Balconies might be small, but don't let that stop you from creating your own mini Eden.
When buying plants, pots and other items for your balcony, there are a few things to consider and keep in mind.
The first is weight – compost and heavy concrete or terracotta pots can be surprisingly heavy. Always know how much weight your balcony can take, and choose lighter plastic or resin containers over heavy ones. As for compost, consider buying compost that is specifically formulated to be lightweight.
Secondly, consider how exposed your balcony is. If it's windy and not very sheltered, you will need to either create some shelter in the form of windbreaks, or choose plants for exposed spots. Take inspiration from the plants that thrive in blustery coastal gardens.
Finally, you'll need to think about how much sun your balcony receives. If it's in shade for most or all of the day, go for shade-loving plants. Plants on sunny balconies can be at risk of sun scorch, particularly if clear glass or perspex is used. In this case, plants with silver foliage like lavender and artemisia, which are better at reflecting sunlight, are a good choice.
Discover some of the best plants for balconies, below.
Herbs are brilliant plants for balconies. Not only can you enjoy fresh, aromatic pickings, but most herbs remain relatively small, so are well-suited to containers. For sunny balconies, try growing thyme, sage, rosemary and chives. For shady balconies, check out these five herbs for shade.
If you're growing houseplants, give them a summer holiday on your balcony. Cacti and succulents will relish the heat and brightness of a sunny balcony, but do provide shade-loving houseplants like calatheas, philodendrons and tender ferns with some shelter from the sun if needed.
There are so many bedding plants you can grow, with endless varieties to try out and combine with each other. Most are annuals or tender perennials, so you can refresh your displays each year. For sun, consider zinnias, pelargoniums and coleus. If your balcony is in shade for part of the day, begonias and nicotianas will enjoy these conditions.
Japanese maples, Acer palmatum, are a great choice for shady, sheltered balcony. Go for a slow-growing dwarf variety such as 'Crippsii' or 'Baldsmith' (pictured) that won't grow too big and heavy. Find out how to plant an acer in a pot. Also consider other shade-lovers like hostas, who won't be bothered by slugs up on a balcony.
Strawberries are one of the many fruits you can grow in pots, containers and hanging baskets on a balcony – find out how to plant up this strawberry container. Discover more fruits to grow in containers.
Tomatoes are a versatile crop that can be grown in lots of containers including hanging baskets, troughs and window boxes, though a warm, sunny balcony is best. Other balcony crops to grow include lettuce, spring onions and runner beans. Get started with these space-saving veg crops to grow.
If you envisage warm summer evenings spent sitting on your balcony, scented plants like jasmine are essential. Climbers can also be used to provide screening on balconies. For more fragrance, take a look at these 12 plants for evening scent.
Bulbs don't require a huge root run, so will happily grow and flower in pots. Bulbs are usually cheap to buy, too. For winter colour, look out for Cyclamen coum and snowdrops. Extend the colour into spring with daffodils, tulips and hyacinths – there are tonnes to choose from. For more ideas, check out the best bulbs for pots.
On a balcony vigorous perennials can be kept within bounds in a pot or container, while providing lush, vigorous growth and flowers. Vigorous perennials to consider include lady's mantle, crocosmia, muehlenbeckia, lamium, adenophora, catmint and erigeron.
Don't forget to accessorise
Up the ambience on your balcony with some well chosen accessories like lanterns, a small set of table and chairs or bee hotels and bug boxes. Try making these glass jar lanterns or check out the types of bee hotels you could put up.