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Edible Plants You Can Grow on a Shady Balcony

by Fern on February 12, 2009

in General

There is a huge amount of interest in growing your own food, but most edible plants need lots and lots of sunshine. What should you do if you are stuck with a shady balcony? Thanks to my friend Adriana over at Victory Home & Garden, I came across this list of plants that will thrive in the shade. I’ve linked each vegetable to Organic Gardening Magazine’s instructions for growing that type of plant.


My own lettuce plants (from last year) happily growing without direct sunlight.

  1. Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce, arugula, endive, cress, and radicchio
  2. Broccoli
  3. Cauliflower (follow the instructions for broccoli above)
  4. Peas
  5. Beets
  6. Brussels Sprouts (no article :-( )
  7. Radishes (no article :-( )
  8. Swiss Chard
  9. Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard greens, spinach, and kale
  10. Beans

I can personally attest to the ability of lettuce, broccoli, beets, radishes, chard, and spinach to grow in the shade. I’ve also grown carrots in the shade without a problem. Beets and chard are beautiful, colorful plants, which is a bonus, as many of the plants often suggested for shade are on the boring side.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

prue February 12, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Hi Fern

great post. I grow the leafy greens in the shady part too – and you are right, chard is so pretty. I’m a bit scared of putting the carrots in the shade – but maybe will have to give it a try (just planted some purple ones! Yum)

oh and Fyi, thought of your planting combinations yesterday when i updated the balcony garden, some interesting ones ended up occuring though. :)

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Fern February 12, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Prue — You don’t have to worry about the carrots. I’ve had absoultely no problem growing them in the shade. They might take longer to mature, but that’s about it.

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Adriana February 13, 2009 at 11:09 am

The lettuce and chard are living happily ever after in the shade. I’m going to take your suggestion and give carrots a go.

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Nancy Bond February 13, 2009 at 2:22 pm

This is a great list! I plan to have a mostly edible garden this summer, and these all sound great to me. My balcony gets pretty much equal amounts of sun and shade.

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Genevieve February 14, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Awesome! I’m going to try a few of these out in my shady areas. I’ve grown chard and lettuce with success in shade, but I’ve had snail issues in shade more than in sun. A bit of organic sluggo helps with that though. I have not had any success with peas, though, but I only tried once.

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Fern February 17, 2009 at 12:24 am

Adriana — Go for it! :-D

Nancy — Now you know who you can afford to stick in the shade to make room for the sun hogs!

Gen — Organic sluggo. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that. I’ve had problems with snails and slugs too. When I lived in a high rise apartment building, they weren’t a problem, but now that I am on the ground floor, they like to visit me…

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PATIZ August 21, 2012 at 11:44 am

I haven’t any problem with bugs or slugs…I think it might be due to using seaweed plant food. Maybe the critters don’t like the taste. I also have plants like lavender that encourage good bugs and discourage bad ones

Sandy May 19, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Hi Fern,
Thank you for this list! It’s great. I will definitely go ahead and try some of these at home :)

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GeorgyGirl May 20, 2009 at 4:13 am

I’ve also got some carrots happily growing away in the shade – good strong stems and frilly greens. You just have to make sure that they get enough water, but they seem to be doing fine!

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TNB September 2, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Thanks for this. I just moved to an apartment and had to give up my big backyard vegetable garden. I’m terribly saddened by this loss but I’m starting to have some hope that I will be able to grow somehting on my balciony.

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Fern September 2, 2009 at 5:17 pm

TNB–There’s no need to mourn the loss of your old garden! Of course balconies are smaller than most yards, but if you click through LOTB archives, you will see that almost every plant can be grown in a container.

Heather April 26, 2010 at 7:18 pm

I love your blog! I am planning my first patio veggie container garden ever, and I get no direct sunlight! I have done some research already but finding this helps me more as well! As I go, I’ll share the results on my own blog, so check it out if you like!

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Fern April 26, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Good luck Heather! I’ll be sure to check out what you’re up to at your blog!

purecajn September 23, 2010 at 10:55 pm

For snail and slugs, just go to the local hardware store and get copper flashing. cut 3-4′wid strips and make a ring on the ground around the plant (s) they like. the snail and slugs slime has a chemical reaction with the ring and causes a electrical charge (like when you chew aluminum foil). this will keep them out of your plants.

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purecajn September 23, 2010 at 10:56 pm

3-4″ wide that is. and stand it up like a fence line about 1″ or more in the dirt

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Rena Bird April 29, 2011 at 7:26 pm

I just found your blog and I can’t wait to try these veggies on our balcony. We did a community garden plot last year and it was just too hard to get there everyday. We get shade until about 2:30, 3:00 in the afternoon by mid May, and we’re on the 3rd floor so slugs shouldn’t be a problem (we hope :)

Thank you so much for this wonderful resource.

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KP February 23, 2012 at 7:25 am

What about fruits like blackberries or other?

Do you have any recommendations?
I’d really lik to try to maximize my balcony garden that gets little direct sunlight…

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Fern February 23, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Hi KP! I don’t have much experience with blackberries. I did grow raspberries in a pot at my old office and they only did “okay” with part sun.

Adam March 26, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Hi Rena,
I’m in Sydney – living in a fourth floor apartment. Believe it or not – slugs appeared en masse! Someone in slug land is making a killing selling ladders. They were dealt with mercilessly via chemical means. But love the idea of copper rings. Going to try that for sure. Copper sheeting is how they used to stop barnacles growing on the bottom of boats many years ago. Similar principles I guess.

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Teresa May 16, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Hello Everyone! I have enjoyed reading your comments on shade loving plants.

BLACKBERRIES – Grow very well under trees I have lots of them.

SLUGS – If you are gardening in pots put a small plastic or glass cup in the soil deep enough that only about 1/4 to 1/2 inch sticks out of the top of the soil. Fill the glass to about 1/2 from the top and leave it over night. . If you have slugs you have slugs they love beer and will drink till they drowned in it. If you are gardening on the ground put out a shallow dish at night and fill almost full with the beer. It’s almost better to use something you can through it away in the morning. Sometimes they get pretty full of slugs and it’s slime mess I wouldn’t want to wash. These posts are all old enough I’m not sure anyone will read this but if you do let me know how it worked for you.

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Evelyn Foo October 9, 2012 at 8:18 pm

I can seem to grow edibles on my condo balcony… Especially herbs like thyme, rosemary, basil, dill and etc… So sad! I’ve tried that twice but didn’t succeed. Any advice? Appreciate! My balcony is north facing. Can’t seem to get enough sunlight…

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Ann Marie October 29, 2012 at 8:29 am

Evelyn Foo – thyme, rosemary, basil and dill all love to bask in sun all day, so if your balcony is north-facing you are inevitably going to struggle with these. If you have a windowsill that gets some sun you could try growing them there instead.

Alternatively, you could try growing chives or parsley on your balcony – these are usually happy to grow in shade.

Great blog by the way! Some really useful information here.

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Ann Marie October 29, 2012 at 8:31 am

Note – when I say ‘love to bask in sun ALL day’, I do mean ‘a LOT OF the day’! You can of course get away with some shade during the course of the day.

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Jan August 15, 2013 at 1:58 am

I just searched for this, and yours was the first link I checked – thank you! I’m not trying to use a balcony, I live in a small house, but right outside my kitchen door is a small strip of soil, maybe three feet wide by about ten feet long (it runs down the side of the house towards the small suburban back garden). Some plants there I want to keep – a quince that was there when I got here, and some chocolate mint and sorrel that I planted earlier this year, but the rest, the rest is awful! It would be lovely to plant edibles right outside the door, I’d no idea that salads could be grown in shady areas. I’ll let you know how I get on. Many thanks.

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