations of the material, shades, markings and air bubbles will differ across each one, making them unique.’
What should you plant?
The Soto Windowsill edit and patio edit takes your gardens scheme to even the smallest of spaces. This allows for a cohesive look in all your outside spaces. The edit takes away the need to know what works together and importantly we’ve considered how to make the most of your garden all year.
The Ilex Dome is great for adding evergreen structure to your outside space. It has small, dark green glossy leaves and produces small white flowers in the summer.
Ivy is easily recognisable by its distinct teardrop leaf shape. Incredibly versatile it looks beautiful trailing over the side of window boxes.
For spaces in the sun, the Astrantia Shaggy is an absolute showstopper. It has small jewel like white flowers reminiscent of pin cushions, surrounded by a greenish-white ruff. Astrantia’s provide lasting colour to balconies.
Catmint has small purple flowers which contrast with fresh green leaves to offer soft and scented interest. Loved by pollinators, this plant has a long flowering period from early summer all the way into autumn.
For shade or semi shade the Sweet Box is a star of the garden all year. I particularly enjoy this plant in the winter when it provides fragrant and visual interest. It has glossy green leaves with sweet smelling, small white flowers which are followed by black berries.
The Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ is impactful! The blooms start as a gentle lime green, developing to a soft white flower. A Soto favourite, perfect for a pot on a larger balcony. This hydrangea suits all aspects and brings colour to areas of shade.
How can I keep my plants healthy?
To ensure longevity of your plants improve drainage and soil structure with grit and mulch when planting. We would always encourage our customers to add mulch to pots a few times a year, not only does this help with moisture retention, nutrients and helping to suppress weeds, it also looks extremely smart too.
Watering correctly when planting, whilst sounding simple, can make all the difference to how robust your plants are. You’ll notice that containers and pots can dry out much quicker then plants within the ground, so you will need to water a little more frequently during the hotter months.
Within the Soto collections we use plants that will require lower maintenance, not only is this something that is appealing, but these are also often the plants that are the most resilient.
Considering where and how plants are grown has become increasingly important. Plants which have been grown outside often find it easier to adapt to our weather conditions.
Can I start a kitchen garden on a balcony?
Balconies are a brilliant place for your herb kitchen. We recommend the herbs get as much sun as possible. These plants love to bask in the light.
At Soto we have a number of herb kitchens, including the nine-pot collection which can form the base of an impressive kitchen garden, even in a small space. The nine pot selection includes Parsley, Mint, Rosemary, Thyme, Chives, Oregano, Lemon Thyme, Fennel and Sage. Make the herbs a feature by displaying in pots together on a stand.