Does This Make My Balcony Look Bigger?

If you were disappointed by the last post's lack of imagery, you're in luck.  Today I'll share the "Epiphyte Balcony" with you, along with some nifty little ideas for gardening with limited space, by utilizing shelves, organizing your supplies, and hanging mounted plants.  For example, this mounted encyclia tampensis orchid to the left that I've attached to the balcony's wall. 

Lets start with these easy orchids, which I only bring in during freeze warnings.  Mounted orchids usually require dunks in water two or three times a week but encyclia tampensis (a native Floridian) only gets watered once or twice a week and is growing quickly, considering it began life as two seedlings purchased for $2.50 each on Ebay!

This Epicyclia "Serena O' Neill" is planted in a bark mix filled slat basket, and was purchased a couple years ago as one of those sad looking bagged orchids at Lowes. It quickly recovered, even under my minimal and forgetful care.  The basket usually hangs from the ceiling and out of the way, but I've brought it down to enjoy the scented flowers.

Oncidium "Sharry Baby" and Arenga Engleri beneath it.

I add fragrance and interest to my balcony with another orchid.  This Onc. "Sharry Baby" gets a little more attention than the encyclias do, but is also a very easy orchid for a beginner, putting forth multiple spikes of heavenly scented flowers around the same time each year and can be smelled even when I'm out getting the mail.  Some liken the scent to chocolate, and others to vanilla, though I prefer the unique scent of this orchid to either of those sweets. 

This is a great way to enjoy a variety of unusual plants in a small space.  Many of you remember my "Rainforest in a Centerpiece", but here it is again after having cleaned it up a bit.  It consists of rainforest dwelling cacti like rhipsalis, holiday cactus, a vriesea bromeliad, and encyclia cordigera, planted in a bark filled segment of tree fern.  I water the free draining and porous mount once or twice a week, and mist water and diluted fertilizer every so often to keep a low maintenance relic of the Brazilian rainforest canopy, since all of these plants happen to hail from Brazil too! 

 Another space saving idea is to hang plants in small metal buckets from the wall.  This staghorn fern will eventually outgrow this setup and get planted in a tree, but until then its a really easy and attractive centerpiece for a balcony wall.  The hanging rhipsalis cactus makes a luxuriant curtain, affording a little privacy while still letting precious light into the north facing balcony.

Organization is really important in a small space.  Here I've made a workstation out of a narrow shelf, which I use to organize supplies, pots, potting media, and a few bromeliads.  The color coordinated plastic bins are excellent for storing odds and ends, and one of them is even filled with moist sphagnum moss and heliconia seeds!

Cleaning is a necessity too!  The metal bucket is a where I repot plants, as well as a temporary holding bin for trash before I (try to) bring it "The Rainforest Garden" at my parent's place, 40 minutes away.  You'll also notice the dustpan and shop brush, which I use to sweep up dust and spilled potting soil.

To the right are two wooden crates that have been stacked upside down to form a sturdy plant stand, bringing bromeliads closer to the light.  Be creative and you can make garden furnishings out of anything!

Facing the other end of the balcony, a neatly organized shelf houses seedlings, divisions and cuttings at different levels of development.  For many of the plants that end up in "The Rainforest Garden" (way over at my parent's place), this was where they were born, as seeds bought online or found in tropical fruits, cuttings from friends, or bromeliad pups from society shows.

I have seedlings of a surinam cherry, wild coffee, cherimoya, cassias, a cell tray of swamp hibiscus from Grower Jim, as well as a whole shelf of dragonfruit and pineapple seedlings, started economically from store bought fruit.

One last idea for making the most of a small balcony, and that's to keep some sort of a consistent color scheme that is echoed through your plants and supplies.  You don't have to coordinate all of your plants, but what I've done is this... 

I use hues ranging from lime green to chartreuse for my table, pots, storage and even the watering can, and this helps the inorganic elements mesh with the plants better, making the space seem less like a trashy garage and more like a living room.

The second color I try to use is a muted purple, to contrast with the light greens.  This is the same purple/brown color that you see in the centerpiece's bromeliad, the "Sharry Baby" orchid and the ti plant.  My wooden slat chairs (not pictured) have a dark teak finish that help to echo the color.

For more posts on my balcony...
The Epiphyte Balcony


  1. I really like the "Rainforest in a Centerpiece"...I should get myself some bromeliads; if only they could be more than just houseplants up here!

  2. College Gardener:
    I'm glad you like it! I suppose southern Michigan really is too cold for bromeliads, but at least you had a great trip this summer! Nice to hear from you...

  3. I am really impressed with your balcony garden and love your color scheme and all of your plants. Very well done.


  4. Hahahaha!!! Love your title! Now that's a rainforest garden! Nothing says rainforest like dripping epiphytes. I did notice that your balcony was so clean and well-organized, as well as color-coordinated to your blog. : ) I am so glad I cleaned and organized my Orchid Room this past weekend, or I would've felt a bit discouraged after seeing this very tidy situation. This was the first time in years I had done any re-potting. Let's just say some were in a root-bound mess.

    BTW, love that Sharry Baby! And I will be checking E-Bay for those native orchids. I had no clue it was even legal to sell native orchids, so I've never looked.

  5. The authority writing these words considers that anything hanging in good taste, increases the aesthetics of the space.

    However, common place plants, overused, will only make evident lack of imagination, knowledge and criteria.

    And that is that. Humbly.

  6. I love that centrepiece in the piece of tree fern! all your plants are very happy and healthy. I just wondered though how you deal with soaking plants and then having them on a balcony where they will continually drip? - I find that a real pain with potted plants.

  7. Flowerlady:
    Thank you! I read your post where you mentioned that you watched Julie and Julia, seeing that they portrayed Julia Childs as a snob. I was so disappointed not only because I like Mrs. Childs, but also because I realized that my garden heroes might think I suck.

    Just search google under shopping and you'll even find different variations! Its actually even used in hybridizing for its cold hardiness, among other great qualities.

    I'm all about using unique plants too, but here in Northern Florida my plants actually are unusual, and no one else is growing the stuff I am outdoors.

    African Aussie:
    My balcony is graded away from the apartment, so water drips off the edge. I also use platters underneath some of my plants to catch the runoff too.

  8. Back in my bonsai growing days I learned to hate plants planted in pumice stone. But yours is pretty cool and almost tempts me to do something similar.

  9. Mr. Brown Thumb:
    Pumice stone would be neat for a lithophyte or something, but a bonsai'd tree? How's the plant supposed to get water!?

  10. Your balcony garden looks like it is thriving. Love the native orchid. I would love to come across one of those. You may have created a new e-bay addiction in me. The color coordination really does keep your small area looking well thought out and beautiful too.

  11. You have maximized the use of your small space quite nicely. I love your orchids and the tillandsias...two of my favorites.

  12. NanaK:
    You can find them in nature, but after a while I wanted to buy my own! Native gardening at its best.

    Thank you! I spend waaay more time on the balcony than I do in the garden proper, so it gets more attention.


Please feel free to share your questions, ideas and suggestions!