Small Space Gardening for the Season

  |     |   Highline Community

Any home can be the setting for some gorgeous greenery. Plants can thrive in apartments with balconies, and even inside apartments in Washington. Nurturing them can be a rewarding experience, as well as a nice distraction, and it doesn’t have to be intimidating. Now is great time to bring the beauty of nature into your home. Enjoy the calming, pleasant atmosphere that plants can create. Here, we’ve enumerated possibilities. Choose based on your environmental conditions and personal preference. It isn’t necessary to pack the balcony all at once. It’s okay to start small and simple. Pick what you like, and see how it goes, and eventually add more if you like. Some additional useful tips follow the list and descriptions of plant varieties below. Keep in mind that it is too late in the season to start from seeds, so there’s no need to stress over when and if you’ll see sprouts poke through the soil. Buy mature plants.


  • Impatiens plants do well in shady conditions, so if your balcony doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight, this might be a good choice. They come in many different colors, and look particularly attractive in hanging baskets.
  • Verbena is a flower with a similar look, but can thrive in direct sunlight, and even with very little water.
  • Begonias come in many beautiful varieties, and even their foliage is attractive. This is a plant that is hearty and forgiving. It will do well on the balcony, and can be brought indoors.
  • Scaevola, also known as fan flower, is a gorgeous, exotic-looking variety that can handle long summer days in direct sunlight, even without much attention. These are typically planted in hanging baskets, but may be placed in planters as well.

Living in Washington DC means you experience seasonality. if you’re not ready to commit to gardening, you can pick out any kind of annuals you like, and enjoy them for the season without the pressure of keeping them alive year-round.


Succulents are attractive plants that store water in their leaves, and come in countless varieties and sizes. They can be great houseplants or on balconies, but most require quite a bit of sunlight—they come from the desert, after all. A common misconception is that succulents and cacti require little to no watering. On the contrary, most should be thoroughly soaked, until water drips from the bottom of the planter. Then they do not need to be watered again until the soil is bone dry.

Aloe is one of the easiest succulents to grow. It is beautiful to look at, does not require constant sun, and can be used to treat burns—the natural gel in its leaves is especially soothing to sun-burnt skin. This is an excellent beginner option.

Herbs & Vegetables:

Almost any herb can be grown in a window box or planter in your modern apartment. Basil is a popular choice. It’s relatively easy to maintain, and grows quickly. It also has an intoxicating fragrance! However, you can certainly choose any herbs you enjoy using in your cooking, or whatever appeals to you. For a quick and easy start, it is possible to purchase a planter that has already been filled with a variety of herbs.

  • Tomatoes are a popular vegetable for home gardens and containers, but they require constant sun during daylight hours, so if your balcony gets shady, this will likely not be a good choice.
  • If your balcony has a trellis or lattice for climbing vines, beans like string beans can be perfect. They grow upward, and can create a beautiful wall of greenery.
  • Lettuce varieties can grow in a wide, shallow pot. They typically require frequent watering.
  • Peppers can be ideal for container growing, and they produce colorful, plentiful fruit.
  • Spinach can thrive even with quite a bit of shade, and does very well in containers.

Trees, Palms, etc.

Croton, bamboo, palms, and other tropical plants can be ideal for porches. They create a beautiful oasis, and can easily be moved indoors when necessary. For a fun, try saving a seed from your next avocado. All you need to do is wash and dry the pit, stick three toothpicks in it, and place it atop a cup filled almost to the brim with water, and place it in the sun. Change the water frequently, and wait and watch as you grow your own avocado tree!


  • Do not over-water. Don’t walk around the house, watering every plant in sight at the same time every day. Some plants are guzzlers, while others are not. Stick a dry finger into the soil. If it feels damp, do not water. Wait until the soil feels dry.
  • “Dead head” blooms. On flowering plants, remove blooms when they die, so that they will regenerate.
  • For plants with a tendency to get “leggy” (reaching toward sunlight; getting too lengthy in places), pinch off the newest growths. This will keep your plants full, as opposed to tall and scraggly.
  • For plants on the balcony, be mindful of the rainwater. Don’t allow plants to sit in a pool of water after a rainstorm. Dump out excess water to avoid root rot.

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