13 balcony ideas to transform the tiniest space into a luscious oasis

No garden? No problem.

From Romeo and Juliet declaring their love, to royal waves and presidential speeches – a balcony has often been the stage for momentous occasions (real and fictional). And there’s no reason why your balcony shouldn’t be be the star of the show. If it’s feeling a little lacklustre – or more boxy than bijou – then we’ve got some balcony garden ideas that will make yours the envy of all your neighbours.  

This Saga Exceptional writer grew up with a balcony, and I loved the views it provided that a garden fence would have otherwise obscured. Balconies are also more low maintenance than a sprawling lawn, and many enjoy a comforting sense of community – with coffees, chats and even cats often passing between neighbours.

Credit: Ruggable

Many of our balcony garden ideas will be easy for you to mirror at home, with some upcycling options not even costing you a penny.  

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1. Lay down a rug

Keep a cosy feeling underfoot

Rugs aren’t just a great balcony garden idea for an instant visual transformation. They can also make your experience sitting outside much more comfortable by keeping your feet off the ground (we find that helps to keep them a little warmer).  

Just as you’d curate the soft furnishings of your living room, you can coordinate your balcony fabrics too. The example above from Ruggable matches rich hues of blue in the rug and cushions.  

“The key to making your outdoor space comfortable and homely is to bring a touch of the indoors outside,” says Emma Tipping, garden designer and horticulturist, who has been working with Ruggable. She also says outdoor cushions make “a comfortable seating area, so you can sit under the trailing leaves of your plants. It creates a serene seating place, giving you the true outdoor feel of being amongst nature.” 

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Outdoor Nomada Navy Rug, Ruggable

RRP: From £139

Outdoor Nomada Navy Rug, Ruggable

Just remember to choose rugs and cushions that are suitable for outdoor use, in case they are exposed to damp weather conditions. It’s best to bring them inside and store in a dry place when you’re not using them if you don’t have a waterproof cover to hand.  

2. Tile your walls

Choose tiles over a lick of paint

balcony garden idea with tiled wall and sofaCredit: Tile Mountain

We like to think of balconies as an additional room. A place where your interior can spill out into an alfresco life without leaving home. So why not decorate the walls as you would any other room? 

This balcony garden idea from Tile Mountain uses decorative outdoor wall tiles that are ceramic but have a wood effect finish. They transform the balcony walls, adding soft, natural textures that contrast the materials of the masonry and floor. Take care when installing tiles to any exterior wall and ensure they’re suitable for outdoor use and sealed correctly. 

“As with installing any tile, it is essential to ensure that the substrate is suitable and prepared correctly,” says Colin Lincoln-Evans, buyer at Tile Mountain. “Balcony tiles and grout will benefit from the use of a protective sealer as this will make them easier to maintain and ensure the installation remains looking its best.”

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Himalaya Roble Wood Split Face Effect Wall Tiles, Tile Mountain

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Himalaya Roble Wood Split Face Effect Wall Tiles, Tile Mountain

3. Cascade plants from hanging baskets

Save on floorspace by planting overhead

orange macrame hanging basketCredit: Joe Browns

Even generously proportioned balconies are often a little short on floorspace. But that doesn’t mean you can’t adorn your plot with foliage and flowers.  

Hanging baskets are a useful balcony garden idea, especially if you have another balcony overhead, as that provides a sturdy surface to hang small pots from. Make sure you install them safely, have permission to screw into exterior walls and follow the manufacturers’ guidance.  

We love the vibrancy of this macrame-style hanging basket from Joe Browns. The orange ochre contrasts against and enhances the green tones of the plants within and around it. 

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Marvellous Macrame Hanging Basket, Joe Browns

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Marvellous Macrame Hanging Basket, Joe Browns

Don’t throw away old kitchen utensils 

“An old colander makes an ideal hanging basket, with the design providing great drainage when watering,” says Tipping. “To create a hanging basket, simply line your colander with either piereced black plastic or moss, fill with compost and arrange your chosen flowers accordingly. Then, secure it with rope and hang it with a hook.” 

4. Choose compact seating

Bistro sets don’t take up space

dining set on a balcony with a rugCredit: Wayfair

This balcony garden idea from Wayfair is as chic as it is compact. Choosing the right garden seating that also works well for the space available on a balcony is essential if you want to avoid your furniture overwhelming the scene. 

The thin frames of this simple bistro set almost blend in with the railing design of the balcony, meaning no view is lost and a sense of space is maintained. Though minimalist, this setup is by no means meagre, dressed with soft cushions, a rug and footstool to add colour and comfort to this space. 

To save even more space, you could look for a set that folds up so you can stack it in a corner, out of the way. 

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5. Plant in raised beds

Save your back (and your knees)

blue raised beds, table and chair on a balconyCredit: RHS / Sarah Cuttle

Despite its smaller footprint, gardening on a balcony can still be a little tricky. This is down to its hard flooring. You could opt to install artificial grass, but we think the best balcony garden idea that’s kinder to your knees and avoids too much bending over is to plant in raised beds 

“Invest in good kneeling pads, or one of those stools that you can turn over to help yourself up, or plant raised beds to spend less time on your knees,” agrees Jekka McVicar, a herb specialist who curated the herb gardens at Riverstone Living.   

This example is from The Folio Society’s Reading Room Garden, designed by Katherine Holland, which featured at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023. We love the slimline planters, which have been painted to brighten up the space and filled with foliage to create a green oasis. You’d never know a busy scene lay just beyond the railings, as they create privacy.  

Not sure which flowers and shrubs to pick? Check out the best plants for a raised bed for a selection of low-maintenance blooms that will thrive in this setting. 

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6. Plant in pots

Upcycle planters and potter around

Old tins and bins that have been upcycled into planters for a balcony garden ideaCredit: RHS / Sarah Cuttle

Many balcony owners will already be familiar with the ease of planning a potted plant garden. But what have you been using as containers?  

“You’ll be surprised at what items can be used to create your balcony garden idea,” says Tipping. 

In Tipping’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023 creation, The St George ‘Alight Here’ Balcony Garden, she upcycled rubbish bins to make large planters, as shown here. 

“There are also some kitchen items that can be repurposed for your balcony,” she adds. “Old tin cans can make lovely plant pots for smaller plants. If you want to make them look a bit prettier, you can give them a lick of paint and then simply drill a few holes for drainage in the bottom. They’re the perfect size for growing a range of produce that you can use for cooking, such as herbs, tomatoes and strawberries.” 

7. Plant with purpose

Add edible and aromatic plants

woman tending to her tomatoes and herbs growing in a planter on a balconyCredit: Elho

If you’re short on planting space on your balcony, then plant with purpose. Tipping recommends when choosing plants for any balcony, a great idea is to opt for ones that are functional. 

“When you have a small space, you want to make the most of it and pick plants that have the most benefits,” she says. 

“Therefore, looking for plants that add fragrance and colour – as well as other functions, such as being able to be cut for flower arranging or provide produce that can be eaten – really maximises the usefulness of your balcony.  

“For plants that add fragrance, lavender is the perfect choice, producing a gorgeous, calming smell. Other fragrant flowers that would be perfect for small outdoor settings are jasmine, rosemary and hyacinths, all of which will add glorious scents to your garden, as well as a range of colour to brighten it up.” 

If the thought of growing your own herbs and veggies makes you nervous, you might want to improve your chances of success and consider a self-watering planter. This grow table from Elho, for example, has an integrated water system and enables you to monitor water levels in the reservoir. There’s also a plug to allow any excess from heavy rainfall or over-enthusiastic watering to drain away freely. 

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Noa Grow Table, Elho

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Noa Grow Table, Elho

McVicar’s top seeds for an edible window trough on a balcony:

These are great to sprinkle on omelettes

It grows quickly, and you can add it to sandwiches and baguettes 

Plant this for its scent and to make herbal tea 

Make rosemary tea, which has been proven to restore memory

All of these are brilliant for cooking, especially when combined and added to feta cheese 

8. Hang vertical planters

Recycle pallets or buy purpose-built products

vertical wall hanging planter filled with flowersCredit: B&Q

Another balcony garden idea is to embrace any wall space you have available and install vertical planters. 

“You can create a wall garden by attaching long planters to external walls, which are perfect for planting produce to create your own balcony vegetable patch,” suggests Tipping. 

If you’re looking for a DIY project, you could try your hand at building pallet furniture and making your own wall planter. Or you could head to B&Q and buy a fabric growing bag, which can easily be attached to an exterior wall. As with hanging baskets, and any exterior DIY job, it’s important to make sure you have permission to drill into the walls and follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions if you’ve bought a ready-made product. 

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9. Use existing features

Climbing plants can cling to railings

two chairs on a balcony surrounded by climbing plantsCredit: Pelargonium for Europe

Another way to free up floor space for your seating, table and potted plants is to utilise any existing structures and surfaces on your balcony. Much like vertical planters and hanging baskets, railings offer an opportunity to plant on and around.  

“Railings and external walls are great features to utilise when looking to save space,” says Tipping. “Plant hangers can be positioned on top of railings and fences to avoid using up any floor space.  

“By organising your plants like this, it can maximise space and enable you to add more flowers to your balcony, creating a calming environment that is great for wellbeing and wildlife.” 

This balcony garden idea from geranium-growing initiative Pelargonium for Europe does just this, with planters attached to railings, abundant in florals that attract pollinators, while a clematis climbs around the railings. 

10. Go for chic shutters

Bring the spirit of the continent home

woman sitting on a rug using her laptop on balconyCredit: Ruggable

Feel closer to France by giving your balcony a Parisian makeover. Adding some gorgeous shutters – whether you utilise them for their intended use or not – will supercharge the charm of any balcony.  

Imagine waking up with a coffee and croissant, grazing your way through the morning in this setup from Ruggable. We love the earthy tones of the shutters that complement the masonry. The restful grey/green brings out the tones in the leaves of the potted plants. You might wish to add a table and chairs, though a scattering of floor cushions and rug are ample to while away the hours on. 

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Outdoor Ombra Teal Rug, Ruggable

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Outdoor Ombra Teal Rug, Ruggable

11. Light up the scene

Candles can create a romantic ambiance

balcony garden idea with chair, blanket, book and candlesCredit: Garden Trading

No balcony garden idea would be complete without some twinkly lights. Whether you’re into uplighting, downlights or fairy lighting – many products can be battery or solar powered, so you don’t even need to worry about wiring them in. 

We love the idea of lighting candles to create relaxing ambience. Even if you live solo, candlelit spaces feel indulgently romantic and rustic. (Plus, if you like to keep your doors open in summer, lighting a citronella candle can help to keep flies out of the house.)  

To help keep your candles safe – from getting knocked over and being blown out by the wind – keep them enclosed in lanterns. These examples from Garden Trading let you enjoy all flickering lights in their full glory at floor level, while containing any melting wax that would otherwise spill. 

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Ablington Lantern (large), Garden Trading

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Ablington Lantern (large), Garden Trading

12. Fire up the barbecue

Get grilling!

Close-up of barbecue place in the garden or balconyCredit: KarepaStock/Shutterstock

If space allows, then why not indulge in some alfresco eating? Outdoor kitchens are becoming incredibly popular, but this balcony garden idea from Ruggable means you don’t have to miss out on this trend completely.  

Provided you don’t overwhelm your neighbours with more smoke than a consolatory burger can make up for, a small-to-medium sized barbecue will encourage you to spend more mealtimes outside, especially in the warmer months. Who says you can’t be a host with the most without a garden? 

13. Put out a bird feeder

Don’t forget your feathered friends

bird eating peanut butter from a bird feeder attached to a fenceCredit: CJ Wildlife

OK, so spending time outside on a high balcony might mean you don’t get visited by badgers or hedgehogs – and don’t need to worry about keeping foxes out of your garden. But this doesn’t mean you can’t encourage wildlife to your patch altogether. 

You can install a bird feeder, such as this one from CJ Wildlife (which can be fitted to a drainpipe or fence if needed). Watching birds flit back and forth for snacks is a wonderful sight. But make sure you’re not making common bird-feeding mistakes and use the correct food source to help your feathered friends thrive.  

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SingingFriend Evie Peanut Butter Bird Feeder, CJ Wildlife

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SingingFriend Evie Peanut Butter Bird Feeder, CJ Wildlife
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Rosanna Spence

Written by Rosanna Spence she/her

Published:

Rosanna Spence has been a journalist for nearly 10 years, reporting on a huge array of topics – from microwaves to cocktails, sustainable buildings, the Caribbean islands and beyond. She’s interviewed chefs at the helm of Michelin-starred restaurants and chatted to countless CEOs about their businesses, as well as created travel guides for experienced travellers seeking life-changing adventures. Throughout her career, she has created content for Business Traveller, i-escape.com, Pub & Bar, BRITA, Dine Out and many more leading titles and brands.

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