Citrus For All Seasons

Freshly picked, home-grown citrus isn’t a luxury reserved only for the picturesque gardens in the warm and sunny climate of the Mediterranean. Short on garden space? Growing citrus in containers can deliver you lemons even indoors. All it takes is some simple citrus basics, a little human ingenuity and you’re on your way to growing your very own fruits.

Citrus plants grown in containers do best in porous pots that dry out fairly quickly since the roots do not like to remain wet for long. Make sure you remove your citrus from the plastic containers they come in when purchased as the heat from the summer sun and can cause the roots to burn. 

Envious images of potted citrus can steer you toward big pots, but starting small and steady will win this race. Extra soil around trees complicates moisture control, so work your way up in pot size as trees grow. For small trees, a 30-cm diameter container is perfect for starters. Mature trees need pots double that width and at least 50 cm deep. This gives roots growing room and prevents tippy, top-heavy trees. 

Be sure that whatever container you use has plenty of drainage holes so that water drains away freely. It is prudent to raise any container off the ground on “pot feet” to facilitate drainage and ensure good air circulation.

The soil should be sterilized, gritty, and free-draining. Some of the soil mixes especially formulated for containers work well; if they seem to hold too much moisture, add sand or gravel to the mix. Water carefully, as overwatering is a common mistake, you may feel you’re doing the plant a favour, but this smothering of love may lead to the drowning death of the plant.

Most citrus plants like to partially dry out (the top Five centimeters of soil should feel dry) before receiving more water. These plants are quite greedy and require regular feeding to do well. If you are repotting a plant, incorporate some timed-release fertilizer into the soil at planting time. Also, select a liquid fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and apply this approximately every other week.

Standard citrus trees grow too big for indoors, but dwarf varieties are grafted onto special roots that limit their size and speed up fruiting. Growing them in containers keeps them smaller, too. If you’re new to growing citrus, start with dwarf types known to flourish and fruit well indoors. Easy-to-grow favourites, such as Meyer lemon, Key limes, Kumquats and Calamondin oranges, fit the bill.

When bringing pots in from outside before a frost, giving them a nice warm, slightly soapy wash will help to remove dust and any hidden pests, like a good wash should. They will also benefit from daily spritzing with plain water throughout the winter months to help raise the humidity level. When moving citrus from one area to another, do it gradually. Temperature fluctuations will stress the plant and can cause bud and/or fruit drop.

Best Plants for the Balcony Garden

 

There really is something quite special about having a morning coffee seated outside enjoying the sun’s early rays. Balconies are simply an important part of our relaxed, alfresco style of living. So it only makes sense that we need to celebrate this area and give it the attention and styling it deserves. And no, this doesn’t just mean an outdoor seating arrangement and leaving it at that. In fact, you can transform a blank outdoor canvas into a truly special space by paying attention to just a few details…the secrete being all in the plants and balcony suitable trees.

A balcony garden should be an extension of your home, choosing the correct plants will create an urban oasis you will want to escape to. Here are 10 plant suggestions that work well on a apartment balcony.

1. Silver falls

When it comes to under-planting, there really isn’t a better plant than ‘Silver Falls’ Dichondra argentea. The grey silvery foliage, which weeps downwards, looks stunning against a charcoal-coloured pot.

Can be used in full sun to part shade. They require very little water. Once established, the foliage will weep down as much as two metres! For best results, try planting a feature tree in a large pot, and under-plant around the inside edge of the rim. Over time, this will form a complete curtain around the pot. It’s a good idea to regularly go around the pot with a pair of hardy scissors and trim the foliage to promote new growth.

2. Geranium

They thrive, add colour andmost importantlythey are easy to look after. Few flowers look as good in a pot as these do.

The ‘Ivy-leaf Geranium’ Pelargonium peltatum, blends handsome foliage with large clusters of show stopping blossoms in colours, of red, pink, magenta and white. Although many people use geraniums as bedding plants, they perform even better in containers.

With so many exciting varieties, including some with scented leaves, the humble geranium is earning new admirers. It does require help to keep them looking fabulous and needs to be reshaped and cut back to maintain that neat clean cut look.

3. Gollum

A popular indoor plant, Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’ works just as well on balconies and rooftop gardens. Its coral-like foliage creates a striking feature that looks amazing planted in small egg pots.

Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’ is a slow-growing plant and, except for a monthly water, requires literally no maintenance. We’ve had great success with this hardy succulent in full sun to full shade and when left long enough they start taking the form of a large bonsai trees.

4. Meyer Lemon

This popular variety of ‘lemon’ is not a true lemon but a hybrid between a lemon and an orange, with colorful fruit, fragrant blossoms, and glossy evergreen. This is also perfect if your after a small tree for your balcony.

The ‘Meyer Lemon’ Citrus × meyeri is the perfect fruiting tree for the balcony, it’s an easy care, heavy fruiting lemon suited to small gardens as it grows well in pots and containers. So why not enjoy harvesting your own fruit while having the delightful natural smell of lemons scent your balcony, The ‘Meyer Lemon’ tree is good news for gardeners who want a steady supply of fruit all year round while making the balcony look like an oasis.

5. Rosemary

Has to be one of the toughest edible plants, making it the perfect candidate for balcony gardens. These plants will tolerate wind, heat and dry conditions and grow well in containers.

Rosmarinus officinalis Pink Rosemary is a favourite, an evergreen shrub with pink or mauve flowers and strongly aromatic foliage, it is a small to medium shrub reaching up to 80cm tall, so perfect for container gardening.

You can encourage growth by regularly cutting a sprig or two for use in the kitchen. They also can deter bugs from the balcony letting you enjoy those warm summer nights outside.

6. Frangipani

Frangipanis are a spectacular plant and you know that summer is well and truly on its way when they start to flower.

The most common Frangipani, Plumeria rubra is usually seen in white with a yellow centre, but are also available in many hues of pink, orange and yellow. Their flowers and fragrance bring a romantic feeling to any garden, and they’ll never go out of fashion because they’re drought tolerant.

They also look fantastic in large potted containers, as a small tree on any balcony gives it that feeling of grandeur.

7. Gardenia

With beautiful cream flowers and glossy deep evergreen leaves, the ‘Gardenia Radicans’ Gardenia jasminoides has become a must have throughout the world and a favourite with florists. Gardenias make wonderful and attractive container plants and have a pleasant fragrance once in bloom.

Best suitedfor warm, bright and sunny locations and are perfect for balcony’s that have good air circulation, as it’s an essential for your Gardenia to thrive.

8. Lavender

Containers provide a great opportunity to grow them in an otherwise unsuited balcony garden, which is fantastic as there is nothing like ‘Lavender’Lavandula in full bloom.

There are many varieties of Lavender, including dwarf cultivars which are ideal for container growing and can be clipped in decorative balls and cones. To state the obvious, compact varieties make the best choices for a balcony and small spaces.

Lavenders appreciate full sun. Grow them in shade and they grow out towards the sunlight, and they also like well-drained soil.

9. Jasmine

‘Jasmine’ Jasminum polyanthum, is a traditional favourite with container gardeners, and the powerfully evocative fragrance of the scented species wafts through gardens, often signalling the onset of warmer weather.

Jasmines vary in hardiness and drought tolerance depending on their origins, though few species will withstand repeated severe frosts or drought. They prefer moist, well-drained soil, and a position in full sun or partial shade.

Jasmines can be kept neat and tidy if pinched back and pruned in spring before new growth occurs and can be enjoyed to evoke the senses.

10. Yucca

The Yucca plant is a widely popular evergreen garden perennial. Yuccas should receive full sun to part sun. Low light levels cause spindly growth and fewer flowers. And nobody likes a skinny Yucca.

These plants are interesting and slow-growing houseplants that have the added benefit of being extremely drought tolerant. Under the right conditions, yucca are not difficult plants to grow. They tend to thrive on a little neglect, rather than too much attention.

We’ve all seen a failed balcony garden; outdated pots and drooping plants that just don’t go together. The secret to a successful balcony garden is to choose plants and trees that will not only survive but thrive.

 

Considered Growing A Balcony Garden?

We’ve all come across bare balconies when driving through our cities, often reminding us of the baron one at our own apartment and then suddenly we spot that one with the lush green walls, planters and hanging baskets and almost instantly feel uplifted. However, if the thought of trying to grow fruit, herbs and decorative plants and getting them to thrive in what might seem harsh conditions bares to much stress to even fathom, you needn’t worry, there is hope in that lush balcony garden.

The trick to getting your balcony to look green is in understanding the conditions of your space and working out what plants will suit the environment. The main obstacles you will face are wind, rainfall and light levels (direct sun or no direct sun).

Establishing the microclimate of your space is rather easy and only requires observation and minor research of your neighbourhoods climate and past weather patterns. (a task you will only need to do once).

So after you have determined the average rainfall in your area, amount of days of extreme heat or cold, and average temperature, then all you need to do is step outside into your space and determine the aspect (sunlight and wind direction). This background and understanding of your environment will give you the information needed in selecting the right plants.

So let’s start with light level. If your balcony, patio or alfresco area faces or takes the brunt of the sun majority of the day then you’re only option is to select full sun loving plants, which are hardy and can withstand the hot direct sun in summer.

By selecting plants that work with your environment it will make gardening so much easier than trying to fight nature. The same concept applies to spaces that receive almost no light at all, which would require shade loving plants in order to make it work.

The best way to determine what plants to even consider is to think about a place or environment that could possibly match yours. e.g., hot and arid driven places such as Mexico, you instantly think of an Agave (used to make tequila). So you will then know that this species of plant will work in your space and is a possible option for your garden or balcony. By selecting the right plants, you will then only need to provide minor assistance in making sure they look green and lush.

So next time you come across a garden or area with a similar garden or balcony environment such as yours just take note of what plants they have growing and how well they’re doing. This will be your starting point at making sure that your balcony garden has the best chance of being a green oasis.

The other factor to consider in the success of your balcony garden is the additional wind the plants are going to bear the brunt of. Catering to a balcony with such an issue will require the need of additional watering due to the leaves drying out faster than those planted at ground level.

The best option is to group your plants and their containers once they have been selected, with the taller plants towards the back and the small ones being visible to the front. By grouping your plants the loss of water will be far less than if they were individually spaced and also reduce the impact the force of the wind.