Wanting to start a balcony garden in Houston? No time like the present to see if you have a green thumb. With all this extra time at home, I’m sure many people are itching to get fresh air and make the most of their outdoor space. Whether you have acres of land or an apartment balcony, here’s some of my tips and experience on growing a garden in Houston.
My Houston Gardening Philosophy
I’m all about low maintenance plants that give high return on herbs and flowers. I travel a lot and despite my best intentions tend to water things sporadically. Through trial and error, I’ve found a few plants that are hardy enough to survive the bipolar Houston weather changes and my inconsistent plant motherhood. This post will be a summary of my plant success stories that last throughout the year and make my balcony and front porch plants a delightful green escape.
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My Balcony Garden
I have a table wrought iron table and chair set for dining as well as pair of white Acapulco chairs and side table that is perfect for lounging with my plant babies. Evenings are magical thanks to the strand lights and the outdoor time that automatically turns them on when its dusk. You can get creative with any space and make of the most of it. I love these balcony garden inspiration ideas. You can shop my balcony accessories here:
I also love all the options that are out there for balcony rail planters. They’re a great option if you don’t have a lot space on your patio.
It was very convenient that my Buchanan’s shopping spree coincided a few weeks before COVID-19 hit Houston. So now I have all the time in the world to tend to my balcony herb garden. My balcony faces east and gets solid light from about 8am to (depending on the season) until 1pm – 3pm.
Currently in my garden I have:
- German Thyme
- Mother of Thyme
- Lavender — because I miss France
- Lime Basil
- Thai Basil
- Flat leaf parsley
- Italian parsley (2 kinds)
- Curly leaf parsley
- Winter green mint
Check out these adorable metal herb markers to sort your garden:
I have 2-3 herbs in each pot. Honestly they could use more space in the pots to give them room to grow, but I’m working within the conditions of my balcony square footage. Some day when I have a big ole yard with a garden, I’ll give them the proper 12 inches apart that the deserve. But for now, I’ve got a big fluffy garden with herbs living on top of each other. So meta for city living.
The exception is mint. Mint will takeover your garden if you’re not careful. It’s resilient and crazy and will grow over all your other plants. Even if I had a big suburban yard, I would put it in its own pot to prevent a hostile takeover.
When ordering pots, try to get ones that have drainage holes to help manage over watering (rain!) and root rot. You can often sort by “drainage hole” feature on sites like Home Depot, Wayfair, and Target.
Low Maintenance Plants for Houston
The toughest herbs that I have are oregano and mint. They tend to go dormant in the winter when it freezes, but they’ve come back year after year for the last 3 years. Rosemary is also super hardy and can grow to be a massive. Once you train your eye, you’ll see that a lot of Houston businesses have rosemary growing outside their storefronts or on the street like a bush. I tend to forget to water them, but they’re hardy af. So I love them!!! I’ve never had luck with cilantro and would not recommend attempting to grow.
Y’all do the math. If you love to cook at home with fresh herbs, investing in a plant gives you an excellent ROI. If you buy fresh herbs from the grocery store they’re usually $2-$3 for a single serving. A typical mini-herb plant costs about $2.50 at a nursery and even if you kill it within a month, you’re still bound to get more than 1 serving of herbs out of it! 10 out of 10 recommend growing herbs! It’s so satisfying.
Thyme, rosemary, lavender, sage, oregano, curry and marjoram do well in Houston with little water once established.
I have a pot on my front porch full of vincas that I planted years ago. They’ve lasted through several winters, my summer in France, and sporadic caretaking. They’re resilient so long as you water every few days and keep them in the sun.
Have a balcony or yard that seems to always be covered in shade? Luckily there’s a number of plants that thrive in shady gardens in Houston. I’ve had success with begonias, calladiums, and ferns.
Check out this article for the full list of shade loving Houston plants.
Mosquito Repellent Plants
Plants that grow well in Houston and get repel my natural born enemy mosquitos include: marigolds, citronella, catnip, lavender, basil and lemon balm. I also light a citronella candle in the evening for extra protection! Don’t leave your candle out when not in use. Otherwise it’ll melt and then get filled up with rainwater.
Butterfly Attracting Plants
About a hundred different species of butterflies regularly occur in Houston and surrounding Southeast Texas neighborhoods. I’ve been seeing lots of monarchs in my neighborhood. If you want to see more butterflies in your neighborhood, your garden should support the needs of butterflies during all four stages of their life cycle from egg to butterfly. Butterflies in Houston like a mix of plants like dill, parsley, fennel, ruellia for their larve. And then as butterflies like to get nectar from passion flower vines, tropical milkweed, Dutchman’s pipe vine, senna, shrimp plant, ruellia, and many more.
Check out this article for detailed plan on how to create a butterfly garden.
How to Not Kill Your Plants in Houston
Here’s a list of my gardening tips that I more or less abide by throughout the year.
- Plant in springtime and fall. Houston summers are hot af and I find that herbs don’t tend to grow as much then.
- Water in the early morning. In the Houston summer, I find my plants get soak up water best during the mornings. In the afternoon when the sun is bright, they don’t absorb as much. Luckily we get a lot of rain in Houston, so if your plants have access to that it’ll help mitigate when you forget to water. When they’re wilted or the top few inches of the soil is dry, it’s time.
- Don’t over water. Get pots with draining holes. You can also use moisture control soil to prevent over and under watering.
- Use BIG terra cotta pots. They are good for beginner gardeners because they absorb some of the water and create humidity around your plants. The porous terracotta material absorbs then releases moisture creating humidity around plants that help them thrive in drier climates.
- Don’t use harsh pesticides. If you’re growing herbs, use a pesticide that’s made for fruits and veggies so you don’t accidentally poison yourself. I’ve used this one before.
- Ensure your plants get sun! Rearrange your patio or porch as necessary to give them the prime sunning post.
- Leave the plant tags in the soil. They are a helpful reminder to how much sun and water each plant needs. I have my herbs share pots that have similar watering needs.
Where to Buy Plants in Houston
Currently my garden has plants from HEB, Buchanan’s and Thompson + Hanson. Depending on the season, I also sometimes buy herbs at Sprouts. I usually purchase my herbs as baby plants that cost $2-$3. This year, I also bought a larger rosemary plant for $12. Here’s a list of many Houston plant nurseries to consider:
- Buchanan’s Native Plants (Heights)
- Cornelius Nursery (various)
- Houston Garden Centers (various)
- Joshua’s Native Plants (Heights)
- Thompson + Hanson (River Oaks)
- Wabash Feed & Garden Store (Northside)
Many of these nurseries are still open during COVID-19, you just need to call ahead with your order or place it online for pick-up.
Online plant order
I have always bought my plants in person, but while many places are closed this might be unavailable to you. Home Depot has some herbs online you can get delivered or pick up in store which could be worth a shot.
Where have you had success with gardening in Houston?
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