Laura in Toronto, ON., asks:
What are suitable plants for a windy, north-facing, fifth-floor balcony in Toronto (Zone 6)? I’m looking for plants that can withstand the wind, and can do reasonably well without much direct sunlight (i.e., receiving sunlight during the summer only in the early morning and evening as the sun rises and sets).
I assume you mean annuals — plants that will grow on your balcony from spring through early fall.
The wind is a challenge — it can shred leaves and flowers, and snap stems; it will also quickly dry out container soil. If you can break, or reduce, the wind with a screen or trellising, that will increase the plant options for you. If that’s not possible, choose mounding, compact plants with strong branching habits. Fibrous begonias, New Guinea impatiens and browallia will provide some flower colour in shade. Also look to foliage plants to add interest; many do well in shade. Consider coral bells, which come in all kinds of leaf colours and patterns, and shorter, ornamental grasses, such as sedges and fescues. A collection of small hostas in pots could be interesting, too. If you have frostproof containers, you could try overwintering the perennials; hostas are quite hardy. Normally, I’d suggest coleus for a shady site, but their stems can be brittle in strong winds, especially when they reach maturity.
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