Finding privacy on a balcony, especially if you live in a large apartment complex, is a challenge plants can address. With the right plants, you can enjoy your time outside again without worrying about the passersby.
In this article, we’ll go over all the things you need to consider before choosing the right privacy plants, and we’ll also give you 13 great options to help you narrow down your selections.
Balcony Plants vs Patio Plants
Before we get started, it’s important to understand the differences between a patio and a balcony as that affects your choices for plants and privacy. A patio is a structure anchored on the ground. Meanwhile, a balcony is found higher up with no ground access.
Both structures have different shapes that you can work with. This article addresses balconies, whose unique features also often include rails where railing planters can be placed. However, balconies also bring more restrictions than patios on how you can add plants for privacy.
Considerations Before Choosing Plants for Balcony Privacy
Balconies are typically more limited spaces than patios, which means you’ll need to get creative with adding plants for privacy. Before you buy privacy plants, here are a few things to consider whether you have a balcony, patio, or both.
It’s essential to check your local climate before purchasing plants for balcony privacy. Fortunately, the USDA Hardiness Zone Map compiles all the data for you. It gives you an easy-to-remember number for your zip code.
Hardiness indicates how well a plant will handle the cold, heat, and other climate factors. Before you buy your plants for balcony privacy, you should check the hardiness zone each one thrives in. This simple check could save you several dead plants.
You should also look up the rainfall in your area. While this is part of the hardiness zone calculations, the area around your balcony may get significantly more or less rain. You can view this information from your local news station, weather.gov, or noaa.gov.
Plants need sunlight to thrive, and the orientation of your balcony plays a significant role in how much sunlight your privacy plants can get on any given day. For example, north-facing balconies get little direct sunlight for the Northern hemisphere.
Meanwhile, south-facing balconies tend to receive a lot of sunlight. East and west-facing balconies receive light in the morning or evening, respectively. Ordinal directions like southeast get a combination of sunlight depending on the time of year.
If you are unsure how much sunlight your balcony gets, consider purchasing a sunlight calculator and place the device where you’re thinking of putting plants on your balcony. Most of them read for 24 hours to give you a reasonable estimate.
Some plants for balcony privacy require more care than others do. Before buying, ask yourself how much time you can realistically commit for your balcony or patio privacy plants. If the answer is very little, find low-maintenance plants to match your lifestyle.
Typically, plants native to your area will require less maintenance and interventions. This difference is due to local adaptation, and it applies even when the plant is potted. Bringing in something non-native tends to require more interventions.
Different plants need different soil types and nutrients. Unfortunately, this means you cannot place your plants for balcony privacy in a potting soil mix and expect them to grow. For many plants, they’ll start well and then do not thrive long-term.
Soil pH is one of the significant factors for plants. Most plants only tolerate a narrow range of how acidic or base soil is, and you may have to add things to your soil choice regularly to support the proper pH. With plants for balcony privacy, that can be a problem.
Plants also have specific nutrient requirements, and gradually leach these out of the soil you’ve put them in. This depletion is a particular issue with railing planters since they offer such a small space, but any soil can become depleted if you do not replenish it properly.
You will also need to evaluate your available space carefully before picking plants for balcony or patio privacy. After all, you do not want to end up with too many plants or too little space to go onto the balcony yourself.
First, evaluate your balcony. You want to ensure it is firmly attached to your building and that it is not sagging. It must be able to support the extra weight of your pots, dirt, and plants constantly. If you are unsure, consult your property manager or a professional.
Then, figure out how much space you want to devote to your plants for balcony privacy. This calculation will be a much smaller area than for plants for patio privacy, so make sure you’re realistic. Remember to account for railing planters if you can have them.
Now that you understand the space you’re working with, you can get a good idea about what types of plants you can get. When considering plants for balcony privacy, you must also consider how they will grow. You want them to obscure you, not take over the balcony.
If you are picking plants from home, research how tall and wide each plant is at maturity. At the nursery, confirm with an employee how big you can expect the plant to get. There’s nothing worse than choosing something that will outgrow railing planters in two months.
What to Look for at the Store
Once you arrive at a store or nursery, there will be many plant options. It’s best to bring a list of plants you researched to avoid getting overwhelmed. You should also check a plant for general health before buying.
When looking at a plant, the leaves should be vibrant looking and free of holes or spots. This look indicates a healthy plant. You should also ask a nursery professional to help you gently lift the plant so you can see the roots. They should be loose and not woven together.
The 13 Best Balcony Plants for Privacy
The best balcony plants will depend on where you live, but there are some consistent favorites across multiple states. These plants for balcony or patio privacy look amazing, do the job, and some even work with balcony railing planters.
Lavender is a wonderful drought tolerant plant that works well as a natural screen for privacy. Not all lavenders are small like those in railing planters, so you can find varieties that go up to three feet easily. Lavender is suitable for hardiness zones 5 through 9.
Hydrangea blooms beautifully through the summer and often into fall. There are several different varieties, so you can get the size that works for your balcony space, and this plant for balcony privacy tolerates part-shade conditions. This plant is suitable for hardiness zones 3 through 9.
Hollyhock is a perennial blooming plant suitable for hardiness zones 3 to 9. It does require that you keep it out of the wind, so keep that in mind. A hollyhock can grow to be over 12 feet tall, and you can get them with distinctly colored flowers for your privacy screen.
Bamboo is a fast-growing plant in most circumstances, so it’s a good choice if you want a fast natural privacy screen. Most bamboo is from temperate climates, but you can find varieties from the mountains that are a little hardier and cold-resistant if you need to.
We have an entire article on selecting the best type of bamboo for privacy, which you can check out for more specific recommendations.
5. Pampas Grass
Pampas grass comes in several varieties, and the hardiest can grow in zones 5 through 9. This plant for balcony privacy has a distinctive tuft at the top over summer and fall. Since it is a grass, pampas do tend to grow quickly and well in pots. This plant also tolerates sea salt spray.
6. Fountain Grass
Fountain grass is another possibility if you live in hardiness zone 5 or warmer. This grass displays beautiful colors throughout the warm months. It also adds an airy quality to your balcony space any time of year. You can put this one in a railing planter.
7. Hanging Plants
We’re going to include hanging plants as their own category here since there are so many different varieties that will work on a balcony, depending on your needs. Certain types of hanging plants – such as ivy, boston fern, and pothos are ideal for balcony privacy.
Arborvitae is a variety of coniferous shrub that grows well in pots. You can prune them to match your space, and some types grow to ten feet. This shrub is cold and drought tolerant, as well as generally hardy since it can live in zones 3 through 7.
9. Indian Hawthorn
Indian hawthorn is a shrub that produces pink-white blooms. While most people plant it in the ground, it can also thrive in a pot and be pruned into any shape you want. These balcony privacy plants only survive in warm climates like hardiness zones 7 to 10.
10. Red Twig Dogwood
These vibrant plants add color to your balcony privacy screen all year round. In the spring and summer, they grow leaves and small flowers. Over winter, all the leaves drop, and the bright red stems are revealed. Red twig dogwood is suitable for hardiness zones 2 through 8.
11. Boston Fern
Boston ferns might not be your first thought for privacy plants, but their bushy foliage makes them a great pick. You can hang them or keep them in planters. Combining both will give you some great coverage. Bear in mind, though, Boston ferns can be very picky about their living conditions. As such, they might not be the best pick for beginner gardeners.
12. Japanese Maple
Also known as Acer, the Japanese Maple has bushy foliage in green or red. It’s an ideal pick for shady balconies, and dwarf varieties work amazingly as potted plants. What’s more, Acers are easy to care for and will add interest to your balcony garden.
There are plenty of reasons why you should add jasmine to your balcony. It’s a fast grower, has thick foliage, and the flowers smell amazing. Like other creeping plants, it works best grown up a supporting structure. A balcony railing or wooden trellis would be perfect for this, so you probably already have a suitable space for jasmine.
Final Thoughts on Balcony Privacy Plants
Designing your balcony or patio space with plants for privacy is a great idea. However, it requires careful research and planning to ensure you end up with the living oasis you want from the small space of your balcony.