Balconies are generally limited in floor space, which means growing plants can be a challenge. An obvious solution to this problem is climbing plants.
However, there are some important considerations when picking out climbing plants for a balcony. In this article, we’ll cover the things you should know before listing some of the best options for balcony climber plants.
Unsurprisingly, climbing plants are ones that usually grow vines rather than traditional stems. They support themselves up structures (or other plants) using tendrils or suckers.
The benefit of growing climbing plants on a balcony is that their floor space to plant ratio is much more favorable than a tree or bush. While you might be growing them in the same size pot, you’ll get much more plant from a honeysuckle than you would a small tree, for example.
Along with this, climbing plants can offer the following benefits:
- They can serve as wall decoration
- They can make your space more private
- Depending on the plant, you might even get a crop off them
There’s not a ton you need to think about when choosing climbing plants for your balcony. Make sure you bear the following in mind and you should be good to go:
Climbing plants can support themselves using tendrils, stem roots or suckers. Some will just grow long vines that you must tie up, but we won’t worry about those here.
Why does this matter? Well, the only support we’re really concerned about is suckers. As the name implies, these are sticky and will attach to walls or other structures. They can cause damage if you try to remove the plant, so bear this in mind for the future.
A lot of climbers like to be kept fairly moist. This might be an issue if you’re growing them on a covered balcony, but you can get around this by watering more regularly.
Other than that, follow the recommendations on the plant’s tag. Some prefer full sun, whereas others enjoy shade. We’ll get into this in more detail below.
In some form or another, climbers need supports. It could be a trellis in the pot, a lattice fixed to your wall, or a simple arrangement of wires it can grow up. Alternatively, if you don’t have a problem with suckers, you can generally leave it to do its thing.
Of course, it’s perfectly possible to grow a climbing plant along your railing, although you might need to tie it up occasionally. This can be a good option for privacy, providing the plant is sufficiently bushy.
Climbing plants for a balcony will obviously need to be grown in pots. Although you can get compact varieties of some climbers, meaning you can use smaller pots, most will want the largest pot possible.
For example, if you were to plant a jasmine in the soil, there’s no limits to its growth potential. In a pot, however, it’ll eventually reach its limit based on its roots’ ability to draw up nutrients.
It’ll depend on the specific plant and the size you want it to reach, but a 24-inch pot (like this) is probably the absolute minimum size to go for. Also, bear in mind you won’t be able to repot an established climbing plant, so make sure you’re happy with the pot it’s in.
A similar point is limiting the plant’s growth. Allowing it to become rootbound is a good start, but you’ll probably need to manually control its size and growth direction. While a climbing plant running wild up the side of a building looks cute, it’s not too practical on an apartment balcony.
A bit of clever pruning will be enough to keep a climber manageable. How you do this will depend on the specific plant, but there’s plenty of information on how to keep them under control.
1. Best for flowers: Passionflower
Deciding on the best flowering climbing plant is incredibly difficult because there are so many. Passionflower wins here, as it ‘only’ produces lovely flowers. It’ll tolerate low shade to full sun and is fairly resistant to frost.
The best support system will be a series of wires attached to a wall, but growing them along a railing will work fine too. Galvanized wire (like this) is the best option and you’ll want a pretty hefty planter (like this).
- Uses tendrils – no damage
- Amazing range of flowers
- Happy on covered or uncovered balconies
- Not as happy in pots as other climbers
2. Best for privacy: Jasmine
Jasmine is a good pick for a privacy climbing plant because you can get evergreen varieties. Importantly, it means that you won’t lose coverage in the winter if you grow it along your balcony railing.
Better yet, you can even get winter-flowering types, which will give you a nice burst of color and scent in an otherwise dull season.
Jasmine likes it warm and sheltered, so a south-facing, covered balcony will be best. Starting them off on a trellis (like this) will be best, but you could also just train it directly onto your railing if you’re after some privacy. It’ll grow quickly in the right conditions, so it should only take a year or so for complete coverage.
- Non-toxic to animals
- Flowers smell amazing
- Surprisingly hardy
- Will need a lot of water if grown in a pot
3. Best for beginners: Clematis
Clematis is a very easy-going climbing plant that’s perfect for beginners. It’ll be a lot more forgiving than others on this list, making it a good place to start. Also, there are loads of different colors available in all sizes, so you’ll have plenty of chances to play around with them.
There are so many types of clematis that you’ll easily find one to suit your balcony’s aspect and layout. It’ll need some kind of support – a trellis or mesh hung on a wall will be fine. You’ll want a fairly large planter (like this) if you want it to grow well.
- Easy to care for
- Lots of varieties available
- Great way to add color to your balcony
- Mildly toxic to animals (typically non-fatal)
4. Best for wildlife: Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle is another great pick for climbing plants for a balcony because there are so many types available. While it won’t give you the same kind of coverage as jasmine, honeysuckle can quickly become a bushy plant.
The flowers often smell amazing, and you can get both daytime and evening varieties. Better yet, they attract animals throughout their growth cycle. Pollinators love the flowers and birds love the berries that form. The berries can cause an upset tummy in dogs and cats, but the chances of them eating the berries are low.
Honeysuckle typically prefers shade to full sun, so it’d work well on a covered or north-facing balcony. Wires fitted to a wall are the best support for honeysuckle, or you’ll want to train it along your railing. The plants get too big for a trellis to be effective.
- Wildlife love it
- Suitable for shady balconies
- Easy to grow
- Some varieties use suckers – can cause damage
5. Best for fruit: Blackberries
Choosing the best climbing plants for fruit was another difficult one. We went with blackberries because they’re fairly easy to care for and will produce an abundant amount of fruit after most other plants have finished.
Another option is melons, which are cucurbits. Like pumpkins, cucumbers, and others, they’re vining plants that typically trail along the ground. You can grow them vertically but it requires a very strong setup.
Blackberries, however, will happily do their thing with very little involvement. Plant them in a pot at least 20 inches in diameter (like this). If you want a compact plant, grow up a trellis (like this), but if you want something larger, grow it up a wall.
- Can tolerate shade to full sun
- Plenty of hybrid varieties available
- Pollinators love the flowers
- Expect thorns
6. Best for summer scent: Sweet Pea
The sweet pea is a bit of an outlier on this list of best balcony climber plants because it’s an annual. As you probably know, this means it only lasts one season before dying off. However, it’s more than worth it thanks to the amazing flowers it produces. Importantly, they smell amazing.
Sweet peas are easily grown from seed each year, and if you save some from your previous crop, you get a steady supply of free plants!
- They smell amazing
- Less demanding for space than perennials
- Happy with all growing conditions
- Only last one year
Choosing climbing plants for a balcony should be mostly about your preferences rather than growing conditions. As you can see, you’ll easily find varieties that suit covered or uncovered balconies in full sun or shade.
Whatever balcony climber plants you choose, they’re a great way to add brightness and interest to your outdoor space.